BOC Conference at Mickfield - Printable Version
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BOC Conference at Mickfield - John Charmley - 10-05-2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
A brief opening word in what I hope will be a longer thread discussing some of the issues which came out of the conference today, just to say a thank you to everyone who was there. It was wonderful to see so many of us together, and for newcomers such as myself, a particular privilege and pleasure to see those who had travelled from Cusworth.
An idyllic summer's day in the Suffolk countryside in a medieval church with fellow pilgrims on our journey - it does not, as they say, get much better. It would be invidious to single any one talk out, and I, for one, am just amazed at Peter Farrington's stamina and ability to do so many for us; but perhaps an exception might be made for the inspiring address by Fr. Seraphim Mina? I suspect I speak for us all in saying that it was a privilege to listen to such an exposition on the role of the priest.
I hope others will feel free to post their thoughts and that we can carry forward some of the themes from what was a splendid and blessed event.
We are much in the debt of Mark and Faith Wright and their band of helpers who looked after us so well. Their recognition of the unique atmosphere at St. Andrew's and their restoration of it is, indeed, a great witness. As Fr. Seraphim Mina put it: 'If you ever decide to found a monastery here, I'm signing up first!'
- Robin Westwood - 11-05-2008
Yes, I agree with all you have said. The day was a joy to all who attended, the venue and hosts truly inspiring in the Franciscan way of 'hospitality comes first'. It was also lovely to be back in the Suffolk countryside again after having left Suffolk for the West of England in the 90's, the countryside around St. Andrews was particularly colourful with rape seed fields and wild flowers which were a joy to see.
The talks by our various members and speakers were truly remarkable and I am sure much time had gone into preparing them for the event. I look forward to being able to listen to them again when released on a CD.
I hope that we may be able have an annual BOC Day, which brings members and fellowship members together to learn, worship and make new friends. It was lovely to meet the Cusworth clergy and people yesterday and indeed makes me feel 'not as isolated' as I think I am sometimes.
Thank you all for a wonderful day, which I shall remember for a longtime to come, and I look forward to seeing again in the future.
Thanks again to the good people of St. Andrews for making myself and our group so welcome. I was lucky to have come up the day before and had St. Andrews to myself for a while and it was a joy to say evening prayer with Mark at 6pm on the Friday evening, the bird song and light through the windows of the church will stay with me for many months to come.
God Bless you all.
Further thoughts - John Charmley - 11-05-2008
Thank you for sharing something of your own joy in the day we spent together; it was a joy for us that you were there.
One of the significant, and to me moving, things was the way in which without any attempt at coordination, all the papers flowed together in the same direction.
Peter started us off well with a very moving talk on Orthodoxy and evangelism, in which he rightly reminded us that evangelism is something we can all do every day by living the Christian life in its Orthodox fulness. It is easy to lose sight of this in plans for grander 'initiatives'. Sheila Smyth reminded us that we should not forget the unique gifts brought to the Church by women, and along with Michael Kennedy's reminder about the importance of the diaconate, and Fr. Serpahim Mina's talk on the priesthood, we came away with a much fuller understanding of how each of us is a member of the body of Christ, and that we each have our role to play - and, as in any body, things work better when every part plays its role and works for the common cause.
Abba Seraphim's address reminded us not only of the way in which we fit into the broader picture of Christianity in the UK, but also of the world-wide role of the Church; but at the same time, he brought us back to the Ignatian vision of the Church being fully there when united around its bishop. It certainly felt like that yesterday. But I wonder if he realised the extent to which he, himself, has contributed to that? We are truly blessed in him and in our priests.
I came to the day feeling more or less exhausted with other things going on in my life - but came away feeling truly blessed and better able to get things into perspective.
It would be good to have such a meeting annually. Perhaps we should run a poll here on that?
- admin - 12-05-2008
I have to say that I enjoyed the Study Day very much indeed. It was perfect. I can think of nothing that could have been improved.
As others have said, it was wonderful to see how the Holy Spirit brought everything together. There were no jarring notes. Every presentation had the same Spirit and contributed to the same message, even though we had not had the opportunity to collaborate.
I would like to thank Abba Seraphim for organising this event, and I hope that he feels his efforts to have been richly rewarded in a variety of ways. It was very good to spend such a worthwhile day with friends from so many places.
Glor be to God!
- Michael Kennedy - 12-05-2008
Yes, Jan and I enjoyed the conference very much indeed. I agree very much with what people are saying. The venue was perfect and the atmosphere was positive throughout, exactly what one would want from a Christian gathering. I would like to see this as an annual event with perhaps more fellowship members present on future occasions, if possible.
The content was likewise excellent throughout and a tour de force from Peter! But a couple of corrections - Fr Simon spoke on the diaconite. I spoke on the church - the British Orthodox Church and the Churches - and I alluded to the Ignatian definition of the church as centred around its bishop. I agree with you John, Abba Seraphim is a perfect example of that and in defining the church one need look no further than our gathering around him on Saturday, or at any time for that matter. The BOC is demonstrably the church in all its fullness.
However, some constructive criticism is always useful if we intend to build on an event like this. For me, while the content was as I have said generally excellent throughout there was too much of it for a one-day conference. We had in effect eight papers presented which is probably twice what was needed and a test of everyone's ability to concentrate on and assimilate the substantial points being made. Perhaps with less to get through we would have more time for discussion and reflection. In a charitible Christian context such as this we need have no fear of discussion, even of disagreement. More time like this would increase the opportunities for fellowship too which would not be time wasted.
These points are not intended to be negative. I thought the conference was a real success and I got a lot out of it. But if we are truly to benefit from the experience then some sound evaluation and reflection is required.
- John Charmley - 13-05-2008
Thanks for correcting my mistaken attributions! Sorry about that.
I am glad that, thus far, we all think this is worth repeating. It is good to have some discussion about the format, and perhaps others could let us know their view? There is certainly nothing fixed about the number of contributions. One of the things that I think worked well was the common theme. Where we have that there should, perhaps, as you suggest, be more space for discussion.
- Michael - 16-05-2008
As one unable to attend the day in Mickfield having only recently joined the BOF forum, I was interested and encouraged to read how successful the day was, but more importantly that it was conducted in a spirit of open Christian fellowship.
As a priest in the Anglican Church, I would very much have liked to hear the talk on the priesthood, because there seems to be a growing confusion and fragmentation over what priesthood means within the Church of England.
I would value any comments about the role of the priest in the 'care of souls' within the Orthodox tradition and how that care is rooted in prayer in the life of the priest. Something that in my own tradition is often only given 'lip-service'.
I have recently completed in my own diocese a course on the leadership role of the clergy, which took much of its content from a business model and consequently, for me, lacked any spiritual depth or theological rigor.
- John Charmley - 16-05-2008
I am sorry, but hardly surprised (alas) that the 'business model' has penetrated into the training of Anglican clergy.
In many ways what was said about the role of the priest was the antithesis of any such approach. His role within the body of Christ that is the Church is to be the icon of the bishop and the shepherd of his flock - not the book-keeper, the committee 'chair' or the fundraiser in chief; he is neither middle manager nor CEO, he is the crucial celebrant in the Liturgy, but he cannot perform his role without the deacons, and none can perform a role without the laity - so that chain of unity that makes us one family in God was a key part of the message of the day - we really do pray for the Holy Spirit to be with the priest, even as he calls Him down upon us: we really are one in Him.
The importance of the diaconate was emphasised, since it is they who are the link between priest and laity, and their job is to take on those things which might otherwise distract from the roles that can only be played by the priest.
It would be good to hear from others on this important issue, and to have some of your own thoughts.
- Michael - 18-05-2008
After being ordained for 18 years much of what you say rings true in my own heart and understanding of priesthood.
I come originally from a background that has a 'low' view of priesthood, but over the years increasingly within me I sense the importance of 3 words in your comments - 'celebrant', 'shepherd', and 'icon'.
To be well prepared in mind and spirit for the celebration of the Eucharist is for me of primary significance and crucial to the gathering together of God's people for worship. The preparation of the sermon, the leading of intercessions, and the celebration of the Eucharist are important to me, and I do give a lot of time during the week preparing for Sunday worship.
Being the 'shepherd' is also of importance to me and consequently I have declined over the years to sit on various diocesan committees that would be better served by lay folk, thus giving me more time for pastoral care in my parishes. Seeking to be as Christ (with all my shortcomings) in the midst of the people is an integral part of my vocation.
Being the 'icon' of the bishop is not something I have ever heard mentioned in Anglican circles, or given much thought to. Yes, I represent the bishop in my parishes, but for most he is a distant figure who is a functionary rather than a spiritual father. How in need is the Church of England of spiritual fathers!
Of course, the role of deacon is peripheral to much Anglican thinking, and your comment helps me to see why so much 'stuff' has fallen to the priest in Anglican parishes.
Yet it seems to me increasingly that society ever more needs its priests, and indeed the Anglican Church needs to recover the true meaning of priesthood rather than be obsessed with 'fresh expressions' of being church.
I believe the Orthodox tradition has much to teach me in my exercise of priesthood and I would truly value further comments.