Sunday, 28 September 2008


Don't panic. Not mine. The service this morning was the ordination of Kathy Colwell, now a stipendary Deacon and who will be in Barton-upon-Humber for three years, two as priest.

Someone said in the queue for elaborate refreshments afterwards that the service went without a mistake (there was one, actually:"saying" said the service-booklet before we sang). Another (before the queue) said to me that here was Anglicanism at its best, and so the service was thoroughly enjoyed. However, I said how I responded to the service in a reflecting manner all through with great ambiguity (almost crippling). My Unitarian past was identified. I said to someone also there that all through the years people have said to me over and over again about going into ministry, but I said I could not make those promises given today and previously (so the Diocesan Director of Ordinand reported for our benefit). Thanks as one listening said he could indeed see me in the ministry. I indetified the (liturgical) clutter, also, as something that stuck with me, a little: on the one hand I rather liked the adjusted creed sung to the tune of Wonders Still the World Shall Witness, though then I would rather prefer if that rousing tune was to that hymn and not a hardly altered creed. And yet, when I had these repeated ex-ordination thoughts for the nearly two hours of the service, I also thought how much I am into this, part of the doing the song and the flow.

So it rather connects with the previous entry here and the one before that.

I thought the Diocesan Director of Ordinand's sermon was rather good, with an instruction to the new minister to listen. The whole quality of the service was very good too, and was an exercise in smooth production.

The little group of folk to whom I expressed my ambiguity started to suggest I consider being a Reader instead, but I said it is the same thing, and that such promises are made too.

In any case my view of ministry has been pastoral. It's about being someone for others, rather than just ideological expression. One of the bizarre annoyances about my time at Unitarian College, where it was supposed to be creedless, was that I didn't fit in there because of my religious humanism at the time, though they always denied it was ideological. The pastoral side had simply not been tested, certainly not with the few visits I'd made to congregations towards the end of that academic year. Occasionally I dredge up this history; I join the ranks of those who have been there, done something, but never completed, where it all went wrong. I kept going to chapels in the Manchester area and opening my mouth taking their services, and they hated it as not a legitimate expression of Unitarianism - and thus these chapel committees never invited that student back, and wanted someone else, a more compatible student. Ah, creedless Unitarianism and what rubbish is that... Some weeks later the the Buddhist-minded Principal resigned, one who had given a students' observed Christian service in a chapel, after which I would have none of it from another student that Unitarians are free to express their faith without restriction.

This history is a bit like a ventrioquist's dummy, as it ends with: "Back in your box, back in your box".

Let's come to the present day. There is no doubt about it that I am a cuckoo in this nest too. I always had the view that what you can't do in ministry you should not do even as a layperson. It is one reason why I left Unitarianism immediately after I left the college, bar one service in Sheffield where I turned the argument around. I had no religious involvement for one and a half years, then I had Western Buddhist involvement (never rejected) and also Anglican (non-communicating), but resumed the Unitarian when I came to New Holland in 1994. I realised I had been the one to let them down, and especially with some infighting between others I decided to take a back seat - still taking occasional services. My last service - I did consult - was a Eucharist, in 2002, and I was thinking in that direction again. I left completely in 2004 when I increased my attendance at Barton, and then decided to grab the bull by the horns in 2006.

Clearly, though, the dive into involvement still only works marginally as an ideological expression. The ministry thing I did enquire about but as soon as it is tested it collapses. So in a sense this service of ordination was the point where, symbolically, this long standing itch was put to bed. I even thought it would have to happen elsewhere, but there is no elsewhere.

Without going into detail here, my future is uncertain anyway. I'm living in a house that will have to be given up. I may move to Barton, but could go anywhere. If I went elsewhere anything could happen in terms of religious association or none. At present I am like the person who is rather attached locally to what I do, and will carry on, but ideologically I shall please myself. There is an issue whether I should properly be a communicating Anglican, but if I stop I shall stop for good. At present I am minded to carry on (I did consider not going forward in the ordination service, but decided not to do anything now). I can just see where things go. In that I will be moving house, there may be a natural point of possibly breaking this, but I don't know.

The liturgy says that we/I are/am a child of Christ acting according to his authority and you do as you are told via the bishop. No, not me. I am a child of no one except my biological origins. I don't believe in this fantasy history, despite what I do follow about the strange Jesus and his ministry, without excluding others and their faith ministries. But that is my choice, and I am a slave of no one. This whole authority thing is, I suggest, anti-Jesus, never mind anti-human in its fulfilment.

The service began with a non-welcome. Because the bishop can walk in as he pleases, and it is his church, the incumbent does not welcome him so says he does not when he might. I've come across this before. For goodness sake, we are human beings, and let's say welcome to someone because of where we are most of the time and he is not. Bowing and scraping is no alternative to giving a good welcome.

I probably am a Free Catholic, or a liturgist, a sort of arts-and-craft thing; probably still compatible with a Unitarianism that doesn't exist except in corners in the United Kingdom and probably physically collapsing as a whole. In this I just think Unitarianism is ahead of the game.

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