This is now Good Friday, Friday the 13th of April, and I have just got back from the ceremonies at the St Dominic's in Riversdale Road in Camberwell, at the priory where Fr Anthony lives and works.
A wonderful liturgy. Anthony was an assistant along with his prior and the man I take to be their provincial who celebrated today. It was a great ceremony, went for an hour and a half, much longer than I thought it would, 3:00-4:30, the sermon given by the celebrant was wonderful. One of the images he used was that of a moth, or three moths, talking to an old moth about what love was and what it meant, and he used the image of a candle and the three moths are asking the old moth what the candle was, and the old moth says, "go and find out". And the first moth flies off and gets close to the flame and flies around it, but the heat is too much and it repels him and he comes back. And tells them of his experiences. And the old moth says, "Yes, well you have experienced something of the candle but you don't know the whole of it. You only have a small experience of it." Then the second moth heads off and gets a bit closer close enough to singe the hairs on his back and on his wings, and then goes back and tells them of his experiences. And the old Moth says "Yes, well you know something by your experience fo the nature of the candle, but you still don't know its true essence and what it really is. " And finally the third young moth flys off, flies around and gets very close, and closer and closer and feels the heat singing his back and his wings, and then in one mighty swoop trhows himself at the flame. And from the distance the Old Moth, speaking to the two young moths sees for a moment the candle light flicker and then flare up as the moth is burned. And the Old Moth says to the younger moth "He knows what the candle is, what love is, but he will never actually be able to return and speak to us of it."
The priest didn't go on to say what it meant, but there is a lot there to meditate on. Espeically how Christ threw himself totally into death, totally into love for us. Secondly, how we are called, And actually I should say, returned to speak to us of it, but the priest didn't elaborate on that fact. And then indicated that this too is how we are to experience love, by completely imolating ourselves on it, and then only will we know its true essence.
Following that there was the adoration of the cross, the corss brought in in procession, veiled up, and then slowly unveiled with the three "Behold the wood of the Cross: O come let us worship." And then something that I hadn't experienced before, which was each of the priests and one of their assistants, so that there was four of them, held a crucifix, and the congregation went up as for communion and reverenced the cross, by either touching it, kneeling, or, as most did, by actually kissing the feet of the cross, and that was quite a moving experience doing that as well.
Then finally at communion time, I went forward, and Anthony was luckily on my side, so I went to Anthony and asked for his blessing, and rather than putting the wafer, the host, that he was holding back into the ciborium and using his hand just to bless me, he actually used the wafer, holding onto the wafer, the host, he held it up to my forehed and used the hand holding the host to bless me, saying "May the body of Christ bless you and keep you". I don't remember all the words that he said, but it was a true blessing and it really touched me that he used the host itself to bless me. It was almost, almost as good as being able to receive communion itself.
There was a father sitting in front of me, four children, a boy who must have been no more than six or seven and two girls and then another boy about two. And that father on his own coped with those children marvellously for the whole hour and a half. They were getting a bit restless toward the end, but that was wonderful to see that actually, I think my book was taken by one of the girls during the sermon and he had collected them and put them back on the shelf, So that when I went to look for the book it wasn't there anymore, and I had to go and get it again, but that was just a small incident.
This morning it was good to be able to worship with Cathy, and Madeline, and Mia…
I think it is time to back track a little bit. Cathy and I went to the communion service at St Paul's on Palm Sunday evening. This was after the concert down at Our Saviour's. The concert included not only some good classics by Handel and Brahms and others but also a threnody on Good Friday, which was just beautiful and then some interesting other little bits, especially Arthur Sullivan's "The long day closes" which was quite apposite to me, ending my ministry, and finishing off with "The Holy City" by Stephen Adams, with everyone joining in the chorus "Jerusalem, Jerusalem" which weas just wonderful.
Then we went to the evening service at St Paul's at six O'clock and I went to communion with Cathy, and there was a passion play by Karen Dymke with music by Susan Westhorp. Very good, very moving. Home to accept a visit from Father Greg, came around and stayed until about 11:30, we talked about all sort of things, the conversation however eventually got to the point where we were dragging out various hymn books and saying "Do you know this song", "do you know this music?", and varying bits and pieces. At one stage I asked about the good Friday liturgy and the music for that, and I asked "do you sing the reproaches" and he answered "Well, we haven't and we're not this year, but I have a feeling we are going to next year", refering to me, of course.
Monday and Tuesday I took off fairly well, Wednesday I worked on getting things to do with the congregations in order, membership lists and those sort of things. Tuesday I went into the Chrism mass at 11:30 at the Cathedral and then spent some time knocking about in the book shops, St Francis bookshop. At the Chrism mass, I saw in the procession: Anthony (but he didn't see me), Fr Greg was being MC, so I saw him, and caught his eye at one point, as with Denis Stanley on his way out, just a nod and a smile, but of course the priests were all busy afterwards, so I didn't get to speak to them then.
Wednesday I did a whole lot of work getting stuff together about the congregations. Thursday, I spent the day packing up stuff down at Our Saviour's. Its half finished, I've got a lot of work there still packing books up and bringing them home. But I have brought some home already, and they are littered around my office here. Then I did my last devotion at Knoxville Hostel, which was my very last pastoral act of all, now I have finished. Interestingly that day I got the minutes of the latest District Church Council meeting, which in some ways are as interesting as David's pastoral letter that he sent out to all pastors and congregations, minus a few, such a me and Peter, and in that I saw the resolution regarding us. I will just read out from the minutes:
Pastor David Schütz requests a leave of absence. Resolved: to recommend to GCC that Pastor Schütz be granted leave of absence for twelve months, with the proviso that a) he not engage in any preaching or teaching in the LCA and b) that he does not seek to influence others in the LCA with his Roman Catholic views during such leave of absense.Then there is a note saying that Pastor Schütz's resignation from the Knox/Frankston/Casey Parish is effective from the 9th of April, 2001. Then it's got:
Pastor Peter Holmes: ResignationAnd next:
Resolved: that the resignation of Pastor Peter Holmes from the Doncaster Parish and from the ministry of the LCA to be effective no later than the 30th of April 2001 be accepted with regret and that the church president be informed.
Pastor [P.}: Situation is different from that of both Pastors Schütz and Holmes. Resolved that the papers of Pastors Schütz, Holmes and [P.] and the responses of their respective pastor counsellors and the seven questions that have been asked (I wonder what that is? Because, of course, they both proposed one and I proposed ten!) be refered to the CTICR for further consideration and response. The president of the district reported that he has arranged for Pastor [P.] to attend Luther Seminary for two or three weeks for further discussion and study with faculty members. The president also reported that a pastoral statement has been prepared and it will be emailed or mailed to all pastors in the district today. It is addressed to pastors and congregations and is for sharing with the laity.
Now the interesting thing here is that I have agreed to the first clause about not engaging in any preaching or teaching in the LCA, in fact, not engaging in any pastoral functions, I also agreed not to attend any pastoral conferences.
But the second thing about not seeking to influence others in the LCA with Roman Catholic views during such leave of absense, this is completely new to me, and in fact makes me stop and wonder what on earth are they talking about.
Does this mean my wife and my children - who remain members of the Lutheran Church? Does it mean people who are my friends, such as Pastors [A.] and [D.] and others who want to know what's going on, and what I'm thinking and what my ideas and beliefs are? Really, I ask you.
Maybe it means that I can't any longer participate in any of the chat lists on the internet, or maybe I can't dialogue with Pastor [N.] as I was recently with regard to Chemnitz's list of the Fathers in the Examen. Again, I ask you.
But secondly, "with his Roman Catholic views". What do they mean by that? What is a "Roman Catholic view"? This is an interesting question. For instance, the Trinity, is that a Roman Catholic view? The Real presence, is that a Roman Catholic view? Good Lord.
I know what they mean, but what a crazy thing to say. They certainly didn't ask me whether I would agree to such a proviso. So, its this sort of stuff that makes me think…
And on the other hand, the real irony here with "he does not seek to influence others with his Roman Catholic views during his absense" you can contrast that to where it says "Pastor [P.]: situation is different to that of Pastors Schütz and Holmes" Well! Have they got the wrong bloke or what? I mean there would have been no Schütz or Holmes situation if there was no [P.] in the first place to raise the questions. Well, okay, we would have got there eventually on our own, but the point being that [P.] was actually very much the catalyst in all this, as Anthony Fisher put it: "ushering us in, but not going through the door himself." Now [P.] has been very prudent, of course, he's very much continued always to be submissive to the District President's "guidance", and so the District President can't see what is happening for [P.] under his very nose.
I was thinking to myself today as [P.] was leading the liturgy, it wouldn't be unlike him, when and if he makes the decision, to go without any warning at all, not even the slightest.
And then there is that Pastoral Statement addressed to "all pastors and congregations", the one that didn't go to my congregations, didn't go to me, or Peter Holmes, and which contains false information about us.
Actually I just noticed that there were only twelve months leave granted in those district office minutes, and not the two years that I reauested. It is probably immaterial, given the fact that I will probably be resigning from the ministry long before that.