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My Houses (2)

2012 September 29
by Gordon Reid

After my twelve years as Rector of St Michael & All Saints, Edinburgh, the Bishop of Moray, Ross & Caithness, the northernmost Diocese of the Scottish Episcopal Church, asked me to be Provost (Dean) of Inverness Cathedral. This is one of the most beautiful of our Cathedrals, set beside the River Ness just before it enters the Moray Firth, and the Provost’s House was a delightful 19th century house a hundred yards from the Cathedral. I  can’t find a picture of this house, but here is one of the next-door house which is run as a guest house and is identical. It was possible to have a party on all three of the “opera box” balconies, which overlook the Highland Meeting Ground, where all sorts of sporting events take place. Here also is a picture of Inverness Cathedral, which is a lovely building.

 

 

After four years, I was invited by Bishop Satterthwaite of the Diocese in Europe to become his Vicar General, a title not very common in the Anglican Church but meaning the same as in the RC Church, the delegate of the Bishop to all the parishes of his Diocese. Most of my time as Vicar General was spent  administering the Diocese from our offices in Church House, Westminster, but at first I went to the British Embassy in Ankara, Turkey to help cope with the death of our Chaplain in Istanbul. I lived in an ultra-modern Embassy apartment and had my office attached to the very attractive modern church of St Nicolas, built of unfaced stone in a bit of woodland within the Embassy grounds. This is a picture of it from the swimming pool, round which I did a lot of  my parish visiting every noonday!

 

The next crisis was in Stockholm, Sweden, where one Chaplain had “got the books in a muddle” as a charitable parishioner put it, and the next one lasted a year and then quit because of the (as always) divided opinions in the chaplaincy. So I moved into the quite enormous apartment which had been left to the Chaplaincy by a member of the Swedish nobility years before. It was the entire floor of one of the “palaces” which make up Strandvagen, a fascinating street facing the sea, which was built by a variety of architects for the Swedish World Fair of 1897, every palace in a different style. This apartment was the only residence I have ever had  where it was easy to lose your way – there were so many rooms, thirteen main ones by my count. And it was beautifully furnished by  the lady who left it to the church, and the linen and silver were   superb. I once gave a buffet dinner for charity at which we had 150 people, and there was plenty room. The following is a picture of the whole street.

 

 

After Stockholm, where I would gladly have stayed for a long time, the Bishop asked me to move to London and administer the Diocese from our offices in Westminster. There was no church house for the Vicar General. so  we bought one in Barnsbury, a very pleasant, leafy part of Islington in North London. I can’t find a picture of this house, but it was in a quiet cul-de-sac off Barnsbury Square, which was a delightful retreat from a very  busy life going round the 200 or so chaplaincies of the Diocese in Europe.

After four or five years of this,  the Bishop asked me to be the Dean of Gibraltar. I had already visited Gibraltar once or twice and loved it, so I accepted with enthusiasm, and set off to live on the Rock. This is not the place to describe a town of about 30,000 people living as an embattled outpost of empire, and managing extremely well to behave like an independent nation. All I can say is that I adored being Dean of the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and still, as Vicar General, looking after especially all the English churches in Spain and Morocco.

The Deanery is a fabulous house, which used to be the Officers Mess and Club of the Royal Engineers in the 19th century when they were tunneling the thirty miles of roadway which goes all through the Rock.It is several buildings joined in one, with little bridges connecting the different wings. Great fun, and a splendid dining room where I could entertain 24 people (thanks, Deo gratais, to the loan of a chef and a couple of sailors from the Royal Navy!). Here at least is a picture of the fine Moorish style Cathedral.

 

And now I have found a picture of the front of the Deanery, with just a glimpse of the full-grown palm trees in its spacious garden.

Just as the death of a priest took me to Turkey, and the near nervous breakdown of another to Sweden, so it was the decision of the Archdeacon of Italy and Malta to return to his native Australia and become a Roman Catholic that prompted the Bishop to ask me to go to Milan and take his place. I knew I would miss the friends I had made in Gibraltar and the south of Spain, but I moved to the chaplain’s house of All Saints, Milan with the knowledge that my job would be to visit all the English churches of Italy and Malta- and be paid to do it! Wow! I had two assistant priests in Milan, so I could take off for Venice, Florence, Rome or Sicily at the drop of a biretta. My apartment in Milan was tiny, built onto the roof and side of the church, but it had a roof terrace and another terrace, so I never felt cramped. The only picture I can find is this one, which shows the apartment opposite my apartment, attached to the church.

 

 

After three years in Milan, where, as I  have written earlier, I was blessed with friendship of Cardinal Martini, I found I was tired of all the travel involved in the Vicar General’s job, and decided to seek a parish in the UK. I saw the Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary, who said there was a Canonry of St George’s, Windsor, going, but I felt I wanted something a bit more active than that! I had a Birthday party in London, and one of my guests was Bishop Ambrose Weekes,  who, when he heard I wanted a non-travelling parish job , said (in his inimitable fashion) “My dear Father, you must go to St Clement’s, Philadelphia”

So I did. And here is the last of my ecclesiastical residences, a lovely red-stone Victorian mansion, creaking a bit at the seams, but a delight to live in. I have the first two floors, and the Curate the third floor and tiny “prophet’s chamber” on the fourth.

 

I can’t find a good picture of the Rectory at the moment, though there is bound to be one in the extensive photo files of St Clement’s. So I’ll put one up later.

All these houses and apartments have been so different, but all comfortable and great bases from which to conduct one’s ministry. I feel richly privileged to have been their occupant over the years. I have always tried to make them places of hospitality and  shelter for a wide variety of people. I am a great supporter of Rectories right by the  church: they mean that the needy in mind, body or spirit can get to you for what help you can give. That is one of the privileges of the priesthood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Responses leave one →
  1. bill kutrzyba permalink
    September 30, 2012

    Wonderful fillow-up to part 1.
    May God continue to bless you and your ministry.

  2. Beryl Leach permalink
    October 4, 2012

    Where’s the photo of your Milan flat?

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