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General Synod Tuesday November 24, 2010

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An early start today as we had to get to Church House early to get ready to go to the Abbey for the Inauguration Eucharist. Since the Queen and prince Philip were there, security was tight and we all needed searching several times – actually this was done much quicker than it was five years ago so well done to the Synod staff  and others who learned from the problems in 2005. The Synod staff are unfailingly helpful and even cheerful in the face of complexity, which is a special gift of grace as far as I am concerned.

Here we are being inaugurated

After the Abbey service, we all trot back to Church House for the inauguration proper. What seemed to be of most perplexing concern to many clergy members was not the Covenant, or women bishops, or even the Big Society but how to put their robes on. For this service we wear a strange mixture of robes that you would not wear at any other time.  putting on the preaching bands is the trickiest bit for many of us. Today I helped dress an archdeacon. Not many people can lay claim to that.
I will report on the actual debtes later, but for many os us the hot news was about the bishop of Willesden being asked to withdraw from public ministry for a while. Much support for +Pete in the tea room – more on this later too.

General Synod Induction Day November 23, 2010

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So now we know all about it. I have spent today being re-inducted into the mysteries of General Synod.

I don’t know how I’ve managed the last two times I have been on without knowing all the stuff they have told us today. A big prize must go to Kay Garlick, former chair of the business committee, and Christina Baxter, former chair of the House of Laity, for their wise words and helpful advice.

Tomorrow is inauguration and then business begins.  

Good to meet up with so many old friends too – and now three of my former studnts are on Synod (hello Miranda, Janet and Philip) so I feel old. But my own theological college tutor is on too so maybe I have a few years left….

Hard to see if this Synod is more / less conservative tha the last one, but so far I have not met anyone who is going to vote for the Covenant on Wednesday.

Urban ministry November 8, 2010

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We have just had a residential weekend for ministry students in our region and our formational theme for the weekend was Urban and Suburban ministry. I led this with my colleague Liz Griffiths.

Two things struck us as we prepared this. First, we were both getting nostalgic as we looked over our times ministering in the city and in other urban environments. I wanted to talk a bit about Hulme and Moss Side where I lived as a student 30 years ago, and to which we return when visiting family and friends in Manchester (my father in law still lives near Moss Side and one of our best friends is a vicar near there).  I found a website with photos and videos of the area from that era:


I was getting quite dewey eyed as I looked at this site and remembered student days there. Then I realised I had conveniently forgotten  some of the less than pleasant things about it, including:

  • the cockroaches in the flats and how hard it was to get rid of them
  • the fact the lifts never worked, we lived up twelve fights of stairs and the stairways stank of urine
  • as we walked to church one Sunday morning some kids threw tomatos at us from the walkway. Unforunately they were still in the tin.
  • the Moss Side riots – I slept through the first night of rioting!
  • the dead cat someone left on the walkway near our flat and the fact no-one could or would clear it up.

Then the other thing that Liz and I reflected on was how, when we were ordinands (me at Nottingham from 1986-88, she at Cuddesdon a decade later), serving in an inner city or other urban parish was promoted as something we should seriously consider – indeed maybe (so it felt to me) as the place where you should go. I don’t think there is that emphasis in ministerial training institutions now – or am I living a sheltered life?

Anyway, we enjoyed teaching this, so there were at least two happy people at this residential weekend! And the students (and staff) remain excellent people….

Hulme as it was then - not Lingbeck crescent (where I lived) but very like it

How things have changed November 4, 2010

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I’ve just posted this in reply to a piece on Bishop Alan’s Blog:


Thanks for this – you certainly point up the rather unreflective nature of +Wallace’s comments.

I would add that we are more mission focussed than we were even 20 years ago. We are also more scripturaly centred in that e.g. I rarely hear a sermon that is not based on a Bible passage nowadays. This year I went to the deacon ordinations at Eds and Ips. Gavin Reid preached and said at the beginning that he was ordained 50 years ago (in Chelmsford) and that then all the candidates were male, white, in their 20’s, trained in colleges, going to stipendiary posts and were largely going to single parish benefices. The group ordained that morning (with whom he’d shared the retreat) were rather different to that! And he welcomed pretty much all those changes – especially the fact that women were now ordained. I guess +Wallace would not rejoice over that one, but surely he can see the glass is at least half full?  

I’ve been training clergy now for over a decade (for both the CofE and the Methodists, mainly) and Readers for 4 years. The quality of the candidates is very encouraging.

And thanks too for the use of Nick Earle’s book – I am just reading this now

Some excellent students (and staff) at breakfast on a residential weekend

(for the first time!) – old books have much wisdom.