Hmm. Where to start with this post?! Well, I guess the beginning is as good a place as any, so grab a drink and settle in. This could be a long one...
Those of you who have followed this blog for a while, or read my blog, or heard me speak on singleness, will know some of this story - so bear with...
8 years ago I first spoke about singleness, at the New Wine North summer event in Newark. Since then God has taken me on an incredible journey in this whole area, and I've been privileged to travel all over the UK and the world speaking on singleness, and also to have my book Single Minded published: https://wordery.com/single-minded-kate-wharton-9780857214300?cTrk=NjY5NjkzMTJ8NTllYTYxMDc3ZThiZToxOjI6NTllYTYwZmYzNTgxMzkuODU4MzUwMzg6MGM3MWY4NTE%3D
It has been a huge learning curve. It has been my privilege to meet many single people, and to hear their stories, and to share together with them some of the ups and downs of this journey. It has also been great to be invited to share with a number of churches and colleges, and to help them to think about how they can be places of genuine welcome and community.
Inevitably, and wonderfully, over that time God has also been speaking to me about my own life and walk with him. I have learnt SO MUCH about myself and about God! Some of that journey is explored in Chapter 7 of the book (incidentally, I always know whether or not someone is telling the truth about having read my book, since I share so personally in Chapter 7 - so if they don't know that part of my story, they haven't really read it!)
In that chapter I shared my belief that God was calling me to remain single, and that I had decided to make a choice to embrace that calling and live that way.
But since then, there's more...!
A couple of years ago I began to sense that God was calling me to do something to publicly mark that calling and decision. I had no idea how to do that, or if it was even a thing! I began to explore a bit, and discovered that there was a fact a way to do this, a community to join as someone who had chosen to remain single for life. The problem was that while that particular community may be a great choice for many people, it simply wasn't the right one for me. It didn't seem to reflect my personality, my story, my churchmanship, my journey.
After a bit of time spent praying and wondering and pondering, I went to talk to my Bishop, who fortunately is all sorts of wise. He said that if the existing way to do this wasn't right for me, then I should just make up my own way! So I did, with his help, and the help of my closest friends.
So it was that in Sept 2015 12 of us gathered together in the Bishop's chapel as I made what if I was becoming a nun (which I REALLY am not!) I might have called 'novitiate vows'. I made a vow, they prayed for me, we sang, we shared communion. It was wonderful.
And then I spent the next 2 years seeking God for what this might look like going forward. Had I really heard him right? Was this a bonkers idea born out of too much cheese one night - or was it really a calling from the Lord, a chance to serve him with my whole heart and soul in a new way, to explore a vcry particular vocation?
Well, 2 years has passed, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't the cheese. I've actually never wavered from my conviction that this calling is from the Lord. There have been times when I've felt awed by the hugeness of it all, and what it represents. And I suspect I will always get a bit teary from time to time around babies. I will always need my people - my closest friends, who are family to me, who 'get' me and are there for me through it all.
I'm incredibly grateful to God for this adventure we're on together. I have no idea where this will lead or what it will look like in 2 more years, or 5, or 10. But I do know that this is what I need to do, now, before God.
So it is that at the end of November I will gather in Liverpool Cathedral, with some friends and family, to make the equivalent of 'life vows'. I am writing the service myself, to express who I am, and what this journey has looked like for me.
Some of you know this, as you have walked the journey with me. I am more grateful to you than I can express, most especially those of you who were there in Sept 2015. Some of you will be there to celebrate with me in November (I can't wait!). Some of you can't be there, and I will miss you.
It's a source of huge sadness to me that I can't invite all of you wonderful people out there. I am blessed with so many amazing friends, and I thank God for you all - but for you all to be there I'd need the whole Cathedral, not just the Lady Chapel! (Not to mention that I'd have to re-mortgage the vicarage to pay for the lunch).
So, if I haven't invited you, I'm sorry - I hope you will still pray for me as I step out into this new thing with God.
I hope that what I've written makes sense. Lots of people, when I've told them, have done a goldfish impression for a while and then said "gosh - I've never heard of that before!" Well no, neither had I!
I hope Alan Scott will forgive me for quoting a sentence that I heard him say at New Wine this summer - "Who knows what Jesus will do next? He's desperately kind and wonderfully good." Oh yes! I'm so excited for what lies ahead...
Oh, and in case you're wondering about the title of this post, well, it's the name I have decided to give to this whole 'thing' that I'm doing. (Good job, too - its working title among my friends was 'The Thing' for months!). It comes from a phrase I heard Anne Maclaurin say years ago - "God calls you beloved and he says be loved."
So my 'Thing' in November is called the beLOVED ceremony (with thanks to Laura Ferguson for her design skills).