Peter Wheatley


Eve of Sunday (July). To St Alban’s, Holborn for the Golden Wedding Celebration of Simon and Diana Jones. Fr Keith Jones’ sermon pointed out how in some marriages one partner’s personality seems to have been submerged – but emphatically not in this case. I have noticed too in religious communities that a member’s individuality seems to grow over the years but in a family likeness. 

Sunday at Christ Church, St Leonards on Sea. We began a ‘family’ mass during lockdown, a classic way to expand the congregation. The recommended way is to gather a group to pray and become committed. We didn’t have that luxury but now it shows small signs of growth and is a welcome tool of evangelisation. Catholic worship doesn’t all have to be ‘pomp and circumstance’ and this is behind more interactive attempts for generations whose attention span is conditioned by quick moving images on screen. Our 19th century forebears were good at addressing the working-class culture in which they found themselves. Now the cultural scene is more diverse. We need to be more venturesome in how we offer the Mass but always with what Pope Francis calls ‘a correct understanding of inculturation’ (On the Formation of the People of God: 49). 

Monday. Funeral in Cambridge of Judy, a close friend. From diagnosis of cancer to her death was two weeks. We pray: ‘Lord, let me know mine end and the number of my days’ (Psalm 39.5) but perhaps few listen to the answer. Judy’s talented daughters read poems and sensitive tributes but then her husband struck up Celtic tunes on his fiddle from mournful to rhythmic, and the family and large congregation began clapping in time. One daughter spontaneously danced a jig. From that release of emotion there followed an intense stillness into which scripture and prayer spoke.

Tuesday a.m. For school I prepared a collective worship on the Parable of the Lost Sheep. I felt like one when I arrived to find a sports presentation had been substituted and was relegated to the infants, who sang beautifully.

Wednesday. Bishops’ meeting in Chichester. Bishop Martin laid out a draft of forward-looking plans for the next three years. As an honorary assistant bishop I appreciate being included and our varied ministry encouraged. Lunch in the Palace garden. I remembering being told as a new bishop that one’s job was simply to bless (or not) and show hospitality. 

Thursday. A school-leavers’ service in a packed Church: a medley of worship songs and moving prayers. Our Church primary school provides a foundation for faith but how will that be built upon? 

Friday. To Church House Westminster for a Trustees’ meeting of St Luke’s Healthcare for the Clergy. When I was first a trustee, we had a hospital and a fleet of first-class honorary consultants. As a small outfit, we couldn’t keep up with one-size-fits-all regulations for hospitals and we were forced to sell. St Luke’s has always prided itself on accepting clergy in their need without means testing but the Clergy Support Trust with larger funds has widened its remit to healthcare and simplified procedures. Meanwhile the demand, particularly during the pandemic, for psychiatric and psychological referrals has grown, clergy valuing St Luke’s independence from the ‘hierarchy’. From small beginnings it has developed a countrywide network of wellbeing provision – seminars to prevent burn-out and reflective practice groups, where clergy meet in confidence with a trained facilitator over a period of time to think together about their ministry and learn perhaps to minister with greater insight into others and themselves. St Luke’s focus is now on these areas and we are still reliant on the generosity of donors.

Saturday. I am preparing for the five-yearly episcopal Visitation next week to the Sisters SSM in Walsingham, accompanied by Sister Margaret Teresa SLG. There are only two Sisters resident now. Is it possible to allow someone to test there her vocation to the religious life? The Society of St Margaret is admittedly larger than just at Walsingham. The resources of local clergy, stipendiary and retired, are ample to form with the Sisters a teaching programme as part of formation and the Sisters are fortunate in having Bishop Robert Ladds as their new Chaplain. ‘As Jesus in their neighbour is the object of the Sisters’ active work, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the light and centre of their spiritual life’ (Constitution). Their life is a balance between the active and the contemplative and service in the Shrine and in the Parish offers much scope for good. 

Sunday. Announcement of a new Rector – general rejoicing. On leaving his curacy John Keble writes that the people ‘have had a good three years to wind themselves around him’.  I feel that same entanglement of heart but also gratitude for greater freedom.