All Change!

IMG_2092So Synod has voted to continue developing the current set of proposals to enable the Church of England to appoint its Bishops without worrying about which appendages are additional or lacking. Good. I’m glad. It can be hard enough to discern and follow a vocational path, so I am delighted that there is a little more hope today for women who are called to the Episcopate. Theirs will be a difficult task, but at least there is a good chance now that they will have the opportunity to find out just how hard it is.

I can’t help thinking back to my encounter about a year ago in Winchester Cathedral. I have not seen my friend since, but today I suspect he may be enraged and saddened at the continuation down a path he believes to be profoundly wrong. Or he may have seen God at work in our encounter and in his many other experiences of the ministry of women and of men. The thing he said which has stayed with me most is about the Reserved Sacrament – “I don’t even know whether to reverence the Sacrament, because I can’t tell if it was properly consecrated”. Reserved Sacrament – consecrated bread and wine stored safely to be taken to the sick and the dying. If it’s not consecrated, it’s bread and wine. If it is consecrated, it’s bread and wine with layer upon layer of meaning, symbolism and holiness. It’s life giving. Were my friend to be presented with bread and wine I have consecrated at Holy Communion, he would not be able to accept that it carried those life giving properties.

But when I go into a church, I check if it contains Reserved Sacrament. I go and pray in front of it. I am the same as my friend. I do the same as he does. We would both agree that any Sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward invisible grace. The difference between us is smaller than a hairsbreadth. But tiny chromosomes create massive chasms. My prayer is that the chasms, of human making, may be bridged and healed.

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7 responses to “All Change!

  1. I’ve never worshipped regularly in a church that obviously retains Reserved Sacrament because none of them have had an aumbry. This is something that may be going to change for me next year, so it’s useful to me to reflect on what you’ve said about specifically praying by or near it before, an activity I guess some might find akin to idolatry. I admit I’m struggling to understand it though I guess it’s akin to praying with icons – you seem to be saying you are using the Reserved Sacrament as a prompt to prayer for various matters that concern us.

    I am guessing there is something very specifically moving about praying with the Reserved Sacrament, and the light that so often remains lit nearby. There may be other reasons for this, but is it a symbol of the light of Christ coloured red to symbolise his sacrifice? (People assume you know such stuff at college, and until now I’ve never been minded to ask anyone anyway!)

    Given the use that the Reserved Sacrament is set aside for, I guess part of the significance of praying alongside it, is to pray for those for whom it will symbolise not only the sacrifice of Christ for them, but the knowledge that they are a part of the body of Christ, and others in their local area remember them in prayer, hopefully not just the one administering the Sacrament. Feel free to educate me if there are other significances I’ve missed.

    On the matter of the incredibly positive vote to take the newly worked legislation on the episcopate forward, I share your pleasure, and pray that the positive and open vein in which this has been handled at the level of General Synod can be matched in our regional handling of it through each Diocese.

  2. re praying before the reserved sacrament – surely it’s an outward sign of the presence of Christ among us? and that sign is valid regardless of who celebrated… maybe i’m e3xposing my seriously low-church roots and theology here… I’m trying to say it’s the Reality behind the sacrmaent to Whom we pray, surely…

  3. We reserve the Sacrament in our Benefice but not really in a position that it can be easily prayed in front off unless you go into the Choir stalls. Having been brought up with the Roman Catholic doctrine of the ‘real presence’ i.e that the consecrated elements are truly the body and blood of Jesus Christ, transformed from the elements at the Eucharist, a doctrine that I rejected I still feel an affinity to it. Transubstantiation is a very long word and one that entered my vocabulary early on. As did Benediction or Veneration of the Sacred Host, not practised now as widely as it used to be.

    I struggle with both of these, but also recognise that the Anglo-Catholic tradition, which I’m increasingly being drawn towards values both. This is perhaps being an Anglican has it’s advantages. I’m able to struggle with something, but at the same time celebrate that within our church we have room for all to flourish, if only we have the Grace and can build trust between us. I see today as step one along the road to that flourishing and love for and appreciation for each others traditions without letting theological convictions or other obstacles to get in the way.

    Surely we’re about sharing the love of God with all, not hiding in little enclaves where we rest on scripture, tradition as received (by whom) and cast stones at those who dare to shake our convictions.

  4. Wow, it was just something that struck me in what he said. Quite right Rachel, I use the white candle by the aumbry (where the Sacrament is placed) as a focus to help still my mind – I am certainly not directing my prayers to bread and wine, but to God. However, for me the layers of meaning of that bread and wine are important, and “though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread” matters to me immensely. It is a means of reminding myself of the community of which I am part.
    Thanks so much for all your comments, and I couldn’t agree with @minidvr’s conclusion more!

  5. As you know, we may disagree about many things, but not about women being Bishops! I look forward to the day when the first woman becomes Bishop and then Archbishop…

  6. Pingback: We’re a step closer to women bishops in the Church of England | Bryony Taylor·

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