Friday, September 19, 2008

Diocesan Conference: Hild-Bede, Durham

I finally got to a Blackburn Diocesan clergy conference this year, after having been in the Diocese for 6½ years. They only come around every 3 or 4 years, and I couldn't attend the last one. Quite a contrast with the two previous Dioceses I worked in, when such get-togethers were more frequent. As a result, it was an exercise in getting to know a lot of people, often for the first time.

Initial impressions: a lot of white hair, and first day dog-collar count relatively high (20% at a guess). College has some 60s/70s new build which have the same Church College feel that I have experienced at our own place as well as at sister institutions. Hild-Bede obviously got the same architect. Incredibly loud cold tap in my room, but otherwise OK. Other aspects of college excellent - helpful staff, good food, lovely grounds.

The programme of speakers looked good, including David Stevens from the Corrymeela Community, and John Bell from Iona. Both speakers were excellent, able to say strong and, at times uncomfortable, things to us without being associated or implicated with any of the internal politics of the Church of England.

On the subject of politics, quite a lot of traditionalist Anglo-Catholic colleagues stayed away, following the Synod vote on women bishops. This was surprising, since two out of three of our bishops share their position on the ordination of women, and on how people of their viewpoint might be accommodated and supported once women become bishops.

First worry of the conference: I have got roped in to play for some modern worship songs/music, but how will it go down. We managed to avoid the rubbish compromise that blights many Anglican events, where the "modern" songs are so old, that they annoy everyone - trendies and trads alike. In fact the (under-rehearsed) band was a good bunch to be with, and remarkably the feedback on the worship overall was very positive.

By day two, I think we were down to dog-collar count of 10% or maybe less. ( Personally my sympathies are with the view of a vicar I once knew: "dog-collars are strictly for evangelism. Never wear one at a meeting of clergy, always wear one in the pub" ) I know what he meant.

John Bell gave us lots to think about, and also led us in a remarkable service of evening prayer, which coming from Iona had a familiar form, great music, yet unfamiliar words. I like that - to be challenged and surprised by what can often become routine.

Afternoon off. Sentiment took over. Went for a walk to see St John's College (where I trained for the ministry) and St Oswald's Church (where we got married) as well as a cuppa on Palace Green. Great!

Dog-collar count dipped to 7 or 8% during the day before the conference dinner. Second worry of the conference. Dinner dress code: "appropriate". Unsure what this meant, I went for smart-casual, which proved to be at the low-end of the market, but not bottom. Dog-collar count 50+%. Many black suits. Some clergy proved their ability to drink like fish, but a lot of good conversations nonetheless.

Final morning in Durham Cathedral. What can you say - it's the finest Cathedral in England. Paid my respects to Bede and Cuthbert. Wonder what they would have to say to us - probably something similar to John Bell!


St said...

Second day dog collar count?

Mike Peatman said...

Thought I'd said - 20% Monday, 10% Tuesday 7-8% Wednesday (at least 40% in the evening), 15-20% on Thursday morning.