To Ardrossan

To Ardrossan on Tuesday evening for the Institution of the new Rector of the North Ayrshire Team ministry the Rev Martin Sofield. It is always exciting to be there when a new ministry starts and Tuesday evening was no exception. All good wishes to Martin as he takes on this new role.

I sometimes wish that there was more chance at these things to hear something from the person themselves. They get to do the intercessions, but that is about all.

I get quite a lot of invitations to institutions and the like and now that the staffing at St Mary’s is making it a bit easier, I’m trying to go to as many things in the diocese that I can like that, if only to make a link between the ministry of the cathedral here and the local ministries wherever they are. The least I can do is to let people in new ministries that we are praying for them.

I never go to an institution without grumpily remembering that I’ve refused the keys at each of my institutions. It is a terrible symbol giving the keys of a church to the priest and one that I’ve had no truck with, to the bewilderment of bishops.


  1. Steven says

    Hi Kelvin

    For the un-priested and uneducated – what is the significance of the keys and why do you take this stand?


    • Hi Steven

      I think that giving someone the keys implies that they own the building and are in control of all the comings and goings. It is a little ceremony which I think comes from ideas of incombancy in England, where an incumbent either does, (or maybe did) legally hold the title to the church during their time.

      It seems to me to be an entirely unhelpful symbol.

      I don’t much like the other symbols that are often used in the modern (usually called the Traditional) service that is used to institute new Rectors. By and large, I think ministry is best exercised by releasing the gifts and skills of others and of being utterly with people and utterly with God. The symbols (keys, bible, stole, bread and wine, oil etc) that are gifted at instutution service seem to me to be things that I generally spend giving to other people in my ministry rather than accumulating for myself.

      I have wondered whether there is a service to be devised which is about giving the keys to the property committee, bible to the children, stole to an ordinand, oil to anoint everyone etc – such would be much more symbolic of ministry as I’ve found it.

  2. Steven says

    Amen to that Kelvin. It always amazes me how I just seem to accept the status quo as legitimate and never actually question the significance of what is going on in ritual and symbol.




  3. william says

    Surely it’s grander than that?
    What about the privilege, as a servant of Jesus Christ, for the new incumbent to be the means, through Word and Sacrament, of ushering people into the kingdom – nothing less than folks becoming Christ’s brothers [Hebrews 2.10-18].
    Now there is a calling – and the keys are given to you that you might rise to it.
    A bit grander than openings doors in an earthly building, however grand!!

    • No, William. The keys are given with specific words (in this diocese at least) which are all to do with the physical building(s) in question. Not the heavenly one at all.

  4. william says

    Well, well! – maybe your diocese needs a new liturgy, to lift its eyes.
    Could you rise to that, Kelvin?
    You could begin from Matthew 16.19!

    • I think it would be fair to say that since the very moment of my own Installation as Provost, I’ve never missed an opportunity to say that perhaps the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway needs a new liturgy for institutions. However, some things are not mine to command.

      When I was instituted in Bridge of Allan, the central symbols involved were me filling up the font and flinging open the doors, which were each more satisfying and dynamic than simply standing around receiving things.

      However, both the giving and receiving of the gifts at such services are moments which often move both the giver and recipient greatly, so I don’t think that necessarily what I want should be imposed on everyone.

      What I would like to see is a greater flexibility and the possibility that the liturgy should reflect more closely the local situation and the person concerned. That means more work of course. We managed to get there with my Installation here, which was marvellous, though it did become a little long as the giving of gifts ceremony was still bolted on to whatever else happened.

      The Gospel was the highlight of my Installation, I think – I sang it to a new setting written for the day (which was the Visitation) with the choir joining in with the Magnificat to Stanford in G.

      It was an incredible moment, as though the whole building and people were shot through with electricity.

  5. Rosemary Hannah says

    Given the numbers who read this blog, I imagine we ARE seeing the start of a re-think … (more ways of skinning a cat etc etc).

  6. I hadn’t heard of the keys before ( although, talking of Matthew 16, surely Kelvin you could just pretend they were the keys to Heaven, Earth and Hell, Papal Inauguration style ;-)?)

    It does sound anachronistic, not least as surely lots of people other than the priest have church keys (and have done for years) whereas stoles, bread and wine and oil are particularly priestly things.

  7. Agatha says

    An institution of my knowledge really really annoyed me because the congregation were told there might not be room for them because of all the clergy and members of other churches who were being invited.

  8. What do you think should have been done, Agatha?

  9. agatha says

    Only invite the number of visitors that could be accommodated if the regular congregation turned up. At a family event you don’t tell family they can’t come because some random person from round the corner has been invited.

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