One thing I’ve noticed about life is that most experiences don’t come with facts, they come with feelings. Things I’ve longed for come with the question “so how does it feel?” Like when you put on a new jumper and start fiddling with the cuffs to work out what it feels like. When Ruth decided she wanted a Harley we ended up having a conversation about what it feels like. Sometimes this is a physical thing and sometimes it is emotional. I drove a BMW once. It was technically a great car but it felt all kinds of wrong. I was sat in the driver’s seat of a board room executive’s car feeling a longing in my soul for a roady’s van.
I remember that day nearly six years ago when I put on a dog collar for the first time. I looked in the mirror at something that for many years I had prepared for and dreamed of. It came with an emotional response. It felt weird. In the mirror I saw a vicar who looked a little like me staring back from the glass. It was weird.
I remember the first day I went to church and the priest behind the altar was a woman. I remember that it had a feeling about it. It felt a bit strange. It was something I knew to be right but something that had previously been outside of my sphere of experience. Not through design, I’d just never previously had the experience as our vicar happened to be a bloke.
Then there was the point where my life changed and I started to hang out with vicars. A lot of vicars. They’re all over the place. Hundreds of them. It seems that I haven’t changed much since my school days. I tend to sit at the table with the intelligent girls who’ve all done their homework. For me, women in dog collars is probably a more common sight than men.
This week I watched on live TV the consecration of Rt Revd Libby Lane. Nearly a decade ago when I arrived at theological college and began training for ordination the issue of women in the episcopate became part of my life. Since then this has regularly been on the agenda. It is something I have wanted. It is something I’ve hoped for. And for a decade, I have wondered how it would feel. How would this new and strange experience compare to my previous new experiences? How would I feel when I looked at my TV screen with Libby in Episcopal purple?
It felt normal.
What a let-down. I was expecting something visceral. What I got was normality. A bishop. There’s a bishop called Libby and that’s normal. Good.
Congratulations Bishop Libby. I’m really pleased that there is now a woman in our little bit of the episcopate. I’m really happy that the first to break new ground in our little English bit is you. I’m over the moon that my female colleagues, our parishioners, the server who stands at the altar with me and the kids in our school all have a good role model. I’m really happy that one day, hopefully one my friends will be my boss.