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notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK
Sunday, September 22, 2002Shepherds, partners, lovers My talk at Compline tonight was brief and my body ached as I gave it, as it's been one of those days of non-stop services. Ten o'clock, midday, three and then six-thirty. With virtually no gaps inbetween this would have felt like liturgical overload were it not that it has been a day of rare celebration.
At midday we celebrated a couple's twenty-five years of marriage, a valued church couple who renewed their vows in a simple but special act of commitment.
Before that we had celebrated Leslie Bruce's thirty years in the priesthood. Leslie, a Holy Trinity man throughout his long life, was Liverpool's first non-stipendary minister, then called a 'worker-priest', and his parish ministry parallelled his work as a GP in one of Liverpool's more deprived areas, L8, through some of that area's worst times. He's shocked one or two patients over the years by visiting them in his clerical collar, causing them to wonder if their number was up. He's a sage and good-humoured old man now; and as a rookie priest I gain from working alongside him.
Then at All Hallows Allerton a massive service - to mark Archdeacon of Liverpool Bob Metcalf's retirement. Bob was Rector of Holy Trinity from 1975-1994. And Bob's ties with Trinity remain close. There were many Trinity folk at his retirement service today. And hundreds of others besides, for he and Rachel have had (to use James Jones' word) an extraordinary ministry in the parishes they've served and throughout Liverpool. Boiling down quite simply to being lovers of people, practical, pastoral and uncomplicated.
I got to know Bob a bit as a member of a group he chaired, recommending various projects for support from the Church Urban Fund. An enjoyable task enabling local churches with a concern for social justice to work out their concerns practically. And more recently he's been on the end of the phone when I've needed help and advice, constant and consistent.
So, having had quite enough church services for a while, thank you very much, nevertheless tonight I salute these people of committment - shepherds, partners, most of all lovers of rare quality.