As many readers of my blog will already know, today Sunday 26th February 2012, I celebrated my 60th birthday. As I wrote in a previous post, just like Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in 2012, I am also celebrating my Diamond Jubilee.
Overall, I have quite positive feelings regarding reaching this landmark. As I wrote previously on this blog, in October 2011, I passed the age my father was when he died. Over the past year, I’ve shed around 10 kg in weight and feel fitter now than I have for a number of years. I can still keep wicket in a forty overs-a-side cricket match and just over half a year ago, I successfully climbed the highest mountain in the Czech Republic.
The one thing I have become aware of during the past year is how much greyer my hair has become. But whilst the hairline does continue to recede and the hair becomes increasingly thinner on top, I still have more hair than I can ever remember my father having.
I firmly believe that God has a great sense of humour. This was very clearly brought home to me when I sat down on Saturday 25th February, the day before my birthday, to say Morning Prayer. The Psalm set was Psalm 71. In particular, two verses brought a smile to my face as I read them. In verse 9, the Psalmist pleads,
‘Do not cast me away in the time of my old age;
Forsake me not when my strength fails.’
And further on in verse 18 he cries,
‘Forsake me not, O God, when I am old and grey-headed,
till I make known your deeds to the next generation and your power to all that are to come.’
The ‘old and grey-headed’ bit did somewhat ring true. But I also liked the challenge of the second half of the verse – my responsibility to make God’s deeds and power known to the next generation. It is a reminder to me that I still have at least a further five years of full time ministry ahead of me before I can consider retiring. And even when I am retired, so long as my health permits, I intend to apply for ‘Permission to officiate,’ to whichever Anglican bishop’s jurisdiction I am then living under.
So how did I celebrate my birthday today? Well, I had known for quite some time that my 60th birthday would fall on a Sunday – a working day. Of course, as all clergy have heard ad infinitum, it is the only day we work! But any proposed celebrations became much further curtailed when two days beforehand on her own birthday, Sybille went down with a hacking cough and cold.
Then this morning started off even more inauspiciously, when the first sound I heard as a woke up at around 06.45, was our elderly black and white cat Oscar, being sick somewhere. Fortunately, it was only on the floor of our bedroom and therefore fairly easy to clean up. A little while later, as Sybille awoke, I was greeted with ‘Alles Gute zum Geburtstag’. But not wanting to pass on her infection, Sybille decided that her best course of action was to stay home, rather than accompany me to Church.
However, it was at Church this morning that the highlight of my day occurred, not least because it caught me completely unawares. In the absence of our regular organist, Professor Michal Novenko, the organ was being played by Larry Leifeste, a Texan who moved to Prague with wife Celieta, in August last year and have both joined the St. Clement’s congregation. Since then, Larry has very happily deputised on the organ, whenever Michal has been ill or away.
I duly announced the first hymn from the back of Church as Hymn 190, ‘Forty days and forty nights’. But instead of striking up the tune ‘Auf der Tiefe’, to which the hymn, so appropriate for the First Sunday of Lent, is set, Larry instead started playing ‘Happy Birthday to you’. The congregation soon twigged, (several of them already knew it was my birthday), and they duly joined together and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to me as I walked up the aisle.
Early this afternoon, after I got back to the Chaplaincy Flat, Sybille said she felt well enough to walk up the hill through woods behind the Podbaba complex, to Restaurace na Staré Fare where we ate a late Sunday lunch. By the time we had finished eating, there was sunshine and bright blue sky, in contrast to the mixture of rain and snow of the morning. So before returning home, we walked out to the end of the Baba ridge where there is a wonderful view across Prague and where my 60th birthday photo at the top of this post was taken.