Sunday, March 16, 2014

six

On Friday I made my Lenten pilgrimage to Canterbury.

I write that as if it's a regular thing. Actually, I've only ever been the the Mother Church of Anglicanism once before in my life, in 1988, the summer after graduation. I remember nothing of the experience except the friends who shared the journey.

Anyway.

This time I was going to see another friend receive an honour from the Archbishop, and it was a joy to drive down from Oxfordshire through the spring sunshine knowing that I would see Tory Baucum and his family at the other end.

Tory has featured on this blog before. We first met back in 1990, when he was curate at the cathedral in little Rock, Arkansas, and I was travelling around the US before I began my ordination training at Wycliffe Hall. We met by chance, and became good friends. Through the years, that friendship has stood the test of time, and I have been privileged to lecture for Tory at Asbury Seminary and to visit him at Truro Church in Virginia where he is now Rector.

Tory is a godly man.

I want that to stand loud and clear as a statement in its own right. In Tory I always see a man who loves the Lord and loves to lead people to the Lord and loves to bless the church. He has found himself on more than one occasion in the midst of difficult circumstances and in that place has always sought to be a man of peace, speaking truth and love with integrity. That's not easy; but his life is a truer witness than my words.

Tory and I don't agree on everything; that hardly matters. I love his heart, and I love him as a dear friend - it is a privilege to know some people, and I count Tory in that category. If I had to agree with someone in order to cherish their friendship, I'd be both far poorer and even more foolish than I am. Tory's wisdom has made me stop, think, re-assess, and wonder many times.

In the mess of US Anglican politics, he takes it in the neck from every side because his church is a member of the conservative ACNA, not the official TEC grouping, but he has taken time to pray with and become friends with the TEC Bishop of Virginia (for whom I also have a deep regard). It is this ability to seek reconciliation without losing integrity that brought Tory to Archbishop Justin's attention.

Justin has appointed Tory as a Canterbury Six Preacher, a company of six preachers that are linked with the foundation of the Cathedral, and who have the honour of being commissioned to share in the work the Archbishop sees as being vital to his own ministry. Justin is keen that we Anglicans re-discover the ability to 'disagree well', and has installed Tory as a Six Preacher to indicate how vital this is, and to demonstrate a very visible model of how it might be done.

Justin has been criticised for the appointment; Tory has been criticised for taking it. Blow the critics.

In the church of God, we will at many times differ on many things, and the way we conduct ourselves at those times matters. Disagreeing well is a great skill, and can reveal deeply Christian character - or its lack. To love my brother or sister  when I really read the Scriptures differently matters. Justin and Tory both get that, and I am grateful for the leadership of the one and the friendship of the other and the example of both. We need more people like this. We need to live this stuff out.


So it was glorious to be at Canterbury; to see a godly man honoured; to stand with a friend and his family; to see this step on his pilgrimage and to feel it mark a part of my own.

Back in Little Rock, a quarter of a century ago, we had no idea what days would come. Who knows what days yet will be. Friday, however, and days like it, are days to treasure indeed.

I thank God for Tory, and pray I might practise what I see lived and preached in his life.


Sunday, March 09, 2014

examples

I had the pleasure today of meeting up with Robert Watson, retired clergyman, sometime chaplain with ICS in Wengen, Switzerland.

It was in that role that I first met Robert. I had agreed to take on my first chaplaincy in 1997 and ICS held a training day for summer chaplains. Robert was there, and as we spoke, he was tremendously encouraging about the work I would encounter, and the opportunities I would find whilst in resort.

Like most of us, Robert can be a bit marmite - some people take to him enormously, others not so much. I particularly took to him on first meeting and have always done so ever since. When I have seen him lead services at Wengen, as he led the communion today, he does so in a very individual style that is impossible to emulate - but which clearly demonstrates his God-ward heart, and his desire that others might share that heart. That's a very precious thing, and for me has a deep integrity.

Today he made me value again another person's ministry, and made me think of others who have blessed me along the way. The list is very long; I am sure it is far from finished.

The person who especially came to mind did so because as I spoke about Robert with someone else in the village here where I am enjoying a few days holiday, she told me of a poor experience earlier in the season. The man who had been chaplain then had been very insistent that she (my friend here) should do something in the church, and had rather bullied her about it. She had not been free to offer the time needed, and felt bad about the whole thing.

This tale put me in mind of John Walker at Calverley, one of my heroes of the faith. When I arrived in Yorkshire after Pontypridd, I was exhausted spiritually. We met, we talked, and John quickly delved a little and found out all sorts of things about me which revealed that I was exactly the kind of person who could help him with various things in the life of the parish. And he never once even asked me. He understood how tired, how empty I was, and simply befriended me and gave me time to be restored. He and Michelle were wonderful. His ministry, there at the end of his many years in that place, with so much to do to organise the parish for the upcoming interregnum, was the perfect model to me of pastoral understanding. John could so easily have pushed me along a bit - he had so much to get done in those final months it would have been very understandable - but instead he understood what I needed and put his own needs, wants, agendas and everything else to one side so I could begin to flourish again. I know for some John could also be a bit marmite - can't we all? - but the time he gave me was pure blessing. When I was ready to begin to offer things, he kindly made space. He encouraged and helped me grow. I thank God for what John did for me.

The newspapers are looking at the anniversary of Pope Francis' election at the moment, and beginning to judge how successful he is being. He is a man. As time goes on, the adulation will vary. He will doubtless end up being a bit more marmitey than has so far been the case - some will really find they can't cope with the taste after all, whilst others continue to love him. He is not perfect (thank God), but the imperfections are not disqualifications nor do they dilute the value of anything he does or says.

God only uses imperfect people; it's all he has.

The examples we have of good men and women who touch our lives with blessings from God are not divine, not perfect, not plaster saints who live on pedestals, but real, flawed, loved people like us.

And here's some good news: if they blessed us, we get to pass it on.

P.S.

I was just in the process of posting this when a quick message came in from a dear friend who was once part of a church where I was involved early in my ordained ministry years. She could have been reading this as I was typing; and as I have been writing about examples that have touched my life, I actually got a note from her saying pretty much the same thing back to me. How genuinely humbling. How wonderful. You see, we really do all get to play.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Guidance?

So the House of Bishops very kindly issued a statement of pastoral guidance on same sex marriage the day after Valentine's Day.

Props for the timing, boys.

It has a couple of technical problems.

First:
The first same sex marriages on England are expected to take place in March. From then there will, for the first time, be a divergence between the general understanding and definition of marriage in England as enshrined in law and the doctrine of marriage held by the Church of England and reflected in the Canons and the Book of Common Prayer.
There has been quite some internet chatter about this. I'm not an ecclesiastical lawyer, though I did talk to one. Off the record.

However, rather than rehash what others have said, do read Scot Peterson on this here. He covers both sides, but finds that actually it isn't the first time there has been such a divergence. Marriage law changes and the Church deals with it - though his conclusion is interesting because he does see a real difference in this change. Previous changes have left applications in localities to the individual conscience of the clergy; this constructs a blanket ban.

Look, it's interesting, but it's minutiae. Their Graces should've done better than pander to conservative propaganda on this. An untruth has been published in their names because they swallowed something which one of the factions in the Church has shouted loudly enough to become accepted reality - when it is no such thing. But it isn't the heart of the matter. It's illustrative of the process. It's sad. It doesn't really matter.

So on to the Second Technical Problem - and perhaps I read the wrong internet sites, because I've seen nobody else comment on this, and for the life of me I struggle to understand this.

In the appendix to the statement there is a section on how the bishops see the law applying to clergy. Within this we read (emphases as per original):

23.  At ordination clergy make a declaration that they will endeavour to fashion their own life and that of their household 'according to the way of Christ' that they may be 'a pattern and example to Christ's people'. A requirement as to the manner of life of the clergy is also directly imposed on the clergy by Canon C 26, which says that 'at all times he shall be diligent to frame and fashion his life and that of his family according to the doctrine of Christ, and to make himself and them, as much as in him lies, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ.'
At all times he shall be diligent. Fashion his life. His family. Make himself and them. As in him lies.

We've had women priests for twenty years. We have the legislation for women bishops. And the canons of the Church of England still only have male clergy. Someone sack the lawyers, or sack the Synod, or sack the Bishops who allow this stupidity. Changing this language is simple and necessary, and leaving it in such archaic form is - well, I want to find it insulting, but actually, in the context it is being used, it becomes laughable.

Lesbian clergy - you're OK. It's only the men the rules apply to.

This week, the Telegraph commented on how the government's change in marriage law was causing a redrafting of all sorts of legislation going back 700 years, so a man couldn't be Queen. You'd think the Church could sort it's own laws out to recognise a woman can be a priest.

Now.

This is technical stuff, and in the grand scheme of things, regarding the subject matter of the Guidance, neither point is really central to the argument. But actually both things together begin to matter.

Because when the House of Bishops issue Pastoral Guidance, they speak words that impact real people, real lives, real relationships, real faith, real hopes and real fears. They have a duty of care to get the small things right because it demonstrates that every person counts as a person and not just as a cause or a faction or a vote or a voice. We are the Church of God in this place and we should jolly well act like it or repent when we get it wrong.

It so happens that a very senior Bishop in the Church of England came to me mid-week and apologised for the Guidance. Actually, I hadn't read it then. I thanked him - and came home and read it to see why he should say what he had said. And then I understood that I had just met a godly man.

We will disagree on how the Church in its fulness responds to all sorts of questions. Some of those disagreements will get resolved, some won't. In the process, we must love one another and not take short cuts, we must demonstrate love and not produce slogans that make our neighbour less than us. We must be Christians.

Guidance?

Yes, I think their Graces might yet seek more of the same, as might we all, and I would not be of their number or carry their responsibilities, but I would, will and do pray for them.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

glimpses of glory

Inevitably as a parish priest you bury people.

Three years ago on this blog, just as I was stopping doing funerals, I made a comment about Tom Long's superb book Accompany Them With Singing. It is a wonderfully Christian book about death and the things we do around death. I wished I had had it when I was first ordained. Three years ago I didn't know if I would ever put its wisdom to use again.

But now I am grateful for Tom's words, his theology, his understanding of people and the Scriptures and his grasp of God's care of us from our first days to our last - and beyond.

I met Tom, once. Briefly. He has no idea. I heard him preach; simply brilliant. The people who touch us, I suppose, the people who shape us and never know. Tom - thank you. There are folk in my life now, as I resume pastoral ministry, who are profoundly affected by your work and don't know it, as they only get to feel it through my mediating hands and eyes and voice. But I know. And I thank you for the larger sight of God you have given me, and the framework to help others connect with Jesus in fragile times.

I am experiencing a season where all of this is carrying a particular relevance. My prayers and thoughts are filled with dear, dear folk who have lost friends, parents, spouses; I am deeply feeling the sorrow of loss and singing the songs of resurrection.

It's the worst part of the job; it's the deepest privilege. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

merry


So that was Christmas.

My first Christmas back in Oxfordshire.

In Pontypridd, people used to say - "This will be your busy time of year then!" and I would smile a fixed, polite-enough smile and nod. It really wasn't that much busier than any other time of year. There were services to do, sermons to write, people to see, stuff happening. Life. And a few days off afterwards.

Here having three parishes, I got to do Christmas three times over. So yes, it turns out Christmas is my busy time of year. Good job I really enjoy it! (Christmas; and the job, come to think of it.)


From the Christingle in Tackley, where we saw about a fifth of the village pack into the church, to Christmas morning, it has been a real delight to take the Advent journey and see everything that happens here.

In a way it's invidious to pick out highlights, but I guess people will forgive me if I pull out one or two.

That Tackley Christingle was super - in no small part because it was such a surprise. We held it on a Friday afternoon after school as an experiment, and it worked. The school there were totally wonderful to work with, and really supportive - I am only sorry I missed the children singing at the Tackley Carol Service as I was at Steeple at the time. The Steeple Carol Service was fantastic - in no small part to the wonderful musicianship of Jonathan who played organ & ran the choir. North Aston was also a delight; I'm only sorry I had to run from one to the other! Miranda was tremendously prescient & chose music that Kings sang a couple of days later... Again, I am surprised by how good the choirs were in each of the churches. Remember: our largest village has around 1,000 inhabitants, so it's a bit like expecting Portugal to field a football team.

Here is a snippet of the Steeple Carol Service.

And another highlight was hearing the children from the school in Steeple sing a carol I wrote for them at their school Christmas service. Yes, inevitably - here's that too!

Crib Services are new to me. I've never actually done one before in almost 20 years of being ordained. Well, old dogs do learn new tricks. Steeple's was massive, and needed all the crowd control techniques I've learned over the years (never let them see the fear) in order to get to the money moment ("because you matter to God - and you - and you..." and suddenly we have pin-drop quiet) but meanwhile in North Aston...

In North Aston we had the epitome of rural ministry. Steeple has a Crib which can only be described as a mansion. North has a fold out table covered with sawdust, a candle lantern, and knitted figures. Simple and yet stunning. As we all stood around and looked at this naive scene, there was a sudden intimacy which was breathtakingly pure. I loved it.

 I could go on. I should go on. I've not mentioned Carols on the Green, or Midnight, or Christmas Morning -
And I will mention the last of those three, but not for the church services, which were glorious (stunning candles in Tackley, unbelievable attendance in North). No; rather I'm going for earlier in the morning when Harry and I went for our usual woodland path walk, and suddenly heard a noise up ahead. Harry started, and made to move forwards, and then froze to the spot. In front of us, facing away, was a huge deer. For a moment it was still, and then it leapt away - one, two three enormous bounds and it was off. The dog and I had been rooted to the spot as we watched, and only as the deer disappeared did Harry shake himself and set off to follow - but it had gone. A beautiful moment in the early sunlight, a gift.

A gift that sums up this joyful season, for it has all been gift. Gifts of people all around, in song, in worship, in the villages, in the pub, in the choirs, in concerts and gatherings of all sorts, not forgetting lunch with Benyons and Hayns families on Christmas afternoon.

Oh - One more thing.

There are a couple of lovely people here who have been in hospital over Christmas. So I popped across to Witney see them between Christmas morning services and lunch. Just for a few minutes conversation, just to wish them Happy Christmas, to read a little Scripture, and to pray.

And I confess that in that hospital, with the background noise of too-loud TVs and nurses calling down the corridor and the smell of disinfectant and the glare of cheap decorations - I was profoundly and deeply touched by the Lord who was born in a stable in order to be God with us. Always.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Legacy

I am hearing on the radio & reading on Twitter a number of tributes to Nelson Mandela that speak of how, in the 1980s, some people in the UK supported Mandela and the ANC whilst others regarded him as a terrorist.

With respect, Nelson Mandela lived reconciliation.

Isn't the point of the man who wore the Springbok shirt at the Rugby world cup final that sometimes (and this may well be such a fitting time) we forgive one another the past in order to have a chance of writing a different future? Such a man does not belong to the few.

And though he encouraged the remembering, it was to aid reconciliation, not to punish those who had failed him. We honour Mandela with his agenda; even if his great dream for his nation has (for now) only been realised with patchy success, his global legacy is how we all live reconciliation.

If some who got it wrong thirty years ago have since understood and changed, this is a tribute to the generous forgiveness of a true hero of our times. Small-minded reminders of bleaker choices put me in mind of something my grandmother used to say:

"Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."

Or, perhaps, better:

"If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner." (The Long Walk to Freedom, 1995)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Reporting Pilling

So the Pilling Report has been published.

The list of those who wrote or spoke to Joe Pilling's working group on human sexuality for the House of Bishops reveals that many conservatives were determined that their voice should be heard, and that many from the differing gay lobby groups also wanted to have a voice.

I'm not entirely clear how many non-interested parties wrote in, which is perhaps an inevitable shame.

The report is careful: it sets out its context very slowly, establishing methodology, its understanding of Anglicanism on several levels, and discussing the differing types of evidence brought before the group. It seeks to be practical and theoretical, and does not deliver any killer new doctrinal statements.

What it does do - importantly - is set out a generous, grace-shaped space for the future. The report understands that there is difficult work to be done, but I think at times instead of describing what the future might look like, it tries to describe what the future might feel like.

In the past, all our discussions on sexuality in Anglicanism have been extraordinarily angst-ridden, as if this was our most precious set of doctrines. But get real; we are about Jesus folks. The Pilling report doesn't say that sentence anywhere - indeed, the Bishop of Runcorn's dissenting statement appeals to Tom Wright's Durham address where he would not put this debate into the 'adiaphora' file. Yet the tone of the whole report gives the Bishop of Runcorn cause for his dissenting statement. All the way through there is a push to lower the angst, to up the grace, to look for the best in those with whom we may disagree and to accept that Christians differ.

That's the key, vital, Anglican nature of this report.

And it doesn't put the Scriptures to one side in order to allow for this. It engages in some debate (throughout; and in the two very lengthy and differing appendices), and has much room for references to more, and clearly shows that freshness and generosity will take us further - if not in changing minds then certainly in how we conduct ourselves as we speak with one another. And that has to be fundamentally Biblical.

I have to admit I am beginning to be saddened by a new popularity of the word 'revisionist'. It gets used when someone doesn't like someone else trying to look at the Scriptures from any fresh angle. 'Revisionist interpretations are to be avoided because the weight of scholarship is against them' is in fact like saying 'New things are to be avoided because there are more old things'. Biblical scholarship is always to be examined; if it handles the Scripture well, it is to be taken seriously whether it fits with our current understanding or not. I love 'revisionism', I thank God for 'revisionism' - in these terms Luther was a 'revisionist'. So was Cranmer. And Hooker. And Calvin. And Aquinas. And Wesley. NT Wright definitely is. These are all people who make us stop and change how we read the Bible. Thank God for these people. To suggest that we ever have everything right is - risking missing out on more. It's not suggesting the truth changes; it's saying that God is wonderful, and still may open our eyes.

But - and this is vital - whilst I don't like the attitude that wants to belittle change, I love the guys that sometimes come out with the attitude. They are vital to the church because their hearts are so good. I want new scholarship; I think the old scholarship doesn't do the Bible justice here because it doesn't work with the bigger picture of God. Yet I want to break bread with the people with whom I disagree - that's Church, that's what Jesus calls us to, and that's the tone I often find in Pilling.

On the day it was published I got sent a link to a new conservative evangelical website supporting gay people. LivingOut is clear: it upholds the trad line; here are a group of gay men who are (somewhat courageously) stating their sexuality very publicly, and adding that they will be celibate or look for a heterosexual relationship.

Honestly, as I read the site, I understand them completely, but disagree with their understanding and application of the Scripture. And I am glad we belong to the same church. It's a big house.

Because that's the other thing I found in Pilling, and this is priceless: nowhere in the findings or recommendations or general tone of the report did I find that it was in any way suggested gay people are sinful or second class. Gay people belong in the big house; there is - at last - officially room.

Even if there is work to be done, even if full equality is a long way off, even if the discipline of the church is still what it always was: there is room. I get that for some 'full equality' is not a goal; I get that for some the current discipline is quite good enough. As I said - I disagree, and with respect, do so because of the Bible.

I am grateful to the Pilling report as I read it for the first time and I hope it will see the Church of England move forward with generosity and grace and care, and perhaps with a few less raised voices along the way.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Advent

It's hard to express my wonder as an Old Mertonian returning to college for this year's Advent Carol Service.

I simply don't have the memory of chairs being put out in the sanctuary so that there was room for everyone who wanted to come to a service. We never had a choir like this. I never saw such spectacle as hundreds of candles flickering and glowing and processing out together. This is Merton College in its 750th year.

And then there is the brand new Dobson Organ, physically dominating the ante chapel, and thundering gloriously through preludes, hymns, anthems and voluntaries.

Mark, the chaplain when I was an undergraduate, is one of my heroes in life. He probably has no idea. I was a fairly unreconstructed evangelical as an undergraduate; vice-president of the OICCU, you name it. The years have added a little nuance for me to the black and white simplicity of those days, the odd grey here and there. And yet, for all that, I was up every morning and attending morning prayer in chapel with Mark and two or three others. He helped me to worship, and the vehicle, the tradition, was not the issue: the reality of the faith and the sight of God was.

These days, I'd be working out how he was using liturgy so well; then I just took it.

And my memory - for what it's worth - is that the life of the chapel ambled on, up and down, and Mark faithfully served us and several found a calling and went forward to ordained ministry, or into different kinds of orders. It was a warm place; he was a good man.

And now: this thing I always loved, watched over by this man I revered, has been transformed and I am truly, truly touched again by what I see and hear and feel today.

My parish here are learning that I am fussy about liturgy. It must be good, but it must be clear: I have no time for liturgy which is only useful to those who are liturgically literate. The in-crowd. Liturgy as a barrier to coming to worship is abhorrent.

Simon, Merton's current chaplain, is a superb liturgist. His materials are concise, readable, intelligent and straightforward to follow for the first-time or occasional visitor. The service booklet for the Advent Carol Service (given that we started in darkness) was excellent as a resource. The basic shape of the service was simple, with readings moving from promise in the Old Testament through the Prophets to the Annunciation in St Luke, surrounded by congregational carols and choir items, with a final procession to the ante chapel where all of us stood, candles in hand, organ blazing, glory descending. The execution of it was awe-inspiring.

The choir: This Christmas, most of us will hear choirs attempt Howells' A Spotless Rose. My heart usually sinks when I see it on a service order. It is a deceptive piece, which should ebb and flow and be like gossamer on the wind, and which more usually ends up like treacle on a spoon. Merton choir under Ben Nicholas' superb direction wove a web that was deliciously light. I can hear it still.

But the highlight was Matthew Martin's O Oriens, a magical, mysterious, breathtaking piece knotted around with glimpses of O Come O Come Emmanuel which quite simply moved me to tears. I didn't want it to end; ended, I wanted to stay in the moment of silence that followed for ever.

The organ: O Mertonians, the old days are gone. The platform, the pseudo-baroque tones that came straight from an early German period instrument recording of the 1960s, all gone. Now here be dragons. Monsters. Angels too - for a Leviathan it can sometimes play with an ethereal sweetness. And at the end, as we all sang out Lo, he comes I stood right by the Dobson and felt its full power, and the earth shook. Wonderful.

It was a real privilege to be with hundreds of others in Merton Chapel on Saturday. It is a real privilege to see what Simon and his team and his vision is achieving there. It was a special privilege to see Mark back for the occasion, and to speak briefly with him. Too briefly; I owe him so much.

It was the best start to Advent I can ever remember.

Friday, November 29, 2013

another year

Ryan Giggs is 40. Amazing. And still playing at the highest level, as he showed in leading the charge in this week's 5-0 victory by United over Leverkusen. Goalies last that long, but midfielders die young. Unless they are Ryan Giggs.

Another birthday boy, CS Lewis, had a memorial stone placed in Westminster Abbey last week on the 50th anniversary of his death. It was a great occasion - and I felt privileged to be there. I had a ticket amongst the general populace in the South Aisle but as I arrived I saw my old friend Spud, who had organised the whole thing, and he gave me that most precious of things - a 'friend, come up higher' moment. He decided to find me a 'better seat', which turned out to be on the front row at the east end of the choir. The royal family seats. 'What was my connection with CS Lewis?' I kept being asked. 'We share a birthday,' didn't quite feel like the right answer...

The sound of CS Lewis' voice from a BBC recording during the service was a beautiful moment; as was a new anthem on one of his poems.

And me?

On my birthday this year I am in a grateful frame of mind.

A year ago, I was beginning to ponder a return to full time ordained ministry after my time in Leeds, and now I have a new home and role, the three parishes are just great, and I am back in Oxfordshire amongst the dearest of friends.

I've received all sorts of gifts this week. At that CS Lewis service, someone I haven't seen for ages told me they follow this blog, and have found it a real help from time to time. Well, that encouragement blessed me. Thank you. Meeting a young couple to discuss a baptism, one of them told me that they had heard me preach a couple of times and found things I said to be surprisingly understandable(!): would I speak that way about the baptism? They had even found they had changed something about the way they lived after one of my sermons. I tell you - any preacher who hears that said to them genuinely feels like they are walking on air!

And the photo at the top is from a couple of nights ago, as Clare & David MacInnes invited me over for supper to celebrate my birthday, and Clare & John Hayns were there too. One of the deepest gifts - these friends who mean the world, and now I'm just down the road from them.

Life will have its ups and downs; there were a couple of moments in the last year when I got a bit stressed! There will be a few of those moments in the year ahead, I don't doubt... But this year's birthday is not about accruing new gifts; simply being very, very thankful for the very, very many good gifts that have already come my way.

One extra thought.

In Pontypridd, it was a running joke - and sometimes, to be honest, it did get me down a bit - that I somehow ended up celebrating my birthday each year either by taking a funeral or by sitting at the bedside of someone who was dying.
You will all be glad to know I am not taking a funeral today!

I did take one yesterday, though...

Saturday, November 09, 2013

pastoral epistles

I have a new email address as Rector here, and have been doing my best to answer questions and keep up with requests as they have come in. Here is a flavour of rural community life so far.

Dear Rector,
I hear one of your walnut trees has blown down in the storm. This is a sign from God: even so, he is blowing down the Church of England, and especially that awful little man Justin. Justin! What a name.
Would you like to come for tea, some time?
Yours...

Dear Rector,
I am told that one of those dear walnut trees has blown down. It reminds me: I had an old maiden aunt with a dressing table made from walnut veneer. At least, we thought it was veneer, until one Bonfire Night, for a wheeze, we threw my aunt on the bonfire as the 'Guy' - and she took forever to burn, so perhaps she was made from solid walnut?
Yours...

Dear Rector,
Do you intend to castrate your new dog? If not, my daughter would be interested in using him for breeding.
Yours...

Dear Rector,
Do you hunt, or are you a Liberal Democrat? I realise you aren't married, but I could find a horse for you if you would like. Coming from the north I expect you're quite handy with a gun, so you will join our New Year Shoot, won't you?
Yours...

And my replies (in reverse order):

Dear Sir ... ... MP,
I am afraid I will be away at New Year. Perhaps another time?

Dear Churchwarden,
Sadly for your daughter's spaniels, Harry is not long to be entire. But thank you for putting this thought in my mind.

Dear Headteacher,
Bonfire Night does bring back memories, does it not? I had an uncle whose neck was solid brass, I swear.

Dear Bishop,
I would be delighted to come for tea.