I gather from a twitter correspondent that the Rt Rev Michael Hare Duke has died. Bishop Michael was the bishop with whom I first tested my vocation. Having been a bishop since 1969, he saw and influenced the entire modern story of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Where to begin with memories?
- The time I sat in his study as he asked me about my vocation whilst his beloved dog, Tobermory pushed twelve full bottles of whisky from one side of the room to the other and back again. And again. And again.
- The time he was in hospital and Baa, to whom he was married, turned up on my doorstep late at night announcing a full scale emergency. It turned out that the emergency was not his health but that he was dictating faxes from his hospital bed and Baa was struggling to send a message to the Crown Prince of Jordan.
- The time and time again when he penned articles for newspapers in absolute certainty that mission in his diocese depended on people like him offering leadership, inspiration and puckish humour to the whole of society not just the people of the pews.
- The time and time again his words have brought people to God and God to the people, as he was one of the triumvirate of poet-priests who wrote the bulk of the modern Scottish Eucharistic rite.
- The extraordinary influence in the world of mental health that Michael had.
- The gay couples he was blessing 40 years ago.
- The unpredictable, chaotic, sometimes infuriating but human and humane episcopacy that he inhabited and made his own, which must today remind so many in the Scottish Episcopal Church of more generous times.
Here he is in his own words in 2003:
If sex has been one of the flash points over the last 50 years, the painful changes have also given me the joy of helping people to discover that the church does not condemn them, as they had expected, but accepts their integrity without imposing oppressive orthodoxy.
I’ve no idea how they are going to celebrate Bishop Michael at his funeral next Tuesday 23 December 2014, which will be in St Ninian’s Cathedral at 10 am. At one point the then cathedral organist kept the Fauré requiem in the repertoire specifically so it would be ready for Bishop Michael’s funeral. (A fact that led one of my predecessors as Precentor there to remark that a few choruses of Hooray and Up She Rises might well be just as appropriate).
I have a particularly strong memory of him over-consecrating vastly one Maundy Thursday. Whole chalices of consecrated wine were left over.
Not a bad way to remember him.
The world was richer for him and poorer at his passing.
Heaven seems a deliciously more giddy prospect.