An evangelical priest in charge of an inner city urban parish and a catholic minded curate into rural ministry walked into a sandwich shop in Newcastle upon Tyne……
It does sound like the start of a joke, but it was towards the end of a busy three days of a visit by a delegation of Winchester Diocese to Newcastle Diocese. The great and the good (two Diocesan Bishops, three Archdeacons, two Diocesan Chief Executives and a Bishop’s Chaplain) were ensconced in a meeting to talk about the focus and future strategy for this particular link. They, the priest in charge and I had had two and a half days of being shown different kinds of place and ministry within the Diocese, described by its Bishop as “massively rural with an urban strip”.
We had both been taken a long way from our comfort zones (neither of us is that used to being around the great and the good), we had both seen eye opening, idea provoking work being done by people lay, ordained, Christian, and secular. We had had time to talk during car journeys, and learned each other’s coffee preferences. And both of us were surprised by the degree of commonality we shared, in our ministry, in our understandings of the areas we operate in, and in our belief in community and relationship as heart of Gospel.
We’ve both changed too. He understands a bit more about rural timescales, about living with the rhythm of seasons and long distances, about why change might happen more slowly with people accustomed to listening to their heartbeat. I will be more overt about why I do what I do, about why I try to help connect people with each other and with God, I will be braver about telling people what Jesus Christ has done for humankind.
The odd thing is that we didn’t really need to go to the Diocese of Newcastle to find those things out…. but we might not have laughed as much together if we hadn’t.
There will probably be several more blog posts about my Newcastle visit….be patient!