The Anglican Church – a real world-wide web
Every seven to ten years, clergy are entitled to take long service leave. For three months, we can really do whatever we wish, and still get paid.
I used my three leaves to go on busman’s holidays. The first time I swapped with the Vicar of a parish in one of the most deprived areas of Liverpool, when it was officially the poorest city in Europe. It was a parish full of ugly, crumbling, multi-storey apartment buildings and Coronation St style two story semi-detached houses.
On the second occasion I swapped with the Vicar of a City of London parish, around the corner from the Tower of London. It has probably been the wealthiest square mile in Europe. Very few people live in the heart of London, so my links were as chaplain to various 700 year old livery companies and city corporations. I conducted the wedding of the former head of MI6 and took the funeral of a lord of the realm.
From one of the poorest corners of Britain to its wealthiest.
My third experience was looking after a parish on the Fijian island of Vanua Levu, a two hour bus ride from the nearest town of Labasa and beyond the electricity grid.
Each of these positions lasted for about three months, and each included Easter.
Jenny and I loved each experience, as we did our briefer stays looking after churches in a southern Irish fishing village and a picturesque village in the Cotswolds.
What was so delightful about all these experiences was the way we became so quickly part of the local community. The culture of each community was quite different from the others, yet we shared so much with each. We shared our Christian faith and we shared our Anglicanism! Anglicanism is part faith and part culture – even part personality. Neither the Anglican Communion as a whole, nor Anglicans as individuals, are perfect. Far from it. Anglicans can squabble, be narrow minded, and reveal their prejudices like anyone else.
But Anglicans share a love of their liturgy (within a broad band of styles) and they value their tolerance for different expressions of faith and belief. There is an openness and lack of rigidity, and an interest in the wider world.
It’s wonderful to be “at home” anywhere in the world. I recall a choral Eucharist in Harare Cathedral, all in the Shona language, with a huge choir and a music group of drums only. And an Anglican Eucharist at the World Council of Churches in Brazil that switched between Portuguese, Spanish and English. I felt fully part of these, because they were conducted in the Anglican language!
There was one major drawback to each of our times with these Anglican communities: we had to say goodbye to people we had grown close to, knowing we would probably not see them again.
And then there has been my nine months at All Saints, Taradale. The same delight in feeling at home – but with the bonus that for once it will be au revoir rather than adieu.
It will be good to return to my little whanau on the coast, but I will have mixed feelings. All Saints is a good, caring parish. A good site on the world-wide web that is the Anglican Communion.
We are a Fairtrade church