Wednesday, 7 July 2010

“Trust, Courage - and Virtue…”

This is the title of my page in our newly-published Parish Magazine for July and August. Click here to find the whole issue in full colour. And this is what I wrote on the View from the Vicarage page:

I’m sorry that this issue of the Parish Magazine is appearing a bit later than usual - though it’s a double issue, so you’ll have plenty of time to read it!

One of the reasons I’ve been delayed is that I attended our diocese’s annual Clergy Summer Gathering over three days at the end of June and beginning of July. The theme this year was Trust and Courage in Ministry Today. There was much that was thought-provoking in the insights of the speakers, and much cause for gratitude in being able to share with fellow-priests and deacons in formal group-work, over meals and in the bar. Amongst other things we did was to engage in a Socratic dialogue to discern the meaning of good ministry and to sit down together to watch the film Doubt (my second viewing and I still don’t know what I think).

But the vital theme was how we experience and manage to convey a sense of trust in ministry. Trust is vital to the way we live. Robert Innes, former Vicar of Belmont, now at the Anglican Pro-Cathedral in Brussels, led us through the issues brilliantly with reference to issues in the medical field - how you trust your doctor after the Harold Shipman murders, how you feel about hospitals as a result of the Alder Hay and other scandals. He could have talked about the issues that bear directly upon the Church. But the fact is that trust is so central in so many parts of life: Thick Trust - which we need in family relationships which knits trust and love into personal bonds; Thin Trust - what we need in “regulated” professionals not least doctors and priests, where we rely upon their availability, confidence and relationship; Trust in Institutions - which might be Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs or Parliament, and is a reminder that a priest’s or a local church’s reputation is bound up with the institution of the church.

How can we build trust? The answer is simple: by being trustworthy. But of course there’s a lot involved in doing that simple thing.

In this we were helped by sessions on Virtue Ethics - basically doing the right thing, not for what I might get out of it, but because it is right. Bishop Tom took this on by looking at the specific Christian Virtues: Patience - not to be too quick to judge, and patience needs to be filled with prayer; Charity - a habit of the heart to be cultivated, “if there’s a chance, let’s be generous!”; Chastity - not just for monks, but about real relationships in their richness where we can look beyond sexual motives; and Humility - the sober recognition of my God-given gifts, and how I can use them in service.

All too brief a summary - but lots to work on for everybody…
Martin Jackson

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