A Nasty Aftertaste

Sometimes, we open a bottle of wine and begin to discover the liquid sealed inside the bottle for many years. We usually anticipate something out of this world as we sniff the cork and leave the bottle to breathe for a while. As the first glass is poured, we look at the colour, and then we swirl it around the glass. We take a first taste, and the vital thing about good wine is the aftertaste. It is what remains after the wine is swallowed and we concentrate on what we can still taste.

My postings about churches and seeking either respectability or unity for the sake of healing the divisions between Christians have proved to be provocative. Unfortunately, people lose control and the semi-anonymous come swooping in for the kill. I haven’t moderated posters because I believe in people being entitled to their opinion and getting discussions going. Some are quite “radical”. I prefer to learn from my late friend in Oxford, Dr Ray Winch, who was always polite and above all modest as a historian and academic. My own father taught me to avoid trying to be self-important, but rather to achieve in life and say nothing about it. I remember also my old parish priest in the parish of Bouloire, a stubborn and determined man, but so self-effacing and good with all. He said the old Mass to the end of his life.

I have several times been tempted to go to America for the sake of something like a “normal” ministry as a priest. Each time, something made me pull back, usually some kind of crankiness that would destroy the trust I had in a given person. I thought we English were the Perfidious Albion, and the French can be two-faced at times, but nothing compared with a number of persons who let me down outre Atlantique. Fortunately, the down-letting occurred before I made any irrevocable commitments! These things happen, and I have a way to avoid disappointments – be unambitious in life and don’t stick your neck out lest it get chopped off. Be self-effacing. It’s a good lesson to learn.

I have seen this with my reflections on Churches. If Christianity is discredited by division, then there’s not an awful lot left. One thing that endeared me to the Anglican Catholic Church is that it got its act together after the “bishops’ brawl” of the late 1990’s and is reserved in its dialogues with other Churches of the Continuum and elsewhere. Our bishops do have close relationships with other Churches, their clergy and local communities, but we do well to live these relationships as they come without being in a hurry for anything.

Ecclesiology and uniatism are subjects that are too sensitive. For a long time after the election of Pope Francis, things went amazingly quiet, and it is unfortunate that old polemics still resurface from time to time.

The last few years have been hard on me personally, and I have a deep feeling of alienation and inability to relate to churches, clergy and “convinced” believers. I almost feel relieved here in France that most of the people I meet are non-believers, or when they are believers, are rather more of the “liberal” camp. I almost envy those who remained in the parishes and are able to do good and be unconcerned about the polemics. I don’t usually tell people that I’m a priest, though my wife seems to take pride in saying that her husband is an Anglican priest. That revelation invariably results in the same old questions about Henry VIII, Protestantism and the invalidity of our orders. I leave her to do the explaining, because I can’t be bothered!

In my articles The Quest for Recognition and Respectability and An Interesting Write-Up, I tried to be constructive. There have been some interesting comments. I was deeply hurt by some of the comments on John Beeler’s blog. I had the feeling that it was assumed I wouldn’t bother looking at it. Unfortunately, my blog administration page tells me which sites give a link to my blog. Most of the links are automatic and without interest, but some… I am only human even if I have become case-hardened against criticism and rudeness.

I have closed down the comment section on both those pages and this one. I have quite a lot of translating work on this week, and I am getting ready for the Route du Sable very carefully. I have fitted mooring cleats to my boat and have refined my anchoring system, because there will be places where the boat will have to be moored and not pulled out of the water. The preparation is almost as absorbing as the event itself! Yesterday, we had a little music school concert, and we all sang works by Ravel and Fauré, and in the evening we had a good meal with some old friends. This morning, I celebrated the Mass of St Alban with the memories of Corpus Christi and the First Sunday after Trinity – entirely alone as my wife messed about in the kitchen. That is my lot in life.

We open old wounds at our peril. At our last Synod, I was elected onto our Bishop’s Council of Advice. We have a meeting next month. The encouraging thing if that we have new clergy, new blood in our Diocese, and I am concerned to participate as much as possible in everything we can do to further our mission. I have not been called to be a pastor, but perhaps I can teach through a ministry of the word. This little diocese has given me life after my spiritual shipwreck in 2011-12. That is something to which I can relate and not be made to feel dead within and destroyed spiritually.

I have my e-mail on anthony.chadwick( AT )wanadoo.fr – and you are welcome to write. I will spend much of my week in bits of rope and sailcloth. I look forward to the weekend, and without doubt I will bounce back with lessons learned from experience. A quiet week will do a lot of good.

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