View from my window over Kolkata [Calcutta] stretching out for ever into the haze. It’s enormous, crowded and noisy. The only thing that makes car travel reasonably safe is the fact that nothing moves quickly – and horns are pumped constantly.
I’m here with Canon Bob Harley and Andrew Pont. We’ve been in Salt Lake City today visiting projects run by the Cathedral’s relief agency. For a diocese which is part of a small church, it’s very impressive.
We visited three projects during the day and saw beautifully turned-out small children being given a basic pre-school education and this group of women being given skills to increase their earning power. It’s hard to realise that these people are living in squatters’ huts by the river embankment.
There are many things which are impressive about what we saw. I know that I obsess a bit about minority church issues and it’s often not helpful. But this is a tiny minority church deeply engaged with the issues of the whole society in which it is set. They aren’t looking after themselves ‘over there’ – nor are they allowing their clergy to become simply chaplains. They are well beyond that and we can learn from them.
They also are attempting to deal with the roots of the issues with which they are engaged. When they talk about empowerment for women …. they are teaching skills but also teaching women how to make use of those skills to build a better life for themselves and their families. So they are into micro-finance .. and dealing with the problems of connecting people who don’t have addresses, National Insurance numbers or any of the everyday stuff of life with the possibility of a new future.
I was given a picture copy of this very attractive representation of the life of our congregation at St Paul’s, Kinross, when I was there on Sunday. It is fixed to the wall of the new Meeting Room – a wonderful resource for both congregation and diocese.
I was there for the end of the first phase of their Mission Action Planning – part of Casting the Net. Some find all this stuff both fussy and self-conscious. I see it as an attempt to engender a helpful change of mood in the congregation. We try to involve as many people in the congregation as are prepared to be involved. We try to find ways in which – measured against the Nine Marks of Mission – we can move on from the point where the church is the agenda of the church.
Meanwhile I’m on passage to India and hope to surface/land in Calcutta in the morning
This is St Paul’s Cathedral, Kolkata [Calcutta] where I hope to preside and preach on Sunday week. We’re in the process of putting together a Companionship Link between our diocese and the Diocese of Calcutta. I’m going next Tuesday for a five day visit with two others from the diocese. I’ve had the injections and am well into the malaria stuff.
Meanwhile, after the excitement of the Argyll Consecration – fairly remarkable photograph, don’t you think – I’ve had all the thrills of a day of Provincial Standing Committee and two days of College of Bishops. Sometimes it is all overwhelming! But some things are, I think, better than they used to be. Agendas are less inclined to over-run their time. There are some [very] slight signs of a thaw on the ecumenical front. But let’s not get too excited for now ..
Well we got the mitre on Kevin’s head yesterday as he became Bishop of Argyll and the Isles. I don’t know how many times I drove the 104 miles from Blogstead to Oban in the cause of our Canon 4 electoral process – but it had become very familiar. And in the end, of course, we had to use the canonical provision for election by the Episcopal Synod.
It was of course a great moment. Of what I shall risk calling the indigenous clergy of the Scottish Episcopal Church, there can be very few for whom Kevin has not been a significant influence in his role as Provincial Director of Ordinands. Now he takes on fresh challenges – may that prayerful passion for ministry which he expresses with every breath bring new confidence and hope to the clergy and people of his diocese.
You have probably been wondering why I haven’t got around to saying anything about the Primates’ Meeting. Well it was interesting – and exhausting – even though it didn’t involve any serious travel for me. Here I am with my Celtic companions, Archbishops Barry and Alan.
First of all, I found the opportunities of building contacts and making friends quite extraordinary. It makes a difference – if one is talking about blasphemy laws in Pakistan – to be sitting beside Bishop Samuel Azariah of the Church of Pakistan. Far off places suddenly become very close. And that’s what Communion is about.
Secondly, I felt keenly the disappointment of not being with those who had decided that they could not be part of the meeting. It was my first Primates’ Meeting. I felt the poorer for not hearing what they had to say and having the chance of discussing with them.
But it was still a good and worthwhile meeting. As the statements make clear, the Meeting spent much time clarifying the role of the Primates’ Meeting as one of the Instruments of Communion. It should not be a place where decisions are made for the Communion or for Provinces. It was clear that most of us come – as I do – from Provinces where decision-making is collegial and consultative within our autonomous provincial structure.
So when our College of Bishops meets next week, my colleagues will not expect me to bring back a series of decisions for implementation. But they will want me to share with them the best account I can give of how other Provinces are dealing with the same problems as we face. That won’t just be an account of how far-off places are doing – because through the Instruments of Communion we expect to respond to the feelings and the difficulties of other Provinces. As they respond to us. That’s what it means to be a Communion.
Still looking for a symbol which expresses the life of the Scottish Episcopal Church today – something to share with the Primates’ Meeting. So here is one possibility – the business end of the crosier which was a gift from our congregation at St Mary’s, Dunblane. I had no part in the design so it is fascinating that they did what they did.
The combination of episcopal crosier with thistle … we’re working on what it means to be an authentically Scottish expression of Anglicanism. There may be some historical justification for the tag ‘English Kirk’ – but it is very partial. We need to reconnect with the fulness of our history in Scotland. And as we reconnect with that history, we then move forward in partnership with others in mission to the whole community.
There is, of course, a connection to the Anglican story. Through the consecration by the Scottish bishops of Samuel Seabury as first bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA, we played our part in the shaping of the Anglican Communion at the beginning. What is our role to be in the reshaping of the Anglican Communion for the next generation?
Kirriemuir Rectory – Alastair Addresses the Haggis in time-honoured style. A good time was had by all.
So preparations are in train for my trip to the Primates’ Meeting which begins tomorrow in Dublin. I am asked to bring with me something – photo, symbol, object, etc – which might express where the Scottish Episcopal Church now is and the issues which it faces, etc.,etc. You know the kind of thing, I am sure.
So what do you think ….. ? I have a fall-back idea myself but suggestions are always welcome.
We met today in St Paul’s Cathedral in Dundee to remember John – just a few weeks after his untimely death. The atmosphere in the Cathedral said to me that John was one of those people who didn’t seek or solicit the affection of others – but affection and warmth gathered around him.
Good liturgy – and the extraordinary music which Provost Jeremy Auld and Stuart Muir lead at St Paul’s. It’s bright, congregational and engaging – such that worship becomes a wonderful blend of words and music interwoven.
I listened to the Intercessions – worked around words written at various times by John – and to Trevor Pitt’s excellent sermon – and to the tributes from our own Bishop Mark and Fay Lamont. I felt again what I realised at John’s funeral – that there were things that John had thought deeply about and cared passionately about and somehow we failed to benefit from them as we should have. I’m thinking in particular about his work on British Worker Priests and his passion about how the church should engage with the life of the city.
We shall miss him greatly – in the College of Bishops, in the diocese and across our church. He came back to the place in which he grew up and he gave us of his best.
Sorry about the sudden throw-back – and about the loss in transmission. Tim the Geek has had to rescue me from some dark corner of the blogosphere – and many thanks to him.
So you’ll be glad to know that spring is on the way around here. There are few bits of snow still in the Blogstead courtyard – but people are at work in the polytunnels between Dundee and Perth and on the road north from Perth. So we should have fresh strawberries soon.
Welcome also to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – and to what I understand is National Obesity Week. I’ve been rushing about a bit as I usually do – Religious Leaders of Scotland offering an inter-faith gathering; another lurch in the search for a ‘Whole Church Mission and Ministry Policy’ and a sojurn in the trenches of diocesan life.
On Unity Week, I simply note that there is not a single item in my diary which relates to it.
What has been occupying us has been the important question of whether I can go to the Primates’ Meeting in Dublin without needing a passport. My former parishioners in Portadown were quite certain that Dublin was a foreign country – but it seems to be possible to fly there with photo-ID only – provided one flies with Aer Lingus. That means that my passport can be sent off into the black hole of Indian government bureaucracy to get me a visa for a visit to our potential companion diocese of Calcutta in three weeks time. So I was in a meeting today – attempting to be impressively primatial – when I received a text from Sharon who now runs my [working] life. ‘Did I have any distinguishing physical characteristics?’