We have been marking this Sunday as Vocations Sunday. I did my best in St Margaret’s, Rosyth, and Holy Trinity, Dunfermline this morning. Unfortunately this was one of those weeks where time squeezed the writing of a script if not the writing of a sermon – the two not necessarily being the same thing. The result? Too long and described by some as ‘moving’ – which sounds like sentimental to me.
Just as an excursion and diversion .. I did mention in Rosyth that they sing their hymns more briskly than anywhere else I go. Actually they sing with passion. And because of the ecumenical relationship with the Methodist congregation whose building they share, there is a Wesleyan bias in the choices. Whatever it is – maybe a relic of shipshape tendencies from the naval dockyard past – I like it. And it’s more than just ‘get on with it’ brisk. My former curate, Grace, used to say that the best worship was ‘brisk with spaces’ – by which I think she meant that you couldn’t have meaningful and usable silence in worship without good words and music to frame it. I think she was right. I created a silence or two in St Margaret’s today and they were all the better for the briskness which framed them
To go back to Vocation …. Our Vocations Strategy highlights our wish to see younger clergy – the kind of clergy who will give a lifetime of service and from whom the future leadership of our church will be drawn. To say that is not to think less of the vocation of the laity – nor of the great diversity of people who offer themselves for ministry at all stages of the life cycle. But too often … I have seen vacancies for Rectors advertised and there have been no applicants from within Scotland and sometimes no applicants at all. I’m not a believer in the Tartan curtain – and of course I am an import myself. But Scottish Episcopalianism is a joyously distinctive expression of Anglicanism – and home-grown Scottish clergy will nurture that distinctiveness and shape it for tomorrow.
The strange thing is that I believe that those younger vocations are there – actually I know that they are there because I have met some of them. But they are young people who have been sponsored by English dioceses and are training in English Colleges. We don’t have the resources to meet that need and we need to be creative about it.
And finally – this is not just about younger clergy for its own sake. This is a critical moment of challenge for our church. We are living in a very secular society – but we seem to be more hopeful, purposeful and confident than we have been for a while. If we are to ‘survive and thrive’, leadership of the highest quality is essential.