Today is the forty second anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. This morning I met with chaplaincy worship leaders for a session to prepare them for the month ahead, as there may be a couple of Sundays before a new locum chaplain arrives. The overall decline in available clergy numbers makes it difficult to find replacements at short notice, if at all. My generation was when the first sign of decline in congregations and numbers of vocations to ordained ministry began to be noticeable across the church as a whole.
In a way we've been preparing in different ways to cope with the impact of decline ever since then, and training lay people to participate in and take responsibility for continuity of pastoral care has always been a feature of ministry for me and my contemporaries. So, I was glad of the opportunity do do something which is a key part of my experience, to support and encourage them. They are keen to work together to make the best of a situation that has emerged for them unexpectedly.
After the meeting I drove up to El Perello to be taken to lunch by John and Isa at a quayside restaurant in the fishing port of Ametlla de Mar (pronounced 'Ameya' de Mar in Catalan). It's the next place along the coast to the north of L'Ampolla to boast a railway station. It was one of those memorable meals, entirely of fresh seafood.
The first course was a huge dish of mussel, shrimps and razor shell clams from the Delta all perfectly prepared, which we all shared with relish. Then I had lubina a la plancha on a bed of steamed sliced potatoes, followed by melon. As we ate we could see large tuna fishing boats as well as smaller craft arriving and queuing up at the quay next to the fish depot on the other side of the harbour to deliver their day's catch before they berthed elsewhere. Every now and then, someone would go past in a vehicle or on foot, carrying containers with which to carry away their purchases. You don't get fish fresher than this.
It was a noteworthy occasion for Isa, her first proper outing after more than half a year of confinement following medical treatment. As it was six months after a planned birthday meal she didn't get to go out for, we proclaimed it a halfth birthday celebration, as happens among Hobbits.
After the meal we went for a walk up and down the quayside and promenade, glad that the rain held off while we did so. In fact it rained for a while as I drove home in the dark, after a very special and pleasant afternoon of food and table talk. Elsewhere the rain was much heavier, the streets of Valencia reported as being flooded by sudden a downpour. Even so, it will take a lot more than this break in the weather to fill the empty reservoirs in the Tincada de Benifassa.