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Vicar's Musings for the First Sunday in Advent

1 December, 2013

The St Peter's AGM went well last Sunday, with more than seventy parishioners in attendance. The Vicar's, Churchwardens' and Treasurer's reports were well received, and four important motions were carried by a clear majority of those present, including Motion 8.1 "Women's Ordination" which passed unanimously after a full debate in which opinionsĀ from across the spectrum of opinion were respectfully expressed and received. There is now a clear mandate for the parish to embark on a nine-month "period of formal listening and prayerful, pastoral discernment on the question of the ministry of ordained women at St Peter's."

As you can imagine, my phone and e-mail have been running hot this week, and I've had some good conversations with both concerned and delighted parishioners. There is one thing I need to make very clear, however, as we now move forward as a parish: motion 8.1 is about setting up a listening process, it is not about making any immediate changes to the way we worship at St Peter's Eastern Hill. In one sense, nothing has changed, Mass on Sunday we be no different from usual. What will now happen is that we will continue the important parish conversation that began on Sunday.

"What will this formal period of listening and discernment look like?" is a question on many people's lips. Well, to be frank, we don't yet know. It would have been presumptuous of your Vicar and Vestry to prejudge the outcome of the AGM. But be assured, the details of the process are now being carefully and prayerfully considered, and by the time of the first meeting of the new Vestry at the end of January we will have worked out a clear way forward that will be well communicated with all parishioners. Although the details have yet to be worked out and added to the church calendar, be assured that the process will include such things as open forums, the circulation of discussion papers, and above all the opportunity for everyone to express their thoughts and concerns around the question of women priests.

My thanks to all at the AGM who contributed to this and the other three motions, and for the loving spirit in which our parish business was conducted. It was good to see such full support for the visit of the Rt Rev'd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, and the planned Parish MissionĀ in July 2015. The short but heart-felt debate around our implementation the Diocesan Prevention of Violence Against Women programme in the parish was profoundly moving. Also encouraging was the willingness of the parish to look beyond ourselves and continue our support for St Peter's Fawkner. I have a strong sense of our parish moving together into the future, and for that I give thanks to God.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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