Only those with friends in the clergy find themselves at Institutions on a reasonably regular basis. For those who don’t, they are really more like marriages than any other kind of service. You have two entities coming together in the hope of a happy and fruitful partnership. You have splendid copes, and ardent prayers, beautiful flowers and (last night) truly truly glorious music. You know an awful awful lot of work has gone into it all – not just the service but the choice of partners. You know that such relationships can be joyous and lead to the growth of both partners. You also know they are rarely totally plain sailing.
Last night a friend of mine was joined in lawful incumbency with a new parish. I shed more than a few tears at the beauty of the service, and even to me, unmusical as I am – oh the music. And at the sense of things going very right.
Kelvin told us: ‘She will make your adults play and she will listen to your children with the utmost seriousness.’ And she will. The bishop told me: ‘Her spirituality is her greatest gift.’ I replied that it was great, but greater is her ability to find and grow the talents of others at expense to herself. He agreed that is the greatest gift in ministry. I have warned them they will find the Bible larger than they supposed. They don’t ask you ‘incumbent or congregation’? But handing such a person over to a new congregation is always done with just the tiniest catch in the throat.
But from what I saw of Dunblane last night they are a congregation with a big heart and huge talents themselves. I could not be happier or more hopeful about this marriage.