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Mary is the Answer!

2018 February 9
by Gordon Reid

There is a lot of Sturm und Drang at the moment in the American Episcopal Church about Prayer Book revision, and in particular the desire of some to eliminate masculine names and pronouns for God. I understand the reluctance of most women to make the kind of response that has them say “We are your sons”, and wherever I can I say we and us and our when the text says he and him and his. But I refuse to massacre the English language by saying such sentences as “God show’s us God’s love by revealing God’s nature”. So, as you can see, I am sympathetic to some of the discomfort felt by women with some of the masculine language applied to God, but by no means entirely.

I doubt if there is any permanent solution to this problem, but one glaring omission in all this discussion is the position  of Mary within the Godhead. For me to state it thus baldly will raise many a hackle, but it is Catholic doctrine, and Biblically sound, to say with the Epistle of St Peter that our destiny is to be made  ”partakers of the divine nature”. So our Lady is within the Godhead, (as indeed are the saints) and when we pray through her, we are praying directly to God. We ask her to intercede for us as we ask our Lord to intercede for us to the Father. Human language breaks down when we try to express the mystery of the Holy Trinity, but we often forget the truth that the Godhead consists not only of the three divine Persons but also of a myriad of human persons (and, for all we know, myriads of beings of other planets throughout the universe). There is great truth in the saying “Your God is too small”. As St Athanasius puts it: “God became man that we might become God”.

The majority of the world’s Christians are in Africa and South America, and it is laboring the obvious to say that they are among the poorest people on earth.  They have  problems of  hunger, homelessness, disease.  They would no doubt say that Christians must give their time and energy to comforting and consoling and healing and loving their poor brothers and sisters rather than worrying about masculine or feminine nouns and pronouns for God. They would also certainly say  ”What was good enough for Jesus is good enough for us”, and then launch into the Our Father. A great many of them would then launch into the Hail Mary (most of them saying, in the rosary, ten Hail Marys to just one Our Father!). We should admit that the masculinity of the Christian God is a first-world problem. It is actually also almost entirely an English-language problem. If you speak French, both the word Person and the word Trinity are feminine!









Seventy-five today.

2018 January 30
by Gordon Reid



My three-quarter of a century birthday seems like a good time to give thanks for “all the blessings of this life”, as the General Thanksgiving puts it.

I have, in fact, written an autobiography, a memoir of these 75 years, but also an attempt to get down on paper some of the beliefs that have grown within me, especially those concerned with my priesthood, since this year is also my 50th anniversary of priestly ordination (we were almost all ordained at 25 in those days – no nonsense about getting some experience of “life” first – as if there were no life-experiences at school, university and seminary!). The tentative title of this book is “Have Biretta, Will Travel”.

The “travel”  in the title is there because in these seventy-five years, I have had the great good fortune to travel to dozens of countries in every continent except Australia. The “biretta” is there, because for most of my life I have been an Anglo-Catholic of the rather extreme sort who does not feel they have worshipped God well unless they come away from church reeking of incense and uplifted by Mozart Masses and glorious vestments!

But my gentle readers will be glad to hear (well, most of you) that my seventy-five years have taught me that people are much the same, whether they live in Stavanger, Norway, or Ulan Bator, Mongolia, both of which have English churches within my old diocese, the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe. And my years as Vicar-General of that wonderful Diocese have taught me that God can be worshipped just as devoutly and effectively in churches with no birettas or incense – or even maniples. (Most of you surely won’t have to look that up!). So as I enter my second childhood, I now know a great many things that would have been quite useful in my first, and indeed in all my life

It has been a full one. I lived till I was seventeen in two towns in the Scottish Borders, south of Edinburgh. I then got a great deal of “life-experience” during three years at Edinburgh University, a year at the Scottish Episcopal Seminary in Edinburgh, two years at Oxford University, and one year at Cuddesdon College, a Church of England theological college outside Oxford. This all led up to my  ordination by the Bishop of Edinburgh and my assignment to be assistant priest at St Salvador’s Church, Edinburgh. The main prison for the East of Scotland was in our parish, so the Rector and I were the Episcopalian Chaplains to the prison. This led to my having to confess to the Bishop that once, during the Rector’s absence on sick-leave, I had heard the confession of a prisoner and (being at that time only a deacon) had absolved him with the words  ”… and by His authority, which is about to be committed unto me, I absolve thee from all thy sins…” The ultra-liberal but deeply spiritual Bishop Carey pretended to be aghast, but then offered me a sherry and said “Well, I suppose now I will HAVE to ordain you priest, so that that absolution takes effect”.

Then I travelled south for the second time to be Chaplain of Salisbury Theological College, where I taught New Testament Greek and Moral Theology. Three years in the Cathedral Close were a wonderful experience, especially the daily Mass in the College chapel and daily Evensong in that glorious Cathedral. But after three years, Bishop Carey asked me to become Rector of the most Anglo-Catholic church in Scotland, St Michael & All Saints, in the centre of Edinburgh. (I seem to have made a habit of this, since I have just retired from being Rector of St Clement’s, Philadelphia, arguable the most Anglo-Catholic church in America). I well remember walking in a cloth of gold cope and biretta through the streets of my parish in an Assumptiontide procession and overhearing one old Edinburgh lady say to another as we passed them, “That Father Reid thinks he’s in Italy”!

After twelve years in Edinburgh,  I was appointed Provost of Inverness Cathedral (the equivalent of Dean in England and the USA) by the Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness, three pre-Reformation dioceses now merged into one and covering all the Scottish Highlands and Islands. After four years, the Bishop and I failed to see eye to eye on our views of gay rights and so I accepted an invitation from an old friend, the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, to be his Vicar-General. Before I took up this job in London, I went to have experience of the life of the Diocese in two British Embassy churches, St Nicolas’, Ankara, and St Peter & St Sigfrid’s, Stockholm. From them I visited many more Chaplaincies, and then returned to London to the job of Vicar-General based in the Diocesan office, first in Kensington and then in Westminster. Two amusing incidents from my time in Ankara: soon after I arrived I learned that Ankara was in fact in the old region of Galatia, and so the next Sunday I took as my text St Paul’s rather tactless way of addressing the early Christians there “O foolish Galatians”. I thought my sermon wasn’t that bad, but the Ambassador’s wife came up to me afterwards and said “Oh, Fr Gordon,  we are so tired of visiting preachers hectoring us with this text”! A happier outcome of another sermon, one on Good Friday, on the victory of Christ’s cross, was when I finished off with “And so you see, after all that suffering, God won”.  Then to my astonishment, I heard myself add “The Devil nil”. Very un-Good Friday-like roars from the young soccer-loving military attaches erupted.

During my five years as Vicar-General in the Diocese in Europe’s London offices, I must have visited at least three-quarters of our English churches on the Continent. The Diocese stretches from Iceland to Turkey, and from Moscow to the Canary Islands. Congregations range from many hundreds to a  small handful of expatriate Brits. Every English-speaking country was represented and, although proselytizing was forbidden, nevertheless we never stopped members of other denominations joining out chaplaincies. Ecumenical relations were wonderful, so that we used, for example, scores of Roman Catholic churches in France, Spain and Italy, Lutheran churches in Scandinavia and Germany,( but not Orthodox churches in Russia or Greece). I amassed an astonishing number of air miles.

My next move was to become Dean of the Cathedral of our diocese in Gibraltar, that little bit of Britain stuck on to the southern tip of Spain. The thirty thousand or so population of Gibraltar are a marvelously friendly lot, and I was instantly at home. The Deanery was lovely, having been built as the officers’ mess for the Royal Engineers Regiment when they were stationed there in the 19th century to make the miles of tunnels  which now honeycomb the Rock. It was vast, but had lovely internal courtyards and a beautiful palm-fringed garden. The formal dining room could seat twenty, and often did, and there was room for a hundred at a cocktail party inside or out. Of course I could not have entertained like this on my own, but the Royal Navy was always very happy to supply a group of sailors, who would cook, wait on table, and clear up afterwards.  Gibraltar being situated where it is, I was also able to explore southern Spain, whose frontier was just a mile or so from the Deanery, and also Tangier in Morocco, just across the Straits of Gibraltar, whose city lights could be seen on a clear night from the Rock. I needed my biretta there to keep the sun off, though I admit a sombrero would have been more use.

Too soon for my liking, but because of an emergency, the Bishop asked me to go and take up the position of Archdeacon of Italy and Malta. This I was to do from the Chaplaincy in Milan where the present Archdeacon had decided to go over to Rome and return to Australia at the same time. (I forget the name of the figure of speech in a sentence such as “She left in tears and a taxi”, but it was a bit like that!) So I tore myself away from Gibraltar and spent the next four years in Milan, though when I say “in Milan”, I was as often in Rome or Sicily or Malta (or London) doing the duties of an Archdeacon. Two never to be forgotten experiences: there was a plane crash of an S.A.S. airplane in Milan airport, killing over a hundred people. Half the passengers were Italian and therefore RC; the other half were either Swedish or English.  Cardinal  Martini, the wonderful Jesuit Archbishop of Milan, invited me to share the Requiem Mass for the victims in the Duomo, and asked me to sing the Gospel in English. I had often taken part in services there, but had never been in its pulpit before. There were 5000 people in the Cathedral and I felt as though I were a mile up in the air in this vast pulpit with plenty of room for the four acolytes and a thurifer who climbed up into it with me.

The second unforgettable experience was when I accompanied the Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams) on his first visit to Rome to meet Pope John Paul II. There were eight or nine of us who were taken to the Pope’s apartments and, after the Pope had had a short time alone with the Archbishop, the Archbishop introduced us all one by one and we kissed the Pope’s ring, and he gave us all pectoral crosses. I have a lovely picture taken just as the Archbishop was saying to the Pope something like “And this is Fr Gordon Reid, our Archdeacon of Italy and Malta”. Pope John Paul was already very ill by this date, but he gave me a slightly puzzled look, and I expect he just hadn’t heard the little word “our”! But he was very gracious and made a speech in English which was moving in that he could hardly speak, and all I heard was “Welcome, Welcome”.

And so to these United States of America, where, after eleven years as Rector of St Clement’s, Philadelphia, I am living in retirement. But as I have written before, I was surprised (and delighted) to have been elected Dean of the City Center churches, the Southwark Deanery of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, which keeps me busy. I also spent three months this summer standing in for the Dean of Gibraltar. But 75 is a sort of landmark, so maybe I’ll learn to slow down a bit. Watch this space.




Acting Dean of Gibraltar

2017 October 12
by Gordon Reid

I know it was just two blog entries ago that I was explaining that I had been elected Dean by members of the Southwark Deanery Synod (which just means the City Center churches of Philadelphia), but now I am back on the Rock of Gibraltar for three months as Acting Dean of the Cathedral of the Diocese in Europe. How did that happen?

Well, it is due to the sad fact that the  present Dean has had heart surgery, with a triple bypass proving necessary. The operation (in Spain) proved successful, thanks be to God, but it has left the Dean very weak, and he will certainly have to have a few months off to convalesce. One of the joys of being retired is that I am available on pretty short notice to take on temporary emergency jobs like this, though of course most of them are in the Diocese of Pennsylvania. So when Bishop David, Suffragan Bishop in the Church of England Diocese in Europe, asked me to return to Gibraltar for three months, I was able to say Yes immediately.

I say “return” because I was Dean of Gibraltar Cathedral  from 1998 to 2000, as the list of Deans at the back of the Cathedral attests. Therefore I know the ways of the Cathedral quite well, though it is amazing (or not so amazing, as some long-suffering friends will say!) how much I can forget. Well, it was 17 years ago when I left Gibraltar to be Archdeacon of Italy & Malta, and a lot has happened in between then and now,  both in my life and in that of the Cathedral and Gibraltar in general.

Much is just as it was, but the first thing that struck me as I  got off the plane (in what is reckoned to be one of the scariest airports in the world – the Mediterranean is at one end of the runway, the Rock of Gibraltar at the other end – was how Gibraltar has grown. On land reclaimed from the sea a super-modern area has arisen, called Ocean Village. High-rise luxury apartments with swimming pools and gardens filled with palms and tropical plants ablaze with colour; two casinos; a vast ship masquerading as a five-star hotel, or a five-star hotel masquerading as a vast ship – take your pick; dozens of restaurants and bars. And almost none of it existed when I was here seventeen years ago.

The vast old Deanery where I used to live  has been  sold, and of course the present Dean and his wife are in the modern high-rise apartment which is the new Deanery, but by chance the Port Chaplain’s post was at the moment vacant, so I was housed in the very attractive lodgings above the Mediterranean Missions to Seafarers club (it’s bar is called The Flying Angel) within the Port. This is set on the North Mole and so had the sea on all sides, so that even on the hottest day (and it often hit 100) there were sea breezes. It was also air-conditioned, which was not true of the old Deanery.

The City-State of Gibraltar is only three miles long and is composed mostly of one vast mountain, joined to Spain by a narrow isthmus. The population is only about 35,000 and they mostly live in the main town and its suburbs and in two very pretty villages on the other side of the Rock, Catalan Bay and the splendidly named Both Worlds. One  road circles the Rock, passing through  long tunnels to get from one place to the next, and although the main town looks across to Spain, yet from the other side you look across to north Africa. On a clear day you can see across the Straits of Gibraltar to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, and in the evening  the lights of Tangiers in the distance.

I soon settled back into the pattern of life I had once known so well. The Cathedral has a daily Mass which I shared with two splendid priests who have homes in Gibraltar as well as in England. One, Fr Robin Gill, I had known in Edinburgh when he taught at the University there. Robin is one of the leading English scholars of Moral Philosophy and Sociology whose books are standard texts in many university and seminary courses. The other, Fr Jim Sutton, is a retired Church of England priest, much loved in the parishes where he served, and now enjoying  his retirement  in Gibraltar. Between us, we covered the Masses and other services and sick visiting.

However, Gibraltar being the size it is, much pastoral work can  be done just by walking the mile and a half length of Main Street! I was not on the Rock more than a couple of weeks before getting from one end of Main Street to the other was like an obstacle course, and one could spend a whole morning doing nothing else. It is a fascinating street, with a  bizarre mixture of shops selling very high-end duty-free luxury goods, gold and jewelry, right down to cafes serving full English breakfast (all day long!) and fish and chips.

When vast cruise liners come into the port – and there are often  two a day – Gibraltar fills up with an extra few thousand people from nine in the  morning till about four or five in the afternoon. Then, like the tide of the sea, the crowd washes back onto their ships which then sail away to Malaga or Cadiz or Lisbon. Living in the Flying Angel Mission, I would wake almost every morning to what looked like a vast block of flats which had just appeared at the bottom of my garden.Then the crowds would pour off like ants from an anthill. Scores of minibuses were there to transport the tourists to the top of the Rock where they had splendid views of Spain in the one direction and Morocco in the other. And of course they all wanted to see the famous Barbary Apes of Gibraltar, small tailless monkeys who swarm all over the Upper Rock and sometimes come right down into the town. The taxi drivers all carry treats for the monkeys to tempt them out to entertain the tourists. I used to drive all my visitors up there to see the apes, but during the last three months I didn’t go at all, either in my car or in the cable car. Been there, done that!

“Been there, done that” could also have described my ministry at Holy Trinity Cathedral itself, but as every priest can testify, there is an infinite variety in the life of a congregation. It was seventeen years since I moved from being Dean to become Archdeacon of Italy & Malta, and in that time much has changed at the Cathedral, though much remains the same. The worship is still Mass-centered, with two on Sundays and one every weekday. All the Masses are the modern prayer book rite except the 8 0′clock on Sunday which is straight 1662 (It wasn’t when I was Dean!). I’ve hardly ever celebrated this rite, and was taught to despise it as being liturgically deficient, but oddly I came to enjoy it very much. Suddenly I saw the point of consecrating the elements of bread and wine and then immediately giving them to the congregation, and the Gloria at the end seemed to be in just the right place. For a short, early-morning Mass it fitted right in. But of course, my preference is for the Solemn Mass with full quota of servers and ceremonial and with a fine organ and choir singing and leading the best of hymns and church music, which is what we did at the 10.30 Mass. Then followed generous refreshments, with a full-scale barbecue once a month.

It is also the priest’s privilege to share the life of the members of his church at moments of great joy or sadness, and even in three months I did just that with both ends of life, the Baptism of a baby and the Burial of an old man. I was also privileged to bless the 50th wedding anniversary of a couple who had worshipped in the Cathedral for all of these years and now celebrated surrounded by children and grandchildren. I took the Blessed Sacrament to some of the sick or housebound, another of the greatest privileges of a priest’s work. And of course I ate and drank constantly with almost all the flock! Gibraltar has some wonderful restaurants, and my friends know them all.

I’ve written almost 1500 words, so that is quite enough, but you can see how I enjoyed being back in my old Cathedral and on the Rock of Gibraltar.






2017 April 25
by Gordon Reid

After two years in my loft apartment, I’m moving. There are several reasons, but the main one is that, much as I enjoy the loft space, there is no access to open air. Till I moved here, I didn’t realize how much being able to sit outside, or even work (gently!) outside gardening, meant to me. I have almost always had large houses with either gardens or at least internal courtyards.

In Gibraltar, the Deanery garden was superb, shaded by three full-grown palm trees and filled with bougainvillea, hibiscus, plumbago etc. And inside there was a spacious court yard. St Clement’s Rectory also has an internal courtyard, plus the lovely gardens by the church. The back garden of the Provost’s house in Inverness was full of lovely flowers (thanks to high walls which kept the  north of Scotland wind off, most of the time!) including masses of a wild but sweet-smelling purple sweet pea.  In Milan I had a huge balcony and a roof terrace and a climate that would encourage almost anything to grow.

So I’ve been missing that, and the new apartment, though smaller in floor space than the loft, has a fine little courtyard garden off the sitting  room with the side facing the garden consisting of glass sliding doors. It is at Pine and 12th Streets, on Antiques Row, so very central and accessible by public transport. There’s no need for a car while I live in Center City. The other advantage of the new apartment is that it is all on one floor, which my arthritic hips will enjoy. It’s been fun sleeping on a shelf in my loft, but climbing the internal stair 10 to 15 times a day (yes, I counted one week!) is not something I’ll miss.

My moving date is three weeks away, so I am in the midst of packing stuff again. I’m also thinning it out, as I’ve done in every move I’ve made. The AIDS charity shop will benefit from everything I can live without.

Fear not, cocktail parties will resume as soon as possible – indoors and out of doors!


Dean Again!

2016 October 13
by Gordon Reid

I came back from three months’  locum duty in Sweden and Switzerland last week, and five days later I attended our Deanery Synod  and was elected Dean. No one was more surprised than I when the election was  unanimous. But I know this was due to the fact that the present Dean, who did not want to retire when she was in the middle of some very important work for the Deanery, asked me if I would consider being Co-Dean with her for the present. I agreed to this with alacrity, since  she was involved in some splendid outreach schemes that needed continuity to succeed. So the Deanery was expressing its approval, not just of me as Dean, but also of Donna’s continuation.

My Church of England friends will be amused to learn that I can now claim to be Dean of Southwark, since that is the name of the our Deanery, which encompasses the City Centre churches of Philadelphia. Soon I would love to introduce myself to the Dean of Southwark Cathedral (on the South Bank of the Thames in London) as the American Dean of Soouthwark. But of course I would have to pronounce it in the American way as South – Wark, not the English pronunciation, which is something like Sutherk.

Joking aside, I am honoured to have been elected to this post, especially since I am officially retired. However, “retired” is a relative term, and I am simply incapable of doing nothing, as my last three month in Gothenburg, Sweden, and Montreux, Switzerland, have proved. And not having a parish and regular Sunday duties should be an advantage, since some of the Dean’s duties involve representing the Bishop at such things as institutions of new clergy which usually take place on a Sunday. I will also be available to visit and preach (if invited) in all the parishes of the Deanery on Sundays, which would be more difficult if I had a parish.

Though some of the Centre City churches have large endowments and  solid congregations who pledge a good deal of money each year, others are much poorer and are financially much less stable. Two have already closed, though the Diocese still has possession of their buildings, some of which are fine. Another one is close to closure unless something is done to revitalize it. Our new Bishop, Daniel Gutierrez, is much more in the business of opening churches than of closing them. This he demonstrated very clearly in his former Diocese, when he was Canon-to-the Ordinary to the Bishop of the Rio Grande. So I am hopeful that he will encourage us to find  new uses for these small churches rather than sell them off or tear them down.

There is one church in particular where I am convinced a week-day ministry would be viable for the thousands of people who come in to work each day in Centre City. I see parallels with a church in the City of  London, which I looked after for a few years (St Michael’s, Cornhill) while I was Vicar-General of the Diocese in Europe and had few Sunday duties. The City emptied at the weekends, so I had just 20 or so people on Sundays, though we had a wonderful choir and organist. Yet during the week, as those of you who know the City can confirm, one could  hardly move in the streets at lunch time. So I invented the Thank-God-It’s- Friday Mass, and put up posters about it all over the City. It started at 12.15, and I guaranteed it would last only 45 minutes, and therefore the quartet  I hired sang only short settings such as Mozart and Hydn’s Missa Brevises (or should that be Missae Breves?).

Apart from the good music, I had three other attractions: first, I procured well-known preachers or speakers, such as a few Bishops , some Members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the Chairman of the Stock Exchange (which is in St Michael’s parish) etc. And they were only allowed seven minutes (and I said I would ring a bell if they went over that!). Secondly, after the Mass there would be a wine and cheese reception. Thirdly, and quite illegally. I gave it as my opinion that if someone came to the TGIF Mass that fulfilled their Sunday duty, and therefore they could go golfing or sailing or whatever on the Saturday and Sunday. Well, the first Friday we had about a hundred people, and I rejoiced. But the second Sunday there were more like three hundred, and so it went on. Luckily the wine and cheese after the Mass was paid for by the Drapers Company, who are the Patrons of St Michael’s.

So that is a roundabout way of saying that I am going to recommend to the Bishop of Pennsylvania that that could be done also in a city centre church which has now just closed. Center City, Philadelphia, is not the City of London, but there may well be some, Episcopalians or any other baptized Christians, who would come to such a midday Mass on a Friday.

That’s my first contribution as Dean of Southwark!



Swiss Chaplaincy.

2016 September 5
by Gordon Reid

I came to Montreux in Switzerland at the end of July to be  the first of the interim Chaplains at the Anglican Church of St John, and I will be leaving in two weeks time. It has been a fascinating visit, and I thought you might like to share some of the highlights with me.

First, for those of you who do not know the Church of England Diocese in Europe, I should explain that it covers the whole of Europe and even Turkey and Eastern Russia in Asia, and Morocco in Africa. We have, at the latest count, 314 Chaplaincies scattered throughout the Continent, some of them large and flourishing, others very small. About half can afford a full-time priest; the others have either retired priests or visiting clergy.

Montreux has just lost its full-time Chaplain, who has returned to his native Australia. Two points here: we call our clergy Chaplains rather than Rectors, because they  have the specific job of ministering to English-speakers, not running a territorial parish as a Rector or Vicar does in England (this is because  we are always situated in a Roman Catholic or Lutheran or  Orthodox parish, and are not there to make Anglicans out of our fellow Christians); and secondly, the Diocese employs clergy not only from England, but also from many of the other Churches of the Anglican Communion, not least the American Episcopal Church.

St John’s, Montreux, was built in 1875. It was Anglo-Catholic from the beginning, being under the patronage of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, a high-church missionary society. (Similarly, the next-door Chaplaincy, All Saints, Vevey, a few miles away, has always been Evangelical, since its patron was the low-church Church Missionary Society). Hence it has a  lovely carved reredos of the  Crucifixion and a fine Lady Chapel, with a life-size stone figure of Our Lady and the Christ Child with trays of votive candles always burning in front of it. The sacristy contains an astonishing number of copes and chasubles, including a fine collection of about forty old “fiddle-back” chasubles, left to the church by a former priest. Using my height  (or lack of it!) and the great heat as my excuses, I have used a couple of these latter ones only, avoiding the voluminous modern ones which are made either of something like sackcloth or else  glittering Indian sari stuff, and made for much taller clergy. The church has a very fine organ (though in dire need of repairs) and a remarkably good volunteer choir, which  is augmented Sunday by Sunday with visitors as well as regular residents.

When I said in July that I was going to be interim Chaplain of St John’s, Montreux, one of the commonest comments was “Oh, you will get to go to the Montreux Jazz Festival”. I pointed out that I would not be arriving until the week after the Festival, and tried to look slightly sad, but in reality I was delighted to miss it: I am not a jazz fan. And St John’s actually had a Jazz Mass, missing which increased my happiness! I was able to settle in to a delightful four-bedroom Chaplain’s House next door to St John’s and to explore Montreux without the crowds who come only for the Jazz.

Montreux is situated at the end of Lake Geneva where the Rhone enters the Lake. Forty miles away, at the other end is Geneva where the Rhine leaves the Lake. Someone told me that it takes the water seven years to flow the forty miles from one end of the Lake to the other – I suppose somebody must have spent seven years researching this; I only hope he had also a wild social life!

This part of Switzerland is known as the Swiss Riviera, and the title is justified by the fact that it has a Mediterranean micro-climate. Palm trees are everywhere, and gardens and the miles of the Walk along the lakeside are planted with an enormous variety of flowers and flowering shrubs. A visitor from Edinburgh who came to stay for a couple of weeks pronounced it “Paradise”. And all around the Lake tower high mountains, Alps which the Swiss inhabit nonchalantly, building chalets on the most unlikely ledges, running funicular railways up to soaring peaks, skiing in the winter and hiking all over the mountains in the summer. Right behind  the Chaplain’s house (literally just a few feet away) is the beginning of one of these funiculars which takes one up a thousand feet or so to the village of Glion. And there, one can join another train which wends its way up for forty minutes or so through dark forests and meadows filled with wild flowers to the Rochers de Nyon at 6000 feet.

All over this countryside are private hospitals and incredibly expensive international boarding schools. The former are much reduced from their heyday  in Victorian times when thousands of Brits with tuberculosis or weak lungs were packed off to live or die in Switzerland. Modern medicine has made this drastic remedy unnecessary, though I must say I have seldom felt better than here in the pure mountain air. But the schools seem to be increasing all the time. Some are specialized such as the world-famous hotel schools; others are just places where modern millionaires can send their children from all over the world, notably the Middle and Far East.

St John’s is looking for a new Chaplain, and when they come to advertise they will have to emphasize that the opportunities to build up an ever-growing congregation here are not just dependent on the permanent English-speaking residents but should also include the huge number who come to holiday houses for three or six months. They will also minister to the huge number of tourists who fill the grand hotels all along the lakeside, though this is inevitably a transient ministry. Nevertheless I was disappointed not to find notices about St John’s Anglican Church in every hotel I visited (unlike the practice, for example, of the Church of the Ascension in Cadenabbia on Lake Como, where such notices are posted in all the hotels and even guest-houses up and down the Lake). Then there are the schools and colleges, where connexions do already exist, thanks to English-speaking teachers who  bring choirs to sing in St John’s, and chaplains who have established good relations with head teachers and therefore are welcomed when visiting the schools. It is a more exotic setting than many English parishes, but the priestly ministry is much the same – caring for those who come to church, with well-conducted Masses, good music, faithful visiting of the sick and housebound and those in hospital, and then devising ways of spreading the Gospel outside that inner core, through their ministry to their neighbours, nurtured by the Faith they learn in public worship and private study, encouraged (but not monopolized) by the priest. I have been to Lausanne to talk to the Archdeacon of Switzerland about this, and will be writing a fuller report for the Bishop and the Diocesan Office, and it will be a very up-beat report: I am certain that there is a prosperous future for this Chaplaincy set in Paradise and am very grateful for the two months I have spent sharing the lives of its faithful people.





London, Gothenburg, Edinburgh.

2016 July 12
by Gordon Reid

Before I set off on my travels again (this time, to Switzerland), let me fill in a few of my “retirement” doings in the last few months.

Early in May, I went to London and stayed with the ever-hospitable Fr Paul Bagott in the Clergy House of St Cuthbert’s, Philbeach Gardens, in Earls Court. St Cuthbert’s is one of the largest and most elaborate 19th century Anglo-Catholic churches in London and, though  badly damaged in the Second World War, has now been restored to its former glory. It is full of wonderful art work and has a magnificent collection of vestments.

The day after I arrived was Ascension Day, so I went to the High Mass that evening at St Mary’s, Bourne St, my favorite London church. When I was appointed Vicar-General of the Diocese in Europe, and was looking for a house in London, I stayed in St Mary’s Presbytery. Fr Bill Scott, whom I had known since he was a seminarian, was then the Vicar, and he gave me the apartment which had  recently been vacated by Dr Eric Mascall, one of the most brilliant theologians of the 20th century Church of England. My rent was simply to say one or two of the weekly Masses at St Mary’s, and I enjoyed the Presbytery so much that I rather slowed down looking for the house and stayed more than a year! Consequently I came to know many of the regular congregation. Afterwards I found a very fine house in Barnsbury, Islington, and Fr Scott moved to the Savoy Chapel. The patron of this chapel, the only bit left of the great Savoy Palace, is  the Queen, patron not because she is Queen but because she is Duke of Lancaster (yes, Duke, not Duchess!), therefore the National Anthem is sung there every Sunday after Mass in a unique version, which goes: “God save our gracious Queen, Long live our noble Duke, God save the Queen”. ( But – not for the first time – I digress.) The Ascension Day Mass was as glorious as usual at St Mary’s and, by a strange coincidence the celebrant was Fr Scott, now a Prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral and recently retired as the Queen’s Domestic Chaplain. Needless to say, after the usual champagne in the Presbytery library (I say usual, since this happens every Sunday at St Mary’s, not just on the greater feasts), the pair of us went off to dinner at La Poule au Pot, a splendid French restaurant in nearby Pimlico Square.

Later that first week I took the train to Norwich through ever more rural England, through old woodlands and farms like picture postcards of Old England, but with sudden shockingly  brilliant yellow fields, a comparatively recent crop called oil-seed rape, from which I believe oil is extracted. And every few miles, one would see the slender spires or the solid square towers of the hundreds of mediaeval churches of Suffolk and Norfolk. In Norwich I was met by Canon Jeremy Haselock, another very old friend, who is Vice-Dean of Norwich Cathedral. Choral Evensong is sung daily in the Cathedral, as it is in  the 43 British Cathedrals of the Church of England (the 44th is Gibraltar, where Evensong is only said daily). After Evensong Canon Haselock prepared a delicious dinner. The next day we drove to the Norfolk coast and walked along the windy dunes.  I don’t think there is any county like Norfolk with such a variety of beaches , some of sand, others of pebbles, all under the widest skies in England. (Now Scotland – that is quite another matter!)

After another day back in London, I flew to Gothenburg in Sweden, where I had agreed to be the locum Chaplain of St Andrew’s, the English Church there, until their new Chaplain arrived. I knew the church  from my time when I was Chaplain in Stockholm, but had never seen the Chaplain’s apartment. So I was delighted when it turned out to be  in a huge circle of flats, surrounding central lawns and gardens, and set on the top of one of those great rocky outcrops which are such a feature of the Swedish landscape. The views over Gothenburg’s harbour were magnificent. The only drawback was the climb back up after being down in the city! I was prepared to be there for four weeks but in fact only had to do two, since the new Chaplain’s problems with getting a work visa for Sweden were suddenly solved and he was able to arrive earlier than he expected. I therefore did only Whitsunday and Trinity Sunday at St Andrew’s, both of which were delightful. The congregation was the usual mixture of English residents, students, or people who had come to work in Sweden. But there were also a large number of Indians and Africans, which spiced up the singing considerably.

During one of my weeks in Gothenburg, I took the train for the three-hour journey to Stockholm, my old parish. Though I have been away for over twenty years, I still have a lot of friends there, and in  three days I managed to see quite a lot of them. Much as I was enjoying Gothenburg, I realized that my heart belonged to Stockholm. As a native of Edinburgh, I compared Gothenburg to Glasgow and Stockholm to Edinburgh. The latter two are capital cities with royal palaces and all the embassies and diplomatic life that goes with them. Glasgow and Gothenburg are both great ports and have quite a different feel to them. The weather, which in May can be unpredictable so far north, was sunny and bright, so I had a great time meeting up with friends in many different parts of the city, from the Old Town with its fine Cathedral to suburbs full of a mixture of Gustavian apartment blocks (you can’t call them Victorian in Sweden!) and modern glass towers. And everywhere there is water, since the city is built on a dozen or two islands.

After two weeks in Sweden I returned to London, where I met up with two young priest friends who had just been married by their Bishop, the Bishop of Long Island in his Cathedral. What made this rather special was that both of them were male – as was the Bishop!  I pondered on how far the American Episcopal Church has grown in its recognition of same-sex marriages, and gave thanks for its refusal  to discriminate between the clergy and the laity in this. The Scottish Episcopal Church is, God grant, not far behind and, as I write, the Canadian Anglican Church has voted by almost two thirds to do the same, though they will need to have over two-thirds to make it canonical. The Church of England is deeply divided over the matter, mainly because of the large number of Evangelicals in its membership. Their selective reading of the Bible gives them the excuse to continue to condemn same-sex unions, while cheerfully consuming shrimp cocktails and pork chops, and weakly refusing to put any girls to death for disobeying their parents. No doubt, as with slavery and lady Bishops, the Lord will one day enlighten them.

With the liberty of the retiree, I then decided to have a week in Scotland, so I took the train to Edinburgh and went to stay with Grant in West Linton, a little village half an hour’s drive from the city. Miraculously I had sunshine for a whole week and even managed to get sunburnt, no mean feat in Scotland at the beginning of June. Ever since I  left I have checked the weather and sure enough it has all returned to the normal outlook of “light rain” or “showers with bright spells”. We pay dearly for that  soft green look.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I came back to Philadelphia very gladly. But, as I said, after six weeks at home, I am about to set off to be locum Chaplain in Montreux in Switzerland. I’ll add to my blog from there.

A Santa Fe Blessing.

2016 April 16
by Gordon Reid


Since I’ve retired from St Clement’s, I’ve been asked to help in several churches which needed a priest  because of some sudden illness on behalf of their Rector or to fill in for other reasons. I’ve also been asked as guest preacher on special occasions in places as far from Philly as Long Island, Washington, D.C. and New York. I’ve also taken weddings for friends, one  memorable one on the beach at the New Jersey Shore, where the two early twenty-year-old sons of one of the grooms (yes, it was a gay wedding, as some would call it, or a perfectly normal wedding between two children of God who love one another, as I would call it) were the  witnesses.

But two weeks ago I set forth on a trip to Santa Fe in New Mexico to do something I’ve never done before,  to bless a newly built chapel, its bell-tower, and the lovely old Möller pipe organ which  had been renovated and restored for this chapel. It is set in the idyllic grounds of the estate of a member of St Clement’s congregation who has a house in Santa Fe  and who is an organist. He therefore asked me to bless the  new/old organ in his private chapel.

Fortuitously, Bishop Michael Vono, the Bishop of the Rio Grande, is an old friend from the years when he was Rector of St Paul’s-within-the-Walls, the American Episcopal church in Rome, and I was Vicar-General of the Church of England Diocese in Europe. So the morning after I arrived, I drove from Santa Fe to Albuquerque to visit him. I told him about the blessings, and he graciously gave me permission for this. I’m not sure I needed such faculties, since the chapel is private, but it seemed only courteous to ask, and it was a great chance for us to catch up on news about our many mutual friends.

The other fortuitous thing was that I was able to meet our new Bishop-elect of Pennsylvania, Fr Daniel Gutierrez, since he is the Bishop of the Rio Grande’s Canon to the Ordinary. I had missed seeing him when he came to Philadelphia with the other candidates for the episcopal election, so it was a great pleasure to have a time to talk with him. I came away from the meeting with the conviction that God through us had chosen just the bishop we need at this moment in the history of our Diocese. This opinion was confirmed by the sadness Bishop Michael expressed at Fr Daniel’s imminent departure. He said that Pennsylvania was lucky to have Fr Daniel and that he would be much missed in New Mexico.

The next day, back in Santa Fe, I went to see the new chapel and plan the blessing. The whole thing had been meticulously organized: the thurifer flew in from Philadelphia; the florist filled the chapel with sweet-smelling flowers; extra seats were added to the pews for the friends who were coming from aroundSanta Fe. And finally, to crown it all, the “choir” arrived in a vast purple bus, the kind used to transport pop groups from concert to concert.  These were eight organists or organ builders who had been on an organ-tasting tour from Minneapolis to Santa Fe for the last eight days. They had all brought cassocks and surplices, and the bus was our departure point as we formed up and went from it to the chapel in procession.

The great west doors were closed and we stopped there. I blessed the bell tower, throwing holy water as high as I could in a vain attempt to hit the bell. Then I blessed the doors, and while the bell rang for the “Regina Caeli” we processed to the altar. Evensong was sung solemnly; the altar was censed for the first time at the Magnificat; the canticles were sung to the setting by George Dyson in C Minor. At the end, I went down the aisle and to the side where the organ  console is and blessed it. I had promised not to drench this lovely machine with holy water, so I aimed to the left side and then to the right side, which was fine. But when I came to the middle and tried to throw the blessed water over to the back of the instrument some of it fell on the sheet music. A videographer was filming the whole service, so I am recorded forever as blessing  the organ with the  words “In the Name of the Father, and  of the Son and – oops – of the Holy Ghost”! We next processed round the outside of the chapel and I blessed the four corners with the Holy Oils and then marked the crosses on the inside pillars. The sun was setting, and the golden adobe walls of the chapel shone with the rays of the sun that came through the olive trees. It was a magical moment crowning a beautiful service.

While we were  all in the chapel, caterers had been setting up a bountiful dinner in the house, with a hot buffet, a cold buffet, and an ever-flowing cocktail bar. So it was late before everyone was gone. It was also very dark and for the first time in a while I saw the black sky full of stars. The desert air was dry and clear, and we were at 7000 feet, so the whole Milky Way sparkled above us – and as I passed the chapel I noticed that the votive lights which people had lit were still sparkling too.


The varieties of sympathy

2015 November 14
by Gordon Reid

I write just after the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, because I have been struck by the wonderful outpouring of sympathy and support from many  sources, including, I am happy to say, a great many of my friends on Facebook. But I have also been saddened by the sometimes bitter response of  some who say that it is all very well to be outraged and standing in solidarity with the people of Paris, but what about the people of Beirut or Baghdad? They say: “When did we see an Iraqi flag or a Lebanese flag cover our Facebook profile, when  dozens of their  people died in the virtual war that is raging there”? They ask: “Is it only white victims’ deaths that matter?”

This is, I believe, to misunderstand the very nature of sympathy. If it had been one’s mother or brother who was killed yesterday in Paris, would we not now be bowed down with a grief that is sharp and personal? And if it had been a close friend or even an acquaintance, would we not be grieving more than for the strangers who were killed? So it is natural that we should be feeling sadness and sympathy with those who lost loved ones in Paris, more than we have ever felt for the  tens of millions murdered by Stalin in Russia.

It is not prejudice or racist politics which makes us feel more strongly for the people who died in Paris yesterday and their grieving friends and families, but proximity. We feel love and affection more naturally for those who are close to us or whom we have known than we do to perfect strangers. And this is true even if it is only for people in places we have visited or know well, rather than in places we have hardly heard of.

Yet we are commanded by Jesus the Christ to love our neighbors, and when a cynic asked him who was his neighbor, Jesus told a story that pointed to the most hated of foreigners as his real neighbor, because he loved much. So my conclusion is that we have an absolute command to love everyone, but the intensity of our love varying according to our relationships, and therefore the way we love people must vary too. It is surely infinitely more merciful and loving to shoot a man who is about to machine-gun a playground full of children than to refuse to kill directly. It is surely right to pursue and imprison or kill the fanatical Muslim terrorists who are menacing the whole world now in a way reminiscent of Hitler. How this is done must be the concern of our politicians, but that it must be done is now surely clear.

And no one should feel guilty about feeling more sympathy and sorrow for those killed in the lovely city of Paris yesterday than for the many more killed yesterday all over the world. We still have to love the world God made and teach human beings to be more like the Blessed Trinity, persons living in perfect love and co-operation together, but we love various people we know  - and places we know – with a special love, and therefore a special sorrow when they are killed or violated.

Society of Catholic Priests.

2015 September 19
by Gordon Reid

Yesterday I was elected as Chaplain of  the Philadelphia Chapter of the Society of Catholic Priests. I regard this as a great honor, and am looking forward to working with my fellow priests in this area, to be a little leaven in the bread which is the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

The Society is quite new, and is for orthodox Anglo-Catholic priests of the Episcopal Church, who accept the doctrine and discipline of that Church including, happily, a new openness to women priests and to the celebration of gay people in the life of the Church, including gay priests and bishops.

Last year I was asked to give a spiritual lecture (what we used to call a fervorino!)  at the opening of the SCP’s annual conference in Toronto. This I did by taking the three words in our Society’s name and meditating on each of them for a few minutes. I hope  the coming  annual conference in Denver will continue to hold these three themes in its heart. Sadly I will not be able to be there this year, as I will be  preparing to leave for a month in the UK.

I am glad, first of all, that we are a Society, because that is what God is. We believe in one God, but not in a God who is only one Person. No, he is “three Persons in one substance “. The essence of his being is that of three Person so much in love that we can say that they are one God.  The Blessed Trinity is what Jesus revealed to the world: God is his Father, the Father and he are one, and they send the Holy Spirit to dynamize the Church, so that it will be God’s instrument of love and care throughout the centuries. So the SCP is a Society, separate persons, but united in love to preach the Gospel and celebrate the Sacraments of salvation.

Secondly, we are Catholics. It is important that we boldly state this and do not try to modify it by words such as “Anglo” or “Anglican”. When we were ordained priests  the Bishop ordained us, not into the Anglican Church, but into Christ’s “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. Roman Catholics often refer to themselves simply as “Catholics” and so should we. When strangers asked me if St Clement’s, for example, was a Catholic Church, I always replied “Yes”. I would then explain that we were not Roman Catholic or Greek Catholic but Anglo-Catholic. Catholic is a lovely  word and one we should glory in.

The third word in the SCP’s title is obvious. We are a Society of priests, not lay people. We are men and women who have been called by God to follow in the steps of the Apostles and give our lives to the  preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Other people can run the finances of the  parish; others can organize a dozen different groups to do the work of Christ. The original Apostles said boldly “It is not right for us to leave the Word of God to serve tables” so they ordained St Stephen and others as the first Deacons. Sadly, some of the successors of the Apostles have forgotten this. We are priests, not social workers, not events organizers, not probation officers, not lawyers. If the priest is truly doing his or her job, the day will not have enough hours in it. We will have the Mass to celebrate over and over again, the Daily Office to say either privately or in church. We will be visiting the sick and shut-ins at home and in hospitals to anoint them for healing and to prepare them for death; we will be meeting constantly with parents who want their children  baptized, with young couples who want to be married, with people who want to be confirmed or received into the Church. We will have sermons to prepare, pondering the Scriptures and applying them to our daily life. We will have individuals to see, either for the Sacrament of Penance or for spiritual advice.

Who is capable of all this? No one  except the one who admits with St Paul “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

S. C. P. – powerful letters. God give us strength to live up to each one of them, and may many more priests join our Society.