I was back at St. John's Roslyn on Sunday morning. It was my first episcopal duty; that is, the first time I was doing something that only a bishop can do. I was confirming 7 people, all of whom I knew and some of whom I knew very well indeed. Two of them I had baptised and several of them I had companioned for some years as they walked the narrow path. I entered that familiar physical space, where everything was so familiar: the way the morning sun plays through the glass, the shapes of doors and candlesticks, which pews were in the church when I arrived in 1999 and which ones I brought back over the hill from Mosgiel on Alan Dunbar's trailer. I entered an emotional space as well, and one which was paradoxical. I felt instantly at home and instantly that both I and the parish have moved on; that I was now on territory where it was no longer my task to call the shots but to encourage other people to call the shots.
I walked down the familiar aisle wearing still unfamiliar vestments. I preached and confirmed and celebrated the Eucharist. I went to lunch where I tried to talk to as many people as possible, knowing that I wouldn't be seeing them next week. Several people took the opportunity to ask me questions on very significant matters of faith, knowing that they wouldn't be seeing me next week. I asked a couple to phone my PA and make appointments. I bought a few sets of the attractive parish bookmarks which had been made from photographs I had taken in years gone by. I have 34 parishes now which I call my own. There are 63 churches, none of which, like children, can be named as favourite, not even this one which holds so many memories and in which I grew so much. So, I drove out past the wonderful old house where my family had celebrated so much together, out across the city to the place which already feels like my home, to spend a good deal of the afternoon reviewing the strategic plan I will present to the diocese in September, straining to see what the Spirit might be saying about the road ahead.
In the evening I went to the cathedral where my seat is housed and listened to the choir sing evensong. I preached, not the sermon I had prepared, but one which my feel of what was happening in the place demanded. I felt the love of God for that big empty building. And in two weeks I will return, for another confirmation; more people moving on down the path, as are all of our 34 parishes, all of our 63 churches.