I celebrated the Eucharist of Epiphany Day this morning at St German's with a class of thirty children and sixteen adults present. The sun shone and filled the church with cheerful light. The cross I'm to give to Hamid at his baptism was on the altar with the consecrated Gifts during the service, the customary way of blessing such a special object - by association, rather than with words. Afterwards, churchwarden Peter and I discussed the forthcoming asylum appeal tribunal hearing for Hamid, due to take place next week. Peter had received a message from Hamid's lawyer requesting statements from us both, prior to our attendance at the court hearing.
I emailed the lawyer when I got back and later received a phone call, during which she interviewed me, drafted a statement, and then sent it to me for correction. I also need to prove to the court who I am and how I come to be ministering at St German's. The lawyer had said that you cannot assume that a law court knows anything about the church and its procedures of authorisation or the status of its representatives, and to be fair these things differ from one church to another. Apart from making a statement we conversed about matters religious, as there were things that needed a personal kind of explanation for her, since she was a Hindu. What a privilege for me to do this!
Sending a scan of my passport was easy. Statement correction took hours. I also had to write to Archbishop Barry to ask him to confirm my Permission to Officiate (PTO) in the Diocese and my role as locum priest at St German's, for the benefit of the court. A PTO isn't the subject of a certificate issued by the church. I'd quite forgotten that, and hunted around for a while in my files trying to find one. The only PTO document I could find dated back to the eighties. It was signed by all six Welsh Bishops allowing me to represent the work of my employer, mission agency USPG in the Province. Quite a rare document, of which I am proud, a relic of a very formative period in my working life in which my ministry as a missionary priest and preacher was established permanently, on the frontiers of mother church, rather than at its centre. Thank God, I'm still there, still being blessed.