"My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together." “When I hear people say politics and religion don't mix, I wonder what Bible they are reading.” (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

"And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God?" Micah 6.8

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." Philippians 4.19

"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Philippians 2.12

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The State of Play

Without wanting to be (too) self-indulgent here, I thought I'd let you know how things currently are with me.

Please feel free not to read.

I went back to my old church last Sunday following the principle of getting back on the bike you've just fallen off sooner rather than later. It was good to be back in that worshipping community and a number of folk greeted me with hugs and a number of whispered conversations of support and incredulity. "Please don't leave us. It would be our loss".

I returned this week for my final service as Lay Minister where I led the service and preached in the absence of any clergy. It felt right to be there but ironic that I was fulfilling this function in a relaxed, natural and more than competent way - or so it felt to me - for the last time. I am not sure how many members of the congregation realised that, but the feedback was very positive and encouraging. It will, indeed, be their loss. I don't write this to big myself up (and I recognise how self-centred that last sentence might sound) but because I was at ease in the role: this is what I do. It's what I've been trained for and it's what I'm good at and I felt confirmed in that ministry again today.

I'd not been to church much since before Christmas but I had been to All Hallows a couple of times with Rachel and Anna. On both occasions I was asked to administer the chalice which I saw a real desire to recognise my calling by that community and their determination to stand in solidarity with me. In this Anglican Church the congregation have been more vocal and more proactively supportive of me. It almost feels as if this group wish to see a resolution and a good outcome more than the folk at the old place. I don't think it is that, though: at All Hallows there is a greater sense of possibilities and new beginnings - not just within that congregation but within Anglicanism itself.

I have been lucky of late. I have eaten curry, eaten chicken salad, and drunk beer with good clergy friends - so much so that I might just burst. The level of support and quality advice has been wonderful and I have been privileged to have been in such good and wise company. In addition I have been reading the wonderful range of advice, comment and discussion which has appeared on my friend's blog relating to my recent experience - something in the region of 122 comments all told: all valued, all helpful and many incredibly perceptive. If you made any contribution to those comment threads, on whichever blog, I thank you too for your kindness, your concern and your support. I have passed those on to my former church authorities. I know this will probably be interpreted as mischief making but I felt there was material in there that needed to be heard and reflected upon.

I have also taken the step of exercising my right under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act in requesting copies of all material held about me by the authorities of my old denomination. It may be a pyrrhic victory to discover that the balance in my references, reports and testimonials is positive and in my favour but as that is the only sort of victory available to me at present I'll be happy to take it.

I have reached the stage where if it were to transpire that my journey into ministry should remain stalled at this point, I could live with it. The journey has most certainly not been wasted.

I do find it difficult, though, to believe that my journey into ministry is to come to this abrupt end. I can not conceive of why God would have brought me this far only for His will to be (admittedly, as I see it) thwarted by men and women. This hiatus does seem to be an unnaturally abrupt interruption of the natural rhythms of ministerial formation thus far.

Going back to my leaving of All Hallows to seek my spiritual fortune, so to speak, around 2001/2002; to my growing sense of a call to ordained ministry; through James Barnett's motivating sermon in 2005 that spurred me into action; via my return to the Lutherans; a validation of my sense of calling; talking in hushed tones to Gerard Aylward in the back of a coach on the way back from the BBC studios so that I could actually hear myself say it all out loud; through two years on the Yorkshire Ministry Course and a fabulous parish placement in Tallinn; imbedding in the lovely community at my old church; through graduation; a period of Lay Curacy and "time of reflection"; through continuing IME and additional Lutheran theological training and finally to a successful navigation of my Final Examination with the Lutherans. God has brought me to this point only to say "No"? I don't think so.

I don't know what the future holds but I am quite buoyed and have a sense of anticipation at what God might do next.

I appreciate having been upheld in prayer but when you think of me be reassured that am in good mental and spiritual health. I think the Lord has work for me to do yet. Keep praying, please, that between us we figure it out!

With Much Love


  1. In my part of the world, those of us chewed up and spit out by what TEC grandly calls, "the ordination process" call it the Cuisinart. I am sorry you have experienced why. There is life, and even ministry beyond it. Good travels.


  2. Oh Jack! You're in my prayers every single day. I know in my heart that the Lord has work for you to do yet. I may come back to say more, when I'm not feeling so much, when the tears are gone. The tears are bittersweet, rather than entirely sad tears, because I have hope for your future ministry, in whatever form it takes. Godspeed, my friend.

  3. "I know this will probably be interpreted as mischief making but I felt there was material in there that needed to be heard and reflected upon."

    Of course it will, until they are finally open to hearing you. Don't hold your breath.

  4. Yes, what Grandmere said, indeed! I am glad to read this, you are ever in my prayers. And it would seem to me that you do have a future in ministry, how impoverished we would all be without you.

  5. Wot Jim Said. [Been there, done that]

    Nothing wise to say---just {{{hugs}}}

  6. Hmmm, so many people can be deeply hurt and feel betrayed through failure to be recommended for ordination. If it helps let me explain that there are three categories of people: the absolutely yes, the absolutely no, and the ones in the middle.
    Sometimes churches err on the side of caution and don't put people through, other times they are adventurous and give people the benefit of the doubt.
    Not being recommended, at this time, in the C of E is what it says - it is not a rejection of the person, rather a 'not now'.
    The process hurts such a lot.
    And if people are ordained but then can't find the right post, or are elbowed out, that hurts even more.
    God bless.

  7. What Fran said. That's as articulate as I can be about this.

  8. Thanks Anon but things are not that straightforward.

    This was not the Anglican Church and I had been both selected and trained. I hold a certificate telling me that I have achieved the learning outcomes required by the Lutheran Church at the point of ordination and a letter from my presiding Bishop telling me that I had passed my final examination and had the potential to be a good pastor.

  9. Given your last comment Sir I just think the whole thing stinks. I can not believe you can go all the way through the process and then have the rug pulled out.
    Being the old cynic that I am I suspect their is some political influence here but they haven't actually got the guts to nail their colours to the mast.
    Praying for you and for God's guidance.

  10. What Mimi said. Keeping you in my heart.

  11. Wasn't it St. Paul who remarked somewhere that "I wanted to go to place A, but people opposed me, so I went to place B instead." And had a very fruitful ministry there. So a frustrating roadblock can end up being the detour to great success, eventually.

    Pain is a great teacher, but sounds like you are evolving as you should. Excellent. No doubt the proper path from here will be evident in due course. Hang in there.

  12. You are in all our prayers. I am sure this is not the end of the story for you.

  13. "Things" are evolving here in the TEC, from the pew upsward -- as it should be. Lay ministry is being seen in a new way, ordained ministry is being challenged and is going to have to be very different in our future. We cannot afford to support full time clergy; some cannot even afford to keep open their church. So where does that leave us? Floundering within that evolution of change. My son has been in this floundering for some years, and, yes, it is painful. Very painful. No advice here. Just heartfelt and continued prayer.

  14. You'll be much in our prayers. We too are baffled by what's happened. We have both enjoyed your thought provoking sermons very much we believe this situation is a great loss to the church.

  15. What the others said so eloquently! Your Lutheran friend