The Stone and the Gyroscope

We’re approaching the end of the academic year here at theological college, and in the next week or so everyone recieves their reports.

Those who are in their final year are eagerly waiting to check that they have still been recommended to go forward for ordination, and for most ordinands in the country, Petertide… June/ July, will be when this year’s ‘crop’ are ordained deacon.

For those of us with another year to go, there will be a report that will be sent to our bishops, presumably telling them a mixture of how well we’re being trained and how adequately we will fulfill the demands placed on us in the parish… coupled with between-the-lines info on potential weak spots to look out, crumpled bits that training incumbents will need to try and iron out and future faux-pas to be prepared for.

Last year, one line stood out in my otherwise good report, that I needed to ‘grow deeper spiritual roots’ to acquire inner stillness… once the growl of indignation had died down in my throat I realised that people in charge are not always right -and when I next got the chance to see my tutor, I explained gently that whilst in contrast to the monks here at the Community, I may look as though I’m in constant motion, I have the same sort of stillness as a gyroscope

Described as a ‘device for measuring or maintaining orientation… it’s orientation remains nearly fixed, regardless of any motion of the platform on which it is based’…

Though used in engineering, Gyroscopes make fascinating playthings and the first time I ever saw one, was when my father (an engineer) got one out of a box at home, when I was about five years old. He gave me one end of a narrow string to hold, and held the other tightly and then he spun the gyroscope… Around its spinning centre and turning gimbals, it had a frame with two points, making it look a little like a compass escaped from its case… and he placed one of these points carefully on the taut string… it balanced there, weighty and upright and spinning, but steady, and I was utterly amazed. I think he ambitiously tried to explain to me how it worked, as he then balanced it on the end of his thumb, but I was just transfixed by the way it moved so fast, but stayed so still.

This year at college, we have seen much change and upheaval, even the stones have not stayed in their places, as the huge monastery church has had its guts torn up in preparation for renovation… the tonnes of hewn York Stone and reinforced concrete being shifted onto lorries and sold to recoup some costs. The college principal left suddenly at the start of a long, dark winter of frost and swine-flu and Inspectors made their six-yearly rounds as worn out students and staff battled to keep up with lectures and work.

Harder than usual in a place known to be hard, in a theological college, which like all theological colleges, is a spiritual battleground for good and evil. More upheaval than ever, in a place already prone to change, as the years of students move steadily in and out like the tide. Of all the years in which to be a gyroscope rather than a rooted tree or a steady rock… this was certainly the one…

There have been wobbly moments, and moments when it seemed the underlying movement  could be in the wrong direction, but nevertheless, through prayer thank God, my orientation has ‘remained nearly fixed’ on Christ, and now as the year approaches its end, and I complete my final pieces of work, I realise that what I said at the start of the year was definitely true…  and although to some it may at times appear that I am all dizzying movement, in fact it is not a fault, God is in this gyroscopic balance, the inner stillness at the heart of all the movement. A spinning stillness, lets face it, which is at the atomic heart of even the steadiest stone, the stateliest oak, a spinning steadiness which we are all so familiar with that we can ignore it every day, as we walk the face of the earth.

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About Jemma

Learning to be both a priest and a human being in the Anglican Church
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