Bishops seem to like to talk to me. As is my duty, I am walking back to the field, quite exhausted, wishing I was a simpler life-form in a simpler world- though nothing has it easy. I want to mitigate my misery. It is not exactly a state of Presence I desire: I want, rather, to be Open to the beauty around me and forget my feelings. Block them out.
At the point where you see the water stretching far ahead, I catch the eye of the bishop. I might have looked needy, or interesting- I don’t know why we stopped. I note his purple shirt. “You’re a bishop,” I say, and he admits it.
I tell him I loved his stall. Just before we opened, I had a shoulder and hand massage there. All weekend, he has not been able to have a shoulder massage: always, when he has wanted one, someone else has come to the stall. I thought he should have pulled rank.
I’m with the Quakers. I crack my Gilbert and Sullivan joke: Bow, Bow, to the Area Meeting Clerk. He does not like people showing undue respect. There is very little ring-kissing, thank God, but some people seem to like bowing and scraping to The Bishop. I suppose they are associating with The Bishop, and to make themselves more important in this they must big him up. He does not like hierarchy.
Particularly he hates the order of precedence. Debrett’s would tell you that, I think. He thinks some people are sad enough to be able to tell you.
Bishops process into church in a particular order. First come the foreign bishops: so according to the order of precedence, they are all more junior than the most junior English bishop. The Archbishop of Cape Town processes in before the most junior Suffragan- which may, at one time, have been John Holbrook. Then after the most senior Suffragan comes the most junior diocesan bishop: so a man who has been Suffragan for ten years might be followed by the man who got the job he wanted, heaping burning coals upon his head.
He does not know why the Bishop brings up the rear in the procession. I think it has something to do with ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ This cheers him slightly.
I have had some wonderful conversations on the stall. I met a woman of 23 who had in the past idolised her pastor, but now was questioning: she judged the pastor, and judged for herself. I thought that meant she was meeting her development milestones. John Holbrook thought she might be a little backward- though I was not at that mature stage aged 23. I wanted a guide, not equality.
I loved this encounter with him. I am so glad that we were open to stopping. Greenbelt has opened me, opened us.