Wales was wet this weekend. For all that, we enjoyed time with the family, and managed to visit Aberglasney Gardens (about which, more on the Anglo Catholic blog). We also worshipped on Sunday with Fr Graham Francis and his folk at St Mary the Docks, which is always a good experience. Best of all, though, en route we stopped in Salisbury for lunch and ran into old friends purely by chance. We were able to sit and talk with them over a pub lunch.
Since we were together in Hessle, David has been incumbent of a vast Hull housing estate parish, while his wife has been holding down a teaching job and looking after their family. For the last ten years he has been Rural Dean of the City. We talked, of course, about old times; but he also said how glad he was to be handing the RD task over to a successor. Like many dioceses, York has devolved responsibility for assessing parish shares to the deaneries; but it has also kept power - the power to decide where the money is to be spent - at "the centre". It all smacks of 'taxation without representation', and it may end in the same way as that previous experience in the Americas; that is to say, revolt.
How can the parishes go on raising ever more money while they are given no chance to say how that money ought to be spent? Each priest is reckoned to cost £40k; yet incompetent clergy are still being appointed to parishes which would be better off without them - any peg seems to do, so long as the hole is filled, however inappropriately. At 'the centre' the bureaucracy ploughs on undiminished, and meanwhile dioceses refuse to face the facts about bankruptcy. It cannot continue. Will more and more parishes dig in their heels and refuse to pay? Or will it be the setting up of the Ordinariates which will bring the whole shaky edifice tumbling down? If so, no doubt the blame will be laid at the feet of those who have decided the C of E is past redemption rather than the profligates who have wasted our inheritance.
Like so many priests I come across, my friend is looking forward to retirement. I just hope there is something left in the pot to pay him, for he has given years of devoted service to a church which seems always to ignore its hardest workers, while giving preferment to those who have never dirtied their hands with parish ministry. Oh, it is good to be retired!