Basically this is just a service that I created myself (with advice from the rather wonderful Bishops of Liverpool and Sheffield). It seemed to fit me, and who I am, and what I was wanting to do. Obviously it wouldn't suit everyone!
This is how it looked:
- Welcome and opening prayer (Bishop Paul)
- Songs of worship (led by the uber talented Martin)
- Ten Thousand Reasons
- This I believe
- What a beautiful name
- My opening words (the ones I blogged the other day)
- Bible readings
- Song of Songs 6:1-3
- Philippians 4:4-9
- Luke 18:28-30
- Sermon (Bishop Pete) - this was all kinds of brilliant. Pete explored all the different occasions in the NT in which the word 'beloved' is used. Fab, fab, fab. He also used possibly my favourite phrase of the whole day, when he told me that I am 'chronically beloved'.
- Reflection - we listened to Wesley's 'Lead me Lord'
- Spoken word (written and performed by the entirely wonderful Miriam)
- Songs of worship
- Nothing but grace
- My vow of commitment (see below)
- A response from my friends to the vow (basically a liturgical thing where the Bishop asked if they'd support me and they said WE WILL!)
- Prayers - firstly my 3 gorgeous Godchildren each read a prayer that they'd written for me, and then a number of my friends gathered round to lay hands on me and pray for me. It was really special.
- Sharing the Peace
- Holy Communion
- Song - How Great Thou Art
- Blessing (Bishop Paul)
And so the vow. This was the hardest part of the whole service to write - that's probably not surprising. I wrote it myself, without reference to anything else, so it's certainly from the heart - but it was still hard to do. In fact I didn't write it until the Tuesday before the service, when I went away on a retreat day. There was so much that I wanted to say to God in that moment - here's what I went for:
Loving God, today I come before you in response to a calling on your part, and a choice on my part. I'm so grateful to you for the journey that you have brought me on.
Today I vow to live a life of dedicated singleness.
Today I give myself completely to you - wholeheartedly, unreservedly, single mindedly.
Today I know myself to be called and chosen and beloved.
Today I choose to walk into the path that you have laid out for me, wherever it may lead, embracing your best plan for me.
I vow to live a life of chastity and celibacy, to remain single, and without children, to dedicate myself fully to this life, and to embrace its sorrows and its joys, to seek to live always in a way which is generous and open and loving and kind and gracious.
I choose to set aside my desires for a husband and children, for sex and marriage. Instead I choose to embrace a life of wholeness - of joyful, beloved intimacy with Jesus.
I seek to live well within my friendships and relationships in a way that honours you and other people.
I trust my future completely to you. It isn't the future that I thought I would have. It isn't the future that I would once have hoped for. It is the future that I now joyfully choose and embrace.
I trust you, loving Lord, for all that lies ahead, both good and bad. I trust you for your love, your friendship, your forgiveness, your mercy, your comfort, your grace.
I trust you because you know me better than I know myself. I trust you with my pain and grief and sadness as well as with my expectation and excitement and joy.
Today, as your daughter, precious and loved, called and chosen, I vow to live always and only for you.
I thank you for calling me beloved.
So there it is - the words that I vowed to the Lord. Even writing them out again feels special and precious! I have framed a copy of them, signed by me and the Bishop.
After Bishop Paul received my vow, I received a ring (it's completely beautiful - it was my great grandma's engagement ring), and he anointed it with oil and blessed me. I started to wear a ring on my left hand ring finger 2 years ago when I began this process, so I'm wearing this new ring on the ring finger of my right hand - and still getting used to it.
5 days in, and it still all feels rather wonderful!