Bed, board and books by the thousands

I've just come back from 4 days away with my husband at St Deiniol's Library - my first stay in a library with beds and home-made meals!

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."

The best conferences have plenty of enough free time to avoid overload and this did. The weather in north Wales was much better than forecast and I did two enjoyable 2-hour walks alone in the surrounding countryside and to prove it here's some photos.


  1. With respect, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the George Herbert picture of ministry. It's not a one-size-fits-all, but it's by no means worthless, inaccurate or false. Why is it necessary to attack something to make a point? I mean Justin Lewis-Anthony, not you. It would have been better if he had simply tried to present his own vision of ministry, rather than using a cheap attack on something else. Time will tell, but I suspect that the George Herbert model will continue to flourish and inspire long after Lewis-Anthony's gimcrack notions have been forgotten.

  2. PS:

  3. pps:

  4. Thank you popper tupper for your comments and links to your blog posts. I think to be fair to Justin Lewis-Anthony he does in his book try to present ideas about an alternative model of ministry - though those may be still a work in progress in some respects. I think what he is attacking is not George Herbert but the myths that have grown up around him which have had the effect of creating a crushing burden for some parish priests.

  5. Thanks for your reply. I would simply add that in that case it reinforces my point that his approach is a cheap, attention-seeking scam which denigrates a great man and a valuable tradition of ministry to make point which I believe is worthless. Please can you tell me why else he chooses to mock and misrepresent George Herbert and his work?

  6. In response to your question I think you should ask him, not me. Have you read his books?


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