Tuesday, 25 July 2017

We're Off to See the Bishop

After the meeting introducing the proposed new parish share system that caused me so much upset, and some subsequent consultations, I wrote to the bishop outlining the things I was unhappy about, including some of what he specifically had said. 'Frankly I eventually wanted to throw myself under a bus,' I'd told S.D. when I saw him in June. 'Why', he parried, 'didn't you want to throw the bishop under a bus? That would seem like a far more positive response to me.'

As a result of the letter the bishop suggested I come and see him, and I was there this afternoon. It was the first time I'd been upstairs in Willow Grange, the Bishop of Guildford's house, since the occasion eight years ago when our former diocesan told me I should think about Swanvale Halt as a possible next step in my 'career'. The bishop told me that I wasn't the only one to have been unhappy with the language used at the meeting - that line about moving away from a funding system 'which punishes growth and rewards decline' - and apologised for it. He didn't swallow my point about the funding changes representing another stage in a very long-term process of centralisation, stating that 'if that's the impression people get, we have to do something about that'. The bishop took some time explaining again what the reforms were intended to achieve, when I didn't have any particular issue with them as such, and regard something along their lines as inevitable quite apart from matters of equity. He had meetings booked in with clergy from other parishes which were going to be significantly more affected than Swanvale Halt, and who were very unhappy indeed. However the conscious motivations of the actors in an event are often very different from the context in which that event takes place and which sets its parameters, while the actors often find this hard to grasp. They may even not like it when someone else points the context out.

The bishop didn't object to what I'd said that much, although he didn't go along with my analysis. It was a perfectly agreeable hour - not that I ever really expected to be flung into an oubliette or find my head skewered on a railing outside Diocesan House. Fighting my way home through the rush hour traffic was far less congenial. Did the bishop finish our meeting with more understanding than when we started? I certainly found him less guarded than I'd expected, but we will see. 

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