As many of you may have gathered, I am now working in a new Diocese. I was formerly in the Diocese of Oxford, an organisation that sponsored my vocation, trained me, ordained me and gave me my Title - and for all of that I will hold the Diocese, and its people, close to my heart.
Sadly, for priests of my particular breed (more especially those of us at an earlier stage in priestly ministry or those of us with no sense of calling to rural ministry - or both) there are few/no incumbent's jobs to speak of. That is the way of things, whatever my thoughts and feelings - and I was required to make my own luck.
So here I am, happily in place in a new Diocese. It is a strange transition, mostly because it is unexpected. In the context of parochial ministry, one learns the lay of the land, the names of the right people to talk to. This happens by osmosis rather than deliberately, and so it is that a new set of people and processes needs to be learned.
Yesterday proved to me what a wonderful diverse diocese London is. Within the one working day, I was sat at one point next to a (very amusing and entirely decent) priest from the Cathedral Church of The Holy Trinity in the Archdiocese of Brompton; later the same day I was seated next to the (equally amusing and entirely decent) Incumbent of All Saints Margaret Street, a liturgical Mecca to those of my disposition. Both were normal things to do in a normal day in the Diocese of London. Furthermore, at one end of the day I was sharing a room with a man whose voice I have heard on Pause for Thought for years; the other end of the day I was exchanging pleasantries with another man whose voice is heard on television and radio (and who has an interest in media, including blogs I was delighted to learn). Just a normal day.
In every sense - be that ministerially, personally, emotionally, socially, geographically and also through the lens of my children's eyes and those of the fragrant Mrs Acular, I am daily reminded of the rightness of moving here to west London. I am surrounded by priests and Christians of such breadth and of all shades of tradition. Frankly, it is breathtaking what a difference it makes to life. The price was paid mostly by my amazing and supportive wife who had to suspend her career, and perhaps in a few decibels of aircraft noise.
One of my greatest fears for the Church is that it becomes the same - that the monied organisations feed off of the cadavers of the dead (broke) churches and make them all the same. Breadth, variety, difference, dialogue, less corporate image, more quirkiness - all of those things will see the Church live on. A few months ago, I feared becoming a marginal Christian of a bygone age. Now, I am still a marginal Christian of a bygone age, but now I am but one of the necessary shades of priestly expression that makes up the remarkable tapestry that is the Diocese of London.