The stories hidden behind the apparently normal appearance of things...
Church life is a powerful mix of liturgical gathering, and relationship building and support between times! The gathered members worship together, and bring all that makes them unique to the table (quite literally in a sacramentally focused church like ours!)
A first glance and meeting with anyone looks straightforward enough - but the privilege of actually getting to know people, what God is doing in their lives, and their own personal history - that is so much part of priesthood in a congregation.
The photograph above captures some of the sense of this. I had seen it quite a few times in passing in our (very few) weeks here in Dunoon. The angel is a grave monument, tucked away by one of the large lime trees between the Rectory and the church. I can't say I knew it well, but I had spotted the laurel wreath - the victor's wreath, ready for one that had completed the race, I suppose - good old St Paul! But one of the previous rectors, chatting to our children, told them the angel's secret. Can you spot it?
Another hidden story - and a predictable little disappointment! We gained access to the cellar of the Rectory, to store some wet-resistant property. It is a gloriously dark and dank space, with non-lit areas moving off under the recesses of the house, filled with bedrock and bits of house! The cellar has a single bare bulb to illuminate the space, after a fashion. I, being environmentally and financially responsible, always remember to put the bulb off before I lock the door.
...but the bulb had been on the past few times I had gone down there! Very strange. Add to this the hidden story that someone told my wife at the licensing service: 'They had a lot of trouble with hauntings in the house, but I think it's fixed...'
Hmm. I met a bit of this in my curacy, and always approached with an open pastoral mind. Mental health issues, unresolved grief and other pastoral issues, and maybe, just maybe a tiny smidge of possibility - all wrapped together in the oddest way. I have blessed and celebrated in a house before, under guidelines etc. etc. ...
So here - the cellar is below the specific room the person was talking about. So - an experiment in the paranormal! I make sure the bulb is off (really, really sure). And leave it for ages (with a teenager in the house and all the rest of it.) And it stayed off. I am just bad at remembering to switch the bulb off. Disappointment, but only as expected.
But the delightful angel still has 11 fingers (or 9 fingers and 2 thumbs for any anatomical pedants out there...)