Learning about Dementia    #pisky

I’ve been watching a presentation about dementia from Skimstone Arts – part of the year’s Malcolm Goldsmith Lecture from Faith in Older People (FIOP)

Like most clergy, I have spent a lot of time with elderly people – and particularly with people with dementia.  Faith is very deep in people.  So hymns, prayers, bible stories can trigger response from people who may be otherwise somewhat disconnected.  And there is some satisfaction in that.  The Lord’s Prayer tended to be a particular marker of what it was possible to bring to the surface

But as I watched Jack and Jill, I remembered the feelings which I experienced with elderly people in my parish.  Strong and capable people who became anxious and sometimes fearful because they no longer ‘knew where everything was’.  And I can get to the edges of that myself in those moments when I can no longer easily remember – the slight stab of anxiety when the name doesn’t come to mind immediately.

And I shall ever remember the way in which people with dementia were ‘lit up’ by the presence of babies and small children – or of pets like cats and dogs

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Aberfan 50 years on

It’s the anniversary of the Aberfan disaster – 50 years ago next Friday .

There was a Service of remarkable quality on Radio 4 this morning which I listened to as we were heading for Pitlochry and Kilmaveonaig – up through the wonderful autumn scenery to the north of Perth. And as we drove, I made some slight adjustments to the sermon and arrived at this

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The Lampedusa Cross #pisky


The Lampedusa Crosses are made by Francesco Tuccio, an Italian carpenter, from the wreckage of boats washed up on the Italian island of Lampedusa.  All of the migrants who were on these boats perished.  The Cross is a reminder of the terrible suffering of these people.  Pope Francis visited Lampedusa to highlight the migrant crisis and he carried one of these crosses in the Good Friday procession in Rome – a symbol both of suffering and of the death-defying compassion of Christ.

Last week in Rome was full of symbolism – much of it expressive of the long journey of reconciliation between Catholic and Anglican Churches.  Each of us who was there received one of these crosses – a sign that in the end justice and compassion are more important than the faltering movement of churches towards one another.

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More from Rome #pisky #Anglican

Another fairly packed day in Rome – home tomorrow

We started with Eucharist in St Peter’s Basilica.  I found myself wondering about this – if we now have a significant level of agreement on the Eucharist, how might we express it in the here and now?   We needed was a bit of liturgical imagination to signal unity real but incomplete.  We then went down to the Crypt for Morning Prayer with the Community of St Anselm – the community of young people giving ‘a year in God’s time’ at Lambeth.  They are a source of energy for all of us.  We ended there with a visit to the tomb of St Peter and I found it surprisingly moving.  Maybe that’s because he is generally regarded as the most human of the disciples.  Or maybe because of how he met his end.

To be in the presence of and be greeted by Pope Francis is always very special.  I was part of the group of Primates and others who were received by him- you’ll have to wait a bit for the photo.  On to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity – followed by lunch at the British Embassy with the choir of Canterbury Cathedral.  Evening Prayer with Archbishop Justin and on for dinner at the Villa Aurora with Prince Nicolo and Principessa Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi – one of the oldest families in Italy.

So what does all this achieve.  Well first I think that the marking of the 50th Anniversary of the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey has recalibrated the baseline in Anglican-Catholic relationships.  The fact that I knew Michael Ramsey just makes me feel old!  And because most of the people who work in this area were there – along with 14 Primates and many of others – meant that lots of valuable work was going on below the line.

I managed a spare half hour – in which I went round the corner to visit the Pantheon and had an ice cream!

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50th Anniversary of the Anglican Centre in Rome #pisky #anglican


I’m in Rome at present for this anniversary – essentially it marks the 50th anniversary of the historic meeting of Archbishop Michael Ramsay with Pope Paul Vi.  At that meeting, the Pope gave the Archbishop an episcopal ring which Archbishop Justin was wearing today.  The crozier was a gift of the Pope – it is a modernistic replica of the crozier of Pope Gregory who sent Augustine to England.  Music at the Papal Vespers was shared by the choirs of the Sistene Chapel and of Canterbury Cathedral.

These events are deeply symbolic – and this one has been surrounded by a packed programme of which a Colloquium in the Gregorian University this morning was probably the most significant.  My visit earlier this year has given me a basic network of Vatican contacts which I am renewing.  Tomorrow we will be received by Pope Francis following worship in St Peter’s Basilica.  

Tomorrow runs from 7.15 am to 11 pm.  I have two touristic ambitions – to revisit the Pantheon which is just around the corner and to buy and ice cream.  Not looking good at present.

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Another day another thought #pisky

I still think it is worth the early start to do this – as simple as being introduced as being from the Scottish Episcopal Church. This morning’s BBC Scotland Thought for the Day

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When all the games have stopped …     #pisky


A new chapter began in the life of Holy Trinity, Stirling, last night with the institution of Rev Christoph Wutscher as Rector.  Christoph is a priest of deep faith and wide experience – with roots in church music.  It was clear last night that this is one of those special moments – when the vocation of the priest and the vocation of the congregation are aligned.

I don’t often preach at Institution Services – but I did at this one and explored the nature of vocation.   Which is where I found Rowan Williams’ comment that ‘vocation is what is left when all the games have stopped’.

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Reformed-Anglican Dialogue #pisky #anglican

This is the meeting of the International Reformed-Anglican Dialogue.  We are meeting this week in Clare College, Cambridge.  It’s very international – India, Malawi, South Africa, Japan.  Those who hope to see a deep connection between the SEC and the Church of Scotland will be glad to see Rev Prof. Iain Torrance on my right.  Those who gather up Irish connections will see Rev Helene Steed of the Church of Ireland, about to become Rector of St Mark’s, Dundela, in East Belfast.  I’m serving as the Anglican Co-Chair in partnership with Rev Elizabeth Welch of the URC

Since we are a meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches with the Anglican Communion, we are inevitably and properly talking about what it means to be a Communion – exploring what it means to say that God forms us for relationship and looking at the practical realities like the limits of diversity and how they are managed.

I enjoy this stuff – and I am very stretched by it.  But it lifts my thinking above the day to day realities of Anglican Communion life!

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This is worth reading #pisky


This is one of two books recommended for members of the Church of England General Synod as they approached their recent facilitated conversations.

It is a series of brief contributions, largely from members of the Evangelical community in the Church of England.  It tells the story of their journeys towards a new level of acceptance of same-sex relationships.  It’s people like Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool,  David Ison, Dean of St Pauls, and David Runcorn who has contributed greatly to our Clergy Conferences.

I was surprised to find how much this constituency is ‘on the move’.  And it is many of the same people who have been tweeting their support for the Bishop of Grantham.

One worth reading …

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Nerys’ Ordination.  #pisky

Last Sunday we gathered for the Ordination of Nerys as a priest – in St John’s Perth where she and her Rector Graham are working with the congregation in the re-ordered building to build something new in the life of our church.  Like me, Nerys is a Celtic migrant, this time from Wales.  She has had a remarkable ministry in Dunblane as a lay person and lay reader – much of it among children and families.  And it was always clear to me that some of the energy in that ministry arose from the sadness and loss of the Dunblane tragedy.

But vocation is about being prepared to move on.  So here is Nerys on a new journey – convinced that this is how it should be but not knowing the destination.  And the Celtic just crept back in – ‘without oars or destination’

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