I’ve been in this post for over one full year. It has been an extraordinary year, with pleasures and problems that I expected, and pleasures and problems that I most certainly did not. I could write a book about it, and maybe one day I will. I could certainly write a piece comparing and contrasting life in the Church of Ireland with that in the Church of England, and maybe I’ll do that too.
I’ve done everything here once. What next? Some people readily adapt to doing the same things over and over again—some of my colleagues have been in the same post since dinosaurs walked the earth. Others are easily bored and relish new challenges from time to time. Some people are good at steady maintenance, others at being agents of change. The Church of Ireland seems to be more concerned with stasis rather than change, maintenance rather than mission. Mission perhaps implies seducing people from another denomination, and for all sorts of historical and cultural reasons, that’s just not on in Ireland. Apparently.
The trouble is that without mission and without change, there will be less and less to maintain. There will come a point when bills will go unpaid and buildings fall into disrepair. In rural England I came to the view that people cared more about the graveyard than the church. After all, the graveyard was somewhere they hoped to end up, and where relatives went to talk to people they perhaps misjudged when they were alive. Graveyards will survive long after churches become roofless.
Speaking personally, I would like to be burnt and my ashes scattered by the railway anywhere between Tebay and Carlisle, feeding the earth where the Pendolinos whizz past between London and Glasgow. I want no memorial, no plaque, no headstone. But when push comes to scatter, the family will do what it wants, not what I want. And that’s absolutely right. I’ll be dead, I won’t care.
What priorities should I have for 2013? I’ll ask the parishioners what they would like. I’ll ask them what they think they need, even if they wouldn’t like it. Maybe they want no change. The trouble is that in the blood stream, stasis leads to clotting, clots cause blockage, and blockage often means dysfunction. Or, another medical analogy, in the guts, stasis leads to constipation. Either way, it’s curtains.