Candlemas and the Baptism

There was no room at the inn this morning at St Mark’s Portobello when the Cant Clan arrived for the baptism of baby Lucas. In fact some were even banished to the balcony. Great service, although I do say so myself, marred only by the fact that my sermon prop didn’t do what was expected of it.

So there I was sitting on the floor with the giant ewer between my legs and an expanding face-cloth which wouldn’t expand. It sank like a stone and I was wet to my elbows in warm water (a good way to check the temperature by the way). It took at least 5 minutes to expand from a one inch square to a 6 inch flannel. Last time I’ll be doing that trick.

Baby Lucas didn’t care one way or the other, of course. I, on the other hand, was exhausted after wrestling with it. “Oh we didn’t mind,” they said after. “It was great fun and showed you were human.”

As opposed to what? What are clergy meant to be? Animal, vegetable or mineral? Scary monster? Bogie man?

Ember Day

Today is the third and last Ember day in Advent. Ember days are for fasting and prayer. Since the time of Pope Gelasius I (492-496) Ember days also became a time for the ordination of clergy.

May I suggest today that we pray for all clergy at this time of year?

For those burdened with work,

for those who don’t have time to be with their family,

for those who are lonely and feel unsupported,

for those struggling with the highs and lows of each working day.

Advent God, we bring before you all those who minister to us. In this time of darkness and anticipation we hold them before your dawning light. Give them strength for the days ahead and the sure knowledge that you are with them guiding and protecting. Amen

Clergy Conference 2007

Dear Blog Diary

On Monday we had the most wonderful drive up through Fife and Perthshire to Pitlochry for this year’s Clergy Conference at the Atholl Palace Hotel. It’s always good to meet up with old friends and share the grumps and highs of ministry. I have always found it a very supportive time.

Our speaker this year was Cecelia Clegg and the topic was Conflict and Reconciliation. CC is Irish and very keen on this subject. We started off on Monday with Dealing with Difference and the journey we need to go through. In case you were wondering, it is:

Identification – Acceptance – Empathy – Toleration – Resignation – Rejection – Agreement (hopefully)

I think many of us would like to linger in the Resignation box.

The next session was on the Process of Compassionate/Nonviolent Communication which involved a giraffe and a coyote/wolf. We had puppets. Yes, puppets. Raspberry Rabbit has to struggle with his inner coyote, it would appear. Giraffes have big hearts, don’t you know? I also happen to know they have the highest blood pressure amongst the animal kingdom. I don’t know if that has anything to do with anything.

Then it was on to Mitigating Non-Negotiables. Yeh, right. Oh and we got a list of helpful Feelings Likely To Be Present When Your Wants Are Being Satisfied – and Not Being Satisfied, of course. They will come in very handy, I’m sure.

It all raised some tricky issues and heightened emotions for some of us. The theory is great but sometimes the practice is harder.

Back home now and a lovely mass this morning with +Alan at the helm. Lovely to be ‘done’ to.  Now, on with the real work…

Exploring Christianity

Last night was the second in our Exploring Christianity series. I missed the first one because I was at Synod, where they explored Images of God. Last night was Jesus’ turn and we did a little Contextual Bible Study with Mother Anne Tomlinson while Liza kept us facilitated.

It’s quite hard being clergy in these groups. I really have to keep my mouth firmly zipped shut and let others explore and comment. It’s really, really hard. In fact, I wonder whether I actually should be there. What do you think? Should clergy go along to groups in their church wot they are not organising themselves? Does it stifle discussion?

Anyway we looked at the Raising of Lazarus story and I really enjoyed dissecting it contextually. One thing I did notice was that in the story it says ‘Martha and Mary’ so why do we always say ‘Mary and Martha’? Just wondering.

Clergy appreciation month

It would appear that in the USA October is Clergy Appreciation Month. I suspect it may have been started by Hallmark but the Christian bookstores promote it also. People are encouraged to send a wee note of appreciation to their priest/minister. Some churches take their priest out for a meal, some buy them a car, some send them on a cruise!

The problem seems to be that not all congregations know about it and clergy feel it would be unseemly to point it out to them. You can see why! However, I have no such qualms!! I shall be penning a wee billet doux to my home parish priest today…

Clergy at risk

LONDON – Catholic and Anglican clergy should remove their clerical collars while off-duty to avoid being singled out for attack, a British church safety group said Sunday.

Criminals often target clergymen because they are perceived to have money.

The stiff, white neck pieces – nicknamed “dog collars” – can also attract those bearing a “grudge against God,” said Nick Tolson, who heads National Churchwatch.

“They’ve got to be aware that when they’re on their own, they’re at high risk,” Tolson said. “What we’re saying is that when clergy are off duty – say when they’re shopping at (the supermarket) – they should slip off the dog collar and put it in their pocket.”

Britain does not routinely monitor violence against clergy. But a 2001 University of London study found that seven in 10 clergy had experienced some form of violence between 1997 and 1999, and that more than one in 10 reported being assaulted, according to Tolson.

He said most assaults on clergy are committed by parishioners, but attacks by strangers could be avoided if clergy remove their collars while not on church business.

Tolson blamed dwindling church attendance for diluting the respect traditionally accorded to clergy in Britain.

“A knock on effect of this is that attacking a member of the clergy is seen by most criminals as no different to attacking a shopkeeper, robbing an old lady or any other member of society,” Tolson said.

The recommendation elicited a mixed response among Christian groups.

The Church of England said it welcomed the advice but noted that church rules say “clergy should dress as clergy.”

“Many would be reluctant to shed this very public sign of their ministry,”
the church said in a statement.

“We know that parish clergy can feel torn when it comes to balancing the desire to be visible and approachable within their community against the importance of protecting their safety and personal time.”

Rev. David Houlding, a prebendary (canon) at St. Paul’s Cathedral, called it a “silly, fashionable idea.”

“I feel much safer wearing my dog collar when I’m walking through the streets at night. There is still an air of respect to it,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “Most of the time, I wear it every day. It’s my uniform.”

Well, I have always liked to live dangerously so I shall continue to wear my collar. So far I have never been attacked verbally or otherwise, apart from a few wisecracks from the local school. But I have been approached and asked for prayer, for a listening ear, or for directions. The latter being a complete waste of time!

Christmas lunch

Yesterday the Portobello clergy had their Christmas lunch at Select in Portobello. (Great restaurant, btw) Our reasoning for having the Christmas lunch in May is that we don’t have time at Christmas what with all the cribs and midnight services and all that jazz.

Discussions ranged from cycling to hospital visiting (no parking costs) to how clergy can take time off when they have a family.

We also discussed how you wake up a visitee in hospital who is sleeping. How many shoogles is polite? Is nipping allowed? Is the length of time spent in attempting wake-up in direct proportion to the hassles you’ve had in getting there: finding a parking space; spending vast quantities of cash in the over-priced shop getting a sweetie/mag/drink; and then walking 4 miles to a ward only to find they were moved to another one and having to retrace your steps for another 2 miles? And then when you can’t waken them (but have checked they are breathing) and realise you have left your “I called but you were out” cards in the car/saddle-bag do you leave a message written on a paper towel knowing that someone will pop it in the bin as soon as you have left? And then the family will tell everyone within earshot that the priest never visits.

It’s a tough life.

When clergy get together

Apart from comparing surreptitiosly one another’s shine on shoes and length of tassle on stoles and whiteness of albs and that sort of thing, what else do we talk about?

Well at today’s ordination (and a marathon it was too with a sound system that seemed to be operated by someone determined to scare the heebeegeebies out of us) I heard the funniest Easter Vigil story from Fr J. There were runaway cars, exploding airbags, a sleepy organist, a lost Gloria and disco lights. I tell you, you just had to be there!

Easter Monday

What do clergy do on Easter Monday?

They go shopping because there is no food in the house.
They wash clothes that have been cast aside during the multiple changes during the past week. (Especially clerical shirts and manky albs.)
And finally they start to clear the paper mountain on top of their desks.

Sometimes they even cry.

Wanted : one clergy spouse

I have come to the conclusion that what clergy most need in Holy Week is a spouse. Someone at home who will rustle up a little snack at odd hours so that you don’t faint. Someone who will run a hot bath with nice smelly things at midnight when you have just got home after a long Vigil. And someone who will do the supermarket shop so that there is some food in the house.