With Great Sadness

Today I had to make a heartbreaking decision, but the announcement by archbishop Justin Welby didn’t leave me any other choice.

I hereby resign from my post of lay coordinator for the Church of England Camino Chaplaincy here in Santiago de Compostela as well from being a member of the Church of England.

The reason: Archbishop Justin Welby announced some days ago that he will take a sabbatical of three months starting July next year.

For those that don’t know this, a sabbatical is a combination of vacation and study time for, in this context, clergy that they are entitled to have every ten years.

Don’t get me wrong, I wholly approve of clergy taking time off to re-charge their batteries. But for the primate (leader) of the Church of England, this is not the time. Yes, take a holiday, spend time with your loved ones and re-charge your batteries, +Justin. But not for THREE MONTHS! And NOT during the worst time humanity has gone through in ages, and will go through for a long time to come!

By planning to take THREE MONTHS off you show a blatant disregard for Jesus’ teaching. Jesus took time off for a few days, retired to the wilderness BUT then he came back to serve those that needed him most. And he never took time off the cross …

By indulging yourself in this amount of time off and personal study of your favourite subject, +Justin, you show me just one thing – That you don’t care.

You don’t care about your clergy struggling to provide pastoral care in any safe way possible.

You don’t care about Matthew 25, because if you did, you would have established a food bank at Lambeth Palace a long time ago – and volunteered in it.

As a church leader you are called to lead, announcing that you’re planning to take a sabbatical during one of the most challenging times we all, in the UK and everywhere in the world, are passing through shows such a disregard for your own ministry – and it makes me furious.

One more thing: How many people that work in the frontline can afford to take three months off? Nurses, first responders, any emergency stuff. NONE of them!

So, take your sabbatical, take your time off, and discover that when YOU are back we’re gone because the sheep don’t follow an unfaithful shepherd, they follow one that cares about them. Or, even more importantly, they follow a shepherd that doesn’t treat them as sheep …

I am committed to following Jesus, are you +Justin?

In one short sentence – You failed to help to build the kingdom of God and I can’t be anymore a member of the church you are the archbishop of, nor to support it as I have done in the past.

Egeria House Future

I don’t know really, I still will strife to facilitate services for pilgrims that are hopefully coming this next year. I hope to welcome them and, perhaps, it is time to think about an Ecumenical Camino Chaplaincy. I will continue to provide any practical help I can to both my neighbours and pilgrims. And with the help of God, as long as I live, there will always be an Egeria House here in Santiago where those to ring the doorbell will find a helping hand …

Keep safe and sane everybody, tired and sad hugs from Santiago, SY

26 thoughts on “With Great Sadness”

  1. Dear SY,

    You don’t know me, but I feel I know you from your many posts on the Forum. I can’t imagine how difficult a decision that was to make back in November. God bless and strengthen you.

    Your affirmation of others, with such consistency, and your wisdom have been valuable to me. I want to thank you for them.

    I’m a Catholic priest who, loving my communion and its people, struggle with elements of a 2,000 year history that amply displays the fragile and broken humanity of the Church. Yet I am convinced that, if Jesus could hold onto Peter — the rock (headed)…with Peter sinking into the water…with Peter who bumbles about ineffectively at the Transfiguration…with Peter, the Satan, suggesting that Jesus take the path of least resistance…with Peter who knows much better than Jesus just how far he would go, even though he should have to die for him…with Peter who solemnly assures the witnesses in the courtyard that he doesn’t even know Jesus — that Jesus will hold onto me in my brokenness, along with all my bumbling, failing fellow Catholics.

    God bless you as you hang onto your diverse flock in Santiago. Don’t let go of Archbishop Justin Welby. He needs your prayers, love. Do your beautiful best.

    Every blessing to you from California,
    Fr. Patrick Mullen

    1. Dear Father Patrick,

      Sorry that your comment got buried, but now that I have unearthed it, I just want to tell you that I absolutely love this statement on your church’s website:

      “Welcome. Be at home.
      ​You are welcome here regardless of your situation in life, whether you are single, divorced or widowed, whatever the state of your marriage, in a mixed-faith marriage, gay, lesbian, transgender, or sharing a home without marriage; whether you are an immigrant or a newcomer; whether you are fully-abled or disabled, healthy or sick, old or young; whether you are struggling with your faith or firm in your commitment. We will maintain an open door and an open heart to you and offer you a place to share in the life of the parish and grow in relationship with God.”

      That is exactly how I feel, I am hanging in there, and for 2022, when it’s safe, I hope to build up a true ecumenical Camino chaplaincy – the dream hasn’t died, it has evolved 😉 Blessings to you and yours! SY

      1. Dear SY,
        In the name of my parishioners, I bequeath our welcome message to you to use. Make of it, as-is or adapted, your own.
        Blessings friend!

  2. Dear Sybille,
    We are sorry to hear of your decision.

    We are so grateful that the Diocese of Europe provided an Anglican presence in Santiago de Compostela. It has made our Camino experiences even more rich.

    We are grateful for you and the work you have done on behalf of the Anglican communion for the many pilgrims you have ministered to.
    Thank you for your tireless service. Many blessings in the coming days.
    Carol and Denis Gardiner
    Calgary, Canada

  3. Dear SY
    I’ve followed and enjoyed your thoughtful, inspirational and meditative posts for some time. Its my way of keeping in touch and feeling closer to Santiago and Saint James whilst I am at home, a long way from pilgrimage. Your posts remind me of many of the things I have learnt and experienced on pilgrimage – good and bad, which in turn helps me to resolve deep trauma through translating this into my life and spiritual search. You have been an extension to my pilgrimages, a gentle and thoughtful ‘prod’ when I am missing pilgrimage and forgetting how it benefits me and others I have met.

    It has already been expressed in the posts how deeply appreciated your work in Santiago is, both with the community and pilgrims and I am sure in many other ways. There is tactful, eloquent support and defense of Archbishop Justin Welby, which I don’t question is rightly deserved, from admirable people who have worked with and for such estimable people as the Archbishop. But there is not enough support for you and your work, especially from people who work on the ‘front line’ with and as you do, who see and appreciate your work for what it is. Perhaps this is also the case in your daily life, that not enough gratitude has been expressed by those in the church?

    My instant reaction when I first read your post was sadness and a sense that you are angry, and that this anger runs deep and has been there for some time. It is unresolved and, as you wrote, the Archbishop’s announcement is the breaking point for you. I recognise the ‘symptoms’ of deep-rooted anger through my own experiences. I would often write angry letters – but would (thank goodness), discard my first drafts and end up posting a third or even fifth and final, more succinct version. I’m not suggesting your post is in any way a knee-jerk reaction, but would politely ask you to consider seeking someone out who you can talk to about your anger and frustrations in all matters. Anger is such a destructive emotion. I used to be very angry with the Catholic Church, at its wealth and gold and hierarchy, believing it to be akin to a cult and how its opulence is a mockery of the gospels. I learnt a very powerful lesson about this on my last pilgrimage, that those on the ‘front lines’, such as yourself, bring true blessings through their tireless deeds, words, kindness, humanitarianism, prayers, to those who are in most need of these and often at short notice. We are all just humans with all our failings, weaknesses, illness, trying to get through this life and our struggles together. Archbishop Justin Welby is not just the Archbishop, more importantly he is human and all that which it invokes. He has planned his sabbatical and break in advance.

    Would you allow yourself some ‘breathing and learning space’, to consider this post as your ‘first draft’? Even plan your resignation in advance, as has the Archbishop. We would all wish you to be sure about your decision, to give yourself a chance and seek out the right people to talk to and then make your decision. I just feel too much anger and frustration has to be resolved here, and you are an essential ‘front line’ missionary in Santiago.

    God bless, and Gods love, light and nature surround and inspire you.

  4. Before retirement I was a diocesan officer for two archbishops of York and earlier worked closely with three diocesan bishops and saw the tremendous strain and stress that the ministry had on them. I knew two other bishops who were totally exhausted after ten years in office. Justin has been archbishop or seven years and has what could be a gruelling Lambeth Conference coming up in 2022. He was due this sabbatical at an earlier date no doubt to think and prepare for the conference. He postponed it and has worked his socks off during the lockdowns. Things should be easier by next July. He deserves this time off to recharge and prepare. He has an excellent coworker in the Archbishop of York to look after the shop while he is away. Your rant is unworthy of you, but I guess you have no idea of the sheer volume of work his office brings with it.

  5. Someone who is “committed to following Jesus” does not unfriend someone from FB without discussing it with them, or caring about the effect of their actions.

    1. Hi Mary, I am approving and responding to your comment despite the fact that it has nothing to do with the topic of my blog post and that hardly anybody who follows this blog will know what we’re speaking about. I unfriended you on Facebook because you deliberately and intentionally posted something that was meant to hurt somebody we both know, precisely just after we had a discussion on messenger about that. Wishing you all the best for your future, SY

    1. Thank you Tertia, but I am not giving up on Egeria House 😉 Like I said many times before, Egeria House is the way I choose to live and that is not attached to any particular church, just to my faith. All the best to you and yours from Santiago, SY

  6. I am so sorry to hear, Sy. In these difficult days we need to be pulling together. I pray there will be others around you to continue to encourage you in the loving work you do. I sense you are a blessing to many…don’t give up. I wish you better days ahead
    fondly, sandi,
    Vancouver B.C. Canada

    1. Hi Sandi, I am far from giving up, just re-evaluating things and actions in these challenging times. Thank you for your kind words and all the best for you and yours from Santiago, SY

  7. Sybille,

    This is a sad moment in a very sad time. You have hopefully had a few days to think this through.

    Mr. Welby is not the church, he is but a human being in charge of the administration of a large body of believers, in my opinion.

    It is the believers who make their way to Jesús through all the difficulties of their lives, the administrators add a wee bit of oil and spit and polish, but they don’t actually stand in for you and protect you on the day you stand to be judged, it is you and your deeds alone.
    You seem to do a great job keeping body and soul together, helping your neighbours because you can call on the consciences of others to help provide the loaves and fishes. You provide a hugely valuable service to lots of people in need, physical and spiritual.

    Can I state that I am not a member of the Anglican Church. However I know many of my friends are. You offer pilgrims much needed support for their spiritual needs when they arrive in Santiago, you already practice a unique ecumenical role for the many branches of Christianity you come into contact with through pilgrimage.
    At the end of the day you will make your own decisions, rightly so, but please remember Mr. Welby is NOT the Anglican communion. Primate he may be, but the communion is formed of hundreds of thousands of individual human beings all needing help from some one. Those someone’s are never the primates of this world they are ordinary people, like you.

    Thank you for being Sybille. For being there.

    1. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words James! Yes, archbishop Welby isn’t the church, but if you are involved, as I was, even in a very minor role, you are kind of supporting the leadership of that particular church. You’re right that this has been on my mind for quite some time and his latest announcement was just the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’. I will take my time to consider if I look for a ‘new church home’ for myself, until then I will simply consider myself as a Christian without any specific church affiliation. Blessings from Santiago to you and yours, SY

  8. Sybille- You and I have worked on projects together and I am sorry to disagree with you on this one. As I posted elsewhere: “There is never a good time for anyone with responsibility to take a break, but if they don’t, exhaustion will break them and, as time goes on, their decision-making ability will deteriorate. He should definitely take his sabbatical.”

    To my mind, this is a matter of health. I have friends on the front-line and have become relieved when they were able to take some time to catch a breath. The last thing I would ever accuse them of is abandoning their post.

    In Archbishop Welby’s case, he has back-up, his proposed leave is not until next summer, if I understand it correctly, when hopefully the vaccines will have started rolling out and, while things will never be normal again (assuming we want normal), we can begin to build and rebuild.

    I have read your text, and read it again, but I do not draw the same conclusion as you have. I have served under bishops and ministers (of the Crown) who have cracked up or become warped from the strain– they serve no sheep nor their charges when they do not take care of themselves. I hope that you change your mind. While I am always wary to provide unasked advice, I feel that the chaplaincy’s work is important enough that we must ride out our discomfort.

    1. Hi Austin, thanks again for your input. For me the difference is between taking the much needed day off / the much needed annual vacation and even thinking about, in these times, when to take three months of for a sabbatical leave. Announcing this plan in the current situation shows, in the best of cases, a lack of sensitivity. Which message does it send to those on the front line that can’t do the same? As for his leave being next summer, yes, hopefully a vaccine will be well on its way to being distributed, but the UK will be also in a very dire situation because of Brexit.
      All the best from Santiago and hope to see you again here once it’s safe, SY

  9. Hi Sybille
    I have read your email with great sadness. First of all I am practicing RC and do not wish in any way to express judgement or opinion on the Archbishop’s decision or Church of England matters.
    My sadness is for you and your Camino Chaplaincy. We never met, except on FB where I always enjoy your posts, your creativity and your promotion of kindness to our fellow pilgrims and human beings. As a fellow pilgrim and Camino pilgrim I feel we all share so much in common through our profound experiences, particularly on the Camino. It is so much bigger than any of us and fellowship, companionship and sharing our experiences is so important. By sharing we can help each other delve deeper into our own lives and to try to understand the journey and its deeper spiritual impact on us. We do so much of this with the companions we meet when we walk.
    But ever since completing my first Camino, for me, my head continues to spin a little and the ‘ripple effect’ continues through memories, lessons learned, and so many reflections.
    With God’s help I will walk to Santiago again. And with God’s help you will still be in residence continuing your excellent work. It would be a great pleasure to spend time at one of your post Camino meetings and simply listen, reflect and share thoughts on the experience.
    I pray you will be able to overcome this great sadness that you are now going through. I can only imagine your loss and the difficulty of your decision. Please stay safe and well and do take care of yourself at this challenging time. Be kind to yourself and do not let anger enter your heart as a result of the actions of others. We never really know the full circumstances surrounding these actions, especially actions that create confusion and are hard to understand.
    God Bless and take care,
    Buen Camino

    1. Hi James, thanks for your kind words, I am not planning to give up on what I do here in Santiago, just re-evaluating how I do it 😉 I hope to meet you in person and to exchange Camino reflections once it is safe to do so. Blessings to you and yours from Santiago, SY

  10. Dear, dear Sybil my heart hurts for you. My prayer candle is lit for you.
    Keep going Sybil. You do such an important job there in Santiago for us pilgrims and for your neighbours.
    An Ecumenical Camino Chaplaincy sounds to me like a seed to something very positive.
    Thank you for all you do

    1. Dear Ellen, thank you for your prayers! Yes, once an in-person chaplaincy will be safe to do again, I am considering building up an Ecumenical Camino Chaplaincy. This would obviously pose its own challenges in terms of oversight and safe guarding etc but my gut feeling is that there is already enough division in this world and churches should work more closely together. It would be great to have a Chaplaincy here that is composed of volunteers, both laity and clergy, of as many churches as possible, all serving the pilgrims here in Santiago. Wouldn’t it be great to have, for example, one Sunday a service let by a Lutheran minister and the next Sunday one led by a Methodist? Lots of food for thought for this winter … Blessings from Santiago to you and yours, SY

  11. Question
    Is this the time to resign in the midst of a pandemic and the need to rebuild around the corner?
    Sybille I trust your decisions as you are in situ and know the situation
    When we think that we know the reality of others situations we kid ourselves Just trust the man I have met him laughed with him was impressed by him and respect him
    (Even though I have never had a sabbatical)
    Have a wee cup of coffee and settle petal

    1. Hi John, this has not been a spur of the moment decision (see my other comments here on this post). Sipping coffee now and feeling very much at peace with my decision. Hugs to you and Linda from your friend in Santiago, SY

  12. I cannot imagine how difficult this letter was for you to post. Service to Jesus Christ and God is paramount to you and many others. My question is why didn’t he just step away full time and use this as an opportunity for someone else to fill the task. He’s been there long enough. Time for a new, fresher, perspective?

    1. Hi Brent, yes making this post was difficult but I am feeling very much at peace with my decision now. As for your questions, I have no answer 😉 Blessings from Santiago to you and yours, SY

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