Friday, December 11, 2009

An uncertain journey to take

Yesterday evening St John's welcomed the annual carol service of the Order of St John, Priory for Wales. There were over 300 people in church, sixty of them choristers from a junior school choir plus a male voice choir. We also had a baritone soloist who also read a poem, and a violin soloist contributing, making the event a little longer than may have been comfortable for some. It made the event slightly less of a popular carol service and a bit more of a performance, to my mind. It'll be interesting to see what feedback there is about this.

After the service, I learned from a St John's senior staff member that Andrew, a long standing St John's Ambulanceman who was on placement with us when he was a student at St Mike's three years ago, has resigned his curacy in order to become a Roman Catholic. He'd remained a Deacon after ordination and assignment to a Parish, as his request to be ordained by one of the remaining 'flying bishops' had been refused. He accepted that the Church in Wales ordained women to the priesthood and respected them as colleagues, believing it might be possible to live together with differences and be part of the same church. He conscientiously dissented from being priested by a Bishop who ordains women. With the retirement and non-replacement of Wales' only flying Bishop last year, the possibility of him being priested locally on terms that respected his conviction ended.

I emailed him as soon as I got home, and this morning's reply was evidently written in the small hours. He spoke of agonising about his position in relation to the leadership of the Church in Wales. His departure is an expression of no confidence, but his acceptance of the Pope's authority will put to the test his vocation to serve as a minster of the Gospel in a new way. There's no certainty there'll be a place for him in the ranks of Rome's ordained, despite the much published recent initiative of the Holy Father to accommodate ex-Anglicans. Rome is every bit as rigid as Anglicanism in retaining its hierachies, traditions, dogmas and its decisions about how to adapt to changing times. The individual who finds it hard to compromise their heart felt convictions and ideals is destined to have a tough time wherever they make their spiritual home.

This makes me sad, and to some extent I take refuge from painful issues like this, by immersing myself in the everyday life of a congregation about its business, where there is much kindness, mutual accommodation, patience, tolerance and humour to compensate for the disappointment that our leadership seems to be losing the struggle to inspire everyone to hold together despite our differences.

The tea room was hectically busy after the Eucharist, and everyone was under pressure. Just as I took my place for an hour or so's washing up at the kitchen sink, chaos broke out when a cup of hot tea spilled across the counter and into the open money drawer, soaking all the notes as well as coins. In seconds the sodden notes were fished out and transferred across to the sink area for drying out with paper towels. In the confusion I dropped a clip containing twenty pound notes into the soapy dishwater, whereupon jokes about the Vicar's money laundering erupted and had everyone laughing. Heaven only knows what visitors made of this craziness.

1 comment:

dazzakoh said...

Strange how the Anglican church has become. I remember it as the broad-church that welcomed all who accepted the Lord, and supped at His table. The fact that you stood while I knelt, and sat when I stood, you clapped when I was silent - that did not matter. Yet now we have become ossified in our positions, and acceptance is now a thing of the past.

It is strange that I who have refused to cross the Tiber, find myself at the RC Cathedral more often than at what used to be my home church. The arrival of vicars from Sydney, the rewriting/adopting of rites that remove all reference to the epiclesis, the removal of a benediction and the absolution by the priest... Little wonder I prefer the comfort of the RC Cathedral. Strangely, the Bishop in Singapore has removed from his diocese the customary announcement that Communion is only for Roman Catholics, and operate a don't ask don't tell policy. The adoration of Mary has also been moved to after the Mass. Methinks he is getting more ecumenical...

As for the Vicar at St John's laundering money.. well, did they know you spent time in Geneva, Switzerland! LOL!

A happy Christmas to you Keith!

Regards from Singapore.