It’s a rare thing – a privilege truly – to sit bemitred in or on the cathedra and say to somebody, ‘Do you believe that you are truly called to the office and work of a bishop in the Church of God?’ It’s one of those questions which expects an answer in the affirmative – but no less real for that.
So as the now Bishop John of Edinburgh answered those awesome questions on Saturday – and afterwards – I reflected on the extraordinary nature of the office. The hopes invested in you are excessive to the point of unrealistic. The potential for leadership and for pastoral pain are equally remarkable. For myself, I think I find that the spiritual demands of the office grow heavier with each year which passes. And I go through periods of feeling that I am putting a puny finger of authority in the dyke which holds back a deluge of ecclesiastical chaos.
The swings of role and location are also extraordinary. One moment as difficult in personal encounter as it gets – tomorrow preaching in St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
So all I can hope for John is that other telling phrase, ‘grace to perform it’
Feeling the weight of authority can be draining, but it also means you understand the gravity of your situation. I would rather a bishop feel the weight of his authority than one who had no idea of it.
Its a long way from a tent in Johnstons Caravan Site in Donegal, with wife and children in tow, to St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Gods grace has got you this far and with his grace the puny finger will be sufficient.
Ah George! And I still remember the big puddle outside the tent. No finger in the dyke there.
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