In the shadow of Gladstone we've been thinking about the redundant model of ordained ministry based on romanticised mythology of how George Herbert did it (or thought it should be done) in the 17th century. I fell in love with George Herbert's poetry in my school days. It was only as I tried to avoid offering myself for ordination in the Church of England that I became aware of how much the idyll of George Herbert as parish priest still affects explicit and implicit expectations about priestly ministry in the C. of E. Since then, I've also become aware of how much damage that has done.
Last November, thanks to a blog post 'Get Real! Kill George Herbert!' by Alan Wilson, my area Bishop, I discovered a book by Justin Lewis-Anthony, 'If you Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him'. Then the opportunity came to attend a conference this week, at St Deiniol's, based on the book and led by its author.
In 8 sessions and in a particularly engaging way, Justin lifted the book off its pages, in a way that was thought-provoking, compelling and challenging, but with many touches of humour. In spite of the title it wasn't all about murdering a myth, but also presented an alternative vision with a framework derived from a 2004 lecture by Rowan Williams in which the Archbishop spoke about 'lookout', 'interpreter' and 'weaver'.
As a self-confessed 'recovering evangelical' Justin used 3 words beginning with W: Watchman, Witness and Weaver. Read Justin Lewis-Anthony's book to find out more and for his suggestions about turning it all into specifics about personal rule of life and clarity about particular role etc. Or some of it is on his blog as a series of posts here. But, be warned, rigorous thinking is required! As the Archdeacon said to the parish priest in the BBC series 'Rev' - "you have been baptised, not lobotomised."