The Church of England response to the US Episcopalian consultation; some commentary

Last Sunday afternoon I drafted a letter to the Church Times (reproduced in full at the end of this commentary).

The letter was submitted on Monday lunchtime as I was booked on a conference that started on Monday tea time. When I drafted the letter I sent it to four or five friends, my usual ‘revisionist’ friends, and asked whether they might like to be co-signatories. Some of them asked if they could invite other friends. The result was that within eighteen hours we had 112 signatories. We live in a networked world! But, the reality is that I have been inundated with messages from people saying that they would like to have signed had they not  missed the deadline. This is significant because it shows the overall level of diss-ease with the trajectory of travel and, the mixed messages that are coming out of ‘head office.’ There is a very strong feeling that the Church of England needs to do far better both in terms of governance and, for many, as an ethical institution. Again, for many, Mr. Nye’s letter crossed a boundary both in terms of content and process.

Over the last few weeks I have spoken to a fair number of LGBTI Christians and heard their stories, and their treatment has not been good. They are wounded, yet we (the C of E) refuse to let them be our wounded healers, instead we write letters and make proclamations designed to keep them at the very margins of the fold. It is almost as if we are saying ‘we want to include you, but not as an embarrassment, still less a challenge.’

It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic but this week I heard of a bishop saying to a group of gay clergy that they were the first gay people he had ever met. Now you might think that this is a) unlikely and b) as I say, tragic. The question ‘where have you been all your life’ feels apt. Do we really want, or need, ‘seniors’ whose experience and word view is so restricted?

It is my strong belief that the Church of England also has to ask itself what it might mean to bind up the wounds of this community and to reflect on what it might mean to proclaim release to those held in a form of ecclesial captivity. It is also my strong belief that the time has come to stop making sweeping statements based on grand, but very probably mythical, narratives and actually to the hard work of finding out where most members of the Church of England are at. If the Church of England fails to do this the (in) famous teaching document will be issued into a vacuum, or black hole, entirely of our own making.

Finally, it is time to (and I can’t quite believe I am saying this!) stop trying to manage the process and exercise some leadership. The Church of England, or at least her ‘seniors,’ seem to be lurching from one crisis to another; always reacting to the last critical incident. These critical incidents occur because there is no sense of overall direction and an absence of ‘leaders’ who are prepared to nail their colors to the mast.

Every official statement, letter, slogan or catchphrase seems to be issued as a reaction and what we are left with is ambiguity and contradiction. Let me give just one example: how does Mr. Nye’s letter, both in terms of (doctrinal) content and tone,  sit alongside the archiepiscopal promise of a ‘radical new inclusivity?’  Of course the catch phrase itself (radical new inclusivity) was the fruit of a failed attempt to close off the issue through the bishops report to synod; the one that the clergy declined to take note of! In failing to take note of the report the clergy rejected and then ejected the previous guiding slogan ‘change in tone and culture.’ The irony is that Mr. Nye’s letter is entirely unreflective of any supposed change in tone or culture, let alone movement towards ‘radical new inclusivity.’

The reason that our seniors are trying so hard to manage (rather than lead) the process to an uncertain end, in my view, boils down to one word: fear. Fear of course never seldom likes to fess up, instead it likes to masquerade as strength (but rarely courage, for this is a harder act of mimicry to pull off). Maybe our seniors need to spend some time dwelling in the biblical phrase ‘do not fear’ and reflect on what this might mean for them in the field of sexual ethics asking themselves who and what are we truly afraid of? The opening verses of Psalm 27 address these two questions: who and of what I am afraid?

My own suspicion is that the bishops are deeply afraid of the ultra conservative ‘over my dead body’  few and that if they exercised real and courageous leadership they might just find support, respect, friendship and loyalty from the many (even the majority) in our famously broad church. This doesn’t mean or imply that conservative bishops need to jettison their own theology on this one issue, but it does mean an acceptance of difference and a recognition that their own theology, on this (second order) issue, is of secondary importance. Spreading this message through the House of Bishops and then into the church would of course be the responsibility of our most senior leaders.

In the absence of courageous leadership all we end up with is the continuation of a badly managed process the result of which will be ambiguity, reactivity, vacillation, lax governance, chaos and worst of all the pain and further marginalization of those who are already hurt, bleeding and hanging on in there by their very finger tips.

 

The Church of England response to the US Episcopalian consultation

From the Bishop of Buckingham, the Dean of Guildford, the Rt Revd David Gillett, the Revd Andrew Lightbown, 76 others of the clergy, and 36 members of the laity

Sir, — We have read William Nye’s letter to the Episcopal Church in the United States (News, 20 April) with considerable interest, surprise, and, to be honest, disappointment, and wish to dissociate ourselves from it.

Mr Nye writes about pressure from the Church of England to dissociate from the Episcopal Church. We think this is a misleading statement. Pressure may well come from various conservative groups in the Church of England, but (unless the content of the letter is tested synodically), he surely cannot claim to speak for the Church of England as a whole.

Mr Nye’s letter, written on Archbishops’ Council stationery, gives the impression that he was acting as an agent of the Council and its trustees and writing with its authority. But, as he acknowledges, his response is simply the fruit of conversations held among a small cadre of professional staff. As a governance matter, this will not, we think, do.

The letter refers to a majority belief in the Church of England that the only legitimate locus for sexual relationships is within heterosexual marriage. This sweeping assertion cannot, in fact, be substantiated, as the Church of England, to our knowledge, has never asked her regular worshipping community what it thinks and believes about this.

Given the House of Bishops’ work on human sexuality, now would be a good time to find out. Would it be too much to suggest a survey of worshippers on the middle two Sundays of October, the dates used for the compilation of mission statistics? We would not be surprised to find, for instance, that, among lay people, a majority would recognise same-sex relationships as a valid and joyous expression of human sexual loving, and would wish the national Church to allow for the liturgical affirmation of such relationships.

To discover what breadth of opinion is actually held within the Church of England would provide much-needed evidence to inform the Bishops’ teaching document and future communications with the Episcopal Church in the US and the Anglican Communion as a whole.

ALAN WILSON, DIANNA GWILLIAMS, DAVID GILLETT, ANDREW LIGHTBOWN,

DAVID MEAKIN, MICHAEL SADGROVE, FRANCES WOOKEY, ROSIE HARPER, DIARMAID MACCULLOCH, MIRANDA THRELFALL-HOLMES, JONATHAN DRAPER, ROBERT THOMPSON, ANDREW TEAL, JANET FIFE, RICHARD COLES, CHARLOTTE BANNISTER-PARKER, HANNAH-LEWIS, KEVIN SCOTT, ANDY MARSHALL, NEAL TERRY, PETER LEONARD, COLIN COWARD, JEREMY DAVIES, WILLIAM LAMB, JEREMY FLETCHER, NADINE DANIEL, WYN BEYNON, PHILIP COCHRANE, ANDREW ALLEN, JONATHAN CLATWORTHY, ANDREW HAMMOND, NICHOLAS ELDER, SARAH BRUSH, BARRY NAYLOR, JULIAN HOLYWELL, DAVID RUSHTON, DAN BARNES-DAVIES, RICHARD WATSON, MIKE TODD, ANDREW DOTCHIN, CHRISTINE ALLSOPP, JAMES ROSENTHAL,SIMON KERSHAW, NIKKI SKIPWORTH, ANDREW FORESHAW-CAIN, MARJORIE BROWN, PRU DULLEY, RICHARD HAGGIS, MICHAEL ROPER, JEREMY PEMBERTON, DAVID AUSTIN, RICHENDA WHEELER, ALICE GOODMAN, SIMON RUNDELL, MARION CLUTTERBUCK, ALLIANDRA ALLISON, MARK PUDGE, DOMINIC HOLROYD-THOMAS, CATH HOLLYWELL, ELAINE DANDO, JONATHAN PAGE, DAVID VYVYAN, RORY REYNOLDS, SHARON ELDERGILL, JANE BRADBURY, JACQUELINE STOBER, TIMOTHY GOODE, ANTONIO GARCIA FUERTE, ROBERT KOZAK, DWAYNE ENGH, MARK LETTERS, BRUTUS GREEN, STUART CRADDOCK, ANDY ATKINS, SIMON ROBINSON, JULIA FRENCH, JANE CHAMBERLAIN, EMMA DUFF, AND BRUCE KINSEY (clergy); SCOTT PETERSON, SIMON SARMIENTO, ERIKA BAKER, TRACEY BYRNE, JAYNE OZANNE, TIM HIND, JENNY HUMPHREYS, MARTIN SKIPWORTH, SIMON CULLEY, RAH FROEMMING-CARTER, JEREMY TIMM, JAY GREENE, ROB EDLIN-WHITE, KATE ALLREAD, RICHARD WELLINGS-THOMAS, RICHARD ASHBY, STEVEN HILTON, JOSHUA CAMPBELL, SUE JONES, ALICE WATSON, RUTH WILDE, SALLY BARNES, HANNAH GRIVELL, PENELOPE COWELL-DOE, JUSTINE RICHARDS, LIZ BADMAN, MARY SUTTON, KISORI MORRIS, LAURA SYKES, FIONA MACMILLAN, NIC TALL, SUSAN STRONG, ANN MEMMOTT, CHRIS RICKARD, JACKIE TWINE, AND NICK BASSON (laity)

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The Church of England response to the US Episcopalian consultation

 

The Church of England response to the US Episcopalian consultation

From the Bishop of Buckingham, the Dean of Guildford, the Rt Revd David Gillett, the Revd Andrew Lightbown, 76 others of the clergy, and 36 members of the laity

Sir, — We have read William Nye’s letter to the Episcopal Church in the United States (News, 20 April) with considerable interest, surprise, and, to be honest, disappointment, and wish to dissociate ourselves from it.

Mr Nye writes about pressure from the Church of England to dissociate from the Episcopal Church. We think this is a misleading statement. Pressure may well come from various conservative groups in the Church of England, but (unless the content of the letter is tested synodically), he surely cannot claim to speak for the Church of England as a whole.

Mr Nye’s letter, written on Archbishops’ Council stationery, gives the impression that he was acting as an agent of the Council and its trustees and writing with its authority. But, as he acknowledges, his response is simply the fruit of conversations held among a small cadre of professional staff. As a governance matter, this will not, we think, do.

The letter refers to a majority belief in the Church of England that the only legitimate locus for sexual relationships is within heterosexual marriage. This sweeping assertion cannot, in fact, be substantiated, as the Church of England, to our knowledge, has never asked her regular worshipping community what it thinks and believes about this.

Given the House of Bishops’ work on human sexuality, now would be a good time to find out. Would it be too much to suggest a survey of worshippers on the middle two Sundays of October, the dates used for the compilation of mission statistics? We would not be surprised to find, for instance, that, among lay people, a majority would recognise same-sex relationships as a valid and joyous expression of human sexual loving, and would wish the national Church to allow for the liturgical affirmation of such relationships.

To discover what breadth of opinion is actually held within the Church of England would provide much-needed evidence to inform the Bishops’ teaching document and future communications with the Episcopal Church in the US and the Anglican Communion as a whole.

ALAN WILSON, DIANNA GWILLIAMS, DAVID GILLETT, ANDREW LIGHTBOWN,

DAVID MEAKIN, MICHAEL SADGROVE, FRANCES WOOKEY, ROSIE HARPER, DIARMAID MACCULLOCH, MIRANDA THRELFALL-HOLMES, JONATHAN DRAPER, ROBERT THOMPSON, ANDREW TEAL, JANET FIFE, RICHARD COLES, CHARLOTTE BANNISTER-PARKER, HANNAH-LEWIS, KEVIN SCOTT, ANDY MARSHALL, NEAL TERRY, PETER LEONARD, COLIN COWARD, JEREMY DAVIES, WILLIAM LAMB, JEREMY FLETCHER, NADINE DANIEL, WYN BEYNON, PHILIP COCHRANE, ANDREW ALLEN, JONATHAN CLATWORTHY, ANDREW HAMMOND, NICHOLAS ELDER, SARAH BRUSH, BARRY NAYLOR, JULIAN HOLYWELL, DAVID RUSHTON, DAN BARNES-DAVIES, RICHARD WATSON, MIKE TODD, ANDREW DOTCHIN, CHRISTINE ALLSOPP, JAMES ROSENTHAL,SIMON KERSHAW, NIKKI SKIPWORTH, ANDREW FORESHAW-CAIN, MARJORIE BROWN, PRU DULLEY, RICHARD HAGGIS, MICHAEL ROPER, JEREMY PEMBERTON, DAVID AUSTIN, RICHENDA WHEELER, ALICE GOODMAN, SIMON RUNDELL, MARION CLUTTERBUCK, ALLIANDRA ALLISON, MARK PUDGE, DOMINIC HOLROYD-THOMAS, CATH HOLLYWELL, ELAINE DANDO, JONATHAN PAGE, DAVID VYVYAN, RORY REYNOLDS, SHARON ELDERGILL, JANE BRADBURY, JACQUELINE STOBER, TIMOTHY GOODE, ANTONIO GARCIA FUERTE, ROBERT KOZAK, DWAYNE ENGH, MARK LETTERS, BRUTUS GREEN, STUART CRADDOCK, ANDY ATKINS, SIMON ROBINSON, JULIA FRENCH, JANE CHAMBERLAIN, EMMA DUFF, AND BRUCE KINSEY (clergy); SCOTT PETERSON, SIMON SARMIENTO, ERIKA BAKER, TRACEY BYRNE, JAYNE OZANNE, TIM HIND, JENNY HUMPHREYS, MARTIN SKIPWORTH, SIMON CULLEY, RAH FROEMMING-CARTER, JEREMY TIMM, JAY GREENE, ROB EDLIN-WHITE, KATE ALLREAD, RICHARD WELLINGS-THOMAS, RICHARD ASHBY, STEVEN HILTON, JOSHUA CAMPBELL, SUE JONES, ALICE WATSON, RUTH WILDE, SALLY BARNES, HANNAH GRIVELL, PENELOPE COWELL-DOE, JUSTINE RICHARDS, LIZ BADMAN, MARY SUTTON, KISORI MORRIS, LAURA SYKES, FIONA MACMILLAN, NIC TALL, SUSAN STRONG, ANN MEMMOTT, CHRIS RICKARD, JACKIE TWINE, AND NICK BASSON (laity)

The theopolitics of disassociation

I have read William Nye’s letter, sent on behalf of the staff working for the  Archbishops’ Council to TEC (The Episcopal Church), a few times now. What is clear, at least to me, is that the response is entirely theo-political. The reference to the word pressure is both illuminating and interesting. The  staff of the Archbishops’ Council suggest, through the pen of Mr Nye, that should marriage rites for same-sex couples be written into The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer then “the pressure to dissociate the Church of England from TEC [the Episcopal Church], in all manner of ways, would increase”. This is presented as a blanket comment, a statement of truth, one made on behalf of the entirety of the Church of England. It is a critique that has been offered, in reality, solely by the Archbishop’s Council staff team, a group of insiders who  should not be regarded as coterminous with the Church of England.

I am deeply worried that this unrepresentative group has responded to a request from  TEC, even allowing for the time constraint Mr. Nye’s response refers to. It is interesting, perhaps even instructive, that the text of the letter seeks to justify the reply being authored by the Archbishops’ Council staff team. If it was unambiguously within the remit of the ‘staffers’  no such justification would be required.

The aims and objectives governing the scope and span of the Archbishops’ Council, taken from the Charity Commission’s website are: ‘Enabling, supporting, sustaining & advancing of the Church’s worship, spiritual & numerical growth, engagement with social justice & environmental issues ,work in education, lifelong learning & discipleship, selection, training, and resourcing of people for public ministry & lay vocations and the inherited fabric of buildings, to maintain & develop these for worship & community service.’ 

The Church that is referred to is of course the Church of England. The Archbishops’ Council, let alone its staff,  has no remit to respond, on behalf of the Church of England, to issues relating to overall Anglican polity. The Archbishops’ Council exists solely for the purposes of enabling mission and ministry in the Church of England, for the people of England. That’s it; that’s all. It should not be used as a vehicle of response on global or doctrinal matters. So yet again, what we have seen is excruciatingly poor governance.

The letter also makes the following statement: ‘For a majority in the Communion, and in the Church of England (not to mention the Church Catholic) Holy Scripture is held to rule that sexual activity outside marriage between a man and a woman is contrary to God’s will.’ Now I can’t speak for the Church Catholic but I do want to suggest that this a massive, sweeping, and very possibly unfounded statement from a Church of England perspective.

Where is the empirical evidence to support this claim? What does polling suggest? Well, polling doesn’t suggest anything for the simple reason that the Church of England has conscientiously chosen not to poll her members. We simply don’t know what the majority in the pews think or believe. So why not poll our ‘membership?’ Why, not produce a simple survey designed to show the range of beliefs on issues relating to marriage and sexuality and ask everyone who attends church on the middle two Sundays in October (the dates that the Church of England uses for the gathering of mission statistics) to complete it? It would be a really easy and straightforward exercise to undertake and it would lead the Church of England to a place where it was able to make statements on the basis of hard, verifiable, evidence. Surely this would be a useful and illuminating exercise?

But, it won’t happen because truth is a frightening thing. Its far easier to make assumptions, or simply to tell people what they ought to believe. It won’t happen because conservative ‘leaders’ don’t want the genie out of the bottle either in the Church of England as a whole, or in their own church. It won’t happen because the Church of England is gripped by fear; we simply don’t want to know what people really think and believe.

In the absence of hard evidence my suspicion is that ‘the pressure to dissociate the Church of England from TEC’  is based on assumption and, entirely driven by one group within what is supposed to be a famously broad church. If the Church of England, through her various instruments of governance, purport to speak for the breadth of the church then they really ought to find out what the widest possible constituency think and, believe. In the absence of data all that is left is speculation and assumption and, tragically,  ‘pressure’ from the most threatening of voices; that is the real theo-politic behind the response written by Mr. Nye on behalf of the Archbishop’s Council. 

It seems to me that the Church of England has two choices: courage or fear. My suspicion is that fear, masquerading as strong and decisive leadership, underpinned by assumption (fears’ best friend), and, a lax attitude towards governance will continue have its toxic way.

The only way to relieve the pressure from within is to find out what people really do think and believe. This will take courage for the data may well stand contrary to the assumptions that are so often presented as fact. (And, in the meantime can we please make sure that our governance is of the highest possible standard?)

 

 

 

Speaking of being senior

I enjoy watching rugby, or at least I do when my team, Northampton Saints, win. Okay, I haven’t enjoyed my rugby very much this year! Over recent years, since the advent of the referee saying to the players ‘last play,’ it has become common for the side in possession, if they are winning, to boot the ball high into the stands. The referee then blows the final whistle; job done and four points in the bank. If I could choose one word that I would like to be kicked high into the stands and off the church’s  field of play it would be the word ‘senior.’ I just don’t think its a church word. In fact I would go further and suggest that its use represents the ultimate capitulation to a culture that endorses, promotes and celebrates success. Yet, it is a word that is used with some extravagance in the world of the church.

Over the last few weeks I have seen an area bishop described as a ‘senior bishop,’ I have heard a member of general synod being characterized as a ‘senior member of General Synod,’ I received an invitation to a conference to which ‘senior pastors come free.’ And so it goes on: the bishop’s staff is now frequently referred to as ‘the senior team’ and special MBA style (apparently) training is being provided for those identified for senior leadership. For those of a gentle, middle management, disposition escaping the word senior is impossible. It is a word that just won’t be kicked into touch. It should be because it’s a dangerous, toxic, word. It’s a word that begs to be idolized. It’s also a highly secular word. Its close cousins are ambition, status, reward and career. Its closest ecclesial relation is clericalism.

It is true that the church operates on the basis of a hierarchy. But, surely the church’s hierarchy should be based on those old-fashioned notions of vocation, functionality, and (mutual) accountability? I would like to see more stress on these, especially accountability. I also think that the church would be better, healthier, place if bishops, priests and deacons simply focused on being bishops, priests, and deacons fulfilling the basic functions as described in that work of genius: the ordinal. The church’s hierarchy shouldn’t be about seniority because at heart it is a functional hierarchy in which men and women take their place following a sense of calling to a specific ministry; vocation in other words.

Seniority is in many realms regarded as a good in its own right and something to be strived for. Seniority can also be a gift, granted for good and impressive behaviour. Seniority confers status. It is often assumed that those who occupy senior positions have higher powers or greater abilities. Seniority is frequently granted on the basis of perceived success. It is often assumed that those occupying senior roles have a greater ability to develop strategy. No wonder those occupying senior positions frequently want to develop a closed network to advise them, and work with (but in reality for) them. Demarcation, the drawing of non porous borders, and the encouragement of unfettered ambition and pride can be the toxic results of an excessive drive to be regarded as a senior, for seniority is best served through the creation of an exclusive club. Clubs comprised only of seniors are by their nature exclusive, divisive, prone to group think, and possessed by a tendency to protect the club and its interests at all costs.

Matthew 20, 21-28 perhaps reveals the problems of a focus on seniority. Traditionally James, John and their rather pushy mother are presented as suffering from pride, and ambition but what they are really asking for is a place at the top table, one on Jesus’ right the other on his left. Their desire is to be considered senior. No wonder the other apostles are angered. The apostles are supposed to be equal in status. The idea of senior and junior apostles was for Jesus’ contemporaries an anathema. It should be for those of us who continue to walk in the apostolic tradition. The idea of a senior bishop, synod member or pastor is, when seen in the light of this account, silly.

The Rule of Benedict also stands opposed to some modern notions of seniority. Benedict for sure demands a functional hierarchy, but he also insists that virtue, not success, should be the determinant of status within the monastery. Being an abbot, prior or steward isn’t regarded as a reward for success neither does it assume a greater ability to make strategic decisions. In fact Benedict warns against the very idea of the senior team for in Chapter Three of the rule he writes:

‘When any business of importance is to be considered in the monastery, the abbot or abbess should summon the whole community together and personally explain to them the agenda that lies before them…….we have insisted that all the community should be summoned because it often happens that the Lord makes the best course clear to one of the younger members.’

If the church is to flourish and grow, if it is to organize itself in a profoundly counter cultural way, if it is to be outward looking, if it is to minimize the risk of group think and clericalism and, if it really is serious about the well being of its members, then it really does need to kick the word senior off the pitch and high up into the stands.

 

 

 

Thinking about anxiety, depression, mindfulness and prayer

One of the issues with mental illness is that it is frequently, normally, an enduring illness. Depression and anxiety seldom simply go away. They are conditions that need to be lived with, through, and beyond. They are also sneaky conditions. They are quite capable of appearing as if out of nowhere and taking their victim captive. These have been my enduring experiences of depression and anxiety. It all sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it?

The good news is that it is possible to live beyond these two twin impostors. One of the ‘tricks’ I have had to learn is to look back and remind myself that I am still standing, that I did get through some pretty rough times and, that my worst fears didn’t come to their ugly and toxic fruition. Learning the art of remembering, if not well, then better, is a key tool in my box of mindful strategies.

Remembering well doesn’t mean re-writing history, nor does it mean trying to forget the really bad things that have happened in our lives and, the truly painful periods we have experienced but it does, for me, mean accepting the simple fact that I am still standing, that I have to a greater or lesser extent moved on, or beyond. As a Christian this inspires, in some ways, a sense of awe and wonder: ‘How is it that I didn’t simply capitulate? Where, or from whom, did I find the strength to keep going?’ Psalm 27 has become one of my key texts. I often read mindfully:

‘The Lord is my light, my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the refuge of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?……………..I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, have courage and wait, wait for the Lord’ 

Slowly and mindfully reading this wonderful text helps me to remember well, to look forward (or beyond my immediate condition) with some hope. The relationship between remembering well and hope is foundational to my ability to live with, through, and beyond depression and anxiety.

On the Mindfulness course I attended a few years ago one of the strategies participants were given was to consciously bring to mind our troubles and anxieties. We were invited to picture them as clouds moving before us; into our field of vision and beyond our field of vision. I don’t use this strategy, as taught, any longer but I have adapted it, and placed it in a liturgical setting, as part of my night-prayer (Compline). This is what I do:

I start my night prayer with the Coventry Litany of Reconciliation before reading Matthew 11, 28-30, ‘Come unto me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest…….’ I then seek to, mindfully and prayerfully, bring before God my burdens. I do so in the knowledge that it is my historic burdens that are most likely to feed Impostor One: depression. As a depressive I am perfectly capable of ruminating on, holding onto and even in some ways cherishing my deepest hurts. For me a deep sense of  regret can also be a significant burden; ‘if only’ is my most unhelpful, most toxic, mantra. So in order to live beyond the burdens of hurt and regret I need to practice the art of giving them away, to Jesus.

Next I read 1 Peter 5, 6-7: ‘Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.’  

Humility is important because despite knowing that I can’t solve all my own problems, there is still lurking not very far below the surface, a Messiah Complex and, a belief that I need to be strong; heroically so. Anxiety(Impostor 2), for me, derives from the writing of a pretty dire future orientated script. What I have learnt is that my past (burdens) and future (anxieties) are inextricably linked and, because, remembering well is something I need to constantly work on I tend to assume that the worst will happen. So mindful reflection on this Scripture provides me with the opportunity to name my deepest anxieties before the God who cares. Mindfully placing my burdens and anxieties into Jesus’ hands has, thus far, allowed me to live with, through, and (mostly) beyond depression and anxiety.

I finish my night prayer with the Nunc Dimitttis and Lord’s Prayer. I do so for several therapeutic reasons:  First, it is important to end a period of mindful prayer. I have found that if I remain focused on my burdens and anxieties for too long it becomes very easy to start ruminating and ruminating is the precise opposite of ‘coming unto….’ and ‘casting all anxiety.’ Secondly, I take great comfort in saying the prayers of the church (the Nunc Dimittis & the Lord’s Prayer) for I know that all around the world people of good faith, all of whom have their own issues to deal with, are saying these precise prayers.  These prayers are capable of playing a role in breaking down any feelings of isolation and bringing me back into community. Thirdly, because they are effortless prayers all I need to do is say them and, trust in them.

So there you have it: my own modified and liturgical form of mindful prayer, designed to help me live with, through, and beyond depression and anxiety.

Key words  / phrases: Remembering well or better, hope, consciously bringing to mind troubles and anxieties, impostor, prayerfully, liturgically, humility, trust.