Paul writes – I came across this very thoughtful reflection by Monica Furlong (1930-2003). Speaking in 1960 to a group of Ordinands in Durham, she responds to the statement “I want priests who dare to be…”
Here’s what she said (and I’ve updated the language in a couple of places to reflect the reality that in NZ women are able to be ordained and to serve as priests and Bishops within the Anglican tradition):
“[Priest’s, ministers, pastors] are in for a growing loneliness, of being misunderstood. I suggest that this will only be endurable if they expect this, understand the reasons for it, and do not cast too many envious glances over their shoulders at the circumstances of their predecessors.
I am clear about what I want from the clergy. I want them to be people who can, by their own happiness and contentment challenge my ideas about status, success and money and so teach me how to live more independently of such drugs.
I want them to be people who can dare, as I do not dare, and as few of my contemporaries dare to refuse to work flat out and to refuse to work more strenuously than me.
I want them to be people who dare because they are secure enough in the value of what they are doing to have time to read, to sit and think, and who face the emptiness and possible depression which often attacks people when they do not keep the surface of their mind occupied.
I want them to be people who have faced this kind of loneliness and discovered how fruitful it is, and I want them to be people who have faced the problem of prayer.
I want them to be people who can sit still without feeling guilty and from who I can learn some kind of tranquility in a society, which has almost lost the art.
It may be true that it is only in so far as the clergy start by exploring their inner loneliness and its relation to Christian belief that all their hard work is going to reach others who, for one reason or another, are alone, and so begin to heal our society.
If they do not begin from a vast clearing of quietness around the offering of worship, a quietness which they can discover who they are and so enter into genuine relationships with others, then they are indeed second-rate social workers, and it were better that they were swept away.
But I have a great hope that the clergy will rise to this challenge as historically they have risen so admirably to others.
From here I want to suggest that the [Priest, Minister, Pastor’s] great strength will be the fact that s/he has no strength except the strength of love. S/he is closer to Christ… because like Christ, S/he has so few defences against the world.
Without any certainty that it is going to be appreciated or understood s/he goes out to other people, able only to offer his/her relationship with God, his/her longing to help, to love and to heal. S/he is prepared to be vulnerable, to make [themselves’ a fool in a way which only… Christians still attempt.”
Also of interest to those of you who got this points might be this paper: Binding and Loosing for Theologians: A short paper for the colloquium: Theology for Church and World: The Priestly Vocation of the Theologian (PDF). UPDATED. The author/speaker was James Walters (Westcott 2003-07). It was delivered on the 2nd February 2008. The paper was given by the Revd Dr James Walters (now curate of Hampstead Parish Church) at a Colloquium entitled 'Theology for Church and World: The Priestly Vocation of the Theologian' in honour of the Revd Professor Dan Hardy who died on 15 November 2007.