Most of this transformation was effected by +Mark's sermon and charge to members of Synod at the Eucharist, where I found myself reaching for a truly old-fashioned medium ( the service booklet and a pencil) to record some of it. He was wearing a huge and extraordinary ring,* which had belonged to Bishop Forbes at the time of the 18th century Jacobite risings, and reminded us of the faithfulness it represents - the faithfulness of the Episcopal Church which over the years has fed others, not least the Episcopal Church in the USA. He exhorted us to a burning desire to proclaim the love of God in the communities we serve - serve as opposed to live in. The fact that at the moment we have no bishop does not stop our ministries, and we've not to let anyone tell us differently. Our task, he went on, is to be people who are open - open to the seeking of others, to those who will join us briefly and then move on; open to those who struggle elsewhere because of rules and regulations and find in our worship and our structures an openness and freedom. When we get bogged down in buildings and quinquennials we must ask: Who will I bring the light of God to today? This, said +Mark, is what we are about. The church has a voice - not of rules, commandments or exclusion, but simply a voice of love. He ended with the stirring reminder that today, in us, is the fulfilment of God's promise.
Somehow, that worked. And the good humour and yes, the love, survived the airless conditions of our windowless venue and the haphazard arithmetic of the tellers (why, I ask myself, was I chosen as a teller, again?) By the end of business this afternoon, we were ready to believe the bishop's closing words: we are a beautiful diocese, one which most people in the world want to visit, and whatever we might think, visitors find it wonderful to go to church on a Cal Mac ferry. We must stop moaning about long drives and difficulties, demolish the barriers that keep people from church, have the courage to speak about our church in the ordinary places where we find ourselves; we must enable the joy of faith and the love of God to be seen through us.
Yes, it worked. And I'm glad to have been proved unduly pessimistic: Moray diocese is fortunate in having a bishop who can light up a room, and we are lucky to have him on loan. Now we just need to find Another of The Same, as the old hymnbooks used to say. Here's to the election!
*For more about this ring, see Hugh's comment on this post.