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.
Great to hear that the SEC is looking to encourage vocations amongst younger people. Does the SEC have some kind of central vocations fund that can support full-time training for ordinands? If not, why not set one up backed by a vision for full-time ministry in the SEC? I’m sure that the many wealthy adherents of your church who value full-time ministers would get behind this provided that the vision is strong and inspiring. The Scottish University divinity schools provide an admirable base for theological education. I am currently in training for Ministry in the Church of Scotland, studying at New College, Edinburgh, alongside two of your ordinands, and would love to see more episcopalians in the mix. In my view, this can only improve ecumenism and help to bridge the gap between these estranged sister churches of Protestant Scotland. In the case of Edinburgh there are a number of Episcopal Ministers on the staff, surely making the possibility of incorporating an element of ministerial formation for your own tradition a possibility in addition to the core academic programme?
As one of those who might be included within the ‘younger ordinand’ bracket, it seems to me that what is needed from the church is a clear pathway and support for those younger people from the SEC wanting to explore their vocation. Whilst, given the part-time nature of TISEC training and lack of resources for anything more substantial, perhaps training in England through an English diocese may well be the only option (for the moment), this does not mean the SEC need ‘lose’ these ordinands. An encouragement of vocation right from the beginning is vital, with perhaps a PDO specifically for those ordinands training in England to keep in contact with over the training period. The possibility of curacies and how they might be organised within the SEC also needs to be made clear, so that an ordinand who felt called to Scotland would understand what this may involve.
As you say, the issue doesn’t seem to be with a lack of vocation from younger people in the SEC, but how they are dealt with and the information available to them.
Thanks Felix. What you write stirs a couple of responses in me
One is that your arrival – along with other younger clergy – will provide an important role model which will encourage others
Two is that we don’t at this moment know the future shape of TISEC as we respond to the recent MinDiv Inspection. We have an opportunity to address some important issues
Three is that we need to get the younger ordinands challenge right, As you suggest, there is every indication that the Spirit is looking after the vocation area, We need to provide clarity about the training – and finance – to support it. And we need to be – as I trust we are becoming – a church with real confidence in our future and our mission in Scotland,
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