An Anglican Evening
05/September/2009 Filed in: Jottings
Yesterday attended the Institution and Induction of the Revd Elizabeth Birch as Rector of East Hendred and the other parishes which make up Wantage Downs Benefice. It was, as one would expect, gracefully and generously organized and we were made to feel very welcome. As a lapsed medievalist, I was fascinated to see enacted many of the rituals which the Catholic Church of our day has dispensed with and could not help reflecting how much poorer we are as a result. Both priest and people could be given a much richer sense of what they are about, the rights and responsibilities of being the Church here in this particular part of the world. Instead we simply wake up one Sunday to find a new face at the altar and a brief introduction beginning "I am Fr X, your new ParishPriest/Priest in Charge/Administrator of this Parish" (delete as appropriate). While silently noting the ancient custom of placing the Rector's hand on the church door, the handing over of keys and ringing the church bell, etc, what most impressed me was the solemn reminder that a priest must be, first and foremost, a person of prayer, one who studies the scriptures and celebrates the sacraments. Perhaps too many of us in the Catholic Church encounter our priests only as celebrants of the sacraments or, worse still, administrators who sign our certificates and look after things we never think about. We conveniently forget that we must support our priests in their quest for holiness, encouraging (allowing?) them to take time for prayer and study. During this Year of the Priest we might consider what we can do to translate good intentions into action. In the meantime, let us be grateful that God calls so many to his service. Indeed, looking at the number of clergy, religious and lay people assembled in the parish church last night, I couldn't help thinking that East Hendred should be a village of saints. I rather think, however, we are a community of sinners . . . who keep on trying. Scroll down to comment and please be patient while the comment box loads. You can edit the "Guest" tag to use your own name or nickname.