If you've spent much time in these parts, you'll know that I am very fond of my FabBishop, - who ordained me both deacon (just after he became a Bishop) and priest, and who has taken trouble to ensure that he has a real and informed pastoral connection with all his clergy. He talks some really good sense, and is famous as a liturgist (which suits me very well, thank you) so though this doubtless sounds dreadfully sycophantic, I've always been extremely glad that he is my bishop.
This doesn't mean that I wasn't shaken and deeply disappointed when, 2 weeks ago, he spoke at the diocesan clergy day on the then imminent ordination of +Mary Glasspool and its implications for the Anglican Communion.
I'm a paid up member of Inclusive Church and to hear FabBishop speaking was both sad and painful. Like ++Rowan he clearly feels that the bishop's role as a focus of unity takes precedence over any personal inclinations...so though his heart might encourage one viewpoint, he is constrained by his episcopacy to act against it.
So in the two weeks since the clergy day, I've struggled a bit with feelings of disappointment...
When FabBishop's statement appeared online and attracted all sorts of negative responses, and not a little vitriol, I was uncomfortable, sad all over again, but on the whole I didn't leap to his defence.
I didn't blog either, because it seemed to me that either I would be criticising someone for whom I have great respect and affection, or I would be compromising my own integrity and commitment to an inclusive church.
All very sad and uncomfortable - a miserable microcosm of the pain and anger that is being expressed on a much larger stage across the Communion.
But on Saturday I was given the opportunity to see things differently.
I was at a truly excellent Fresh Expressions Vision Day, and found myself sharing a cafe table with FabBishop and working with him for much of the day.
We weren't engaged in anything to do with issues in human sexuality or with the ordination of women, of whatever orientation, to the episcopate.
We were, rather, thinking about the urgent need to translate the gospel into a language that makes sense to the huge numbers for whom traditional church will never connect.
As part of this, we were asked to think about the cost of mission...of how it might feel to respond positively to that question
"Will you go where you don't know and never be the same".
We thought about being vulnerable in strange situations, with people whose language, lives and priorities were unlike our own.
But we didn't just think in abstract. We were led to experience it for a few minutes...and I learned alot.
To begin with, we were invited to lay aside an object that we valued, to place it on the table in front of us.
Most of the time I wear a heavy silver bangle I bought in Bangalore...
I think it's beautiful in itself, and for me it carries the added beauty of memories of my wonderful weeks in India, all the learning and growing, the friendships made and prayers offered...It's one of my most precious possessions - so off it came, leaving my right wrist feeling a bit naked.
After just a few seconds to adjust to this, we were next invited to pick up something that our neighbour had placed there.
Then we were told to put it on.
So it was that for several minutes yesterday I found myself wearing FabBishop's episcopal ring.
It was heavy....both literally and figuratively, as I imagined how it might be to wear it all the time, a constant reminder of the responsibilities he bears for us as the Anglican church in this diocese, and as a leader on a wider stage.
It didn't fit me very well - I was uncomfortable with it in every respect.
No surprise there. Being a vicar is quite enough of a leadership role for me, thank you kindly!
But it taught me something too.
You see, around the stone is engraved in tiny letters that you'd not notice if they weren't pointed out to you,
"ut unum sint" "that they may all be one".
Whenever I preside at the Eucharist I'm reminded of the day when I knelt before FabBishop while he anointed my hands, and made them forever a focus of the priestly ministry of consecration, reconciliation and blessing entrusted to me at my ordination.
I'd imagine that when FabBishop looks at his hands he remembers not only that shared experience of priesthood but the particular focus of episcopacy.
"That they may all be one"I still wish he hadn't had to speak as he did, I still hate that it seems impossible for the church that I love to be the fully inclusive church I dream of, but perhaps I'll have a little more patience from now on, as I remember how heavy that ring felt on my finger.