It was a bright and sunny day, the third Saturday in September. I’d had one of those restless nights, my body was tired but my mind buzzed with unanswered questions all night. Somehow I had been accepted onto the Diaconate programme, but the insecurity and unworthiness I felt still nagged away at me. I eventually dropped into a deep sleep, consoled by the thought that the Holy Spirit would be my guide and soon put me out of my misery!
The journey to LACE was not particularly long, only 30 minutes, perhaps less early on a Saturday morning, however, I set off ultra early not wanting to be late on my first morning.
Safe to say my mind wasn’t particularly on the road as I drove in, just as well given the lack of traffic around. However I was quickly brought back to my senses at the end of the M62 when there were two bright flashes of light in my rear view mirror. “That’s great!” I thought with a mixture of annoyance and foreboding. “Clocked for speeding on my first day” . Was this some kind of heavenly warning I wondered.
At least I was early arriving at LACE and the car park was unusually empty as I arrived. Hardly surprising really as there was still an hour to play with before the scheduled 8.30am start.
Eventually people began to arrive and I duly made my way in looking for perhaps a familiar face, signpost or greeter. Nothing.
I started to worry. My anxiety deepened even further when a surprised looking receptionist gave me a blank stare when I explained my presence. She scurried away returning a few minutes later having uncovered no solution whatsoever to my predicament. There was only one obvious fact; either my first day of training had been cancelled (which was unlikely) or I was in the wrong place (most likely!)
I meandered back to the car in a daze, then in a state of dreadful panic read and re-read my itinerary. Nowhere did it state the venue for the training. I had assumed (clearly wrongly) that it would take place at LACE. I did have the home number of Malcom, one of the Deacons on the formation team, but all I could do was leave a despondent message to my unanswered call. To make matters worse there were no other contact details in my pack, no one else I could make a call to, I felt sick.
The only other option which occurred to me was that the venue might be at Crosby where my initial enquiry meetings had taken place. So with a watchful eye on the speed cameras, (my luck would have got me banned from driving that day) I hot footed it across Merseyside to Crosby where most certainly I would be late but at least I would make it for my first day.
30 minutes later in a somewhat agitated and breathless state, I pulled in to the car park. It was eerily quiet. Only one car which within seconds was driven away leaving me alone, outside what was clearly a locked door. Wherever the training was taking place it was not here either.
I was out of ideas. Even a call to my rock of a wife, Barbara, failed to come up with a solution and with a heavy heart, I drove home, convinced by now that maybe God was somehow testing my powers of faith. Arriving home I was greeted with a consoling cup of tea and words of reassurance from Barbara, but it did little to lift the fog of gloom that surrounded me.
My despondent mood was lifted later that afternoon when Malcom rang me back. He was apologetic and acknowledged that the error lay with the formation team, and made light of it. It seemed to amuse him to hear of my plight: “All part of the initiation test” he joked. The venue was only a couple of miles away from the church I’d ended up at, but I had at no time been given it’s details. In fact it was never used again as the training venue moved to St Joseph’s at Penketh the following month, where thankfully I did manage to finally connect into the course, all be it one month late.
Things were looking a bit brighter, and I never did receive a speeding fine. Perhaps even God thought that would have been a joke to much on that fated day!
Next time…. In a breviary spin!