Monday, 28 June 2010

A storm in a teacup

This interesting little snippet caused me to raise the eyebrow:

On the face of it, it looks as if the Ole Boy Net of the C of E has again collided with the kultur gap with the modern world, misjudging badly how the great unchurched (those who ain't sure if God exists but assume that if he does, then he's C of E and it is advisable occasionally to pray to him) react to its established procedures. It looks to me as if there has been a difference of opinion over who is best suited to a particular job between 2 patrons, rather than a culture war over gender, race and all that jazz. Traditionally the parish of St Margaret's Westminster (a rather dull little tabernacle in the Abbey grounds) has been the Parish Church of the House of Commons and it's Rector ex-officio Speaker's Chaplain. It was combined with a Canonry of the Abbey and the Sub Deanery a while ago. I'm sure that my hero Hensley Henson (later Bishop of Durham) was Rector, Chaplain and Canon in Mr Asquith's day - Helena Bonham Carter's grandpa, dontcha know? Hence the patron's have split the post, the appointing his choice to St Margaret's and the Abbey, the Speaker his to the Chaplaincy - which seems rather adult and grown up really. A storm in a journalistic tea cup, written up by Barchester Towers fans!

Sunday, 27 June 2010


After some slightly hectic shifts (cleared the way for an ambulance today!!!) I slunk off to Evensong in St Vincent's Stockbridge tonight. It had the delightful feel of "real" village Evensong: a small church, smothered with coats of armorial bearings; an ancient but godly priest whose singing quavered much; a small, elderly congregation who did the Ancient and Modern Revised hymns with real gusto and who sang the canticles communally to simple (Anglican) chant rather well. (There being nae quire, it was not a Cathedral concert). Intercessions entirely derived from the Occasional Prayers in the Prayer Book - sensitively chosen and introduced and a very real and powerful act of intercessory prayer. The sermon had absolutely no rhetorical fireworks - it was a simple and thoughtful character study of John the Baptist (last weeks big saint) and the Apostle Peter (this weeks big saint - and no mention of St Paul at all - nasty, horrid modern Roman observance not in the SPB:-)! But it pointed out that we all despair (JB in the dungeon) ,we all let Jesus down (Peter in the courtyard) and Jesus lifts us out of all that - each and everyone of us. Chicken soup for the soul!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Mixed monks and nuns and the Moroccan barber!

Today is the feast of St Ethelreda (or Audrey) of Ely, who after 2 arranged and unconsummated marriages, founded a mixed gender monastery and ran it. It seems appropriate to remember her in a house following the Benedictine rule and being mixed gender:

Eternal God,
who bestowed such grace upon your servant Etheldreda
that she gave herself wholly to the life of prayer
and to the service of your true religion:
grant that we, like her,
may so live our lives on earth seeking your kingdom
that by your guiding
we may be joined to the glorious fellowship of your saints;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. AMEN.

I like the prayer that we may be truly committed to seeking the kingdom on earth and be part of the glorious fellowship of saints, some of whom living are strange bods and unlikely guides!

The readings are appropriate too:
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned.
Song of Songs 8. 6-7.

The love of God is stronger than death and our passion for God, righteousness and justice (2 sides of the one coin) can be as fierce and real as the fear that binds us and from which the love of the Beloved alone can set us free.

Psalm 34

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
My soul shall glory in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look upon him and be radiant
and your faces shall not be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me
and saved me from all my troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him
and delivers them.

O taste and see that the Lord is gracious;
blessed is the one who trusts in him.
Fear the Lord, all you his holy ones,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
Lions may lack and suffer hunger,
but those who seek the Lord
lack nothing that is good.

Come, my children, and listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Who is there who delights in life
and longs for days to enjoy good things?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from lying words.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous
and his ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry and the Lord hears them
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and will save those who are crushed in spirit.

Many are the troubles of the righteous;
from them all will the Lord deliver them.
He keeps all their bones,
so that not one of them is broken.
But evil shall slay the wicked
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord ransoms the life of his servants
and will condemn none who seek refuge in him.

The promise here is tremendous: God upholds us if we trust and try to follow the way of God's will.

My Monday treat was a shave! A hot towel job, complete with old fashioned cut throat razor and a Moroccan barber! Old dead skin sloughed off under the blade and I still feel smooth cheeked! A ridiculously enjoyable Tuesday shift and good meeting (very unlikely guide to point the way, but God's like that) made all well and a shift today followed by 2 days off bodes very nicely for a chilled week!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Sun and God and fun and stuff.

Saturday was spent visiting Norham Castle and Church where Edward Longshanks recieved the allegience of King John Balliol "Toom Tabard". Funnily enough, I was in the company of the Great x18 grand daughter (on the wrong side of the blanket!) of the aforementioned Plantagenet at the time! Sunday to Murrayfield to preach on Father's Day where I explored, via reflection on my relationship with my own father, the sometimes ambiguous nature of father child relations - but the fact that they are imporant and the conflict of the Cross produced the rich fruit of the Resurrection. That provoked several conversation on conflict in relationships afterwards, so it was asermon worth preaching. You never know what parts your words will reach - that Holy Spirit is a startling bird indeed!

An afternoon post brunch chat with my atheist sponsor on what I actually thought about my Higher Power (Now it is for me a spirit rather than doctrinally defined and it actually does intervene in my life and not just in others lives because I learnt to turn my life over and admit my helplessness). We can now move onto the fearless moral inventory etc (horribly general confession-ish to my mind but necessary) part of the programme. A good weekend.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Thursday, 17 June 2010

A splendid speech.

This is an unashamed "pinch" from Ruth Innes's blog (who I may now refer to as "my successor" as she goes to Falkirk as Rector). She has very kindly reproduced for the delectation and entertainment of us non-Synodites the Synod Dinner speech by Robin Angus - fiscal wizard, wit, Pisky Institution, lovable eccentric and all round good egg. Quite what the presiding Bishop made of it I've no idea - but I wish I'd been there to hear Robin's marvellously idiosyncratic delivery. I first came across him courtesy of Canon Donald Nicholson, who used to read me some of his letters and always referred to him as "The Auditor of Moray," which post he then held. I was impressed by his always putting the stamp on the envelope upside down to express his Jacobite views and disdain for the Hanoverians currently using the Palace of Holyrood House! I later worked with Robin on the organising committee for the Scotland 2000 conference on LGBT issues in the Church. Robin ran the money side, I chauffeured nice Lesbians (I was in charge of transport from the airport and train station! And drove an nice purple Ford Escort which seemed appropriate and affirming!). Enjoy it - the humour is gentle but sharp. Robin's wit has done the Province great service at moments of high tension in the family. His speech after the vote to ordain women to the priesthood, coming from an avowed opponent (as he then was) of women priests, and his presentation of the Scottish Altar Book he had been given by the late +George Sessford to Canon Jane Millard is rightly credited with holding the Church together in mutual affection when it could have split badly. Perhaps he has done the same thing again over that beastly Covenant. I certainly hope so. Will some wise Bishop honour this goodly man with a Lay Canonry? It wouldn't be a bad idea!

General Synod after dinner speech by Robin Angus.

It’s 20 years since I was a member of Synod and 16 years since I addressed a General Synod Dinner; and I’ve no idea why you invited me tonight. My views are eccentric and my speciality is contradicting myself with futile yet self-destructive passion ― a kind of one-man General Synod without even Professor Peattie to keep me in order. Of course, having spent my first 20 years in Edinburgh as a member of St Michael & All Saints, I long ago learned the lesson that thousands of nurses and hundreds of members of the clergy know only too well: that authority is divinely appointed; is one and indivisible; and resides in Professor Peattie. Madam, with my humble duty.

And, Patricia, I remain much as I was in my St Michael’s days. To liberals, I’m a cranky old fool who mutters his Rosary and defaults to the Prayer Book the moment he lets go of that Blue Book thing so many trendy churches now use. Yet to conservative Catholics in the Scottish Episcopal Church ― and, yes, I am old enough to remember when there were conservative Catholics in the Scottish Episcopal Church: I knew both of them: indeed, I was both of them ― it was said that I’d sold out to “lady priests” (and doubtless a woman Bishop soon, which will not now be controversial ― can you imagine more of a non-headline than “Ruth Innes seen wearing purple”?) and that I now saw the “pink lobby” as being something more than just agitation for the right colour of vestments on Lætare and Gaudete Sunday.

They had cruel words for me.

Liberal church folk, more than most,

Sin against the Holy Ghost,

Forsaking Scripture’s ancient glory

All for Katharine Jefferts Schori!

And to Evangelicals ― well, I’ve always been a target for conversion.

Soul in bonds to lace and gin,

Christ can wash away your sin,

Bibles, tee-shirts, Coca-Cola,

Long live Peter Akinola!

But other than with Professor Peattie, where does power in the Synod lie? We know that one day, in Heaven, Provost Auld, clad in white robes, washed in the blood of the Canons Committee, will set to work expanding the 7 Commandments of Noah into the 613 mitzvoth of the Torah and then adding a few helpful Resolutions and Appendices, while Elaine Cameron and Marion Chatterley break the news to Our Blessed Lord that the Apostles have failed their Gender Audit and He’d better get some new ones. But here on earth, power must obviously lie with the Prolocutors.

And what a wonderful title that is, evoking all sorts of half-remembered Scriptural quotations.

“And Jesus stood before the Prolocutor: and the Prolocutor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews?”

As it happens, I first met the Clerical Prolocutor nearly 40 years ago, when we were 18 year old students at St Andrews and formed a friendship which has been one of the cornerstones of my Christian life. We had many dreams in those days, but neither of us ever imagined that one day he would be a Prolocutor. I was the ordinand then, and he was going into business. But I was there when the Holy Spirit kindled a flame of sacred love on the mean altar of his heart, and if you want to know what a mean altar is like, you should have known the Clerical Prolocutor when he was planning to make his fortune in business. Grace works miracles.

The Episcopal Church really IS an extended family. I look round and see so many familiar faces ― often, people I have known since Canon Allan Maclean and I (Allan being my oldest friend of all, other than people I was at school with, and the friendship has again been one of the cornerstones of my Christian life) ― since Canon Allan Maclean and I were trendy late 1960s ordinands, wearing our best leather brogues, tweed jackets and club ties for the Summer of Love. For instance, my mother and father were at one of the last ever meetings of the RCC, I think in Oban, and my father, to his surprise, bumped into his old friend Alec Davidson, the Verger of Inverness Cathedral.

“What are you doing here, Alec?” asked my father. “I didn’t think this would be your kind of thing.”

Alec merely gestured to a figure lounging in the corner, a young, red-haired man in a cassock with fag ash all down the front of it, and a pint held unsteadily in his hand, beer slopping over the floor like a BP oil spill.

“I’ve been sent to keep an eye on Emsley,” said Alec.

Aye, indeed ― the Very Reverend Canon Doctor Alexander Emsley Nimmo, Dean of Aberdeen and Orkney.

But then, I seem to be fated to be brought into contact with red-haired future Deans. When my wife and I came to Edinburgh in 1977 there was a polite and well-behaved schoolboy who lived with his family on our stair. The only unusual thing about him was that, every so often, huge gusts of pungent, sweet smoke would billow up the stair, so that we had to grope our way to our doors through thick fog, like the Dean of Edinburgh on Corpus Christi, and then his father would cry,

“Kenneth! Is that you burning incense again?”

Little did I know that one day the red-haired schoolboy would be the Very Reverend the Dean of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane.

A difference between then and now, of course, is that as a way of keeping a finger on the Church’s pulse the Holy Ghost had not yet invented blogs. Today there is no excuse to be ignorant of The Reverend Ruth’s Rantings, or of Father Kenny’s Rector’s Ramblings, or of Kimberley’s Wonderful Exchange, or of What’s In Kelvin’s Head. There is a great deal in Kelvin’s Head. So much, that I’m reminded of Oliver Goldsmith’s couplet:

And still they gaz’d, and still the wonder grew,

That one small head could carry all he knew.

But that is not the blog that strikes at the heart of my Faith. That blog is the one by the Rector of St Silas’s, Glasgow, who calls himself “Gadgetvicar.”

Father McCarthy, if I may call you that, I don’t always agree with your theology. Your taste in music is not my own. Your hope that England may reach the final of the World Cup I can only describe as bizarre. But I can tolerate all that. What wounds my pedantic soul is that there are no Vicars in Scotland.

Nor will there be any, until the king returns, re-establishes us and restores to us the Teinds in every quoad omnia parish in Scotland. And if that happens, Kelvin will be Dean of St Mungo’s and you’ll be Vicar of St George’s, Tron, and the Diocesan Synod will hold daily banquets at the Ubiquitous Chip and Canon Milne can finish building St Bride’s and paint the vastly extended church in Boudoir Pink, even if it means knocking down most of Kingsborough Gardens, and the Bishop of Aberdeen will be able to fill his cellars with something better than a well-known brand of Tonic Wine ― although unless they change the Diocesan boundaries (whether or not the See is vacant in terms of Canon 8 as amended), the Diocese of Aberdeen still includes Buckie.

Now, if you’re expecting sage comments on Synod business you will be disappointed, although I have read the documents and found them most interesting. (He lied.) One item, indeed, on page 8 of the Annual Report, I found frankly unbelievable:

“The Standing Committee approved, on behalf of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the conversion of the Anglican Consultative Council into a charitable company.”

If the Standing Committee can achieve that merely by resolution, it must be the most successful ecclesiastical body since the Council of Jerusalem, in the 15th Chapter of Acts.

Well, some 350 years after the Council of Jerusalem, in 397AD, St Ninian founded the Scottish Episcopal Church. Thirteen years later, in 410 AD, came the Sack of Rome. I dare say that God felt She could safely permit this, now that the centre of Christendom had been moved north to the Galloway coast. We are a very old church. My favourite entry in the old Red Book was that for St Drostan’s, Old Deer, where the list of former clergy was headed, “St Drostan, circa 500AD”. A century before St Augustine was sent to Canterbury. So much for the supposed Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, which, as we all know, is actually in King Street, Aiberdeen.

I am proud of the Scottish Episcopal Church. And this evening I’m going to tell you about the proudest day of my life ― when I was made an Honorary Fellow of the Business School in the University of Edinburgh.

You may not understand the significance of this, so let me explain. As you know, I attend St Columba’s-by-the-Castle in Edinburgh and for many years I was what is known in Columban parlance as a ‘Candidate Member’. Alas, I could not be admitted to full membership, because I wasn’t in Holy Orders, I wasn’t on the Staff at Edinburgh University, and I’d never finished my PhD. But then, when I was made an Honorary Fellow at the University, I was able to be admitted a full member at last. If I can just wangle an Honorary Doctorate, I might even be able to stand for the Vestry.

The Scottish Episcopal Church as a whole is not so restrictive. Twenty years ago, I went to a party at Coates Hall, of happy memory, with a friend, an English Lay Reader, who had a doctorate and six other degrees and fellowships and would therefore have been accepted as a full member of St Columba’s without even a probationary period, but who in many years of lay ministry had never met his Diocesan Bishop or even the Suffragan who was nominally in charge of Readers. Yet at Coates Hall that night he met all the seven Scottish Bishops, all of whom knew me by my Christian name, and called me by it even after I had performed my party piece for the evening, a jazzy recitative entitled “The Election of a Primus Rag”, which, as I recall, began:

“Hello! My name is George Argyll.

I’m 66, and I seldom smile,

But I’m keeping Dick Holloway out for a while ―

That’s why they’ve made me Primus!”

And that brings me to the Primus of today.

Chillingworth. There’s a name to conjure with. Google “Chillingworth” in an ecclesiastical context and what do you get? William Chillingworth, and:

“The Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants,”

Holy Mary, Mother of God, defend us! That is not what my hero and mentor, Bishop George Sessford, told me was characteristic of Episcopalians. I remember him preaching in the Parish Kirk of Forres in Christian Unity week when I was a boy, and our baffled next door neighbour saying to my mother afterwards,

“He seemed to be saying that the Reformation wasn’t a good thing!”

And the Clerical Prolocutor will remember me in my St Andrews days writing a parody of a Sherlock Holmes story, entitled, The Mystery of the Missing Censer, concerning a robbery at what was then a famed ecclesiastical emporium in Margaret Street, London.

“Great Scott, Watson! They’ve robbed…. Mowbray’s!”

“Not…. Mowbray’s?”

“I’m afraid so, Watson.”

“The swine! The blackguards! The inhuman devils! The… the… the Protestants!”

“I know, Watson. No words are too strong with which to describe their villainy.”

But let us assume that William Chillingworth was right and that the Bible, and the Bible only, should be our religion. It would make our lives a good deal simpler. For instance, all our present controversies about human sexuality could be resolved by resorting to the plain words of Scripture. Luke, Chapter 13, verse 13.

“And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight.”

But before the bells start pealing for joy all the way from Malawi to Nigeria, don’t forget Malachi, Chapter 1, verse 11,

“For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name.”

In every place. And that includes Balerno.

Because, there it is. We must teach and act in continuity and consonance with Scripture”. That’s the Anglican Covenant, Section 1, Paragraph 2, sub-section 1, and if not a sparrow falls to the ground without Our Father knowing it (Matthew, 10.29), He’s hardly going to overlook Section 1, Paragraph 2, sub-section 1.

Fortunately for us, there can be nothing more in continuity and consonance with Scripture than the idea of a Covenant.

Hosea, 10.4 “They have spoken words, swearing falsely in making a Covenant: thus judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.”

The idea of judgment springing up as hemlock rather alarms me. People do complain that Section 4 of the Covenant has no teeth, but hemlock seems to be going a bit far. Removing Episcopalians from ecumenical dialogues is one thing, but do you want to see a black-hooded Rowan Williams, with albino eyebrows, stirring the bubbling contents of a Borgia-style chalice and saying,

“Come on, Katharine, drink this up, it’ll do you good!”

So what about Ezra 10.3? “Now therefore let us make a Covenant with our God to put away all the wives.”

No, that can’t be right. It’s sort of…. going in an opposite direction from what the Covenant is setting out to do.

Or could it be 1st Samuel 18, 1-4?

“And it came to pass . . . that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. Then Jonathan and David made a Covenant . . . And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.”

Well, I can’t tell you what happened next. I don’t know the Hebrew for “moratorium”, or “Instruments of Unity”, or “gracious restraint”. And I feel that I am getting into very deep waters here, and that I should therefore flee all controversy and turn to The Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

In Rome, there is the custom that Bishops will come to reconnect with their roots on their “ad limina” visits. Bishop Katharine, we welcome you on yours.

Bishop, I do know a little of the American Church. The Advent, Boston. Smoky Mary’s in Times Square. The Ascension & St Agnes in Washington DC.

My former parish priest in Edinburgh is now Rector of St Clement’s, Philadelphia ― the highest church in the world, the St Thomas’s, Corstorphine, of Pennsylvania. The dioceses I knew of were Fort Worth, Quincy, Eau Claire and Fond du Lac ― or, as it was referred to, “Fond of Lace”, the panting heart of the Biretta Belt. My own Diocese of Moray, in the time of Bishops George Sessford and Clarence E Pope, was twinned with the Diocese of Fort Worth. The official explanation was that the Dioceses were linked because of the oil industry. Nobody was fooled.

I don’t pretend to agree with everything that has happened in the Scottish Episcopal Church since the consecration of Bishop Seabury. Indeed, I don’t pretend to agree with anything that has happened in the Scottish Episcopal Church since the consecration of Bishop Seabury. Trendy nonsense like accepting the Union between Scotland and England. Praying for the Elector of Hanover in 1788 as if he were King.

Primus, things were falling to bits even then. But the Synod of Laurencekirk in 1804 ― that’s when the rot really began. Assenting (now happily revoked) to the 39 Articles. That’s 39 too many. We should have told Lord Thurlow then what we should tell Dr Williams now: the Episcopal Church may well be an apple short of a picnic ― but if I’ve anything to do with it, it’s going to remain 39 Articles short of a Covenant.

Fortunately, help and support were on hand from our daughter in America. There was a time when every Episcopalian child was familiar with The Orange Sacrilege, the poem written in the 1840s by Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Bishop of Western New York, and its stirring cry,

“They’ve robbed thee of thine altars;

They’ve ta’en thine ancient name,

But thou’rt the Church of Scotland

Till Scotland melts in flame!”

Bishop Cleveland Coxe had a vivid pen as he described the sad fate of our martyred Kirk:

“Then leave to grim Genevans

Cathedral, choir and aisle;

Let psalms of Covenanters [well, I didn’t write this]

Be quavered there awhile.

The very stones shall flout them,

In beauty built, and might,

For Apostolic service

And high Liturgic rite.”

Then he told of revival after the Penal Times.

“See after See uprearing

Once more the shattered Cross;

Once more a Bishop treading

The heathery braes of Ross.

Oh! Then St Andrew’s crosier

Shall once more be upheld,

And the Culdee mitre glisten

In Brechin and Dunkeld.”

“In Edin’s high cathedral,

No more the fish-wife’s voice;

In Glasgow’s crypts and cloisters

No more the rabble’s choice;

O’er Elgin’s choir in blessing

The Moray shepherd’s smile,

And none of Scotland bishop-less.

(Except, perhaps, Argyll . . . )”

OK. I made that last bit up.

But, as it says in Nursery Rhymes for Episcopalian Children, published recently by the Liturgy Committee:

“As I was coming down the stair

I met a man who wasn’t there.

He’s not been there for quite a while ―

He is the Bishop of Argyll.”

And Bishop Cleveland Coxe pointed to America as the land of the future for the Episcopalian idea:

“When o’er the Western waters

They seek for crook and key,

The Lord shall make like Hannah’s

Thy poor and low decree.

Thou o’er new worlds the sceptre

Of Shiloh shalt extend,

And a long line of children

From thy sad breast descend.”

“And when at last old Scotland,

Her chiefs and her true men,

Her Highlands and her Lowlands

Shall find their hearts again,

Then tremble, Rowan Williams,

Within the Lollards’ Tower!

See Katharine Jefferts Schori

Advance in might and power!”

OK, I made the last four lines up, too. But you get the message.

There is one thing I must say to you, Bishop. We are not a respectable kirk. Certain types of people make fun of us and scorn us. “Anything goes.” I have a number of extremely conservative Tridentinist Roman friends, mostly former Episcopalians, who laugh at me as “the only Pisky in the village” and accuse me of attending fertility sacrifices to the moon-Goddess at St Columba’s-by-the-Castle, but I shut them up by telling them that the Mass of Trent would be a perfectly valid rite if only it had an Epiclesis.

Well, I don’t mind not being respectable. I’ve read of Someone else who wasn’t respectable.

“Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.” (Matthew 11.19)

Bishop Forbes of Brechin famously used to go visiting in the slums of Dundee with a Prayer Book in one pocket and a flask of spirits in the other. Once, he gave sixpence to a known scoundrel and his chaplain remonstrated with him,

“Bishop, he’ll only drink it.”

Forbes replied,

“If I were as poor as that man, I’d drink it too.”

There are many tags or mottoes descriptive of various churches.

“Securus judicat orbis terrarum,” (the verdict of the whole world is conclusive”), a phrase from St Austin often used to describe our younger sister, the Church of Rome.

“Nec tamen consumebatur,” (“and nevertheless it was not consumed”) for the established Kirk of Scotland.

We have the Pub Sign’s “Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order”.

All these are valid notes of the Church. But what I hope may be described as the SPECIAL note of the Episcopal Church ― well, I wonder if any of you know the short story by that unfashionable author, Rudyard Kipling, “On the Gate, a Tale of 1916”? C S Lewis or G K Chesterton never wrote anything better. It’s wartime. St Peter is receiving sinners at Heaven’s gate and it’s pandemonium. Death is watching as St Peter uses every trick in the book to ensure that no-one is turned away (and if you think that’s too sloppy and sentimental, think of 1 Timothy 2.4, where Paul says that Christ desires everyone to be saved ― with an unmistakeable hint of “whether they want to be, or not” ― and the Parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18). A woman appears. A woman who has done some shameful things, but also good and kind things. A worried Seraph approaches St Peter.

“It’s her civilian record, sir. I judged best to refer it to you.”

The Seraph handed him a vivid scarlet docket.

“The next time,” said St. Peter . . . “that you get one of these, er, tinted forms, mark it Q.M.A. and pass the bearer at once. Don’t worry over trifles.”

The Seraph flashed off and returned to the clamorous Gate.

“Which Department is Q.M.A.?” said Death. St. Peter chuckled.

“It’s not a department. It’s a Ruling. ‘Quia multum amavit.’ [“Because she hath loved much.”] “A most useful Ruling. I’ve stretched it to . . . [oh, you wouldn’t believe].”

“Quia multum amavit.” [“Because she hath loved much.”]

God grant that that may be pleaded for the Episcopal Church ― Scottish and American ― at the gate of Heaven.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Today, after a horribly healthy breakfast (muesli, fruit salad, cherry yogurt, brown bread and apricot jam), it was off to celebrate the Eucharist at Murrayfield according to the 1929 Liturgy. St Richard of Chichester was commemorated and then it was home on a very muggy morning made sweaty by clericals via Costa Coffee (brie and tomato chutney pannini and double macchiato elevenses), the barbers (I am shorn, but not shriven) and Boots the Chemist ( smelly stuff and shaving gel). Backshift from 2-10 and the same again tomorrow. Had a good meeting last night (small but very strong - like a decent coffee!) and will probably go again on Friday.

Here's a famous prayer for today:

The Prayer of St Richard of Chichester

Sculpture of an outcastSt Richard, who was Bishop of Chichester for eight years in the mid-13th century, was well acquainted with both hard work and suffering. Though a gifted scholar and lawyer, he did not flinch from physical labour; and as Bishop he found himself a homeless outcast in his own diocese, until King Henry III finally accepted his appointment by the Pope. His prayer reflects the commitment and 'stickability' needed by anyone who seeks to be a true follower of Jesus.

Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits which you have given us,
for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.
Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,
may we know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly,
day by day.

To think about.....

  • How do you feel about the idea that Jesus Christ endured pains and insults for your sake? Does it help you to cope with suffering and rejection in your own life?

  • Is your knowledge of the Lord's presence becoming clearer as you go through life? Would you like it to? What do you think helps - praying? reading the Bible? being with other Christians? anything else?

The prayer acknowledges that Christians don't become saints overnight! Instead, there is a gradual (and sometimes uncomfortable) re-orientation of our lives into God's way. Why not use this prayer (or your own words) to ask Jesus to help you take just one small step forward in the Christian life?

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Art, Food and Eucharist.

A busy, but very enjoyable day out to Glesga on Friday involving much fine art (the Hunterian is superb - I can't think how I missed it before? Whistler OK, Scottish Colourists amazing) and a very enjoyable Brasserie (Asparagus and Bayonne ham with poached egg to start, garlic prawns and cous cous for the main, creme brulee and coffee for finis) provided a suitable celebration of the 17th anniversary of my deaconing. Saturday was busy at work being a day with some overtime (steam trains and a disability disco) and then today to the Good Shepherd Murrayfield to preside at the Holy Mysteries in the absence of their holidaying Rector and to preach on unmerited grace. Work involves a sleepover after the back shift, then 7-2 tomorrow so I will be back in 24 hours!

I was rather tickled by this article on a Vicar calling the parish to arms in celebration of the building of the new Church Loos More power to her Bow arm!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Who to celebrate?

Tomorrow we have one of those occasional liturgical clashes: St Barnabas or the Sacred Heart? Good Anglican, ordained deacon on June 11th 1993 goes with godly Barney. Anglo-Catholic Spike 1st class goes for the old Sacre Coeur. Here is something for everyone.

Bountiful God, giver of all gifts,
who poured your Spirit upon your servant Barnabas
and gave him grace to encourage others:
help us, by his example,
to be generous in our judgements
and unselfish in our service;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. AMEN.

and of course:

Happy festival - whatever it is!

Now there's a clerical error for you!

Who would have thought that simony would be overtaken as a favourite clerical error?

I know nothing of what has happened at the Synod today, save that very little seems to have been decided. No news, I suppose, is good news. The soup was good tonight and i look forward to a day at the art galleries in Glasgow tomorrow. As always I shall evade Synodical nonsense when not actually a member!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

St Columba's Day

Today was technically a day off. I say "technically" because I was wired into House activities until 3pm! Shopping, hoovering, cooking chocolate brownies and baking bread. Then a mooch to Waterstones to purchase a new pocket diary (replacing my AWOL pocket book) which, oddly, starts on Monday. My mooch was designed to kill time until the Feast of Title Eucharist at St Columba's by the Castle, scheduled to start at 7pm. Well that's what the website and the poster on the noticeboard said. didn't start until 7.30. So I bugged off to drink mocha in the Elephant House. No, not the one at the Zoo, the one on South Bridge where JK Rowling (the only author in Scottish literary history whose sounds as if she is an illegal activity involving alcoholic tramps and a steep brae!) began to write Harry Potter. I can see why. The view of the Castle and the Old Town are a bit Hogwarts - though Fettes College is even more so! St Columba's: nice friendly people, dull building, peculiar ritual, good sermon and excellent smoked salmon bagels!

The Psalm for the day is one that set me off:

Psalm 34:1-10

I will alway give thanks unto the Lord
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord
the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
O praise the Lord with me
and let us magnify his Name together.
I sought the Lord, and he heard me
yea, he delivered me out of all my fear.

They had an eye unto him, and were lightened
and their faces were not ashamed.
Lo, the poor crieth, and the Lord heareth him
yea, and saveth him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord tarrieth round about them that fear him
and delivereth them.

O taste, and see, how gracious the Lord is
blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
O fear the Lord, ye that are his saints
for they that fear him lack nothing.
The lions do lack, and suffer hunger
but they who seek the Lord shall want no manner of thing that is good.

For me, it was the verse "O fear the Lord, ye that are his saints for they that fear him lack nothing" that made an impact. Fear I don't understand in the sense of dread but in the sense of be aware of the awe-some nature of God. Respect God, acknowledge him, seek him and good will eventually follow. Your needs will be met, but as they ought to be rather than as you necessarily want them to be.

Salve festa diem!

Pope Rowan.

Pope Rowan? You might very well think so. This is precisely the Curial tendency that many of us on the Scottish Synod were wary of in discussions on the Covenant. The fact that the ABC has authorised action of a disciplinary nature BEFORE anyone has signed up to the Covenant will (I hope and trust) lead to it's vehement rejection by the SEC.

In response: I bake brownies and bread and pray for our Synod which meets tomorrow.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

God of surprises?

Here's an interesting article on the Anglican conundrum:

I was off basking in the sun (well, paddling on the beach) on Lindisfarne and stayed overnight. Arms and neck are pink but turning brown, the Parish Eucharist was pleasant enough, although the A&M hymns were slightly obscure and dominated by stuff by the Edinburgh Jesuit James Quinn. Lunch was splendidly roast lamb, new potatoes and peas. Terribly enjoyable - but I really never expected to find myself kissing a woman goodnight (ever!), so also a bit of a first for me in all sorts of ways!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

All life is here..or hereabouts!

One of THOSE days: the morning started with a very rushed shower and then a decant to work, where our new chappie introduced us to an aspect of his morning routine that certainly wasn't in the handover material. He greets the morning staff by name and then wheechs open his dressing gown (and he is not a pyjama wearer)! Luckily, the 1st victim was a Govanitess who simply said: "Pit that away - ah've no hid mah brekfast!". Also he called me a "fat poof"! FAT!!! I was black affronted! Well, first he called me Kenny - which meant he was possibly referring to my colleague rather than to me. Anyhow, forbearing to point out that I am not technically obese as he is and that it ill behaves a fan of both the Spice Girls and Girls Aloud to bandy such epithets about, I replied: "Only in Ethiopia" ! Subtle sarcasm seemed to slightly baffle him!

Tonight I returned to base camp reeking slightly of incense from the Corpus Christi hooley at St Mike's. I preached, ignoring the Scripture readings (damn inconvenient our reformed heritage is sometimes!). After quoting Martin Luther fulminating against Zwinglians (and pausing to describe him as a (Lord - ye Gods!) John Prescott lookalike), I cited this glorious passage from Dom Gregory Dix

Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to old age and after it, from the pinnacles of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; - one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week, and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done just this to MAKE the PLEBS SANCTA DEI - the holy common people of God.

I went on to point out that it is wonderful to think that the holy Sacrifice has been offered by millions over the millenia and it is wonderful to think of ourselves as part of that. But it leaves us with a problem that is a greater threat to our faith than anything Richard Dawkins can produce. So what? Has it changed anything? It hasn't stopped massacres in Cumbria or oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico. My point was the God who reveals himself in the Sacrament is the God who revealed himself at Bethlehem and Calvary. A God who enters into and transforms suffering, not a vengeful judge or a fantasy figure who relieves us of responsibility and lets us float around in a happy world of pink fluffy clouds. it seemed to go down well enough. Last shift of the week to morrow - Yippee!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A veggie Mecca?

I had a chuckle at lunchtime today. My Buddhist colleague bought the staff nibbles for our trip to Aberdour ( ah, the Silver Sands - annual venue for the Elliot's factory picnics when I was wee!). So it was very pleasant veggie stuff: chickpea and onion pie, sun dried tomato and olive pastie, spinach and lentil doo-dah. I read the label as I lunched: "Jordan Valley Foods" it read. Where was this exotica produced? Old Perth Road Cowdenbeath! I never thought of the old home town as a mecca of vegitarian cuisine!

I was supposed to be going out for dinner tonight but it was cancelled as one of the participants step sister in law was one of the 12 fatal victims of the shootings in Cumbria. So we busily prayed for all who had been killed or injured or otherwise affected by the events in Whitehaven and its environs at evening prayer. Isn't it strange how small the world is?