It’s been a wee while, but various questions people have asked of late have prompted a post, combined with a need to be reflective as my Episcopal review looms!
“Do you regret the move, after all the palava of the Women Bishop’s stuff and now the Gay Bishops headlines?” has been asked in a variety of guises. The answer is a resounding “NO!” – I have no regrets in moving south, despite much of the ridicule and bad press of the church, especially over the last 3 months.
Firstly – to put the record straight – Women Bishops have not been rejected by the Church of England Synod, but one form of legislation was voted down in one house of Synod, and therefore the motion to pass that piece of legislation fell – a form of legislation which gave concession to the “traditionalists” at both ends of the high/low church spectrum. It hurt – greatly. But as the issue of “how” lumbers on, I know we will get there, and probably with less concession than was offered. As for the gay bishops stuff – a 15 month moratorium was lifted. The status quo of the situation that existed when I moved here has returned. I dont like it, I have no idea how it will be “policed or monitored” - I find the attitude which says we can dictate what two consenting, comitted and loving adults can do in their own bedroom to be extremely arrogant and distasteful, and damaging to those relationships and damaging to the church’s understanding of love.
No Church is without its controversy or its ridicule – and the bigger the church, the greater the controversy appears, and the ridicule is likewise magnified. The church also has a reponsibility to speak against those things which damage the image of God’s love in creation, and often as a corporate body we dont get it right, or we challenge those things which seem inconsequential to the majority outside of the church. It is not the role of the church to “please all people”, it is the role of the church to serve people by sharing God’s love. Life is messy, and sometimes we get too caught up in the mess to see beyond it – this is as true of the Church as it is of individuals. Unsurprising really, for the Church is the gathering and the structuring of those messy lives.
Its hard to believe I’ve been here 2 1/2 years already. And I’ve found that being part of the CofE has opened up doors and vistas, opportunities for community and social engagement which were previously closed to me. I’ve had fun, and flourished in the supportive (yes, really!) atmosphere of not only the team, but of this diocese. Despite all its faults and frailties and frustrations, I have come to love and appreciate this dysfunctional and vast Church machine and all that it does and continues to do in the lives of so many people.
As part of the Curate supervision (yup, I’m supervising a Curate, and she is scarily good!), I’ve been reading “Ministry without Madness” by Gordon Oliver and I was struck by the descriptions or indicators of “madness” the minister may experience:
- an increasing sense of disintegreation (feeling in pieces)
- distorted perceptions of reality – often regarding other peoples motives
- a sense of dislocation – being out of place
- a fear of being misunderstood, unheard – feeling isolated without hope of relief
- feeling demotivated
- feeling overlooked or undervalued – left in the loneliness of not knowing how you are regarded by those in oversight.
In my previous post, prior to being signed off – all of these were my reality. It was messy, difficult and souldestroying. I have no wish to hurt anyone reading this who may be associated with my previous job – there are those of you who were a joy to work with, and extremely supportive (both congregation members and colleagues in other charges – you know who you are and I love you for it!), but I found much of my previous job unsupported and unhealthy. There was an extremly large dose of denial from all directions (including myself) about the situation I was in, and a distinct lack of help and support in dealing with it. As I began to recover a sense of equilibrium and get back to a place where I could work and could begin looking for other opportunities, it became quite clear that I needed once more to be in a team, and do something quite different.
And it has been different. Varied, vibrant, supported and supportive.And now those descriptions by Gordon Oliver no longer resemble the reality I inhabit, and more importantly, they (or the fear of their return) are no longer shaping my hopes for the future.
Before you get to thinking that I’m stuck in some kind of fantasy where reality= all was bad, then I moved, now all is good; not everything has gone to plan, not every adventure of this ministerial life has had rosey tints and a wonderful outcome. But thats ok – its been ok to fail, look back and learn without internalising it or being defeated by it. That has been a huge lesson to learn.
No regrets. No fear.