The Bishop of Shrewsbury’s pastoral letter for July 2018
‘What a brave decision!’ wrote a bishop, on hearing that I was moving to become Priest –in-Charge of Ashburton and the Moorland Team.In ‘Yes, Minister’ speak, this is translated as ‘What a stupid decision!’ He may be right. We’ll see…
Certainly, I will have a lot to learn. Many things have changed in the sixteen years since I last worked as a parish priest. And I wasn’t exactly proficient at some of the detail even then. Youth work was a thriving activity but I remember the time I lost the keys to the minibus having taken the youth group ice skating in North Wales. We had to return 18 young people to the parish in two estate cars with the seats down and every one laid out flat in the back. Their parents were not thrilled. Another time, I had driven the young people up onto the Bickerton Hills in Cheshire to play wide games. I had instructed them to stay in threes but… well, you know. At the end of the evening, there was one missing. Tom had wandered off on his own and was nowhere to be seen. It was getting dark (and no mobile phones in those days) so I decided to cut my losses by leaving my helper – a sixteen year old girl - up on the hills, to wait for Tom. Meanwhile, I drove the others back to the Church where their parents were waiting for them. By the time I returned to the hills, fortunately Tom had appeared and nothing bad had happened to my young female helper. However, it was not my finest hour, the parents of Tom and my helper were rightly furious and, today, I would have been disciplined for negligence.It looks like Health and Safety and Safeguarding training will need to be a priority in Devon.
It will be good to regularly conduct weddings again, too, but I am not exactly relishing all the form-filling and red tape that goes with it. When preparing and marrying an Egyptian Muslim man from Cairo to an English Christian woman back in the 1990’s, I remember thinking I had been quite clever in organising his banns of marriage to be read in the Anglican Cathedral of St Mark in Cairo. It was only later, after the wedding, that Crewe Registry office informed me of my highly irregular practice and that a Christian marriage of a Muslim/Christian couple could be seen as null and void back in Egypt. They helped rectify the situation and keep me out of trouble.
As I move to oversee eight rural parishes on Dartmoor, I am acutely aware that I have a great deal to learn and will need help. Having heard God’s call in this – ‘to go and walk the talk’ – I know that where God calls, he also equips. Still, it feels daunting and I would be grateful for your prayers. I hope, in particular, that the Spirit will give me grace to go on learning how to be a better disciple and a more faithful follower of Jesus.
It has been a privilege to be a companion with you in God’s Mission here in Lichfield Diocese. Mandy and I are extremely grateful for the friendship, kindness and love we have received from the people of Shropshire and the West Midlands. We shall remember you and pray for you as you continue to follow Christ in the footsteps of St Chad. Please pray for us.
Bishop of Shrewsbury