Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Proposed closure of Seal Post Office - download a petition form here

Many people in the village were shocked and dismayed to hear that the post office was one of those scheduled for closure. It is clear that it isn't currently financially viable, and this seems to be the main reason why it has been chosen for closure - it just doesn't get enough trade. However, for many of those who do use it, it is a lifeline. Apart from the obvious things like posting parcels, there are still people who need to use it to collect benefits in cash, or to get cash from their bank accounts - there's no cash machine in the village or anywhere near it.

As ever, those who will suffer most tend to be those who may already find life a struggle - elderly or disabled people and those who cannot afford to run a car. Around 12 % 1 in 9) of the households in the village don't have a car - a surprisingly large number. There is a bus service but anyone who uses it, as I do, will know that it is rather patchy, especially in the afternoons. There are no bus shelters in the centre of the village, or at the next nearest local post offices, leaving people sometimes facing a long wait in the wind and the rain for a bus.

There are alternatives, though - something which is not entirely clear from the official literature the Post Office has distributed. Mobile post offices can be provided, or "hosted" services, using existing community buildings. A petition has been drawn up, asking the Post Office network managers to consider such options for Seal. You can sign this petition in the church or in Highland Printers in the High Street. You could also download a copy here, and gather some signatures from those around you. Simply send me the petition form by 1st Nov and I will send it on to the Post Office for their consultation deadline of 12th Nov.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Trouble in the Anglican Communion

The Anglican Communion, as most people are probably aware, has been in more than usual turmoil recently. I have written a little about this in this month's Parish Magazine . In brief, following the consecration of Gene Robinson, a gay man living in a committed relationship with a same-sex partner, as Bishop of New Hampshire, many Anglicans in other parts of the world, as well as some in the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) have been protesting vehemently. It is an immensely complicated situation, made more difficult by the actions of other provinces of the Anglican church who have now consecrated bishops to minister to congregations in ECUSA who are unhappy about the church's liberal stance on homosexuality. Normally it would be unthinkable for national churches to trespass on the territory of others; while we support each other as members of the Anglican Communion, we also recognise each others' independence.

There are multiple arguments involved; about church government, the interpretation of the Bible, the nature of truth, the nature of unity, and, of course, human sexuality and its expression.
The Anglican church has traditionally been very good at containing a wide variety of opinion and practice (we are the original "broad church"!), but there now seems to be an increasing likelihood of a split, not only between national churches of the Anglican Communion but also within them. There are pressures being brought to bear on church leaders, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, to insist on far tighter control on theological and moral issues, with far more closely defined boundaries of what is acceptable in doctrine and practice than hitherto. Queen Elizabeth I famously said that the Church of England should not be in the business of "making windows into mens' souls". The bitter turmoil of religious dissent had marked her own life and caused immense pain and suffering to her nation. While she tried to unite people into one church, she knew the danger of trying too tightly to define what people believed. The Church of England had been born out of a conviction that theological understanding and practice could and should change over time. The government of the church locally rather than from Rome, the Bible and liturgy in English, the abolition of requirement for clerical celibacy - all these had come in in her own lifetime, and each had aroused fierce controversy which had cost many lives on each side. She knew well that what some call an insistence on maintaining a changeless truth can very easily slip into religious intolerance, with disastrous results for all involved.

Everyone will have their own opinions on the rights and wrongs of the issues involved in this dispute. What matters is that we are all aware of the possible implications of the current situation and the threats to the traditional Anglican values of openness, inclusivity and the willingness to consider changes in doctrine and practice over time. If these are things we value they will also be things we will have to speak up to support in the time that lies ahead.

You can read more from Ekklesia, Thinking Anglicans, or the Church Times.