Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Informal monitoring and reference

The case of Jeremy Pemberton, the priest who has had his permission to officiate revoked as a result of entering into a same sex marriage, reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago with a priest who had entered into a civil partnership. This priest had also had his PTO withdrawn after a "pastoral" meeting with his bishop. Rather like Jeremy Pemberton it didn't have a material effect on his livelihood as he had other employment- and I believe he had officiated at most services without pay anyhow. The priest concerned worked as part of a ministry in a rural parish where churches were far apart and it soon became apparent that they were going to be hard pushed to cope without him and couldn't replace him due, I think, to finances and the difficulty of finding someone able to provide that kind of part time cover.

After representations by another priest, someone quite senior in the diocese told him he could officiate, but that it wasn't official, and if it came to light they knew nothing about it, and so he was still regularly taking services as he had before.  I had to say that my response to this kind "offer" would have ended in the word "off".  His response was that he felt called to ministry and wished to help his fellow clergy and he was above petty resentments. He said if he had ever taken the attitude of the C of E personally, he would have left ministry but as long as he felt called and his conscience was clear he would stay.

 I heard this account a while ago, yet the impression it gave me, which was of the hypocrisy and lack of humanity that can occur in parts of  the Church, has increased since then. There is no work place in Britain where people can  be treated as shabbily or offered as little legal protection and redress as they are in  the Church. And surely something is wrong when we have reached a place where matters can be so very underhand and dishonest? The recent denials that there is a blacklist  of clergy who enter into same sex marriages seems part and parcel of the same approach. So there is no official blacklist? Well, there is an unofficial one then, isn't there? How do you "informally monitor" people anyhow? If the group has "no powers", why set it up? If the group is to advise diocesan bishops, what exactly does it advise them about?

I don't expect decency, and certainly not compassion, but is  honesty and transparency really too much to ask?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Me time

After a very busy year I am at last finding I have a little more "breathing space" and a chance to pick up a few of the things that I just had to drop. I haven't blogged much over the past two weeks, and in fact I have pretty much stayed off the Internet, but I have read several books, had some early nights and weekend lie ins, done some baking and a bit of gardening. It feels like I've been recovering! It has been lovely.
  I have also started to get back to my previous levels of exercise with three to four gym sessions a week. I had dropped down to just one or two sessions at one point and was starting to find that I was struggling to work out to my previous levels. A real delight over this last few weeks is that I am starting to relish exercise again and to wake up in the mornings full of energy.
All of this has made me think about how we do need time for ourselves; it is not selfish and is really not an optional extra. Our health benefits if we have time to look after ourselves properly. We could all do with taking more exercise and eating more healthily given the rise in obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, and our emotional and spiritual selves also need time and space and attention.
I am hoping I will have more free time next year, not too much free time or we won't be able to pay the bills (which won't be good for anyone's health)... but still, a little more time to look around and appreciate all the good things we have.
Hoping you find time to appreciate life this week!

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Spirit of Power

The story of Bernard Johnson, the D-day veteran who, having failed to get on an official trip to attend the commemorations, absconded from his care home and just did it anyway has surely delighted and inspired many of us.He left on the Thursday  morning with his medals hidden under his coat and told nobody about his adventure, presumably to scotch attempts to talk him out of it.  Perhaps it is no great surprise that the fortitude and determination of those who lived through major conflict should prove more than a match for our pusillanimous risk averse society. A tweet, supposedly from the police officers who discovered his whereabouts, sums it up with,
                                        #fighting spirit: still has it.
With Pentecost coming up tomorrow, the story made me ponder the idea of spirit and how we use the term spirit not just to suggest an attitude but a life force, something living which inhabits us and shapes our actions and decisions.  The bible uses so many terms to help us understand the concept of the Holy Spirit - something given, a grace, a help and counsellor, a power beyond ourselves, something which transforms us and makes us more than we would have been without it.
 Those who fought for their country during the Second World War, or anyone who is faced with a huge life threatening situation,needs to be able to reach deep within themselves, and maybe outside of themselves, to tap into a power which gives them the strength to do what they must do.I do not like the glorification of war, and I support those unable for reasons of conscience to take part in it, but I am unable to be a whole-hearted pacifist, particularly given conflicts such as the Second World War. We are told in the bible that the Spirit does not make us slaves who live in fear, and the D day landings were undertaken by those who, although they felt fear, were not prepared to be slaves.
I think of them at this moment and ask that through our hardest moments and  most difficult decisions we may be guided by the Spirit, not of timidity, but of power, love and self-control.

Ouistreham or "Sword Beach" one of the main landing areas