Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patrick's Day

Yesterday, I took an early coach to London to see my sister. By the time we reached Newport the heating system had sprung a leak, and we stopped there until the next coach arrived to take us on, and hour late. The toilet on this coach was not functioning well, and half way the poor driver had to stop at a service station and do an urgent clean up, as its water tank had obviously not been filled or had stopped working.

On the crowded second coach, I sat next to a lively young afro Caribbean woman with a strong 'Lunnun black' accent, so different in tone and character from the rural dialect of her parents or grandparents generation which I got used to and was able to imitate when I worked in Bristol's St Paul's Area. A fascinating evolution of speech among the rising generations over a thirty year period. She told me that she'd just started work as a home carer for an agency, after eleven years in care home. She now worked long hours every day for ten days, dealing with the care and support needs of seventeen people, visiting some several times a week and sometimes daily, then having five days off. She was confident and proud of the work she was doing, and told me in passing that she went to church on Sundays. That cheered me, for sure.

After today's lunchtime Eucharist I attended my last Deanery Chapter as an incumbent of the church and was invited to open with prayer, which I appreciated, as it meant I could give God thanks for the fellowship of clerics and all the difficulties and challenges faced, and entrust them and their work to God. Better than making a speech. I am still struck by how poor clergy morale is, and how cynical many are about church leadership. The traditionalists do not feel heard or cared for. Mutterings about going over to Rome are heard. But to what good purpose when Rome itself writhes under the impact of clerical child abuse scandals?

We are witnesses the breakdown of traditional expressions of moral and spiritual authority in all churches. Religious Hierarchies as they have developed in the late 20th century under the dubious influence of global corporations on the one hand and over controlling secular legislation on the other, are under great strain as they strive to hold everyone together in he face of the forces of great change. Will it all break down? Or is it not to late to hope for reform, or organic mutation, transforming the community of communities into smaller sustainable communities in which mutual trust and confidence can be rebuilt? It isn't more controls or containment that the body of Christ needs, but rather creative freedom and confidence. More of the Spirit, less of the law. More of positive innovation, less of guilt inducing regulations that are either irrelevant or unenforceable. Do we need heirarchs? Yes, but more of them with less power and more accountability through personal dialogue.

After Chapter I came back into town to attend an open afternoon to launch the revamped Tourist Information Centre in the Old Library - now with extra added retailing space, but still awating the return of a notice board for promotional advertising of local events. I bumped into a senior Council officer for whom I have high regard, and took the opportunity to bend his ear about the plight of Cardiff Business Safe. More accountability through personal dialogue also applies to the Local Authority. It may not lead to any real change, but it may help to grow understanding and trust. With these elements, every organisation runs better.

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