Last Sunday, I became a Companion of Julian of Norwich. After twenty years as a member of the Friends of Julian, it was a new step, a new commitment.
The Companions started in 2009, as a more committed group within the Friends. I remember receiving the quarterly newsletter and reading about the Companions, how my initial feeling was, how lovely . . . but it’s too much for me. It seemed too much of a stretch. Regretfully, I concluded that it wasn’t for me.
At the beginning of 2011, our previous rector left and we began an interim period at church with a temporary priest. I am sad to say, I feel like I pressed ‘pause’ on my faith in some ways. I don’t mean to suggest I had doubts, if anything I knew very clearly how I felt, but the priest and the services in that two-year period left me feeling isolated, out-of-sync with the church. A year ago, that priest left, and we had another interim priest, this one only for a few months, but I started to feel better; she was someone I felt comfortable with, I enjoyed her sermons, and started to feel like I could feel at home again at church. Autumn brought two candidates to visit, and by November our new rector had arrived, and I felt fully home at church. Amazingly, I discovered that he was an oblate in the Order of Julian of Norwich.
As Lent approached, I decided that this year I would spend the year re-reading Julian, but this time I would read her aloud. As I read, I felt a connection with Julian, with her voice, in a way I had never felt before. Something else started to grow, too. I started to feel that I could become a Companion, that the stretch was still a stretch, but not an impossible one.
And so began a process to start to live the rule, to make an application, and finally, last Sunday, to be received as a Companion. I had expected the process to take much longer, and I think in my mind I had imagined that maybe by the end of the year I would know if my application was successful. In the end it all happened so quickly; I first discussed my desire to become a Companion with the rector only three months ago, and now, here I am.
I had also imagined that, if I was received as a Companion, that it would happen at the Julian Shrine, but last Sunday’s short ceremony took place at church in Tokyo. Of course, I’m going to visit Norwich when I’m back in the UK over the summer, but it felt right to have the ceremony at my home church, in the space where I worship every week, in the city where my life is, where my friends, my job and all the other parts of my life are focused.
So I was received as a Companion at the end of Evening Prayer. There were only a few people there, but three dear friends who had prayed with me about this step and who had supported and encouraged me were there. There were no Companions there to take part, but there was our rector, ObJN, my Tokyo part of the wider Julian family. The quote I chose from Julian’s Revelations was this:
“Let us fly to our Lord and we shall be comforted, touch him and we shall be made clean, cling to him and we shall be safe and secure from all manner of peril; for our courteous Lord wants us to be as friendly with him as the heart may conceive or the soul may desire.”
(Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 77)
I am feeling very blessed, and I am feeling that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I have created another page detailing the Companions’ commitment, which you can find if you click on ‘CJN’ at the top of the page. It may seem like a big commitment when you read it; alternatively, you may wonder why I thought it was a stretch. I suppose it depends on the circumstances of your own life and the commitments you have made yourself.
I am feeling very connected, even though all the other Companions are many miles away. To know that I have joined them, I have joined my prayers to theirs, is a wonderful and powerful feeling. I am making a short retreat at All Hallows in Norwich next month and am looking forward to meeting the people there, at the Julian Centre and the Shrine.
I spent two years feeling a little numb, feeling a little cut off from the other people at church. I see now that it was a necessary step to spend time thinking and praying about how I felt and why. In that time, my father died and in Tokyo we lived through the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. It wasn’t easy but having come through it I can say I am glad it all happened. Just like Lent before Easter, I needed a time in my own little wilderness to prepare for the technicolour delight of where I find myself today.
I am a Companion of Julian of Norwich. I am blessed. I am right where I’m supposed to be.