Sabbatical has not meant a break from every duty as vicar. I have been a member of the Diocese of Lichfield golf team for the past seven years and have so played in the annual Ecclesiastical Insurance Inter-Diocesan golf competition on Wednesday. We gather at the beautiful Warwickshire Golf Club for 36 holes of golf, singles in the morning and foresomes in the afternoon. We didn’t win any prizes this year, partly because I couldn’t putt for peanuts (my scorecard shows a woeful 38 putts, and that doesn’t include 4 from the fringe, 42 putts!)
I have played with many interesting and experienced colleagues over the past eight years, even with someone who was made a bishop the next day, but never with a bishop, until this week. Lichfield was paired with Rochester this year, so Will Slater and I played with James Langstaff and Mark Barker, the vicar of St Stephens Tonbridge. One of the unspoken rules of the day is to leave work behind, enjoy the golf, putting permitting, the company and creation. I think we just about managed that.
On Thursday, I did battle with the M6 and M1 again to visit Garry Williams, my study supervisor, to ask him for theological support in drafting the study guide, which is now called “Why should I go to church?” We spent two and half hours sitting at Garry’s dining room table discussing covenant theology and the wording or phrasing of the first three questions of the study guide. We kept pulling books from his library shelves, and sharing what we knew of historical covenant theology, the function of signs, the threefold nature of death, personal eschatology and what God does in a communion service. I have found supervision to be personally stretching and theologically refreshing. The added challenge of expressing profound, mysterious and complex theological concepts and realities in simple English makes clarity essential. The result of three weeks of study is: an increased love of God; a greater desire to worship him in spirit and truth; a deeper appreciation of God’s work in word AND sacrament; a resolution to teach new and mature Christians alike, what we do in church rather than dumb down the service and a personal revival of the love of theological study.
The study guide is a long way from completion, but here’s the latest draft. If you read my earlier draft, you’ll be able to see the differences Garry Williams made, as he helped me tighten up both the theology and wording of the first three questions.