According to the UK Daily Telegraph yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s idea of a good vicar (Church of England jargon for parish priest) is one who holds services in ‘non-traditional venues like pubs and clubs’ and ‘in all kinds of strange places.’
I’ve worked in the Church of England and so can say with some confidence that the administrative demands imposed by the Archbishop’s colleagues and the institution on the one hand, and the pastoral role demanded by the community and by those who already support the church on the other, mean that few if any vicars could possibly be regarded by the Archbishop as good. Unless, that is, they refused to deal with correspondence, initiatives, circulars, questionnaires, funerals, weddings, baptisms, and five or six services a Sunday … and so on.
I must accept that I was not, and still must not be, a good vicar. I don’t have the wherewithal or confidence to evangelize in a pub or club or ‘strange place’ for I am not given to facile answers to difficult questions. I am given to pastoral and intellectual exploration that begins in joy and sorrow and ends in wonder and mystery. I am given to an appreciation of beauty and the liturgy. I am able to hold two opposing viewpoints and still function, I think and hope, reasonably well.