Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Meetings Season

'tis the season for Annual Church Meetings, and this being a large Benefice I have 10 PCC AGM's to conduct plus one Joint Benefice Council AGM, all before the end of this month.

This year I must be particularly keen on this administrative task since this evening I attempted to turn up to take one which we had held at the end of March. I did wonder why there was no-one there at 7.30 p.m.

I think I need a holiday.

Friday, 20 April 2012

We don't have to ordain you, you know.

This was the memorable phrase uttered by the Principal of Salisbury & Wells Theological College to one student who had just cast doubts on my parentage at full volume on the main stairs of the College. It was said with a twinkle in his eye, which is how I will always recall Rev Canon Reggie Askew whose death on the 9th April was announced in last week's Church Times.

Reggie always stood up for his students and supported them through the ups and downs of theological training. One person who had taken early retirement to enter the church told of his interview with Reggie who looked at him and said, "Well, you'll want to get on with it then if we're to get more than a couple of Evensongs out of you!"

A man of deep spirituality I sat in the Old Chapel as he took us through Meditation techniques - posture, and then slowly listening outwards from ourselves, through to the sounds of the College, out to the Close, then to the far away traffic hum and beyond. They were magical hours.

Then there was his preferred technique of saying the Morning Office - quietly. "If you can't hear the person next to you then you're saying it too loud" was the guiding principle, and so we whispered our way through the responses, canticles and psalms, pausing monastically in the middle of each verse and saying a silent "Ave Maria" to get the timing right.

He had a deep love of the College, having been Lecturer and Vice-Principal of Wells Theological College during the 1960's before it merged with and moved to Salisbury. Every year it was traditional that we travelled back to Wells for an annual Cricket match before Evensong in the Cathedral. He became Principal of S&W in 1973 and remained there until he moved to be Dean of King's College, London, in 1988.

Reggie also had a unique way of looking at liturgy and worship. He encouraged the "Friday Night College Eucharist" which was always a liturgy pulled together by one of the Tutor Groups, and they could be anything, and usually were. The College was also responsible for Evensong in Salisbury Cathedral once a term, and on one occasion Reggie led the prayers. In them we prayed for everyone connected with death, from undertakers to pall-bearers, gravediggers and layers-out, coffin-makers, those who forged the nails and those who wove the silk linings. It was unforgettable, and as we processed out the Dean of the Cathedral was heard to mutter, "Never again!"

When I entered my training I was only "conditionally recommended" and Reggie made sure that I felt secure in my calling and that I would be approved to continue after my first year. I shall remain grateful to him for that, though whether my subsequent congregations would agree is best left unasked.

The end of Christmas term student pantomime in 1983 was based upon a cult TV sci-fi character and titled "Dr. Broo and the Diakons". We had a New Testament lecturer called Dr. George Brook, who was mercilessly parodied throughout, and Reggie was written into the script as "Canonaskew the Cosmic", the portrayal of him on the stage frighteningly lifelike. He roared with laughter throughout, as the picture shows, and that's how I choose to remember his ministry amongst us - a presentation of faith with humour.

A quote from another Reggie seems appropriate here:

From the original series "The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin", Reginald Iolanthe Perrin (initials of RIP) is speaking about the type of people entering his new commune:

Well, at the moment we've got a stockbroker, an overworked doctor, an underworked antiques shop owner, a disillusioned imports manager, and an even more disillusioned exports manager. Three sacked football managers, a fortune teller who's going to have a nervous breakdown next April, a schoolteacher who's desperate because he can't get a job, a schoolteacher who's even more desperate because he has got a job, an extremely shy vet, an overstressed car salesman and a pre-stressed concrete salesman. People with sexual problems, people with social problems, people with work problems, people with identity problems. People with sexual, social, work and identity problems. People who live above their garages, and above their incomes, in little boxes on prestige estates where families are two-tone, two-car and two-faced. Money has replaced sex as a driving force, death has replaced sex as a taboo, and sex has replaced bridge as a social event for mixed foursomes, and large deep freezes are empty except for twelve sausages. They come to Perrins in the hope that they won't be ridiculed as petty snobs, but as human beings who are bewildered at the complexity of social development, castrated by the conformity of a century of mass production, and dwarfed by the immensity of technological progress which has advanced more in fifty years than in the rest of human existence put together, so that when they take their first tentative steps into an adult society shaped by humans but not for humans, their personalities shrivel up like private parts in an April sea.

And that sort of sums up Salisbury & Wells Theological College under Reginald James Albert Askew's leadership. Thanks Reggie.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Friday, 13 April 2012

The Church's "Listening Process"

I'm rapidly gaining the impression that the so-called "Listening Process" is nothing more than a phrase that is trotted out when the Church of England is challenged over the issues of human sexuality. Far from helping the Church gain inclusiveness, it has actually put a brake on any movement at all.

The Epistle of James has a lot to say about faith without works being dead.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Like a mighty river flowing ...

In these days of drought it behoves us all to save water where we can, and at the very least to ensure that our taps flow freely and shut off efficiently, and to this end I asked the Diocese to attend to some small problems with a couple of taps in the Parsonage. In the sink in the utility area the taps have battled for years against limescale. A month or so ago I noticed the hot tap was getting stiff, and a few days later, having run hot water into the sink it refused to turn off. I had to resort to shutting off the flow with the screw control on the pipe and then knocking the tap with a hammer until it freed itself and screwed down. Aha! thought I - 'tis the washer! So I purchased some tap washers and set about replacing them. The trouble was, I couldn't undo the top of the tap. It was solid, and no matter how I grunted and heaved, the nut remained locked. Time to call in the professionals, thought I, and so I contacted the Diocese who agreed to the fitting of new taps. And so, yesterday morning, the plumber arrived to deal with that problem and a related problem with the taps in the bath in the guest bathroom. There the hot tap also sticks, and the cold tap dribbles until you screw it shut, open it, shut it, open it, shut it and open it again, at which point it gives a gasp and the cold water gushes out.

The young plumber - just out of short trousers - started with the utility room taps. On the floor, wrench in hand, he succeeded in removing the cold tap, but the problems began with the hot one. The locking nut unscrewed halfway and then stuck solid. It took half-an-hour, lots of muttering, and a quiet prayer to the Almighty from me for skill and strength, before the tap finally came out. The new mixer taps were fitted in ten minutes and all restored to full flow. Then to the bathroom .....

... and this is where the story really starts .....

The bath panel was removed (to the sound of splintering wood since I couldn't remember how I'd fitted it!) and he began to try and undo the hot tap, but there was no way it was going to budge. The tap was solid, and when he investigated the problem with the cold tap he found that the tap mechanism itself was giving up. New taps definitely required, but try as he might, the old ones remained stuck fast. There were conversations with his office on the mobile phone, with the end result that the only way these taps would come out was if the bath was removed so that there was room to really attack the fittings...

... and this is where the story really starts ......

The main problem here is that the bathroom is small, and seemingly built around the bath, for the tap end is recessed into the exterior wall itself. Looking underneath the bath the wall has not even been plastered and the bare brick is showing. Add to this that in order to lift the bath out, the pedestal sink will have to be removed as well. And then there's the damage to the wall tiles ..... so the end result is that a surveyor is coming tomorrow morning to look at the possibilities of removing the bath, removing the taps, or breaking-up the bath in situ (it's a cast-iron one) and putting a new one in. How that will work with the sink still in place is questionable..

... and this is where the story really starts .......

My preferred solution is to smash the bath, remove the pieces, and replace it with a shower cabinet, especially since there is already an electric shower plumbed in over the bath.

And I haven't even mentioned the problems with the drainage from the kitchen sink .....

Watch this space .....

Monday, 9 April 2012

He still doesn't get it.

Jean Mayland, Patron and Trustee of "Changing Attitude" has posted: "In remarks last week ++ Rowan was virtually saying that the Covenant had been destroyed by extreme evangelicals and extreme Liberals. It was not. It was destroyed by the rank and file clergy and laity in the Church of England and he and the House of Bishops need to recognise that." I wouldn't hold your breath, Jean.

More wanderings in the capital

On my recent visit to London I "discovered" the Wallace Collection at Hertford House in Manchester Square. My remaining impression is of an overwhelming number of canvases lining the walls of every room, and of it being somewhere impossible to really appreciate through just one visit. I shall definitely make return visits to take a more structured and leisurely look at the wealth of paintings, artifacts and furniture. I drooled over the Canaletto paintings, and then found the erroneously-named "Laughing Cavalier" by Frans Hals, for the man is neither laughing nor a cavalier ... and in some way the reality only just managed to live up to the memory of the reproductions I've seen of this work right from my childhood, for my parents had a framed print of it for many years which hung in the house in which I grew up.
For more details of the Collection, follow this link.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Maundy Thursday vigil

This year's Maundy Thusday Eucharist and Vigil took place in St. Mary's church, Flixton, and for the first time in 11 years of celebrating this around the Benefice churches, we had an Altar of Repose. It was set up on the altar in the north aisle, and it looked quite effective for the Watch through until 10.00 p.m.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Sunshine in London

Whilst much of the country was experiencing high wind and driving snow, yesterday was warm enough in London for me to walk about without a coat. The blue skies lasted until lunchtime, and as I travelled homeward it was only north of Ipswich that the skies became leaden and I entered continual rain. As well as numerous churches I also got to The Monument at Pudding Lane where the Great Fire of 1666 began, and saw the tall "Shard" from a distance - still under construction.
The day before (Tuesday) I also spent a couple of happy hours wandering around the Mediaeval galleries at the V&A, noting to myself that in the churches of this Benefice I work daily with some of the items thought worthy to be included in a national archive.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Holy Week ....

... and a couple of days in London where you can see all kinds of strange sights ....