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

Spring 2013

The Flock that Christendom Forgot: An Animal Padre's Uphill Pilgrimage

Episode 15

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 his blessing.
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 a divorcee!

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.
Already 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
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