Ad Clerum * 2 May 2011
Dewch i weld! (Ioan 1.39)
Come and see! (John 1.46)
Athanasios was one of those cankerous old men, without whose ill-tempered obstinacy the central doctrines of the Church would never have been established. In his case, by divine providence I presume, the dogma of the Trinity at the centre of the doctrinal life of the Christian Church would not have evolved. His ministry, and his canonisation, together with the anathema on Arius, raise important questions for us today about orthodoxy and heresy.
It seems to me that the Church lives with two very real tensions. On the one hand, we – as priests and deacons – are called to uphold and defend God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, a truth which is most certainly not dependent on our intellectual capacity or affinity. It is something which we are called to receive and to pass on: the Christian Tradition, set forth in the Scriptures and expounded in the Catholic creeds. On the other hand, we are called to integrity in matters of faith, to explore questions of faith and doubt with searching honesty, and with a thoroughgoing respect for difference and sincere questioning. The key to understanding the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Creed, I was taught by a certain former Cambridge professor, is to see it not as answering all the questions, but as framing the boundaries of the ongoing debate.
For me, it is important to see the Faith as something with which we live in dialogue as a corporate community – there is the One Faith of the Church, which belongs to the body of which we are a part. This we are ordained to proclaim; but there is also the individual pattern of our questioning, faith and doubt as clergy, which may not be able to assent fully to all things at all times, but which needs always to live in honest dialogue with and with a core loyalty to the centre. We must seek to be faithful to a proclamation which belongs to the Church and is more than our own faith, but the Church is also big enough to allow us to weave our own pattern of seeking and finding into our ministry and our proclamation. We live and minister as explorers of faith, honest in articulating how we understand the faith, but also acknowledging that the message of the Church is bigger than our own opinions about it.
As we move further into the Easter season, I hope that the living Christ will be leading you into a deeper fullness of truth, into new discoveries about your faith and a new questioning – that there will be life and vitality in our exploration and proclamation, and also patient research into the deep treasuries of the Scriptures and of all our Anglican inheritance.
Ministry and Calling Sunday
A reminder that the Sunday after Ascension (5th June) will be kept as Ministry and Calling Sunday. I hope as many parishes as possible will use this opportunity to encourage their people to consider whether they, or someone they know, might have a call to the ministry of the Church.
It is important that we keep vocations in our prayers and Ministry and Calling Sunday provides a focus for this. This year once again you will be provided with resources to help with sermons and children’s activities. There will also be cards for members of your church to give to people they think should consider whether they have a vocation.
The mailing, scheduled for 11th May, will be going out shortly to all of you with all that you need to keep this day, so please do avail yourselves of this opportunity and service to the wider Church. Extra packs for readers or others that may need them will, I am told, be available through the Diocesan Office.
Ave atque Vale
It is good to be able to announce that Mary Stallard has been appointed as the new Anglican Chaplain of St Joseph’s Anglican and Catholic School in Wrexham, and as School Development Officer for the benefice and three deaneries of Wrexham, Gresford and Minera. Mary will be moving to her new role in the course of the Summer, and I offer her profound thanks for all that she has achieved in her time as Residentiary Canon, Bishop’s Chaplain, Diocesan Director of Ordinands, and Co-ordinator of Ministerial Formation (as well as the other roles which she has minded at different times!). This, however, is an exciting new challenge which she takes on; St Joseph’s has an important place in our diocesan life, and it is good to know that she will be a strong member of the team there and in the Rectorial Benefice.
Bethan Scotford has indicated to me that she wishes to take retirement from the end of July. Bethan has had a gracious and fruitful ministry in the diocese over the last twelve years, and given faithful service in Corwen for the last nine. I am sure that we will find ways of sustaining her participation and enthusiasm in the life of the diocese, and we wish her and her husband a happy retirement.
I was very sorry to hear of the death of Marion Graham on 30th March. Marion gave faithful service to the diocese during her twenty years of ordained ministry as deacon and then as priest in Bagillt and Flint, and we mourn her passing.
Dates for the Diary
19th May 1900hr, St Mary’s Church, Ruabon: The “Lift up your Hearts in Celebration” Service for the Archdeaconry of Wrexham. This service to thank and celebrate the ministry of lay people in our diocese has been extremely warmly received in the other two archdeaconries. Would the clergy of Wrexham Archdeaconry now give it their full support, and please do not be slow to recommend lay people to Jane Ayee who can be specifically invited.
22nd May 1530hr in the Cathedral: Sung Evensong, with an opportunity to thank Glenys Croft, David Hooson and Malcolm Squires for their years of faithful service to the diocese. It would be great to have a good turn out to wish these three stalwarts well as they move into retirement.
24th May CME Day in the Ramada Hotel: 0930 to 1530hr. The morning will focus on the new Clergy Terms and Conditions of Service that have been adopted by Governing Body last week, and which the bishops have already committed themselves to. In the afternoon, there will be a discussion of some important issues for the future of the diocese.
25th June 1000hr. Ordination in the Cathedral. Please hold those who are to be ordained in your prayers, and do come to support them as they join our ranks.
10th July Sea Sunday. A reminder that this is the Sunday designated to remember, in particular the work of the Mission to Seafarers. Those parishes wishing to keep this Sunday are directed towards the resources available at www.seasunday.org.
Notes and Queries
Chrism Eucharist and Walkabout Wednesdays
I am very grateful to you all for the super turn out again on Maundy Thursday, and I hope that you find it the great celebration of our faith and common life that I would like it to be. Lunch seemed to go down well. I intend to reproduce this pattern once again next year, so I do hope that in parish planning for next year, space is included for this service on the Thursday morning – even to replace other provision. The Chrism Eucharist does not have to be an event only for clergy, and it would be good, I think, to bring congregations along to see and be reminded of the commitments that their clergy take. If we knew that a large proportion of the congregation were laity, we could perhaps even think of renewing the commitment of the whole people of God as well at that service.
Thank you too to those of you who responded to my suggestion that a walkabout in the town centre might be a good idea. I have several invitations, and I’m looking for a couple of slots for “Walkabout Wednesdays” in my diary, and will be contacting those who asked directly. If anyone else wants to add their name to the list, it is never too late.
Oxford Clergy Conference
A reminder that you have received a mailing concerning this event, and that there was a reply slip asking you to confirm your attendance. All serving stipendiary clergy, together with non-stipendiary and house for duty clergy who have pastoral charge of a benefice are requested to attend the Clergy School as part of their professional commitment. If anyone, beyond those who have already corresponded with me, is intending to ask my leave not to attend the school, then I should be pleased to hear from you at your very earliest convenience, but your positive registration also helps to clarify issues of transport etc., so please do respond now as soon as possible.
These days are fixed well in advance to enable clergy to avoid other commitments including holidays at these times. The dates for 2012 have been fixed for January 24th, May 22nd, and September 25th. Please put these dates in your diaries now, and, if you suspect a clash which may necessitate your absence, then please confer with me at the earliest opportunity.
Filming and Broadcasting
A reminder that requests from film-makers or broadcasters for the use of churches, churchyards or other church premises must be referred to Paul Rees at the Property Department, 39 Cathedral Road, so that a proper licence agreement can be reached and any appropriate fee agreed.
With my warmest good wishes for the Easter Season. Atgyfododd Crist!