No posts for a week - a week spent in Herefordshire, very close to Wales, with lovely friends who clear out their lives for us and let us talk, walk, eat and make no decisions at all. But we came home last night and thought has returned with the experience this morning of Morning Prayer.
Now as I explained to the good people of Dunoon in my write-up for this week's paper, we have Morning Prayer these days of interregnum (better not say Vacancy - it makes us sound gormless) when we haven't had a priest for a couple of weeks and therefore don't have the Reserved Sacrament. As you will see if you follow the link, there are all sorts of hedges put around the use of Reservation, for all sorts of very proper and careful reasons. However, I have found that it is in a strange way extremely galling to be told these reasons by a priest - because priests never have to put up with not having the Eucharist. At the moment there is quite a discussion going on in Scottish Pisky circles about this, and about the way in which the laity are getting above themselves and seem to think they don't need ordained clergy, but there is an aspect which doesn't often get mentioned.
Perhaps no-one says this because it's so blooming obvious: Morning Prayer is such a let-down as a service if it's all you're going to get in the day. It's fine as the start to a day on retreat, when there will also be a celebration of Communion, and Evensong, and Compline - but on a Sunday, as a stand-alone, it's not fine at all. And to anyone who tries to tell me that if it's reverently and thoughtfully done it should be just as good, all I can say is: it isn't. Especially not if you were brought up in a tradition which didn't have weekly communion, and fell into Anglicanism precisely because it did.
So what does a church do when it doesn't have a priest? Try harder to find stand-ins? Only have a service when a priest can be present? Make an effort to recruit locums for a mid-week and then reserve? And whatever the answer - and I suppose I'm saying this for the benefit of any clergy who may stray into blethers this week - just remember that if your answer matters, it's going to matter to people who actually care about this. Passionately.
And don't, whatever you do, suggest that we should enjoy chanting all these canticles to Anglican chant, without a choir, with an aging congregation. It disnae work.