Sunday, October 15, 2006

Light in the tunnel

From the bad news

Thursday last, Jenny my former colleage was inducted as Rector of Radyr. It was a full house at Christchurch Radyr, around two hundred people, and a warm air of anticipation. At the start my anticipation was tinged with apprehension. How long are Chris and I going to be able to cope with the routine workload before a successor is appointed? Already I am faced with doing five services a Sunday until the end of the year, when the separation of the new parish is meant to come into effect. At that stage the Area Dean takes charge of finding ministers for services in St Mikes and St Teilo's, or enforcing cutbacks - something I have never been happy to do unless unavoidable. There are so many distractions for people these days, that once a routine habit is interrupted, regaining it may no longer be guaranteed.

To the good
Having said that, I don't really know why I worry so much. Obviously, not enought faith. We restarted God on Mondays two weeks ago, having moved the event from St James' church into the school, and were delighted to see the same number of familiar adult and children's faces turning up and singing lustily. And no, I needn't have worried at all because Paul, the outgoing Central Cardiff Parish Warden, who will undoubtedly continue as one of the Wardens of the new Parish of St Mike's and St Teilo's, took me aside after the induction service to tell me that Archbishop Barry had already written to all the new Parish Wardens to propose the appointment of Revd. Caroline Downs as priest in charge of the new Parish. This is as good as it gets as far as I'm concerned, as Caroline, lives in the neighbouring Parish of Roath nad has been working there part time for the past five years, handing with aplomb and great humour some very tricky situations. Funnily enough she had been guest preacher at the St Mike's Songs of Praise only a fortnight ago - already known and well liked, and an excellent choice, since she can start work quickly without housing hassles initially, since she and her husband have their own house. It's great news for Cathays, and a relief for me, to know that two of the churches I have cared for over the past four years will now be in good hands.

Clearing the desk
The Archbishop certainly moved fast in response to our urgent pleas, hastening to resolve urgent concerns before going on a well deserved sabbatical. I've been quite short with people who've moaned to me about him having several months of paid leave. They don't really have much idea how how much he has to carry, even with a small staff support team, fulfilling a demanding pastoral task of rallying flagging demoralised legions of faithful, coping with a bureaucratic system failing to catch up with the 20th let alone 21st century, despite the hi-tech tools at its disposal.

A thankless task
On top of this, Barry has a valued role as an Anglican Primate of the world wide Communion of churches, straining at the leashes to break apart because of the difficulties some member churches have with the idea of agreeing to disagree, respecting each other and living together with differences. Ease of modern international communications has taken Barry away from his diocese and province for too much for its own good for these high level deliberations which seem to have done little or nothing to prosecute the Gospel cause - 'the Primate Wars', my good friend Martin calls this. I resent all this as a waste of Barry's time, and our resources expended on processes which seem unconnected with the mission we're actually engaged with at home.

Contrary agendas
Do the 'led' really want to break communion with each other as much as the leaders think. Or is it just the 'led' who have cash and influence to spare, trying to be the tail that wags the ecclesiastical dog? I think most people don't much care about these so called divisive issues. They've moved on, seen life differently, and are aiming to live the Gospel truth from within their real experience of people and relationships, as close to the compassion of Jesus as they can get, closer than one can get just by endless debate over Biblical texts and church regulations. Sure we can't do without scripture, but following Christ in the everyday world is miles bigger than just scripture or church law. I don't notice Christ letting us down either. I wonder what He thinks about these power struggles.

When will we ever learn?
Our ways and means of management and self-government as church leave a great deal to be desired. Sometimes basic communication skills and disciplines seem to be lacking, other times it's a lack of accountability in decision making, as I've found in some of my dealings with the Representative Body of the Church in Wales. How we will ever become a mature egalitarian networking culture within the communities of the church is a mystery to me. We still cling to past privilege and status (under the guise of 'responsibility'), and look to a way of being in society that belongs to the past.

Time for time out
I'd hate to be in the driving seat, in Barry's position. He sure deserves a good break from it all. I hope he'll do as little as possible with his time, and enjoy some freedom from all activity, whether gainful or futile. Come January, I'll be taking time off as well, and heading for the Swiss Jura and Alps once more. This thought will make light work of the harsh pressures of the next ten weeks or so.

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