This is the view from my window in Kerala where I will be until next Sunday. It’s 35C and 97% humidity so it’s quite a shock to the system. Normal personal defence arrangements are in place – constant use of antiseptic hand gel, drink only bottled water, never touch salad, etc. I’ve got through two previous visits unscathed and I’m ever-cautious. The food in this part of India is beautiful. It’s quite vegetarian and gentle.
I’m here for the opening of a dialogue between the World Communion of Reformed Church and the Anglican Communion. Churches have these dialogues at international level – Anglicans are involved at present in significant dialogue with the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics. I’m here as the Co-Chair for the Anglican Communion
I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops. One of the significant aspects of this is the presence of the Church of Scotland – represented by Professor Ian Torrance. The Church of Scotland has been foundational in the establishment of the Reformed Communion – the HQ was formerly in Edinburgh. So there is immediate and significant benefit for the SEC and for the Church of Scotland that we should meet in this way at this level.
People want to know the important details. I was even shorter on sleep on the journey here because I was upgraded to Business Class on the leg from Dubai to Cochi. I needed time to deal with that glass of champagne, etc. And of course there is no alcohol here – only sold in the most expensive hotels.
We are hosting the Primates of the Churches of the Porvoo Communion in Edinburgh this week. If you somehow missed the Porvoo Communion … it brings together leaders of the Anglican Provinces of the British Isles, the Episcopalian Churches of the Iberian Peninsula and the Lutheran Churches of Scandinavia and the Baltic States. Some are archbishops and some – like myself – are Primus inter Pares. It’s a relationship of full communion with full interchange of ministries.
As I have become more familiar with their context, I’ve started to understand more of their diversity. Some are state – or were so until recently – churches sustained by tax revenues. In the face of that amazing wealth, we fall back on my mantra of being a ‘church of loaves and fishes’. Others are minority churches. Some are very liberal while the churches of the Baltic States are in general more conservative.
Time has passed and we actually know each other relatively well. I’ve had the opportunity of visiting Iceland, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. So we can talk about the ‘below the surface’ movements in Norway and the challenge posed by a newly-resurgent Russia for those in the East. Migration is of course a huge issue – Sweden of course is being remarkably generous in its willingness to receive migrants and refugees.
Today we have been received by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and had a ‘walk of history’ down the Royal Mile. These relationships are important – we would be the poorer without them
Since the closure of the church at the former Royal Naval Dockyard at Rosyth, our congregation has happily shared the building of the Methodist congregation.
Last week we went out together ‘on the ground’ – a sign of our shared commitment to mission in this fascinating and rapidly-changing community. On Sunday we shared in worship together – with Rev Dr David Easton of the Methodist Church in Scotland. Members of our congregation at Holy Trinity Dunfermline also joined us. It was a really encouraging moment,
I hope that it will be possible to develop our life and work together – moving to a real sharing of our life and mission
Last Sunday saw the launch of the new Scottish Episcopal Institute – our new agency for the training of the next generation of clergy and Lay Readers
We are very proud of what has been achieved in a very short time – we have been building a ‘formation-led’ institution.
You can read what I said about it here
I shall be back in Rosyth on Sunday week for a joint service with the Methodist and Episcopal congregations – we share their church. So it seemed good for us to have a day doing some visits together in the community. One of our early calls was at the Resource Centre – a really excellent Day Centre for the elderly at present under threat of closure from Fife Council.
We also visited the Dockyard – now a huge organisation run by Babcock International where Britain’s two new aircraft carriers are nearing completion. It was a privilege to meet Sean Donaldson who oversees the whole project. The scale of the operation is daunting. They employ 6000 people – they are ‘down to the last £1bn of the carrier contract. Of course the real challenge is to find new contracts for the time when the carriers sail away
I carried people’s generosity – literally – back with me from Cardiff
There two strands to this visit. The first was a meeting of the Anglican Primates of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. I think this is the first time such a meeting has taken place. So Archbishops Justin, Barry, Richard and I sat down together for a 24 hour meeting – joined for part of it by Archbishop Josiah, the new Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. There was a lot to talk about. Most obviously there are the challenges of the Primates Meeting which is due in January. But there is no shortage of other things to talk about – poverty, migration, Europe, religiously-motivated violence, devolution ..
We also went as a group to a dinner hosted by the Muslim Council of Wales – hence the challenge of slipping a substantial cut-glass bowl into my carry-on bag. It was a fascinating and impressive evening. I got the feeling of a significant part of the community in Wales – increasingly self-confident – and generous too
We have much to learn
Unusually for me, I have a nice car at present. Since you are asking, it’s a reasonably new VW Golf Estate 1.6 TDI Bluemotion. Which of course puts me in the front rank of polluters and cheaters of the emissions regulations.
I happened to be addressing an Eco-Congregations Meeting in Edinburgh when the news had just broken. I told them that I felt somewhat cheated. And yet … In terms of its running costs, it does a remarkable 65 mpg rather than the claimed 88.9 mpg. But I suppose I thought that 65 mpg was pretty remarkable anyway. The really bad stuff of course is what I can’t see – the nitrous oxides and diesel particulates which are many times greater than claimed because of the cheating software hidden in the engine management system
I am completely astonished to find VW being caught cheating the regulations like this. Alison and I and our three children have no fewer than six VW Golfs among us. So there are significant trust issues
There was some pretty tough stuff in the Guardian last week which I thought had it about right – about the stubborn refusal of air quality in our cities to improve; about the grim reality that people die because of this, etc. And if I take to my Brompton folding bicycle, all that happens is that I inhale the bad stuff more deeply
It was Harvest at St James the Great in Dollar on Sunday. Decorations have been becoming more delicate in recent years – my eye was caught by this in the porch
Rev Richard Grosse was installed as our new Synod Clerk and as a Canon of our Cathedral on Sunday afternoon. The Synod Clerk looks after many things – particularly the diocesan statistics. Richard is Rector of our congregations in Aberfoyle and Callander. He was a lawyer in earlier life. He brings that accumulated experience to this new role
We gathered in St Margaret’s Leven for the licensing of Ian Scott as a Lay Reader. There is always a story – and as so often this one is about faithful membership which shades into vocation. Ian has made the sacrifices which go with the training. And it reached its fulfilment in his licensing as a Lay Reader
St Margaret’s is part of the Central Fife Group. Here as in many places in the SEC we are realising that it is important that each congregation, however small, has somebody in a defined ministry role within it. Many people share in ministry – but the sense of the congregation’s own security suggests that a person in authorised ministry should be part of their life.