It’s been quite a few weeks. Jane and I have moved house – only 15 minutes down the road, but a house move is a house move. Our daughter, Rachel, has also done the same – from Durham to Lancashire (with most of her belongings travelling from Devon).

Jane has finished one job (after having Covid) and started another one (part-time this time) and we’ve spent these last few days in and around Blackburn for a very special day today which saw Rachel ordained in the city’s Cathedral. She now starts work as a Curate (the beginning of the second major stage of training as a vicar) in a beautiful part of Lancashire, making her parents somewhat envious, it has to be said.

As for me, I have no idea what normal now looks like – and same could be said for all three of us but ‘all will be well and all manner of things will be well’ as Julian of Norwich said. (The appropriateness of the titles of my latest books is not lost on me, though!)

So Rachel becomes the second member of our family to acquire a particular ‘tool of the trade’: the dog collar. Like Jane, it marks out the role she now inhabits. One that symbolises not only the training she’s had but also the responsibility she now holds – and certain (and at times, quite bizarre) expectations there will be from others.

The assignment of tools, clothing and equipment to workers has happened for centuries. People are not only trained to use the ‘tools of the trade’, but some actually own them – a chef with their own set of knives or a carpenter and their toolbox, for example. Such items not only symbolise what a person does but are also part of their identity and how they relate to others: a doctor with a stethoscope or a vicar wearing a dog collar gives people confidence and trust in what they have been trained to do.

The Organist's ShoesSimilarly, others may need particular items that, perhaps quite innocuously, add that little bit extra: like the organist’s shoes. With their owner trained and capable of playing the instrument, this one particular pair adds that extra confidence (and comfort) in doing so. For me, it’s often wearing the right jacket.

In his Rule, Benedict wrote how ‘The abbot or prioress will, as they see fit, issue to them the various articles to be cared for and collected after use. The prioress and abbot will maintain a list of these, so that when the members succeed one another in their assigned tasks, they may be aware of what they hand out and what they receive back.’

Indeed, the role of the cellarer (the one who looks after the food and drink and prepares meals)) is highlighted ‘The cellarer will regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected.’

In the same way that the cellarer regarded the kitchen utensils as sacred, so we can view all tools and equipment as being ones to be used with care and respect, for they are part of what is done in the practical Work of God alongside the prayerful Work of God.

Perhaps you have tools, equipment or symbols in your work, or at home or in church? In what ways do they link together your practical and your prayerful Work of God?



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