Last night we had a special Diocesan Conference to discuss the future of the Archbishopric of Wales.
Actually, it was a good evening. People were engaged, and there was a genuine discussion, with real opinions expressed and debated. It's not the most fundamental issue facing the world-wide church today, but for us the Archbishop is an important figure, and it is right that we seek a way to ensure the post is constituted in the way that serves the church best and enables the holder of the office to live and breathe without being crushed by expectations that conflict and destroy.
For those who don't know, the Archbishopric in Wales is not currently fixed in one place. Any of the six diocesan bishops may be the Archbishop: when the post falls vacant, the remaining bishops vote amongst themselves to decide which of them should next be Archbishop.
However, with the development of Welsh society, the advent of the Welsh Assembly, and the increasing importance of the broadcast media in Welsh life, drawing the Archbishopric permanently into the Cardiff area makes more sense than ever.
Yes - we agreed with that. By a heavy majority.
But the proposal before us was to make the Archbishop the Archbishop of Llandaff, our diocesan bishop always the Archbishop, with a badly defined assistant bishop elected seperately as his assistant, potentially in conflict over major ideas of mission and pastoral care, especially as the two could overlap from one Archiepiscopate to the next.
No - we disagreed with that. By a larger majority.
Other ideas were bandied about; the assistant could be a better defined "area" bishop; the Archbishop could be a "presiding" bishop without a diocese and able to be based in Cardiff but also to travel throughout Wales more freely without being tied to Llandaff. The way the Archbishop is elected needs to be examined - also any assistant.
Bishop David, our current assistant, was delightfully humorous. It was asked what his status was in this - what would happen to him when Barry retires? He answered with delightful cheer that he didn't mind, he was pleased to be ministering today. He was asked about his experience in York, where the Archbishop has area bishops working with him. He replied: for one Archbishop, he wrote the letters, and the suffragons licked the stamps; the next was happy for the suffragons to write the letters; and for that Archbishop's successor, if the suffragons had dared to write letters, they'd have been stamped upon. This received perhaps the biggest laugh of the evening!
The opening meditation by the retired bishop of St Asaph will be my abiding memory of the evening. Speaking on 1 Thessalonians 5.24, "The one who calls you is faithful", he reminded me that this phrase is present tense. God is the one who calls us. Calling is not past tense - a moment in the past, to which I look back to receive affirmation and comfort in the ongoing work of ministry. In the context of the meeting, it was clear we were seeing that God has not called us to be his church in this land once - in the past - and now we are trying to work on, in the wrong age, in our own strength, not entirely clear how to apply something outmoded in the modern era.
No. The one who CALLS us is faithful. He still calls us. He still loves us. He still has a purpose, an ongoing calling, a calling for today to which we must listen and respond.
For me, personally, it hit a deep note.
I am tired. But he calls me. Even today. He has not finished with me. And he is faithful - so though I am tired, his calling is fresh, and his faithfulness refreshing. He did not call me to this work in the past and leave me to it; he calls me each and every day. Today too.
The one who calls us: how wonderful. There is no "no" here, only a glorious and eternal "yes".