Well, this morning I had a meeting with my bishop. I felt so nervous before I went in. I guess I expected him to say something like, “Well, yeah, Gareth, you really are the most rubbishest priest I’ve ever seen. Even more rubbish that Fr Dougal from the TV series Fr Ted. So, if you don’t mind, get your rubbishy, priesty arse out of my diocese if you don’t mind!” But of course he didn’t say that. No bishop would say “arse”.
Of course, my bishop didn’t say that. No. This is what he said, as I walked into his office dressed in a black clerical shirt and white dog collar, black suit and shiny, black shoes. He greeted me with the words, “You look like a clergyman!”
What a great start! I was a clergyman. I am a clergyman. And my decision to dress as one this morning had obviously paid off. Within the first few seconds I had shown the bishop that I meant business. Here was me (a clergyman) meeting his bishop, (also a clergyman,) although he’d gone for the ‘in disguise’ look of shirt and tie (and trousers and shoes) rather than purple shirt. Whew! So far so good. All very professional.
I sat down with my cheap, plastic cup of water and waited.
I’m not sure what I expected. I think I probably hoped that +Brian would say, “You know, I’ve got just the job for you,” and then he would tell me about my perfect job. I dunno what that might be, something like “Chaplain to Metallica”, or something. I quite liked Rich’s idea of “Cyber Priest”. But he didn’t. Of course he didn’t! He told me pretty much what I knew already, that I’ve got four main options:
- Continue as a stipendiary clergyman within Scotland
- Half-time stipendiary clergyman within Scotland
- Non-stipendiary clergyman, and have to get ‘secular’ employment within Scotland
- Go to England (or another Anglican province), do not pass Go, do not collect £200
The Church just now is extremely tight, financially. Not all posts that are becoming vacant are being filled. Some parishes (for want of a better word in a country that has an established Presbyterian church that has greedily monopolized the term ‘parish’ in this fine, northern land) are being combined with other parishes. There are going to be more disappointments than appointments, me thinks.
The only problem is … I now just need to make a decision about what I’m going to do when I grow up! Damn! I thought I’d done that when I was 9 years old when I told my Mum that I was going to be a priest. But apparently there seems to be a new rule that priests called Gareth (like me) can’t be full-time priests beyond the age that Jesus was on earth (33, like me).
Ok. Right, let’s think this through. First, I don’t really want to go to England. Not that I’m particularly against England, per se. I mean, I’m half English; my Dad was born in England, (in Nottingham since you were wondering). And I just wrote ‘Dad’ and ‘English’ with capital letters so I must regard them with some degree of respect. I just don’t fancy being a priest in the Church of England. It’s just not the same as my dear old SEC. The CofE is a whole different ballpark of worms.
And … erm, well, that’s as far as I’ve got, so far. That leaves me with either looking for another parish to serve, in a full- or part-time capacity, or getting a proper job and just playing at priests at the weekend. (I may have just over simplified that, for comedy effect; I hope that doesn’t count against me if I do go for a real church job.)
I feel both a sense of excitement about the future and the prospect of doing something new, and also a sense of disappointment about where the Church is just now. When I was ordained a friend of mine (also a priest in the SEC) said to me something that someone had said to him when he was ordained (are you following this, so far?), which was: “Dream dreams bigger than the Scottish Episcopal Church”. I guess the dreaming starts tonight.