Vicar’s Window June 2018

Dear friends,

June is a month with only two major feast days – the Birthday of S. John the Baptist (24th) and the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul (29th). The former falls, fortuitously, on a Sunday. It is, of course, the feast day for the Mother Town. Burslem Wakes used to take place around the feast day until moved to the first weekend of May. (This year, for the first time ever, the festival was graced with lovely weather and the town was packed.)

The end of June (and the beginning of July) is also the time for ordinations and anniversaries of ordination. Derek Pamment and Catherine Leighton are to be ordained deacon. Patrick Griffin and Richard Hulme are to be ordained priest. I shall be singing in the visiting choir at Father Richard’s First Mass as priest – and preaching at Father Patrick’s. All very exciting.

I was ordained deacon on June 26th 1977 and priested the following year on June 25th. It is for this reason that I am keeping a low-key celebration on that day with a mass at 1930 followed by a party. I have already told various heathen friends that they can’t come to the latter without attending the former.

So, given that this is a special occasion for me, I can’t resist using the rest of this “Window” to drone on about various things that arose from the recent royal wedding. I didn’t intend to watch the event but I was visiting family and we watched it over lunch. (My excuse.) All in all, I thought it was not bad bash. The Arch. seemed a bit lack-lustre – but then he would in the presence of the American bishop. Not sure about the sermon but the rest was ok – although I have to confess to not really liking gospel choirs. (Why are they called that? Most music sung in cathedrals and parish churches comes from the Gospels! Perhaps we should rename the Sneyd Singing Group!) Then there was the chewing of gum during the service…which brings me on to the subject of chavdom. (My word. Definition: The kingdom populated by chavs.)

So how do I define chavdom? A place of little or no taste or decorum. Here are a twelve examples, and I don’t excuse myself where number four is concerned.

1) Chewing gum – any time, any place. Yuk.

2) Dropping and leaving litter – deliberately or unintentionally. (That includes the by-product of dogs.)

3) Sorry. Tattoos. I don’t like them. Stoke on Trent is, apparently, the tattoo capital of the world.

4) Swearing and making rude gesticulations in public, especially from a car.

5) Ghastly bumper stickers with rude and vulgar observations. I add to this category “Little princess on board.” and the like.

6) “High fiving” in Great Britain. We shake hands. That is enough.

7) Not holding the door for another person to pass through – or standing to allow a woman or elderly person have a seat.

8) Men wearing hats indoors – and not only in church! Only clerical headgear of one sort or another allowed – and even that has to be doffed at the Holy Name of Jesus, the Holy Name of Mary, and the saint whose feast day it is. (It is all there in the Bible.)

9) Singing songs with an American accent while not being American. It is no different to “Allo allo” speak.

10) Speaking in local dialect when not a local. Patronising. (Not sure if that is a chav thing but plain wrong.)

11) Nearly forgot. Body piercing which involves big holes, tongues, noses, nipples, belly-buttons.

12) Priests who use their magazine articles as a vehicle for griping and grizzling! (Also, anyone using !!!!!s)

Many blessings for a lovely month,

Father Brian

the sacred ministry and the church in 2018

Given the slightly frivolous nature of my “Window” this month, I thought I had better produce something to explain the nature of what is happening to the people I mentioned.

The Sacred Ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon was developed in the early church from Our Lord, the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The apostles began what became known as church councils. It was the later councils, meeting at Nicea and elsewhere, which decided on the what we now call the “Nicene Creed”. This is recited or sung on all major feast days and is the proclamation of the Gospel in a nutshell.

The ordained ministry grew out of apostolic times. Bishops were the successors to the apostles while deacons were ordained to care for widows, distribute aid to poor Christians and to assist the bishop in the celebration of the mass and to proclaim the Gospel. Priests were ordained to carry out various functions under the bishop’s authority, normally in his absence. Celebrating mass, hearing confessions, blessing, baptising, anointing, marrying were delegated to the priest – and confirmation when necessary.

It is this same Sacred Ministry which continues in the church today. As directed in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, all ordinations take place with prayer and through the laying-on-of-hands by a bishop or bishops. (Bishops are always ordained by three other bishops to ensure the validity of the ordination.)

Why is this Sacred Ministry so important? From earliest times it was seen as the guarantor of the right faith and practise. The bishop had to be ordained by three bishops who were adherents of the true faith, the apostolic faith, the faith delivered through the apostles from the Lord. This does not mean that God does not work through “irregular” orders or ministries. That is up to God. It does mean, though, that a rightly ordained person is a celebrant of the sacraments without question. It is for this reason that S. Chad was ordained bishop a second time in order to ensure that his orders were valid according to the rites of the universal church, England having agreed at the Synod of Whitby to accept papal authority. It is for this reason that many Anglicans cannot accept the ordination of women to priesthood. The guarantee of validity is put into question. (Some would add that it is out of kilter with the practice of the universal church.)

People often ask if I am a priest or a vicar. It doesn’t help that uninformed bishops often refer to vicars when they mean priests. The order of priest is indelible, it cannot be taken away, like baptism. In order to be a vicar (ministering within a parish, sharing the “cure of souls” with the bishop), dean (ministering in charge of a cathedral), or curate (assisting the vicar) the office holder has to be in priest’s orders. (It used to be the same with chaplains but bishops, deacons and lay-people can be chaplains.) When Father Paul ceased to be Vicar of Lower Gornal he didn’t cease being a priest.

So, in a few weeks time, Cath and Derek will be ordained deacon. This means that they will be able to wear a “dog-collar”, baptise, proclaim the gospel reading during mass, preach and teach. They will not have the authority or charism (grace) to do the things referred to at the end of the third paragraph. I can well remember the novelty of the clerical collar. The weight of responsibility which comes with priesthood came as something of a shock the following year. Harder to define, it has a lot to do with the very “being” of being a priest. It certainly has little or nothing to do with what one is wearing. Pray for those to be ordained. Pray for those preparing for the newness of being a deacon – and for those putting on the authority of priesthood – and for old lags like me who, possibly, take it all for granted. FB