On Thursday, the Feast of Hilda of Whitby, FabBishop invited the clergywomen of the diocese to meet together, to worship and to talk through some of the burning issues of the day, to hear what he understands the current position to be with regard to the ordination of women as bishops, and to share any other concerns that we wanted him to hear. It was a good evening, though I was slightly surprised at the numerous absences - I don't think that many bishops offer this sort of opportunity to their clergy and though I know it's not easy to clear an evening, it really was worthwhile.
However, the small parable I wanted to share was nothing to do with the discussion session, but took place during the Eucharist that preceded it. We were worshipping in the quire at Tewkesbury Abbey, a lovely space but one which somewhat dwarfed us. It made sense, therefore, when FabBishop invited us to move to stand around the altar after the Offertory hymn,thus creating an intimacy and immediacy that we might otherwise have missed. However, I had been asked to sing during the Communion, and had arranged with the organist to stand at the screen...so while the others waited to receive, I trekked back down the length of the quire. It seemed a very long way indeed, though standing by the screen was a great help, actually...The rest of the congregation was so distant that I could pretend that I was just indulging myself by singing something beautiful in a stunning acoustic, which calmed twitchy nerves considerably.
And afterwards, as my friends and colleagues returned to their seats, I began once again the long journey up towards the high altar to receive the sacrament.
Except that this time I didn't have to go all the way.
FabBishop, in a gesture that was both pastorally and theologically stunning in its impact, came to meet me bearing host and chalice.
"When we were still far off..."
Two days later, remembering this still makes me smile inside.