Dialogue begins here

I really should have learned to be careful what I wish for. Feel free to remind me of this frequently.  I said “Let me work with you, you can trust me.” I really really said that, and God heard.

Today I was Visitors’ Chaplain at the Cathedral. I had a great time – I saw someone for coffee beforehand, I had a few conversations, then went out into the Christmas Market in my cloak, and smiled at people. Lots smiled back, many spoke, some chatted, a few wanted conversations. Chaplaincy in the sunshine amid people who, however hurt and broken, were managing to smile. There was peace and love and tough talking and healing. And none of it had much to do with the topic of the week in the church. It was all about ordinary, amazing lives. I even acquired a basis for a Christmas Morning sermon – but that is for another time.

I watched the newly married couple emerge into the sunshine, went inside, and the wedding photographer laughed so much when he saw me that he took a photo, looked at it on his camera and made me pose properly. Again, when I get the results, I’ll share. I met the Vicar of the Close, who was quite happy to release me early, so I headed for the Virgers’ Office to get my stuff, and then the call came on their radio – “Can we have a chaplain at the Entrance Desk?”  “She’s right here and on her way” said a Virger, so I wafted my way down the Cathedral, and smiled at the man there, who smiled back.

“Are you a priest?”    
“Yes I am, shall we find a quiet spot and talk?”
“Yes please.  Odd that it’s you here.  I’ll explain in a minute”
And he did.

He was enraged.  He was shaking and nearly crying with the scale of his anger.  He could not believe what the Bishops were saying about his beloved Church of England, that there would be women bishops even after they had been voted down [sic].  Bad enough that he no longer knew whether to reverence the Reserved Sacrament or not, because he couldn’t be sure in a strange church whether it had been consecrated by a man, bad enough that there are women priests (“it’s not personal, you understand”), but to see the decision of Synod being publicly ignored was more than he could bear.  He’d prayed, and God had told him to take his anger to the Cathedral. So here he was. With his pain and his anger and his grief. Up close and personal. And after a fair bit of venting, he wanted to know what I thought.  

Through his anger and his grief and his pain, he asked me to describe how I know I was called. So I did.  He listened carefully, and expressed surprise at the similarities between my story and that of a monk he knows.  We talked about prayer, about discerning God’s will, about animals, about heaven, about scripture, about churches, about church. We talked for an hour, and parted with smiles, a handshake, good wishes, and our respective views intact and respected.

I won’t lie, afterwards I was shattered. I’d absorbed a lot of anger and I know I looked awful, because the lovely lovely Virgers gave me a cup of tea, made me sit down, and cosseted me. It’s taken me about three hours and a decent meal to recover.

But no-one said it would be easy.  But I was given an opportunity for grace today, and by the grace of God I hope that my new friend sleeps soundly tonight with his integrity intact. I know I will. 



    


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7 responses to “Dialogue begins here

  1. For me this is an illustration of why you are who and what you are. A Priest in The Church of Christ.

    It highlights the validity of your Orders, Anglican Orders and the vital role that the Clergy and Laity of the Church can fulfil in God's mission to his people. You dealt with a sensitive, difficult pastoral situation with empathy, understanding and compassion (all elements or marks of a vital ministry) and parted as fellow Christians, if not agreeing on all of the same things.

    If only we could go into our conversations in this way, with grace and love and compassion, we would today have women as Bishops and with full recognition of their ministry.

    I see this episode as a gift from God and somehow an opportunity for someone who says that they don't accept the validity of women's orders, to accept that pastoral ministry with integrity – and hopefully a transformation for their understanding with God's grace.

    Dialogue is the key, more listening and not so much apologising or circumspection about our mission. There are millions of people out in the world, seeking something more, something spiritual, something that they can't feel or grasp, but that they know exists, but just don't know how or where to find. God's love and peace in their mind and heart and the sure and certain knowledge of him in their lives.

    This is our job, our mission, I just wish the church would get on with it, without all of the internalising and politics on some issues, which just need grace and compassion to resolve quickly and simply.

    Will be praying for you.

  2. Claire, you r experience illustrates precisely why the 'alternative bishops for people of different views' attempts are so wrong. Priests are priests for everyone. Bishops are bishops for everyone. You showed this person that. I am sure you comforted him. I hope he has also learnt an important lesson from this encounter.

  3. Pingback: Some kind of loving | Rev'd Claire·

  4. Pingback: All Change! | Rev'd Claire·

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