Ah, those now famous words so often on the lips of the character Corporal Jones in the long running TV war time sit com ‘Dad’s Army’. Jones would say those words always in a state of agitation himself – perhaps at hearing the warning of imminent invasion - reminding us that we so often presume that other people may feel the same way as we do about someone and therefore react similarly. Not always true of course. Those around him, the various characters of the Walmington-on-sea platoon, were more often quite calm or at least rather more resolute in the face of challenge than poor old Jones.
Anyway I mention this fascinating detour down memory lane because ‘Don’t Panic’ is very much the key message for the Anglican Chaplaincy in Palma at the moment. Not everyone will feel this of course but over the last few weeks we’ve been holding some very interesting meetings to have a look at the way that we might configure the ministry of the Chaplaincy over the coming years.
We’ve been given an opportunity in one sense as both Fr Nigel who was Chaplain at Puerto Pollensa up until earlier this year, and now of course myself as well, have or are both leaving post. So it means that for a while there will be no full time Church of England clergy on the island. This is where ‘Don’t Panic’ starts to come in because this is not a problem!
We are fortunate in our Diocese in Europe, of which the C of E in Majorca is a small part, to be able to employ what are called ‘locum priests’. These are often recently retired clergy who rather like the idea of coming out to somewhere a bit warmer that the UK, having the flights paid for, being given a bit of pocket money, free accommodation and a car and then taking services and generally looking after things while they are here. It’s a bit of a busman’s holiday in one sense, but without any of the financial costs! Looks like a bargain to me guv!
Anyway it means that there will always be a priest or two around to do all of the public duties that a full time chaplain gets involved in. What a locum is not expected to do is anything more than the services and pastoral work. So no meetings to attend or chair for example (sounds like another benefit doesn’t it!), and they are not here as leaders in the community so they do not have to make any changes. Just maintain business as usual!
Now the meetings I spoke of above have been held to encourage general discussion on what sort of ‘shape’ the ministry of our chaplains might take in the immediate future. Because we have an opportunity and a challenge before us. The opportunity is that as there is, by coincidence as it were, a vacancy in both churches then there might be the possibility of creating a new sort of pattern of what a priest does within the Chaplaincy and for the island. The challenge is that at the same time both churches are concerned about how they might fund such a post or posts.
The key in both of these for the Anglican Chaplaincy here of Majorca is not to panic and rush into something that is either too cautious or too extravagant without at least thinking it all through a bit. Hence our open meetings.
You will understand that for us as church communities on the island, well we need to do what is at the heart of our work here, and provide a view of human life that is of God. This may mean offering physical space, a warm welcome, being inclusive places promoting a sense of belong, proclaiming the Good News, showing that God is already in the world and being a place that tries to promote a life of ‘love’ and ‘service’ as the core of all of this.
You may have you own definitions of what the church is for to add to that list, but the issue is the same. It’s a question then of how can we responsibly provide proper leadership of these communities that will allow these sorts of aims to become real.
So forgive me for writing what is I guess essentially a church based article this week, but I wanted people to know the sort of potential change that the chaplaincy across the island is going through at the moment so that you can hold us in your thoughts and prayers as we move forward.
So we are a chaplaincy community where Corporal Jones wise words our ours at the moment – ‘Don’t Panic! Because in the end something new and good and of God will come out of the sense of uncertainty around at the moment.