Breaking the habits of a lifetime

I’ve always been deeply committed to building ecumenical relationships. That’s partly because it seemed to be essential – I almost said ‘a matter of life and death’ – among the divisions of Northern Ireland. It’s also because denominationalism is profoundly unattractive – churches are better in relationship. My problem has always been that I don’t much like the institutional expressions of ecumenism. I have profound respect for those who cope better than I do with the long agendas …

So I find myself firmly trumped by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation to be the Anglican Co-Chair of the forthcoming dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the World Communion of Reformed Churches. And I’ve just spent two days in London working with others to shape what will probably be a five year programme of talking and exploring.

It’s an honour for me – and for our church – that I should be asked to do this. And there are reasons why it makes sense. The Church of Scotland is an influential member of the World Communion of Reformed Churches – indeed the HQ of the former World Alliance of Reformed Churches was in Edinburgh until 1948. I’m encouraged to see our relationships with the Church of Scotland growing and deepening in all sorts of ways at the moment. So there will be interplay between what happens in the forthcoming dialogue and what happens in Scotland.

So it’s deep breath – and time to face up to the long Agendas

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Believing in God. #pisky

http://scottishchristian.com/one-in-50-anglican-clergy-dont-believe-in-god-scottish-episcopalians-are-most-sceptical/

I recently found myself starting to complete one of these surveys. By the time I reached Q4, I stopped and binned it. There were two reasons for that.

Firstly the relatively small size of our church means that any set of responses risks not being representative of the whole

Secondly I think it is always unwise to deal with deep and personal issues by responding to a set of questions posed by others. The result is likely to be what we see in this article. In a very different context, we regularly respond to requests for responses on matters of policy from the Scottish Government. I am usually an advocate of a response in which we disregard the supplied Questionnaire and write a statement of our position. Only in that way can we hope to achieve clarity with balance.

I see no evidence that clergy of our church are sceptical about God. We are at present seeing an influx of people into our processes of discernment – people wanting to test an inner conviction that God is calling them to ministry in our church. As part of that discernment, we expect people to be able to articulate clearly their experience of God at work in their lives – and their deep conviction about God’s presence, power and love. Nobody would make the commitments – and the sacrifices – which are involved unless they had that faith present as a vibrant reality in their lives.

But of course there are other realities.

We minister and pursue our mission in a very secular society. That society is full of quiet voices which erode conviction and attenuate passion. When you are tired and disappointed, the inner voice which says, ‘This isn’t doing any good, you know’ can be a disturber.

I see clergy who have done their best – who have bravely pointed the way forward – but have been ‘knocked back’ one time more than their resilience can stand.

Yes this is difficult – difficult because we carry faith right at the very centre of our being. So when we are hurt in the cause of faith, we are deeply hurt.

People who read this may say, That’s what you would expect’. To them I say that they should look at the life of the Scottish Episcopal Church today – at our energy and growing confidence, at the quality of our clergy and our ordinands …

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Harvest at Glamis Castle

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Something a little different today – Harvest Thanksgiving with the congregation in the Chapel at Glamis Castle and with the Chaplain, Canon Dr Joe Morrow. Glamis is famous as the childhood home of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

The Chapel is 17th Century and in the Episcopalian tradition – a private chapel for the Earl of Strathmore.

The congregation consists of people who work on the estate – and people from the village of Glamis. I didn’t could today – but the little Chapel was full. No sign of the Grey Lady who is reputed to haunt the Chapel.

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With the Celtic Bishops

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Our meeting with the Bishops of the Church of Ireland and the Church in Wales is one of the better events in the calendar. A slight Celtic vagueness means that I a not quite sure whether it happens every two or every three years. But it happens – this time at Portmarnock just to the north of Dublin. It was also enlivened by the presence of the Irish football team so I kept meeting a bearded Roy Keane in the corridor.

So what did we do? We had a look at Ministry Training – we are all in transition on that one. Also at issues of faith and identity – particularly in the light of our Referendum, And we looked at patterns of ministry

It always surprises me that there is relatively little contact between these churches. We’ve seen a small amount of movement among clergy – myself included. But I suspect that we each measure ourselves off against the establishment weight of the Church of England – rather than against one another,

That’s a pity because there is much that we share – relatively modest size and the challenges which go with that; disestablishment and not-establishment; complex history around faith and identity. We are all sufficiently fleet of foot to be attempting some brave steps in mission and growth.

I came away hopeful ….

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Hong Kong

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Like me, you will be watching events in Hong Kong with great concern.

None of this F&O course comes out of nowhere, I took this photo in the Autumn of 2012. Protestors are occupying an urban flyover. The police have arrived and have positioned a large inflatable just below. People watch, it’s over very quickly. But even at that point it was a daily event as anti-Bejing feeling grew,

Please remember in your prayers the ministry of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong. It’s small but very influential – particularly through its schools. I think particularly of the ministry of Dean Samson Fan and Archbishop Paul Kwong.

And Hong Kong is fun. Here we are – just off the overnight flight – exploring place of snakes in the Pet Service at the Cathedral with Samson Fan

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Seated

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The Camino was all very well. But I’m a cyclist at heart. You get your exercise sitting down – and you get to freewheel on the downhills which is a but difficult when you are walking.

This is National Cycle Route 75 – the canal heading west from Edinburgh. Not much freewheeling here, of course. But it is a remarkable journey which shows you familiar places from a very different perspective.

This is the aqueduct where the canal crosses the many lanes of the City Bypass at Hermiston Gait.

And if you really want to see things from a different perspective, try cycling across the centre of Edinburgh along the Water of Leith

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With the Church of Ireland

A quick trip to Dublin to preach in St Patrick’s Cathedral – the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland – in the centre of the city. The Service marked the start of the Academic Year for Church of Ireland Schools across Ireland.

I thought I was going to preach an elegant sermon on faith and identity for staff and governors who were having a Day Conference on that theme. But I gradually came to realise that the ‘main business’ was that they had 450 teenagers in the Cathedral – with President Michael D Higgins. So no sermon on the blog because it changed quite a bit.

Dublin was looking smart and prosperous. It was interesting to find out how the Irish Government’s efforts to move to a more secular base for the education system were going – to which the answer is that that is an issue with some distance to run,

This kind of outing is full of ghosts for me. As I climbed into the pulpit – and it was quite a climb – I thought about my maternal grandfather, Ernest Bateman, who was a Canon of the Cathedral. There are 11 boxes of his sermons in the Church of Ireland Library. They cover the experience of the Southern Irish Protestants post-Partition and through the Independence of the Irish Republic. What goes around comes around, as it were.

I don’t imagine any of the teenagers in the Cathedral spared a thought for the innocent formulation in Evensong, ‘O Lord, guide and defend our rulers’. Behind that lies what was called the State Prayers controversy in which my grandfather and others ‘encouraged’ the Church of Ireland to recognise that they could no longer pray for the British monarchy. It was resolved by Archbishop Gregg who said simply, ‘We must have reality in our prayers.’

And so just as quickly back again – apart from the experience of a ‘go-around’ as we landed at Edinburgh Airport, a first for me. Ten feet off the ground and the straight up again. Turbulence – do you know about wind shear close to the ground?

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A Referendum Thought #pisky #anglican

Thought for the Day on BBC Scotland this morning

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Reconciling Scotland – the local church. #pisky #Anglican

All over Scotland today, local congregations are meeting for the first time since the Referendum vote. Passions are running high. We’ve just lived through a moment at which many of the things which matter most to us about our country have been at stake. Those strong feelings are the natural and proper outcome of a remarkable level of political engagement – something which is to be welcomed,

There is much talk at present about the role of the churches and faith communities in reconciliation. It seemed to me that, unless we maintained neutrality in the pre-Referendum period, we wouldn’t be able to act as healers and reconcilers after it. More than that, I believed that it is the business of churches to be passionate about values and justice – but to be very careful about flags and identity.

The local church is very special at a time like this.

Everybody is welcome. People of strong and passionate views are welcome. But the church has to be a place where everybody recognises the integrity of the views of others. People aren’t expected to leave their views outside – indeed the church is precisely the place to which they should bring their visions, their hurts, their fears, their disappointments. For sharing and for healing – not for winning or for losing,

I have always believed that the church must be a place strong and confident enough to allow all voices to be heard – particularly the quieter and the contrarian voices.

I believe in the transformative power of prayer. Today’s papers describe a context of astonishing complexity and difficulty. I don’t believe that prayer will give us political ‘answers’. But I do believe that prayer will help us to live and work together so that new kinds of answer will emerge.

The role of local clergy is vitally important in all this. Some clergy have made thoughtful and measured contributions to debate. It’s understandable that other clergy have wanted to express their feelings about the future of their country. But if we are now addressing the challenge of reconciliation, it would be better now to set that to one side and to ‘be there for everybody’.

So maybe that sounds a bit soft? Well it isn’t. It’s very tough indeed. It means calling people to be bigger than – to transcend – their political passions. It means sometimes withstanding and sometimes carrying considerable amounts of other people’s anger. It means saying to people who crave answers and certainty that neither is possible at this moment.

I’m a parish priest at heart and I believe that that is where it is ‘at’ just now

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Finished!

Well we got there. We think we did about 110k in five days. A bit much for the feet – but very good for contact and friendship. We went to the Cqthedral is evening and saw the mighty thurible in action

Tomorrow is a quiet day – beginning with a celebratory breakfast in the Parador beside the Cathedral

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