The Flock that Christendom Forgot: An Animal Padre's Uphill Pilgrimage
All the clergy within the 1984 Team Parish of Dewsbury welcomed our
decision to marry. Only the High Anglicans of adjacent parishes
discouraged it. One of them kindly said: "You've been married before,
Father. It may be good to take Doreen in as your housekeeper. The
Romans frequently do that kind of thing. Their hierarchy is more
understanding than ours! But, of course, you'll realize: ‘marriage
itself is out!”
Nevertheless, a quiet civil-marriage soon
followed, and was performed by a Christian registrar, with dignity and
a minimum of fuss. The Bishop (a high churchman) was then happy for me
to continue in the present post. However, because of his
churchmanship, he would now no longer be able to offer me any future
parish of my own. Nevertheless, if I wished to approach any other
bishop in the Anglican Communion I could, undoubtedly, be assured of
Consequently, after approaching bishops assumed
to be as non-judgmental as Austin Baker of Salisbury - yet without any
success whatsoever! - the Bishop of Aberdeen & Orkney came to our
rescue. He was most sympathetic, having recently as a widower, married
Almost a Royal Opportunity
Soon, Doreen and I were being escorted up to Royal Deeside, and
shown around the pleasant rectory in Ballater. “Does it meet with your
approval?’ asked the Bishop. ‘Would Doreen, as possible lady of the
house, feel at home in it?’ ‘Was the heating system and present decor,
acceptable?’ Yes, as relevant funds were sparse!’ Such were the kind
of questions asked before we left the vacant rectory.
many miles had been traversed in viewing the scattered joint parishes;
and now the joint church councils were eagerly waiting in the early
evening to meet us. The venue being a Ballater hotel where the Bishop
cordially introduced us to a host of warm hearted folk.
One of them was an ‘honourable lady’ who eagerly advised me to
spend some time with another dear soul whose late husband had held a
high Masonic post. One or two most cultured gentlemen with a
delightful sense of humour made Doreen and I feel truly at home. and
soon. sandwiches of pate, chicken and other fillings (thankfully! one
or two appropriate for a vegetarian diet) were graciously handed
round, minus all the crusts. Then, during the chitchat I was asked
more than once if I'd visited 'the delightful little chapel', so small
and cute, 'known as St. Ninian's?' Indeed I had; and its memory sticks
vividly in mind.
Within the earlier itinerary of that same day the bishop
had driven us up a hill past many trees, where lo and behold, a herd
of timid deer had majestically gathered. Then, as we came round a
further bend of this secluded track a large Victorian
style of mansion loomed up before us. "This is Mar Lodge," said the
Bishop. "It is a hunting lodge and has within the grounds its own
chapel. You would be expected to officiate here once a month!"
I there and then told him of my animal concern, to which he
was sympathetic and in agreement. "However, this is part of their
life," he affirmed. "They've known no other. Antagonism would be
counterproductive. It would do no good. In fact it would alienate
them," and he looked to me for my response to which I smiled, nodded,
and remained mute.
Happy Birthday & A Blessed Hunt
Soon, we entered the unique chapel. It was dark and small.
My wife and I looked towards each other as heads of deer and antler
'adorned' the place - along with heraldry and memorabilia of those
whose blood lust required the breeding of so many gracious, red deer.
Then, as our host directed us to the altar he mentioned how
I reminded him of a previous incumbent. The fellow had been deeply
loved as the Dean of the Diocese. “So sensitive and caring was he to
those who frequented Mar Lodge”, interjected a sweet lady warden who'd
joined us, that "knowing it was the birthday of a boy in the
congregation, he got the worshippers to sing Happy Birthday to You."
This was then followed by Holy Communion; to be followed afterwards by
the day's hunt!
Well, I swore silently to myself that
if given the post 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.
to be continued...
Go on to
Aberdeen’s ‘Annual Animal Blessing
Service’ Welcomes You
Return to Spring 2013 Issue