Animal Padre's
Christians Against All Animal Abuse
"Christ’s redemption is for the whole of creation!"

Autumn 2013

The Flock That Christendom Forgot: An Animal Padre’s Uphill Pilgrimage

Episode 16

Well, I swore silently to myself that if given the post as Rector of Royal Deeside I'd diplomatically (never my best quality!) seek an ally in Princess Diana. She'd recently opposed her husband concerning blood sports - swore she would never take part in them again - after having slain a graceful stag and been overcome with remorse.

However, things were not to be. By a very close margin (according to the Bishop!) the vacancy had gone to the other candidate: a delightful fellow, indeed, whose affinities and interests may have made him more appropriate for such a post. Yet this Scottish bishop was still anxious to acquire my services. Would I not seriously consider being the Diocesan hospital chaplain with several others to assist me? Well, I again gave much time to soul searching and prayer!

The post was accepted and the day arrived - quite a sad one indeed - when the furniture was transferred onto the van from that lowly terraced house in Dewsbury, one which now held memorable associations; and not least, of dear Tibby, the stray cat from the defunct mill who’d, according to a neighbour, ‘adopted me’ by appearing on my back doorstep around four years previous. Yes, but a few months later (as previously mentioned in this serialisation) was lost - never to be seen again - until a later dream assured me he was in Paradise.

From Woollen Town to Granite City

Canon Tom Sharp, the Dean, had come to see me off with tears in his eyes - for four years we'd shared our prayers together and interceded most days for the needs of others throughout the vast area of Dewsbury and beyond. I now thanked God for him, and thanked Jesus for all the way He had led. Indeed, one's move to Dewsbury had not been one of humiliation after all. It had, unknowingly, been the beginning of a glorious exaltation. Strange and wonderful are the ways of this wonderful God! And what an honour to be in His service!

As for Doreen and myself, we moved from Dewsbury to 'Granite City' where, as well as being senior hospital chaplain over the diocese, I would once again swing incense, ring bells and give Benediction, this time as part time priest-in-charge of St Clement's in Mastrick, another industrial suburb.

Yes, great and wonderful work would be attempted for humans as well as animals, and the latter would reverberate from Scotland to Germany. But alas, for my dear and wonderful helpmeet, Doreen, a clergy house and district in which to live, as far removed from Royal Deeside as the moon is from cheese.
Yes, and more disturbing still: on visiting a ward of the Royal Infirmary - around three months on! – a most courteous and yet disturbed patient said: “I recognise YOU!” “You so badly let us down! We voted for YOU. It was you we wanted and Not the other fellow!” She was one of the past committee from royal Deeside. Well, I did the best one could to explain, and hoped she would pass the message on to the rest who’d taken part at that warm and homely meeting.

Where the Kirk Rules

Aberdeen, or Granite City as it is commonly called, was certainly cool and very bracing. The state church of Scotland: rigidly Presbyterian and commonly referred to as The Kirk, had a tremendous influence for good over the whole of Scotland. As an Anglican cleric coming up from 'south of the border" I quite envied their Ministers. A Vicar down in England is frequently cause for a music hall joke and the majority of folk who call themselves 'Church of England' hardly ever attend – apart, ofcourse, from hatches, matches, and dispatches (i.e. christenings, marriages and funerals!).

However, the clergy in Scotland - during those 1980s - were revered and respected. It would still be considered very bad taste if one were to speak disparagingly of a Parish minister; and indeed, every school in Scotland had its own chaplain who could wield great influence amongst the young. Consequently, I quite envied these clergy of the Kirk; and what is more, they always had the influence and wisdom to screen an Epilogue on television each night, as well as a Thought For The Day each morning.

Off on a Unique Pilgrimage

Indeed, my own opportunity to write the 'God Slot' or present an evening epilogue came at a most convenient time following a few days in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh; for there I'd knelt at little Bobby's grave, just near the entrance of Grey friars church yard (the actual setting for the Walt Disney film. Grey Friars Bobby). Sadly, it was several yards away from the consecrated area where his master had been laid to rest; for this little Cairn Terrier could - under no circumstances - have been buried near humans! The Kirk – comprised of such godly folk! - would have seen to that!

Well, there I interceded towards God and told Him that I wanted to do a work for animals in memory of such a creature whose presence and blessing I now felt so extremely close and real. I asked myself, was I not in a unique situation? Had not God guided me out of several Christian denominations into other ones for a purpose?

How was it that in a search for a deeper and all-embracing Faith I had passed through the successive stages of first being a Baptist Pastor; then a Congregational minister; a Church Of England curate; a Rector of an Anglican Church whose ceremonial was 'down in the cellar'; then a Vicar of a church in which the ceremonial was as high as the Vatican itself? And now, here I was up to Scotland as a Scottish Episcopalian hospital chaplain. Yes, and glad to minister to those of every faith and equally to those of none!

It was equally becoming more real than ever: the purpose Almighty God had behind it. In a quest to leam from other strands - and a growing realization that other branches were not so much contradictory as complementary - I'd come to the conclusion that all strands had abysmally fallen short of what God required of them: All branches of Christendom shared one frightful and unforgivable omission! They had interpreted God's compassion, salvation and redemptive plan as if it were only applicable to humans. Indeed, as if the only life that mattered to God was that of depraved humanity.

to be continued...

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