Chaplain’s Blog Stardate 03-03-2024

Chaplains blog Stardate 02-03-24

Incumbents come and go like the tide but us Readers / Licensed Lay Ministers remain on the shore.

I got that far with the metaphor but after that my thoughts went a little astray as always… but I wonder if some readers are like King Cnut/Canute attempting helplessness to hold back the tide. Others might be wandering the tide line picking up flotsam and jetsam deciding what might be useful and what needs to be put away in a black sack for the refuse collection.

Others might have their feet up in their deck chairs, a drink in their hand or cradling their thermos of tea watching the incoming tide from a safe distance. Then there will be the ones who push the paddle board out onto the waters ready to drag casualties from the waves of change.

Can you think of some others?

The transition period between incumbents is always a cross between limbo land and the relentless string of extra things to do and as I have become more experienced in parish life, the tasks get more rather than less.  Although making sure every member of our six worship settings (five Anglican churches and a Methodist church) had the opportunity to, not only voice their opinions, but also to make sure their opinions were represented in anything published proved a large but largely satisfying and worthwhile task.  Thankfully that task is over for now as we wait out the period before the next leader is announced!

Does anyone else remember the I-Spy books which encouraged children to spot and collect sightings of anything from Aircraft to ZOOs. For the adult range, I have often thought that the I-Spy book of NHS medical equipment I have experienced might be ‘fun,’ from the aerosol nose spray to the x-ray machine… now I am wondering about the I-spy book of Priests- which are becoming an increasingly rare breed.  

I am not sure that categorisation would be simple apart from the obvious, curate, deacon, vicar, padre, archdeacon, rural dean and so on but even those are a confused jumble. Then  you might think of evangelical, charismatic, liberal Anglo-Catholic, Catholic….  Er…… traditional, experimental, heretical…… it must be totally confusing to non-church folk!

My first Rector of Redruth back in the late 1970s was Canon Harold Hosking who was formally Anglo-Catholic and for whom a nave altar would have been sacrilegious and the thought of anyone reading the Gospel other than the priest would have been equally problematic. It says much when my five-year-old daughter had to stop being boat-girl because that was the upper limit for her gender to be in the sanctuary. Girls had to leave the choir at the age of 14 back then- I am not even going to speculate or say something funny about the reasons.

Following Canon Harold’s retirement, the next rector was Fr Graeme Elmore who arrived from Newlyn in 1984 and was altogether different  in his approach but Anglo-Catholic with an evangelical flavour!  He encouraged the house group we had in our home, Solomon’s Porch,  which, over the few years that he was incumbent spawned 2 Readers, 2 Methodist local preachers, 4 priests and numerous church-wardens, sacristans and other key workers. He took us on retreats and away-days and provided experiences, from the full easter-Triduum, to informal family services.  That sort of growth and change was not altogether popular with the older generation in the church and, especially when my wife, Lez was nominated as the first female and youngest church warden. The Masonic element in the congregation made a huge attempt to block it, even nominating a chap from their lodge who they had managed to get on the electoral role.  That sort of pettiness takes its tole on rectors and Graeme sadly for us left to become a naval chaplain…. Eventually leaving the Anglican Church over the little matter of women priests which surprised me!

After Graeme came Canon Michael Simcock to soothe the troubled waters by preaching calming sermons often about the Ffestiniog railway. I was training to be a Reader when he arrived and I seemed to be on the rota entirely for Matins and Evensong and the hospital, I don’t think I ever preached in a communion service.  Canon Michael was very middle of the road but retired after three years and this heralded the arrival of the Company of Mission Priests!

The Company  (The Company of Mission Priests (CMP) is a “dispersed community” of male priests of the Anglican Communion who want to consecrate themselves wholly to the church’s mission, free from the attachments of marriage and family.)  were part of a religious order who had a “father knows best” approach, had no idea what to do with Readers, appeared to scorn home groups as something could not control and whose closed ranks tactics was personally depressing, especially when the hugely popular Christmas Eve with the Children service was wrested from my grasp with a negative impact on numbers. They were as close as one could get to Rome without actually being in the Roman Catholic Church. They were very good pastorally with old ladies but they too succumbed to the vote to allow women to be ordained and they left on block in 1992 to join the Roman Catholic Church.

Another calming force in the shape of Fr Roger Bush took over in 1993 and he remained for a decade before being appointed as dean of Truro Cathedral.  Roger managed largely to please most of the people most of the time by treading a safe and gentle middle path and his time at Redruth  is spoken of most fondly to this day.  

Fr Simon Cade took up the reins after an 18 month interregnum and was with us for ten years until the Diocese decided that he should be doing higher things, first with education and latterly as Diocesan secretary.  His Anglo-Catholic approach was both  challenging  and innovative and had a big impact on my own preaching style. I had never seen a preacher wander the aisle leaving the safety of lectern or pulpit or put such drama into services such as The Watch. The stories are many but not for this piece.

Following Fr Simon we had someone with a  wholly different approach in Caspar Bush who was from the other end of the candle but managed the tricky task, eventually, of pulling together a strong team and  succeeding in joining three parishes, 5 DCCs and 6 worship settings into one parish just in time for his successor to benefit.

Our new incumbent will break new ground and unlike the septuagenarians of the last century when i was in my 20’s and 30’s, I am looking forward to the journey, the challenges ahead and discovering God’s path for the parish and it’s new rector.

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