SABBATICAL STUDY LEAVE: MID-JUNE TO MID-OCTOBER
This summer sees the fulfilment of hopes
and ideas that have been 2½ years in the planning. Back
in January 2004 I met with Canon Gordon Oliver, our Diocesan
Advisor for Ministry and Training and discussed with him the
idea of studying for a part-time M.A. and the possibility of
taking Sabbatical Study Leave as part of this.
Part-time M.A. in Christian Spirituality
With the support of the Diocese and the backing of the parish,
I applied for and was accepted to study for a two-year part-time
M.A. in Christian Spirituality at Heythrop College in the University
of London. For the last two years I have commuted up to Kensington
Square for weekly seminars, and I have found my studies to be both
enriching and rewarding.
After completing an introductory module in Christian Spirituality
I have studied three additional modules:
- ‘Texts and Themes in English Spirituality’,
surveying the development of Christian writing and thought
in England from Anglo-Saxon times, through the medieval period
and the Reformation up to the present;
- ‘Spiritual Growth and Human Transformation’,
looking at the effect of faith on our lives, both in conversion
and subsequent growth in maturity over the years;
- ‘The Theory and Practice of Spiritual Direction’,
learning how to be more effective in listening to others’ stories
of faith and helping them to grow in their relationship with
I have completed the seminars and coursework
for these four modules, and I now have to write two long essays
and a dissertation. This is where the Sabbatical Study Leave
comes in. The Bishop’s
Guidelines state that “Stipendiary clergy are encouraged
to take Study Leave at various points in their ministry. Study
Leave is defined as three calendar months away from the parish
in addition to the annual holiday allocation. Clergy become eligible
for consideration for Study Leave in the seventh year of holy orders.” I
am now in my thirteenth year since my ordination, and I’m
looking forward to this opportunity to replenish my reservoirs,
to use an image of contemporary relevance.
I plan to use the first part of my Study
Leave to write my dissertation (which would otherwise have taken
another whole year to complete). I will be focussing in particular
on Anglican Spirituality at a formative time in the history of
the Anglican Church, between the Reformation and the Restoration
i.e. from the reign of Henry VIII to Charles II. I have been
inspired by a quotation by Henry McAdoo: “Anglicans
are heirs to a tradition of which at present they are often almost
unaware. There is here a need for a recovery of memory, which will
allow for a recovery of identity.”
The Anglican tradition is one that has shaped me, and to be part
of the Anglican Church is to be open to a heritage which influences
our understanding of God, our approach to the Scriptures, our way
of worshipping, our life of prayer and our way of putting our faith
into practice. I want to explore the key ingredients of this special
Anglican mix of history, liturgy, theology and spirituality, not
simply out of academic interest, but because in practical and personal
terms it shapes our very identity and self-understanding.
There is an increasing awareness and acceptance within society
of the spiritual dimension to life, and we can respond to this
as we become more aware of our own heritage.
The second part of my Sabbatical Leave will
incorporate our annual family holiday with Donna’s side
of the family in America.
Our Companion Parish in Holland, Michigan, USA
The third part will involve developing links
with overseas churches, in America and Tanzania. Our link with
Grace Episcopal Church in Holland, Michigan, began four years
ago when, on retirement, Donna’s
parents moved to Holland, Michigan to be close to Donna’s
brother and his family. Each summer, when we visited Donna’s
family, I would worship at Grace Episcopal Church and through this
I got to know the church and the clergy. Two summers ago, in one
of their Sunday morning services, I floated the idea of a link
between our parishes. This idea was enthusiastically received,
and last September our parish hosted a group of eight members from
Grace Episcopal Church for a week. We had a varied and enjoyable
programme, visiting Rochester, Cambridge, London and Canterbury,
amongst other places, and bonds of friendship were developed.
In return, we have been invited to stay with them for a week,
and they have put together a full and lively programme including
sailing on Lake Michigan, dune buggy rides, visits to museums,
watching a baseball game, a parish BBQ, a visit to the Cathedral,
all wrapped up with warm friendship and generous hospitality. This
visit is from 19 th-28 th August.
Building Links with the Anglican Dioceses of Mpwapwa
and Kondoa in Tanzania
In September I will be spending three and
a half weeks visiting Kenya and Tanzania, with the aim of developing
links between our parish and two dioceses in Tanzania – Mpwapwa
and Kondoa. The Diocese of Rochester has recently been seeking
to foster links with these two dioceses. The Bishops of Mpwapwa
and Kondoa were invited to attend our Rochester Diocesan Conference
at Bognor in January. I had a chance to meet with both of them
there and to discuss my visit. After the conference I also had
the pleasure of giving the Bishop of Mpwapwa a guided tour around
our parish one Friday morning.
I will be flying to Nairobi and staying
for the first couple of days with a cousin of mine and his family,
and then I will travel by bus to Tanzania, staying one night
in the northern town of Moshi, and then travelling on the next
day to the Diocese of Mpwapwa. This is located 70 miles east
of Dodoma, Tanzania’s capital.
While I am there I hope to spend some time visiting parishes and
also meeting the students in the theological college. In particular,
I hope, with guidance from the Bishop, to be able to identify to
a parish project that we could help alongside our own parish project
of extending All Saints Church. I will then journey on to the Diocese
of Kondoa which, being founded in 2001, is one of the newest of
the 19 dioceses in Tanzania. It is situated to the north east of
Dodoma. Then I will travel back to my cousin in Nairobi before
The Mpwapwa diocesan pamphlet says that Tanzania is the fourth
poorest country in the world, with a per capita income of just
$260. In the Diocese of Mpwapwa infant mortality is 98 per 1,000
births, and life expectancy is just 52. The whole region is also
in the grip of a drought. There have been seven successive years
of poor rain, and this has particularly affected the villages of
this largely rural diocese. So there is clearly much that we could
do to help.
As Anglicans we are privileged to belong to a worldwide communion,
and we share much in common. It is my hope that these links, both
in Tanzania and America, will continue to develop over the years
and that we will be able to support and encourage one another in
ministry and mission, especially through personal contacts.
My Sabbatical Study leave will run from
mid-June to mid-October, and I’m very grateful to the wardens,
ministry team, the PCC and my family for making it possible for
me to do this.
In my absence, John Field (703101) will be co-ordinating the
life of the parish, together with our two churchwardens, Norma
Crowe (702584) and Brian Frost (706460). Shirley Wilson (703336)
will be heading up the pastoral care. Marion Strachan will be in
the Parish Office (703819), Tuesday - Friday, 9am - 12 noon (and
until 3 pm on Fridays).
John Field has also worked very hard to arrange an excellent
line-up of visiting priests, including our former Archdeacon, Norman
Warren, and two previous Rectors of Fawkham and Hartley: our current
Archdeacon Peter Lock, and George McCormack. Peter Clark, the minister
of the Hartley URC, will be leading our annual summer holiday club.
So there is much to look forward to over these coming months!
I also hope that by the time of my return
we’ll have seen
significant developments in the All Saints Church extension project!
Looking Ahead - the Ordination of Elizabeth Robertson
One final and very important event I would like to highlight
is the ordination of Elizabeth Robertson as Deacon in Rochester
Cathedral on Saturday 9th September at 3 pm. Elizabeth has been
pursuing her ordination training for the past three years, and
in September she will become the Honorary Curate in our parish.
Over the years Elizabeth (together with Alistair) has contributed
a huge amount to the life of our parish, and now she will be developing
new areas of ministry amongst us. I very much look forward to working
alongside her as a colleague.
Your friend and Rector,
Rev. Richard Worssam