Every Friday I check out the jobs page of The Church Times to see if there is any position I could go for. Recently I have been quite positively thinking about moving to a different part of the country to find employment. However, yesterday it suddenly dawned on me that I might have a problem doing this due to the present archbishop of Canterbury’s not giving me permission to officiate during his brief stay in the diocese of Durham. So I checked this out with another bishop, who advises me on technical matters from time to time. He told me that any new diocese would need a letter from my diocese of present abode stating that I was in good standing and that without permission to officiate the chances of me getting such a recommendation are extremely slim. So, it appears that, between them, Bishop Wharton and Bishop Welby have now managed to completely scupper any chance I may have had to fulfil my vocation in life. It does seem particularly unfair that I can be stopped from carrying out my “trade,” the one I have trained for and given so much for (in time, effort and money) by one man without any due process being involved.
And, of course, it works the other way for some. Being a favourite or a friend of a bishop can be very profitable. They will swear blind that they always follow the correct protocol, but they don’t. They know how to wield influence in such a way so they get what they want. I went for a post once that involved two parishes. One parish decided, after the interview, that they wanted me, but the other parish, the stronger, more middle class of the two, decided it wanted a woman priest, who was a friend of the bishop and who wanted to leave her husband (also a parish priest) and urgently needed somewhere of her own to live. The bishop was in the meeting where the decision to appoint the woman was made. I can’t prove anything, of course. But that is how people in power, who abuse their power, tend to get away with “it.”
I am feeling particularly down about my situation at the moment. Not only am I in the middle of a period of very uncomfortable depression (it doesn’t feel like Christ has risen for me, to be honest), but there was a news report the other day stating that the Scottish author, Ian Banks, is dying of cancer. He is only 59 years old and so the future is going to lose all that he would have created had he lived to a ripe old age. As someone who reckons that Ian Banks is Britain’s greatest living writer, his death will be a bereavement of a sort. And it will be a type of bereavement that I am already feeling in respect of my own life. I am not the healthiest of people. I do not expect to live to a ripe old age myself. This in itself does not worry me too much but the thought that, because of my constructive dismissal from the only job that I am any good at, and happy doing, I will never create that which I am compelled from the very centre of my being to want to create, is a pain that keeps me awake most nights.
People tell me I should just move on. But if I could “just move on” I should never have been a priest in the first place. Because of the nature of priesthood as I, rightly or wrongly, perceive it, if I move on from it I will be invalidating everything I have worked for in my life. I would invalidate my life. It is possible that I would invalidate my faith and anything I have achieved in the name of my faith.
I have also been told that I should embrace life as it now is for me, that life is a gift. That is easy to say if you have been blessed with a sunny or stoical disposition. Personally, at this moment in time, life seems less of a gift and more of a kick in the bollocks as far as I’m concerned. That will be the black dog talking but that doesn’t mean that it is an inaccurate description of my existence.