Getting ready for Open Churches Week 2017
Bishop Graham was ordained as a priest in 1976 and he reflects on his 40 years of ordination:
“I think a decisive moment in my journey of faith didn’t seem decisive at all at the time. It was my first Sunday morning at university (I went to Lancaster in its early days). I shared a room with another student. I decided to go to the chaplaincy centre for the morning service. No one would have noticed if I hadn’t bothered. I could have easily decided to turn over in bed for an extra couple of hours sleep. If I had done so I wonder if I would have met some of the other students at the chaplaincy, one or two of whom were a great influence upon me. At Lancaster University I discovered others of my age who intended to be ordained and who lived life to the full. Eventually I felt I had to test whether this was what God wanted for my life too. Everything flowed from that – theological training in Oxford, a curacy in Peterborough, leading a church in Welwyn Garden City, working in Church House, Westminster in charge of our selection and vocations work, before being asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to be his chaplain and then sent back to my original home in Cornwall to be a bishop.
I have never had doubts or regrets about pursuing this vocation though there are times (especially of personal bereavement or difficulty) when public ministry is very challenging. The glory of the ordained life is that your work and your faith, your deepest passions and your family life are all interwoven. Who you are and what you do are deeply interconnected. Not everyone is privileged to have that level of integration.
That’s why I would say to anyone considering whether God and His Church may be calling them to ministry to ask themselves whether they relish linking so closely what they do with who they are and what they believe. Some people like their lives to be rather more compartmentalised. If so, I am not sure the ordained life is for them.
I look back on 40 years of being a priest in God’s Church with some astonishment. I don’t really know where the years have gone. I have been privileged to share in the deepest experiences of people’s lives – the baptism of children, presiding at some memorable (and unlikely) marriages, anointing and praying with people as they die and seeking to accompany the bereaved and the confused through wilderness experiences. In doing so, priests often feel that they are not giving very much but receiving from God who uses them as a means of his grace, and receiving too from those to whom they minister. That’s what makes ordained ministry worthwhile despite the challenges of secularisation, distrust in institutions and all the rest of the challenges clergy face. Ministry still matters and even those whose faith is halting and inarticulate continue to respond to it. That’s why a priest’s life can still be a very fulfilling one indeed”."
Bishop Graham celebrated his 40 year anniversary with a choral eucharist at Norwich Cathedral at 5.30pm on Monday 26 September.