Friday, March 08, 2013
A ridgewalk with the Third Age
A suitably splendid scene for a brief retrospect on last week's Argyll and The Isles Diocesan Synod, the above photo shows the moment when Bishop Kevin installed the new Dean, Andrew Swift, in the Cathedral in Oban. I was right at the back of the Cathedral, having arrived at the very last minute from Taynuilt, where we were staying and where we had gone to change into gladder rags for the Synod dinner, but a phone waved speculatively in the air seemed to do not badly, thank you.
Anyway, enough of the formalities. Argyll is unlike the more urban dioceses in that it holds its synodical gatherings over three days. After all, people take to planes and boats to get there - it seems only fair to give them a decent time to socialise, no? And anyone who cares to can attend, especially the pre-Synod day. This year's speaker, Ann Morisey, was the best yet. She talked about the Ages of our lives - not seven, as Shakespeare described them, nor the three of past generations, but the four ages we now see living: children (dependant); adults (generative, working); the active retired (new!); the old (dependant, letting-go). And of course, more than half of her listeners were the active retired on whom the church depends, and of whom, dear reader, I am one.
I'm not going for a blow-by-blow here. But I started thinking about the business of loss of status - the loss of status that is part of letting go. We all, I suppose, acquire varied status during our lives, and some people have the dickens of a job letting it go. Retirement can spell doom and depression for some, rather than joyous freedom. Men seem more bothered than women. I also thought about the things that apparently keep us going for longer - singing seems to be one, dancing another, and church membership and activity seems to be jolly good for one.
But this status thingy. People acquire status in church circles - and suffer a new bereavement when it is taken from them. We all know the criticism voiced of people who hang onto jobs in church - but do we think of why these jobs are so dear to these people? Should we all be practising letting go of things, sitting lightly on our little importances so that the wrench will be less?
Maybe it depends on why we do these things in the first place. And an echo of the instruction to pray secretly in your own room comes to me when I think of this. We do love to dress up in our church, and there is much to be said for the depersonalisation of the individual that is one result of this. But I wonder if every one of us, for our own future good, needs to think about why we cling to our assumed responsibilities.
In a voluntary organisation there will always be a need for someone to step forward. There was much talk this year of ridgewalking, with all the excitement and danger that the term implies. Suddenly it feels as if the diocese has set off on its precarious ridge walk with a song in its heart - and the Third Age to the fore.