Category Archives: Churchy things

Taking care

I’m reading at the moment Eric Stoddart’s Theological Perspectives on a Surveillance Society: Watching and being Watched (Ashgate: Farnham and Burlington, 2011). Stoddart rightly recognises the legitimate anxieties most citizens harbour about surveillance, but also emphasises that surveillance can be undertaken for purposes of care. I was reminded of this at a recent meeting of the diocesan Ministry Development Review Supporters. Words like ‘review’ or ‘appraisal’ often evoke resistance among those on the receiving end, clergy being no more immune to this reaction than those who work in academic institutions, which is the environment I know best.

Review is often initially perceived as intrusive and threatening. My own experience of MDR, however, both as a review supporter and as a reviewee, suggests that the dimension of care is in practice uppermost. What struck me at the meeting in question was the degree of concern for the isolation experienced by clergy, especially full-time stipendiary clergy, and the unremitting nature of the demands made on them. A particular issue which is often overlooked, both by congregations and by church authorities, is the sense of bereavement that clergy are bound to experience when they retire from a ministry to which they have dedicated virtually all their waking hours. Sensitive application of mechanisms like MDR can be helpful, among other ways, in assisting clergy to prepare for retirement, and to develop (or recover) a life which is not wholly consumed by service to a congregation.

At the meeting, I announced that I wanted to retire from the role of MDR Supporter, one of several ‘ancillary’ ministerial jobs that I am gradually relinquishing.  I did so  in the belief that the care of ministerial colleagues demands a level of commitment and energy which I am finding harder to maintain as I get older.

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Well done, Church of Ireland!

Joy and thankfulness that the Church of Ireland has elected the first woman bishop in these islands. Rev. Pat Storey, Rector of St Augustine’s, Derry, is to be the bishop of Meath and Kildare. And it is particularly satisfying that, for reasons which have to do with the history of that diocese, she will be known as ‘Most Reverend’. Alleluia!

‘The Holy Spirit is not a leaden stillness but a wind’.

Scottish Episcopalians worry a lot about declining congregational rolls, and understandably so. It is sobering to reflect that even the established Church of Scotland counts as regular worshippers only 9% of the total population of Scotland, and that Episcopalians constitute 10% of that 9%.

As a bit of encouragement to reflect on our strengths, which go well beyond numbers, you might like this.

St Patrick

Yesterday I had the privilege of presiding at the Eucharist in the interfaith room of Glasgow University Chaplaincy. I hadn’t prepared a homily, as I wasn’t sure whether they were going to use the Sunday readings or those of the feast. It was St Patrick, so I improvised. Not that there was much to go on, for we know so little about him, and a great deal of  nonsense is written and spoken about him. Leaving aside the non-existent snakes, I have heard sober clergymen of the Church of Ireland claim, without a blush and without being struck dead on the spot, that the C of I was founded by St Patrick!

In any event, something occurred to me which I hadn’t thought before: he went back. He had escaped from the island where he had been enslaved, but went back in answer to the call of God. Surely a model for ministry and mission: especially when, even as I write, I know that Christian ministers are on their way to countries where to be a Christian is a danger to life. Would we go back, if we had escaped from such a situation?

This joyful Eastertide

All the stops pulled out at St N’s today. Episcopal ritual at its best. But tinged somewhat with sadness, because it is Gregor Duncan’s last Sunday as Rector. There were tears, but also laughter, love and celebration. And expressions of feeling about the last ten years in the life of St N’s which were not merely conventional but heartfelt.

Thank you, Gregor, for all you have done. You have helped us to grow in every way.

The poor in spirit

Yesterday I took Holy Communion to a housebound 90+ year old parishioner. She joined in the words of the short liturgy, which she hadn’t done before, and it became clear that she had difficulty reading the service leaflet. Failing eyesight and deafness may have had something to do with it, but I had the strong impression that she had probably had a fairly limited education. I suddenly saw her as one of that heroic generation that had left school at 14, or even earlier, gone to work, e.g., in a factory, and had slaved, scrimped and saved to ensure that their children would have a decent schooling and a better start in life. She reminded me of my own grandparents and great-grandparents, some of whom were ‘half-timers’ (i.e., working mornings in the factory and attending school in the afternoons), and several of whom were illiterate.

There are no medals for such as these, but, to paraphrase, ‘It is they who have made us and not we ourselves’.

White smoke ascending

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum.

The Very Reverend Gregor Duncan, Bishop-Elect of Glasgow and Galloway.

Yesterday I was very proud of my Church and my Diocese. The electoral process for the episcopal vacancy was approached with deep, prayerful seriousness, and trust that the Holy Spirit would guide us to a good decision. The joy at the outcome was matched by pastoral concern for those candidates who had not been chosen.

Congratulations, Gregor!

And well done everybody, especially +David, who guided us through the whole process with impeccable clarity, good humour, patience and calm.