Becoming Mayor of Chicago

I surfaced this morning – in Scotland but reading the Irish Times on the app. Fintan O’Toole, who is one of their best, writes about the demise of the Irish political machine. He describes Ireland’s main contribution to world politics as being ‘transactional politics’ – by which he means ‘the creation of parties that could hold power by trading votes for favours on a massive scale – you give me your vote, I get you a public job or a house or access to health care.’ We used to call that messenger boy politics – public representatives seen as being in office to pull favours for the electorate and with a good deal of nepotism on the side.

O’Toole suggests that this has had its day. He quotes as evidence the place where this system has been seen at its most effective. That’s not in Ireland but in Chicago where it ensured the election and re-election of Mayor Richard Daley for 21 years to 1976 and then for his son Richard Michael Daley for a further 22 years. But the anointed successor Rahm Emmanuel was only elected in a run-off – because the system doesn’t work any more.

All of this is just one more example of the way in which systems, patterns and paradigms – call them what you will – change. Those of us who believe that the church is similarly challenged by changing patterns think about how we might respond.

I’ve been reading ‘From Anecdote to Evidence’ which you will find here

But I started with the critique which is called ‘From Delusion to Reality’. You will find it here

It’s not hard to see what works in congregational life. But it’s hard to see how what seems to work well can be replicated …

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The Holy Week lump in the throat

It’s hard to worship when you conduct worship. But I find that the repetition of the story in Holy Week in the end always ‘gets to me’

This year there were three …

The first was actually in Passiontide – early morning worship in the Chapel at St Andrews House, the Anglican Communion Offices in London. I was with the staff group who are a remarkably talented and very international community of people. ‘Which part will you sing?’, I was asked on the way in. So we sang ‘When I survey … ‘ without accompaniment in four part harmony. Quietly. And at the end there was one of those pauses which says that ‘something happened’

The second I was ready for but it still caught me. Peter goes out and weeps bitterly and so do I. It’s the story of the person whose reality couldn’t match their aspirations. Or to bring it closer to me .. the person who thought they could fly but who crashed to earth.

The third was last night’s Easter Vigil. I’ve been with our congregations in Auchterarder and Muthill this week, rediscovering my soul as a parish priest. Darkened church .. Paschal Candle .. story of God’s faithfulness read by faithful people in the timelessness of semi-darkness. Its the story of hope gradually emerging from despair – the triumph of soul over mind. We hugged each other at the end and went home.

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Chrism Mass

We gathered on Thursday to renew our Ordination Vows and be anointed for ministry. Always a moving moment – particularly so this year when we have quite a number of clergy who have joined us since last year.

This is what I said

I believe ever more strongly that the sustaining of vocation is at the heart of clergy life – sustaining with resilience through the up’s and down’s of ministry; living out of it so that we are defended against anger and bitterness; standing back from it and wondering so that we can walk the way of love That’s why the ministry which our Diocesan Director of Ordinands exercises on behalf of all of us is so important. That’s why the establishment of the post of Provincial Director of Ordinands as a 2/3 post is equally important.

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With our students

I was glad to be able to meet our students from the Scottish Episcopal Institute in Saturday. It’s all very new. We’ve moved on from TISEC to a new training institute with its emphasis on formation.


Well for me that means just about everything. It’s about how vocation is nurtured. It’s about the shaping of future clergy and Lay Readers in the spirituality on which they can draw as they face the demands of ministry. It’s about the skills which they need to offer pastoral care and leadership which is both authoritative and collegial. Ministry is a demanding calling and we owe it to those who make this commitment to give them the best training possible.

I went to talk about Mission and Evangelism with them – to learn as well as talk. I could have spent time on ‘what we do and how we do it’. But I reckon that that is for other people at other times. I think it’s important to help people to reflect on the nature of our church – its culture and context. Our future clergy need to understand that and to work with the grain of it if they are not to be disappointed and frustrated as they help our church to grow.

Ah well … more after tomorrow’s Chrism Mass

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Leanne’s Baptism – Dot pours the water


I was glad to be part of Leeanne’s baptism on Sunday at St Finnian’s, Lochgelly. Dot pours the water – responding to my request to pour it from high enough that you can hear it!

Lochgelly is in the heart of post-industrial Fife. It was known for having the lowest house prices in Britain. Our congregation has held together – it’s really important that our church should be present in places like Lochgelly. They are now growing again with leadership and encouragement from Lay Reader, Margaret Dineley.

Leanne’s baptism was an opportunity for celebration and affirmation

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Giving up sermons for Lent


Revd Graham Taylor, Rector of St John’s, Perth, told his congregation that he was ‘giving up sermons for Lent’. What he meant was that he was going to interview members of the congregation and encourage them to talk about life and faith.

So he did that with me on Sunday. We had what I thought was quite a searching conversation. It took place at the end of the week in which I marked 10 years since my consecration and arrival in Scotland. So there was some reflecting about that. We talked about my reaction to illness and whether I felt that faith had sustained me. We also looked at the ‘can a bishop go to heaven?’ question. The latter sounds frivolous but it is anything but that. I told Graham that I found some of the conflicts which a bishop is involved in to be spiritually distressing at a deep level.

And what about giving up sermons? Well I think we need to work hard at the difficult art of preaching. I try hard not to read a script because communication which appears to be spontaneous communicates better. ‘Appears to be spontaneous’ – because there has to be an underlying script if the preacher is to achieve a creative blend of economy and spontaneity – with personal conviction. As a Rector, I was fond of interviewing members of the congregation. That’s how the media do it and I think it works for us. People want to hear personal story and faith story – and this is a good way of giving them access to that.

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Commemoration, Reflection and Remembrqnce


I was glad to be in St Paul’s Cathedral today for the Service to mark the end of operations in Afghanistan. It was a dignified service which acknowledged bravery, faithfulness and the costliness of it. Archbishop Justin referred to the families ‘taking the phone to bed ….’ Just in case.

I sat beside my friend and colleague, Rt Rev John Chalmers, whose son was wounded and was in the congregation. I was really glad to meet Ivor and Marie Turkington, whose son Neal died during the campaign. Neal was a friend and contemporary of our younger son, Mark. I knew him well and preached at his funeral. Ivor and Marie and their family are building schools in Afghanistan. Their courage is humbling

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Canon Alison Peden moves to St Modoc’s, Doune


Canon Alison Peden has been instituted as Rector of St Modoc’s, Doune. The preacher was Bishop Kevin Pearson.

This completes another set of significant changes in the life of our church. Alison will spend one third of her time at Doune. The rest of her time will be spent in her expanded role as Provincial Director of Ordinands, working as part of the Scottish Episcopal Institute – our new training agency for our future clergy and Lay Readers.

I find that people tend to make rather gloomy assumptions about the supply of potential ordinands. The reality is that people are appearing and uttering those remarkable words, ‘I believe that God is calling me to be a priest’. Not enough perhaps to replace the high level of retirements which are coming – but a much healthier situation. Alison’s task will be to oversee their journey from vocational discernment, through training and on into ministry.

So she – and the staff of the Institute – have in their hands the shaping of the next generation of people in ministry in our church. Literally a vital task

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Diocesan Synod – an annual marker #pisky

We had our Diocesan Synod today – my eleventh as it happens.

We are quite upbeat at the moment. Many of our congregations which were seeking clergy now have the new leadership which they need. And those clergy seem to be settling in well and giving us all encouragement. By my calculation, we have five more appointments to make – and one recently-appointed to be instituted. If you come from a diocese which counts its clergy in 100’s, that may not seem like a lot. But for us, it is really significant

During our Synod, we commissioned Revd Thomas Brauer as our Diocesan Missioner. This is also a really significant event which greatly increases our capacity for development in our congregations.

This was my Bishop’s Address
And this was my Sermon at the Eucharist

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The power of symbolic action #pisky #anglican #ecobishops

Here at the Eco-Bishops Conference, we are coming to the end of our time together. We are all professional talkers and conference goers. So the question of whether we might together engage in some symbolic action – something which has power beyond words – begins to float into the conversation.

I’ve always believed in the power of symbolic action. I learned early on in Northern Ireland the negative power of symbols – most obviously flags and emblems. I learned that you can sometimes negotiate the substance of things. But symbolic stuff is directly connected to the feelings and the gut – and tends therefore to be non-negotiable.

But this is South Africa. And deep in the communal memory here are symbolic actions which had positive and creative power – which crossed barriers and were transformative in that they helped people to see things in a new way, The ‘Invictus’ example – Mandela putting on the Springbok Rugby Jersey is only the most potent,

So in the midst of the talking, we’ve been searching for a symbolic action which of itself wouldn’t change anything – but which might catch attention and encourage people to think in a new way about Climate Change issues.

Maybe – let’s see ..

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