I have just got back from Synod, and I am thankful not to have been stranded on the road, because my van needs repairs to the diesel injection pump which causes the engine to shut down as soon as I lift my foot from the accelerator. Imagine restarting the engine at every traffic light in London, and often only after several attempts. The vehicle is parked in its place outside our house.
I reached London late Friday night and parked in Abbey Orchard Street, and I was amazed to get the same slot as always. I drew my curtain to give me some privacy and slept on my camping mattresses. It is still amazing to find free parking at weekends only a few minutes’ walk from Westminster Abbey and the Central Hall when we had our Synod. I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, packed away my bedding and took my computer to Starbucks to use their wi-fi and have a cup of coffee. At the right time I went to the Central Hall and helped get everything ready for Mass. A couple of days before, Bishop Damien asked me to do subdeacon. I said yes, but swallowed, thinking that I haven’t done it for more than twenty years, but I was confident it would all come back. Fr Quoëx taught us well at Gricigliano.
Fr Jonathan Munn did deacon, and we understood each other and everything went so smoothly. Several priests seemed to marvel at our knowing our stuff! We celebrated twenty-five years of our Diocese since its foundation in 1992 – and it is also the same number of years since I was ordained a subdeacon at Gricigliano by Cardinal Alfons Stickler. The coincidence was not planned!
After Mass (which was filmed and will soon be on YouTube), we all had our photo taken:
The Synod meeting was quite mundane, and indeed our Bishop repeated the words of Bishop James Mote, saying that the best Synods are boring! It means that there is no conflict or division. Those who call our Church fractious can put that in their pipe and smoke it! Business came to an end, and I drove my ailing van to Lydd on the south Kent coast where Bishop Damien lives in his beautiful medieval house. I dropped off the plywood altar that was surplus to my needs and which I donated to the Diocese. I picked up my new boat engine, all new and gleaming, which I ordered a couple of months ago and which Bishop Damien was storing for me. I hope to try my new toy soon on the back of my boat!
Another bright and early morning on Sunday, and Roy was getting his breakfast. I joined him and then we went to see the Bishop’s basse-cour, the chicken run with no fewer than ten good laying hens. They all have names.
I played the organ for Sunday Mass, and there were some new faces at our Pro-Cathedral church in Canterbury. It gives me a real joy to accompany the liturgy, play the grand old hymn tunes I remember from my schooldays and accompany Catherine, the church’s cantor, as she sang Bach’s Sheep may safely graze. After Mass, the Bishop invited me to join him with Roy and Deacon Richard to the Mediterranean restaurant in Canterbury where they do Italian, Lebanese, Moroccan – and English food.
Deacon Richard took a photo of us at table. It was quite hot, so I took out my collar and let my hair down – literally.
If that isn’t an image of joy in a Church, I don’t know what is! I thank God for guiding me to the ACC. It was a wonderful weekend of ecclesial communion, friendship and Christian love.
PS. Another photo pinched from Facebook of our Mass showing the choir and our maestro at the organ.
Your post, Father, looks like a post from my olden days back in the ages past of St. Mary of the Angels, Los Angeles. I’m glad you are so happy in your synod. If I weren’t Orthodox now I would be happy to be with you, but the local ACA parish is just to far from me.
Nice post Father. I was one of the new faces you met in Canterbury, and having followed your blog for a while, I instinctively feel that there is much I can learn from your spiritual guidance. Do you have an email address where I can contact you off the forum?
Not just the joy but the orders of the Church – lay, deacon, priest and bishop.
Yes, absolutely, I hadn’t thought of it like that. A true ἀγάπη!
As a tangent to your jolly “let my hair down – literally” photo, Fr. Z’s William Barnes post (with link to online audio readings!) got me looking Barnes up in Wikipedia – which has a fine photo of him and in Wikimedia Commons the George Stuckey portrait of him, both with his long(ish?) white hair! (Ah, traditional Anglican clergymen!)
The best example of clerical long hair is John Wesley. Such a simple man would not have worn a wig, and it was his own hair. He obviously had a couple of roll curves which I would never do. Quite a few gentlemen (including clergy) had long hair up to about World War I, though it was more or less out of fashion by 1850.
Yes, I thought that was a not un-Wesley-like snapshot, though the curves are a difference. It is fascinating how long long hair seems to have persisted in various ‘circles’, with academic ‘graybeards at play’ still in the Marx Brothers’s movie, Horse Feathers (1932,) and the people who continued to give grounds for the nickname, ‘long-hair music’, like Toscanini and Stokowski, for example!
Long hair music? Interesting concept:
Beethoven had a thick bush growing everywhere.
Mozart had thick blond hair to about my length (mid back) but had to stuff it into a black bag to go with his wig for when he was in formal dress. It must have been horribly hot to have a wig over one’s natural hair!
Liszt had shoulder length hair, cut a little shorter when he was old.
Some of my fellow priests now see my hair as my “trademark”.