Visiting the Vatican #pisky


With Archbishop Sir David Moxon, another remarkable ceiling in the Vatican Museum, the Holy Father greets Anna

I used to allow myself to say that the Scottish Episcopal Church is unruly – and the Anglican Communion is certainly unruly.  We swing from crisis to crisis and make huge shifts of policy ‘on the wing’.  The Vatican of course is different.  It’s timescales are different.  Tomorrow will almost certainly be the same as today.  In some ways, it has the feel of a medieval court where nuance and symbol are everything.  
So when Alison and Anna were unexpectedly beckoned forward to be greeted by Pope Francis, we wondered whether this was a way of giving symbolic effect to his recent exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, or maybe a sign of the strength of relationships between Catholic and Anglican Churches.  I could see how Archbishop David Moxon patiently builds friendship and trust – the kind of trust without which everyone will go through the motions but nothing will happen.

Of course that measured face of the Vatican isn’t the whole story – because there are disconnects and dissonances all over the place.  And then there is the extraordinary personal popularity of Pope Francis which simply bursts through the institutional frameworks of the church.

It’s also clear that the church is on the move – moving towards Synods, interested in exploring things which are commonplace in the Anglican world.  They have the problem of all movements which want to bring in a period of intentional change – how to keep control of the movement as it happens.

I did have one question in my back pocket – the question of whether the Catholic Church is prepared to work in ecumenical dialogue with the full range of Anglicanism, including those who commit to canonical change on same sex marriage.  Of course I was never going to get a clear answer to such a question.  All I can say is that I was received with a warmth and graciousness which astonished me – and I learned much.  I hope to return in October for the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the Anglican Centre

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Sua Santita …   #pisky #anglican


I don’t speak Italian – but I was given a script with which to greet Pope Francis on behalf of the Scottish Episcopal Church.  It went like this:

Sua Santita

So no molto honorato di essere qui a reppresentare la chiesa anglicana di scozia.

Questo e’ un regalo per lei

Le porto I saluti della mia provincia.  Preghiamo per lei

To be greeted by the Pope was of course the highlight of our visit to Rome – but after the audience we slipped into the Basilica behind and had the chance of seeing it empty.

I got the impression that the Anglican Centre in Rome and its Director, Archbishop David Moxon, quite like having visits from Anglican Primates.  They are endlessly hospitable.  But a visit like this gives them the chance of setting up meetings with Vatican officials – and demonstrating the world wide ‘reach’ of the Anglican Communion.  So I went off to meet Archbishop Paul Gallagher who is the equivalent of the Vatican’s Foreign Secretary – keeping contact with the worldwide network of Nuncios.  That was a chance to talk about the Anglican Primates Meeting and the journey of Scotland towards Independence – or not.  I also met Bishop Brian Farrell of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and Father Jim Puglisi of the Centro Pro Unione.  We went to evening worship with the Sant’Egidio Community – it’s a lay movement which arises from the Second Vatican Council.   It’s also the community which has received the refugees who come back from Lesbos with Pope Francis.

An unexpected treat was a performance of Hamlet by the Globe Theatre sponsored by the British Embassy to the Holy See.

We did a bit of tourism as well – not having been to Rome before.  And the underlying connection was that I am a Patron of the Anglican Centre – and that Alison’s cousin, Canon Bruce Ruddock, is a former Director.  I had the pleasure of getting to know Archbishop Sir David Moxon when he was one of the three Archbishops in New Zealand and the Anglican Consultative Council held its meeting there.

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St Andrews, St Andrews

Still struggling with the cough and cold I have had for the last two weeks – and still digesting last week’s visit to Rome – we went today to St Andrews, St Andrews. There was time to admire the new open space at the west end of the church – stripping and varnishing a floor does wonders for the amount of light in the building. The building has what many of our churches lack – some sense of space. And that gives all kinds of options for flexibility in the way worship is set up.

But for now I tried to make sense of a very disparate set of readings against the background of the visit to Rome

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Off to Rome #pisky #ACC2016

I’m honoured to be a Patron of the Anglican Centre in Rome – but I have never visited.  Alison’s cousin, Canon Bruce Ruddock, used to be the Director.  The current Director is Archbishop Sir David Moxon whom I got to know when he was one of the three archbishops in New Zealand.  We discovered significant commonality around questions of faith and identity as experienced in the three main communities in New Zealand and the communities in Ireland.  It’s all about symbols and memory – and of course about who is allowed to make jokes about any of it.

I hope to meet Pope Francis on Wednesday – that will be a great honour.  While it will be brief, I hope it will be longer than my encounter with Pope Benedict.  When introduced by Archbishop Rowan Williams, he murmured, ‘ Ah, Scotland’ and moved on!

The publication of Amoris Laetitia gives particular interest to the visit.  The Anglican Consultative Council is meeting in Lusaka.  It will be trying to square the Anglican circle – of how geographical and cultural diversity can be accommodated in the context of a majority view among the Primates of what constitutes doctrinal orthodoxy. 

What is of course particularly interesting about Amoris Laetitia is the suggestion that the response of the church may be affected by matters of cultural context.  Whatever challenges that may bring, one can only welcome the softer tone of the document and hope that it will also make ecumenical engagement more productive,

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The baptism of Esme Rose


Today was a special moment for our growing extended family in Scotland. This was the baptism of Esme Rose in our church in Hamilton. Here are the proud grandparents with big sister Eve – and here is the Sermon

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Preaching in Holy Week #pisky

To people who ask if I am particularly busy at Christmas and Easter, I tend to say – not. I’m not on the treadmill of congregational ministry as I was for so many years. And nobody wants to talk to me about mission strategy or anything else at these moments.

But this year my Holy Week got very busy. I ended up plugging some gaps – which is only right and proper. And I began to feel that I was about two sermons behind.

However I did arrive on two occasions with an ‘every word’ script and I preached them as well.

I always find the Chrism Mass on Maunday Thursday very moving. Our clergy, Lay Readers and I share a real sense of ‘being in it together’ So here in the sermon

And Easter Sunday in our Cathedral was great. Lots of people, wonderful music, clouds of incense …. And this was the sermon

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The Rising   #pisky

Alison has been doing some sorting out of the family archives – and came across this contemporary postcard of the 1916 Easter Rising,

It happened a mere 35 years before we were born – both of us remember the 50th Anniversary.  My grandfather, Ernest Batemen records his memories of it in one of his sermons.

The commemorations seem to have taken a more rounded view of the significance of the Rising – national pride of course.  But the other stories have had an airing as well.  Those include the fate of the WW1 veterans who came home – as veterans often do – to a world utterly changed.  And the Civil War – and Partition.  I’ve been reading about the hopes of some – particularly James Connolly – who hoped for a new state built on values of equality between men and women.  What they got was a Catholic confessional state which was mirrored in Northern Ireland by a ‘Protestant state for a Protestant people’.  And they also got generations of conflict.

Those who contemplate partition – India/Pakistan or Sudan – should learn the lessons of Ireland.   It’s about what happens to the people who are on the ‘wrong’ side of the line.  The Northern Catholics struggled against discrimination in housing and jobs – but increased in number.  The Southern Protestants – the root community for Alison and me – were in many cases prosperous and influential in business.  But they were drastically reduced in numbers. 

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A wonderful country #pisky

St Patrick’s Day – and that means the Reception in Edinburgh given by the Irish Consul.  A wonderful gathering of people -slightly flummoxed by being asked to sing the National Anthem.   It’s people who don’t know each other but think they might – and then give themselves to the serious business of finding out about one another in the way that Irish people do everywhere.

Best bit of the evening for me was the receiving line.  We were introduced to the Junior Minister, Sean Sherlock, from the Irish Government – what they used to call a ‘half car’.   This of course was different.  His greeting was ‘Sure didn’t I see you outside having a ‘conversation’ with your wife about why you weren’t answering your phone’. 

A wonderful country indeed!

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Farewell to Juliet #pisky

Today we said our farewells to Juliet O’Connor with a Eucharist in our church in Cupar and then in Kilconquhar.

Juliet O’Connor was special and the story was special. She and her husband Revd Dan O’Connor served in India, in Scotland and then at Selly Oak College where Dan was the Principal. Between them they seem to have tutored many of the people who are now in leadership as bishops and archbishops in Anglican Provinces in the developing world. In that sense, they were instrumental in bringing to birth the present patterns of partnership which are embedded in the Anglican Communion. As I have blogged my way around the Anglican Communion, I have found that Juliet and Dan have been there before me and know and are known by so many …

It’s an inspiring story of faith, mission and post-colonialism. I did my best to tell it here

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With the Mormon Church #pisky

I found myself dealing with a force of nature on the phone. She was called Evelyn and she wanted me to come to the Mormon Church in Dundee to speak in their meeting for International Women’s Day. In vain did I suggest that I had one obvious disqualification – and probably more than one.

So I went and shared this with them

I’ve found myself gradually coming into contact with the Mormon community since I went to Salt Lake City last summer for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church. I spent most of my time there sneezing because of the desert dust. But I did visit the complex of buildings which is ‘the centre’ of the world Mormon community – and I got myself connected to
Some things are very obvious when you meet them. They are a bit younger than us – not a lot but a bit. Their leadership is all non-stipendiary. And they all want to tell you about their journey into this new faith. It reminded me of my failure to have an answer to a question which I was asked on my very first visit to the US – ‘where do most of your converts come from?’

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