Being a member of the Electoral Synod of Argyll and The Isles comes with its own particular challenges, not the least of which is the drive to Oban and back - wonderfully scenic in the morning light, but distinctly hard work as the gloaming descends and turns into darkness as you drive down Loch Eck-side, with its winding bends and strange cambers and the dark loch water waiting on your right-hand side...Anyway, I'm a bit bug-eyed with it all, but determined to get some thoughts down while they're fresh.
First off, I have to say it was great. Not because the seats were soft and the venue (the Cathedral) cosy, but because the chair (and fellow-blogger; never mind that he's also the Primus) was skilled and adroit and handled things in a way that made people feel valued. It helped too to have not only Bishop David, but also Bishop Mark (he blogs too) - not because they're bloggers, but because they remind us by their very presence that there's a province out there, and they can help us, and we're not as isolated as we sometimes feel.
We were reminded of our responsibilities - and also of the holiness of our task, which could also be seen as enjoyable. It was suddenly important for each of us to know (a) that we were supposed to be there and (b) in what capacity we were there. Someone asked why the process of electing a new bishop took so long; +David pointed out that it was because Canon 4* said so, but built, along with +Mark, a picture of precisely why such a thing cannot be rushed. If we want a prayerful person who is truly committed to his/her calling, we must be prepared to let such a person prayerfully and thoughtfully decide if it is indeed their calling - and the time suddenly isn't a very long one at all. We were reminded of the task of the Bishop - "to interpret the local to the universal and the universal to the local", and we were reminded also that clergy come in all shapes and sizes and variations with regard to training and background, and that past experience in parish life was a vital component.
We considered the strangeness of the "gracious restraint" under which the College of Bishops now operates in the context of the Anglican Church moratoria on consecrating bishops in long-standing same-sex relationships, authorising same-sex blessings and cross-border incursions by conservative bishops: the last appears to go on regardless, which makes me wonder why the other two should be any different, but that'll be me being simplistic as usual. It'll be a good day when we catch up with the secular world on this one.
The afternoon session gave us the chance to bring up stuff we wanted the preliminary committee to bear in mind. I did my usual plea for a bishop to have a good grasp of modern communications, but I also voiced the opinion that we mustn't think a church is failing simply because it has not managed to attract any young people. The young people in my life who were in church all through their formative years now don't darken the door; they haven't lived in the diocese since they left school. Someone disagreed with this, but as this is my personal space I can now come back and say that young Piskies for the most part don't end up stacking supermarket shelves as a full-time occupation: they leave for the bright lights and never return. The people we tend to attract are older, moving to the country/seaside for lifestyle reasons, perhaps thinking more seriously on life and death than ever before - and finding our churches a suitable place in which to think such thoughts.
I don't intend to cover all that was said today. Instead, I want to make another point of my own: in a diocese where so many lay people have, through necessity, become preachers and intercessors and worship leaders, we need a bishop who is sufficiently sure of his/her own personality, faith and theology to be stimulated by our willingness, willing and able to support and cherish us, and to lead our existing clergy into a joyous partnership with the laity. +David called for "careful, eyes-wide-open" leadership. +Mark warned us to avoid asking a bishop to do it all - to think instead of a shared ministry.
So that's it started, this process. The nomination forms are available online and in publications, the preliminary committee has more thinking to do, more selecting, before we can see any candidates. Now, I must print myself a copy of Canon 4 ...
*Canon 4: governs the process of electing a bishop; prone to being used recreationally when the General Synod is under-occupied. (They alter it)