Canon Tony Williamson, who has died (2019) aged 85, was one of the Church of England's “worker priests”, seeing his job as a forklift driver in a car factory as his Christian calling.
See the appreciation written by his son, in The Guardian
Charles Sutton writes: Back in 2011 an important item of research was carried out by the The Revd Teresa Morgan. It explored the life, work, calling and utilization of Self-Supporting Ministers in the church.
Since that time two things have happened: we have moved on in our thinking and a new research instrument is available.
Be assured, we have moved on. But not by that much! Nine years on and we still have issues of being 'undervalued', yet also ministry as 'privilege and joy'; of being underutilised, yet contributing very significant amounts of time and effort; and with many diocesan processes being shaped and defined by stipendiary ministry.
This instrument is available to any diocese that may choose to use it. The first was Gloucester and the most recent Exeter. Thus far, nearly a quarter of dioceses have made use of the process or are intending to do so. It is open-access, and each can be adapted to use specific diocesan logos, names and terminology. Additional items (questions) can also be inserted if they are of particular interest.
More than this! Each participating diocese can agree to share data with other participating dioceses. This is data share only. The data is anonymised and cannot be attributed to any individual. This means the building of a significant data set that can be shared across dioceses to inform thinking and aid planning. The tool -
• Enables you to better understand the attitudes of your SSMs
• Gives you a glimpse into the activities of your SSMs
• Provides you with 'voice' when it comes to shaping diocesan strategy
• Supports the identification of development needs and area of process and policy needing attention
See flyer here
Congratulations to the organisers of this National SSM Conference. Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London, gave the opening address. The day was attended by SSM Officers and clergy from many of the dioceses. See the programme here
John died at the very end of 2017. He has been a friend and an inspiration. He is properly described as a worker-priest and he realised that unusual calling to a far greater extent than most of today's self-supporting priests. His experience of selling his labour (he worked for most of his life in Truman's Brewery on East London's Brick Lane) eventually made the church, as conventionally understood, a difficult environment in which to operate. This is an extract from a 2010 document John wrote, and recalls something of the tension he felt and the challenges he squared up to, as well as the clarity of his thought.
"So my quarrel with the Church is not at the level of this evidently fascinating, but unproductive issue of "whether there is a God" or not. It is, rather, about the claim of the Christian religion to represent Jesus and the "values" and norms of the "Kingdom of God" which he embodied and served. This is not a new complaint. But, perhaps for any Christian such as myself, who has always wanted to know how to devote himself more genuinely, there's a natural "term" to the business of being committed to an association which, in effect, trivializes its own awesome objectives and speaks so relentlessly in a language nobody else can understand.
In case anyone is interested (after all, someone reading this may well ask "What's the big deal? why all these words, only to arrive where so many of our contemporaries have long since ended up?) the question I feel obliged to face is: in the short time that remains to me, how am I to fulfil the obligation to Jesus and his "Kingdom of God" which I am unable to shake off despite my repudiation of the Church's theology? Certainly I cannot pretend that the Church has no value or never comes near to the Kingdom of God. The churches are often to be found doing, with a good will, the things which, as Jesus said, ought not to be left undone.
Perhaps the same sort of claim could be made for the many movements of protest that are available. Should I not be content with the opportunities of the present times for political involvement? My natural commitment is to the anti-war, anti-nuclear (power as well as bomb), anti-imperialist movements. I share the widespread revulsion against what amounts to a Zionist hegemony in Palestine. There is no end to 'progressive' causes and to aspects of the campaign to deal adequately with global warming. These sorts of commitment were associated, in the past, with the socialist hope. Why should I not be wholehearted about one or more of them now?
It may be because I have come to see that protest inevitably implies a sort of self-righteousness. Who can honestly face the dubiousness of his own self-interest – the possibility that there are grounds for surrendering the privileges and securities by which he makes himself irreproachable as an independent citizen? In fact, it is precisely as an "independent" citizen that I might, for example, come forward to protest that others should not lack the same sort of amenities as I enjoy. But, when it came to the crunch, how much would I allow my security to be threatened by the consequences of this kind of advocacy?
So, knowing myself, I am not likely to abandon altogether either the Church or my favourite causes. However, I am on the lookout for some better way of (and some deeper reserve of courage for) affirming the Good News than "by word and sacrament", or by public demonstration - some authentic and unromantic way of joining those who, being society's rejects, are, unknown to themselves, the passport-holders of the Kingdom of God."
Thanks to Jenny Gage for these notes from a meeting of unpaid clergy in East Anglia held on 3 December 2016. Priests from Ely, Norwich, St Albans, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and London attended. Click here to open (PDF)
Captain Mainwaring might complain that all SSM clergy do is whine. It may sound like that, but really there is a more important message for the church about the care of its many ordained sons and daughters who are not on the payroll. Follow 'read more' for an interesting article from good old Church Times, 15 May 2015
The ABC of MSE: Assuring/Blessing/Celebrating
CHRISM Summer Conference, High Leigh, Hertfordshire 24th-26th July 2015
Guest speaker Richard Collins, DDO, Durham
The event will explore what it is to be an MSE. How we assure people we work with. How God is in our work, blessing it. How we celebrate the presence of God in our workplace and the human community there. See the flyer for more.
from Phil Aspinall of CHRISM:
The 2015 conference of the European Worker Priests will take place over the Pentecost weekend, 22–25 May 2015. This year our hosts will be the Catalans and the venue the Residence Martí Codolar in Barcelona http://www.marti-codolar.net
As well as the usual intense and deep discussion on the theme, the weekend will include visits and several suggestions have been put forward by the Catalans, including: a Jesuit centre studying and supporting immigrants and refugees; a co-operative providing work and training people in the recycling industry; an initiative bringing together 32 organisations countering the problems of immigration; Religious working in the poor areas close to the centre of Barcelona; a guided tour of the church of the Sagrada Famiglia by Gaudi.
Based on the propositions made at the conclusion of last year’s conference in Turin, and after many email exchanges, we selected a theme based on a quotation from Pope Francis in The Joy of the Gospel:
It kills, this Economy
The economic system which now dominates creates destructive consequences in many areas of human life. We would consider three aspects of them:
1. These economics have created new types of relations in business and in society: Unemployment and Precariousness are key words.
We are asked, as usual, to prepare a two-page paper with our responses to the questions. So even if you cannot attend, we would welcome any thoughts or comments you may have on this theme. Please send these to me by 14th March 2015 - and please remember that we have to write the paper in French, so please keep contributions short and in simple English.
But we do hope you will want to come and join us! It is always an opportunity to expand our horizons, meet old and new friends, and to be challenged. And, of course, to spend some time in Barcelona. Contact Phil.
Thank you to Margaret Yates of Oxford diocese for alerting me to this event. According to the Eventbrite booking page -
To affirm the ministry of SSM across the Church of England
To resource conversations and development of SSM for the next 5 years
To reflect on recent research on SSM ministry, surfacing implications, expectations and challenges for the future, building on learning from the 2013 SSM consultation
Insights raised by the Experiences of Ministry Survey
Reflection on diocesan research
Presentations and provocation
Insights gained through the ‘Transformation Research Implementation Group’ work since 2013.
Support and challenge SSM’s and their diocese
Equip SSM representatives to further ministerial development within their diocese
Equip Ministry Division in their ongoing task of reimagining and resourcing developing ministries.