Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Now Here is a Bishop

I spend a lot of time criticising the bishops of Sydney for good reason. But unlike a certain mad priest in England who, because he was badly treated by one bishop has it in for all of them, I know that most of them are doing a good if difficult job.

Back in 2006 or 7, when I first began to seriously consider Dunedin as my future home, I discovered the blog of then Archdeacon Kelvin Wright, vicar of Roslyn and was impressed.  I followed his blog as he planned to complete the Camino de Santiago de Compostella.  In 2008 all was put on hold as he dealt with prostate cancer but he and his wife, Clemency, completed about half in 2009.  

I first visited St John's Roslyn on my second trip to Dunedin, this time with my sister,  in November 2008 and introduced myself to him.   I was a bit astounded and had mixed feelings when it was announced in late 2009 that he had been elected bishop of Dunedin. So I was only a parishioner for 4 weeks before he was consecrated bishop and left the parish.  I attended his consecration and was amused to find myself seated next to the wife of the bishop of Nelson.  Nelson would be the one diocese in New Zealand where I would not feel comfortable. It has a history of a close relationship with evangelical Sydney but, while the bishop has aligned himself with Gafcon, he has not been as obnoxious in his comments as Jensen.  We, (his wife and I) had a pleasant conversation while waiting for the service to begin. 

Now Kelvin and Clemency have just completed their pilgrimage on the Camino and I have followed his blog with interest.  It has not been without incident.  First Kelvin had problems with his achilles tendon but after prayer by other pilgrims he seemed to make a remarkable recovery.  Far worse,  a few days later, Clemency fell in the shower and they had to make an ambulance trip to hospital.  Thankfully there were no bones broken but she had to complete the pilgrimage (just over 100km of the total 800km)  by bus. 
Although you may not have time to read his day by day description, I do recommend "Why Pilgrimage"
Part of his comments there follow:
Personally, I am not convinced that prayers said in front of the bones of some dead bloke are any more effective than any other sort of prayers, even in the highly unlikely event that the skeletal remains belong to one of the apostles. I don´t think that the sheer hard work of walking hundreds of kilometres across a foreign land earns any sort of favour with the almighty. But I know that making pilgrimage is a spiritual practice.

All spiritual practices have this in common: they confront us with the limits of the false self, so that we can recognise those limits and grow past them, and this is precisely what the Camino does. It is a tool, in other words, whereby we make real Jesus invitation to leave ourselves behind in order that we might find ourselves. The Camino Santiago de Compostela  is not a pleasant and refreshing walk through beautiful Spanish countryside. It is not an interesting historical and cultural walking tour. Or at least, it is not just those things. The Camino challenges  and searches and judges. The Camino exposes us, we who answer its call to pilgrimage. The myriad defence mechanisms we call our personality are opened up and shown for what they are and the result is not diminution but expansion; a contact with the true self and with the great one whose ground, Says Meister Eckhart, is the same ground as that of the true self. 

And then after finishing and greeting Clemency on the final day, they went and worshipped at the cathedral in Santiago with the amusing but emotional  Botafumeiro

The first thing for me to do was to visit the crypt and pray before the bones of St. James. I´m not entirely sure why, as readers of previous posts will know, but somehow, for me the Camino was not complete until I had done this. There in a small cellar, down a flight of steps was a silver casket containing James´ mortal remains. A young woman prayed before them and then pushed several copies of her CV through the grill to lie before the coffin. Unemployment is high in Spain, and I guess both her faith and her intention were obvious, and I found the sight intensely moving. I knelt there and remembered several things. A parish priest who, at the end of his pilgrims blessing had asked us to pray for his parish when we got to Santiago. Then a farmer tending some strange (to me) crop on a sunny hillside. I smiled and waved to him and he stood, raised both arms and cried out
¡Hola! ¡Bien Camino!¡Rece por mí cuando llegue a Santiago!
Hello! Good Camino! Pray for me when you reach Santiago
So before I spent time holding my children, my grandchild, my diocese, my family, before God I remembered that farmer and his nameless crop and the parish of Arzua. Bless them all, my Lord and make of them what you intend.

Thanks be to God for their pilgrimage and thanks be to God for directing me to this diocese. Kelvin is not Anglo-Catholic although the Jensens probably think he is but he is open to the Mysteries of our faith.  He is very much into meditation.  He is inclusive although more circumspect on such matters since becoming a bishop.

A few months ago I met him in the local hardware store and had a brief chat, then 5 minutes later we met again in his local supermarket and, as it is not mine, he was able to direct me to what I wanted. Now that is a helpful bishop.

I probably would have small disagreements with him at times, we are both human,  but I am very grateful to be in the Diocese of Dunedin.

1 comment:

Leonard said...

Thank you, Brian. I always appreciate and enjoy your first person experiences (both in and outside of Church). Leonardo