Every year our diocese gathers in the sumptuous surroundings of the Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry for a few days. It is the best time to go – November – for the hotel is surrounded by trees of every hue and the hills look glorious in the sunlight. Yes, even a city girl can admire a lovely country view from inside a comfy hotel. In the olden days I’m told that the clergy met in an old youth hostel. Not many went. Funny that. Now that we meet in a nice place, many do come. Not all, but many.
This was the first Conference with our new Bishop John at the helm. Our speaker was Canon Malcolm Grundy who has written books on Leadership and Oversight. I’m afraid our little group couldn’t quite get in to the topic of leadership and shared episcope but we managed to talk about plenty other things. That’s the beauty of the Clergy Conference – even if the talks don’t quite inspire, it is always good to catch up with other clergy and share our stories.
Dare I say that the highlight was going with Mother Anne to the House of Bruar and having a good old window-shop. I even managed to find the spurtle I’ve been looking for for ages. (The boiled wool mules were not such a success. Who knew boiled wool could be so uncomfy?) And sadly they do not seem to do Pickled Quail’s Eggs any more. Where else will I find them, I wonder?
While I was in the bar one evening I got to talking to a certain Canon. (Not the speaker at the conference – one of our very own.) This certain Canon is not someone whom I know particularly well. Our paths don’t cross often in churchy circles. In fact, I’ve probably thought in the past that we really had very little in common. However, and this is the beauty of the Clergy Conference, we found out that we actually had quite a lot in common. We both shared a love of James Bond movies, and in particular the cars. We also shared a love of a good whodunnit and had read many of the same authors. He had read all the Rizzoli and Isles books and I had watched the TV series, and he’s convinced me to try the books. We blethered for ages on our love of the iPad. And don’t get us started on forensic pathologists – we both adore them, the bloodier the better. And that is one of the joys of the Clergy Conference, because how else would we have found that out about each other? I am also keeping him in my prayers for something he shared with me.
So I have come to the conclusion that that is why we meet every year in Pitlochry. Sometimes we are blessed with unexpected pleasures. And that is one of the joys of ministry. Finding something in common with another human being and hearing their story.