For me it is this time of year, much more than December / January which marks the end of the old year and start of the new. This is when I look ahead to new adventures and start a new diary. This is when it makes sense to stop and look back and celebrate the year that was. (But it's too long and probably not very interesting to anyone bar me, so don't feel obliged to read!)
In my world September is synonymous with settling back into rhythms and routines. The return to school brought its usual inherent busy-ness and both the joys and challenges of getting to know a new set of students who have, I can safely say a year on, been amazing to teach. Thrown in to the mix this year were the DSEi arms fair protests which, even as they draw attention to the horrors of war and the arms trade; also provide space to stand together with those trying to do something about it.
Standing out in October was the half-term holiday when we took a proper break and went away to Mytholmroyd. The weather was kind: blue skies for beautiful walks in the daytime but cold enough to justify the open fire in the evenings. Cups of tea, good books and meetings with friends: the perfect antidote to an otherwise busy schedule.
November marked the beginning of the next phase of the life of our little community when, having visited for a few weeks in September, Corline returned to live with us, making an open-ended commitment to community life and venturing out on to this journey together.
As is invariably the case, highlights abound in December, this year including the COP21 protests in Paris. If outcomes from the summit were far from satisfactory; the energy and passion on the streets were well worth being part of; not to mention the opportunity to catch up with good friends (and good food and wine!) And then there were parties: fun and friendship for Sinterklaas early in the month, and a beautiful celebration of what Christmas is all about with those who gathered with us on Christmas day.
There can be few better ways to begin a year than beneath the Valencian sunshine: warm weather and even warmer hospitality, beautiful surroundings and beautiful prayer meant a once again wonderful Taize meeting brought us into 2016, (although I may be getting too old for 36 hour coach journeys) Sleep deprivation and beautiful experiences of prayer were recurring themes in January: the end of the month was marked by the Birmingham Churches Together 24 hours of prayer, a wonderful celebration of the unity of the church in all its diversity.
I am sure something memorable must have happened in February too, but nothing immediately springs to mind. Maybe I had a nice, relaxed laid-back month doing not very much ...
An early Easter meant Student Cross fell in March this year, and if Holy week coinciding with school term-time meant I was only able to join in for part of the week, I was nonetheless pleased I decided to join in for the bits I could. To walk, talk, reflect, share; to renew old friendships and make new ones; to be community.
April’s Taize weekend provided a space to sing and to be silent, to listen and to share. We are now looking ahead to a much bigger gathering next April/May: which for all the work it may involve over the next year I am very excited about (www.taize.fr/birmingham)! It was also in April, I think, that I first got involved in the "Long Journey Home" project, working with first generation migrants to provide a platform to craft and tell their stories: it has been a privilege to be involved over recent months.
In May I handed in my notice at school. I wouldn't say it was a highlight, but certainly a significant moment in this year's journey. It was a tough decision and I knew I would be sad to leave a school I love, but it was, is, the right one.
June was referendum month. Also definitely not a highlight (although I did get to babysit my niece the same day and that was quite fun.) We also headed to Reading ... not because it is a particularly exciting holiday destination, but because, ahead of the parliamentary vote on Trident renewal, it felt like a very important place to be to say no to atomic weapons. An early start, a long and in parts stressful day... shared with some very inspiring people. I am glad I was there.
July has mostly been about celebrating! Our end of year party brought together some of those who have shared in our life in different ways in the last year. Then came the end of term and some fond farewells to colleagues and students (and pink wafers and party rings!). And just last week the St Chad's Sanctuary Summer School, including a fantastic day out in Weston Super Mare was a beautiful way to round off the year there too.
There may well be some other significant bits I've forgotten about temporarily too - please don't be offended if it involved you! This blog post is quite long enough as it is.
In between all that we've welcomed a good few visitors and somehow managed to squeeze in all our regular commitments: work, volunteering, welcome, silence, discussion, laughter, friendships and prayer.
The public prayers have now closed for the summer, and if I do still have a lengthy jobs list for the next month, the rhythm becomes somewhat more relaxed plus there are trips to both Taize and Greenbelt to look forward to.