When Sue announced in church the news of Bishop Philip’s nomination, she said that this would evoke a number of different responses both in our own congregation and in the wider diocese. She was not wrong. Even within the team of women clergy here at St Mark’s our responses to the news varied immensely. Shan has written some of her reflections in this month’s Messenger, Sue’s voice has been heard in the press and Sarah will share her reflections more fully in the next Messenger.
On Sunday Sue announced the news of Bishop Philip’s decision to withdraw his acceptance of the nomination. Again she stated that this would provoke very different responses from members of this congregation as well as within the wider diocese. We wonder whether this congregation has truly grasped the diversity within this church?
St Mark’s describes itself as an “inclusive” church and yet there are times when we can be seen as very polarised. Those who hold a minority view within St Mark’s can feel excluded and marginalised. This makes us feel sad. Is it something we are willing to try and look at together?
Within the staff team we have been discussing the term “open” instead of “inclusive”. If we are “open-minded” we are willing to try and see things from different perspectives. If we are an “open church” then we are prepared for people to gather together with a breadth and range of opinion and tradition, we are open to the possibility that we don’t have the whole picture and others may help us to see things that we can’t. We wonder how “open” we are?
On Sunday morning Sue suggested that we might like to try and listen to those with whom we disagree most profoundly; to listen, without judgement, not in order to come to an agreement, but in order to learn something. If we are going to discern a new spirit of trust and mutuality within the church and beyond it then we will all need to keep practising this discipline of openness.
We are proud to be the clergy here at St Mark’s Broomhill. Your support over the last few weeks, whatever your views of what should or should not have happened, has been tremendous. Thank you. We are entering a new chapter of our life together as the body of Christ and we hope and pray that we will continue to learn from each other, whether we agree with each other or not.
In a recent conversation about the frustrations of church life we were encouraged by the advice someone was given by a priest some years ago. He said that she was more than welcome to go looking for a perfect church and, when she found it he would love to know all about it, but she’d better not join it because then it wouldn’t be perfect anymore! Sobering advice!
Rejoicing in our imperfections, and with love,
Sue Hammersley, Sarah Colver and Shan Rush