Mother Teresa was not easily overawed by those in authority. She once publicly twisted President Bill Clinton’s arm on a visit to America to get him to provide a home for her sisters in Washington where they could care for unmarried young mothers, and Timothy Radcliffe reports that she was even ready to speak her mind in the Vatican. In his new book, ‘Take the Plunge’, Radcliffe tells how at a service to open a new home for the poor in Rome, a senior Archbishop spoke of the generosity of John Paul II in giving the land to the Missionaries of Charity. “We must thank the Lord first,” Mother Teresa interrupted before an astonished congregation. She repeated her statement and pointed her index finger up into the air. The Archbishop managed to recover from his bewilderment and continue his sermon but Mother Teresa sat with her index finger pointing firmly up into the air throughout the Archbishop’s homily with an impish grin on her face.
St Paul’s Cathedral was packed for the installation of its new Dean, the Very Rev David Ison. A predecessor was famously known as the ‘gloomy Dean’ but Ison could be known as the ‘controversial Dean’. Before the service he ruffled a few feathers by making clear he did not want to be installed at Evensong. Instead a special installation service was drawn up. In the event the choir sang an anthem and everyone seemed content. In his sermon Ison warned that he had controversial views on two subjects: Israel and homosexuality. But Ison comes to St Paul’s with solid achievements at Bradford. This is why the Bishop of Bradford, Nick Baines, changed the wording of his own part of the service to say he was handing Ison over ‘reluctantly but confidently’. Ison took over a cathedral in Bradford with financial problems and a declining congregation. Between 2005, when Ison went to Bradford, and 2010 the number of weekly attenders almost tripled. Much of this was due to extra special services but Sunday attendance also increased and the electoral roll grew from 150 to 200.
First Woman Bishop?
So much interest is being focussed on the next Archbishop of Canterbury that little attention is being paid to the question of who will be the first woman in the C of E to become a bishop. Of course, things could still go pear-shaped in July but Whispering Gallery is going ahead and predicting that the Very Rev Jane Shaw, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, could well be called back to England to undertake an episcopal ministry. Before she went to the US, Dr Shaw was Dean of Chapel at New College, Oxford, and wrote some well-reviewed scholarly historical works. She has just published a short book on the difference faith makes to our lives, ‘A Practical Christianity’, which includes a section on CEN columnist Catherine Fox’s novel ‘Love for the Lost’ about a young priest, Isobel Knox, who thinks she has to win God’s love by getting everything right. Shaw is obviously a pastor as well as a scholar but although her new book is stimulating and encouraging she makes one worrying claim without providing a source. Was Karl Barth in old age really too afraid to go to sleep at night in case he died in his sleep?
An Anglican nun whose heroism is largely unknown to the wider church has just celebrated her 90th birthday in rural Victoria. Sr Patience, now a member of the contemplative community of Christ the King but formerly a Holy Name Sister, was a mission nurse in Papua New Guinea when the Mount Lamington volcano erupted in January 1951. As the grey mass of smoke moved towards the mission station, Pat Durdin and the mission priest gathered the people into the mission house where they were miraculously kept safe. Once the smoke lifted, Pat Durdin worked tirelessly to take care of the casualties suffering from burns. In very primitive conditions, she administered morphia to the worst cases. After the mission station was evacuated, she moved to the provincial capital, Popondetta, and continued caring for casualties, scarcely resting for days. In 1955, by then Sr Patience of the Community of the Holy Name, she was awarded the OBE for her work in the wake of the Lamington eruption. Happy 90th birthday to Sr Patience and her twin sister, Joan.