Monday, 21 July 2008

The glitch which could have de-railed my plan to move to the States/

My plans to move to the United States almost fell apart. This was because of a reckless act on my part.

Sometime in April/May 1976 I had been at home in Bristol for a weekend. I had the use of a car (I cannot remember how or why, but I did not own a car at that time).

On my way back to Nottingham, I stopped off at a gay bar somewhere in rural Derbyshire. There I met a man of my age with who I had a brief, but very pleasurable, let's say “assignation or liaison”.

I got back to Seminary in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and awoke in the morning racked with guilt/shame/ regret. I tuned into the BBC, and by God-incidence heard a religious radio program – a meditation on the following text:

A Hymn to God the Father

WILT Thou forgive that sin where I begun
Which was my sin though it were done before?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin through which I run
And do run still though still I do deplore?
When Thou hast done Thou hast not done;
For I have more.

Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I have won
Others to sin and made my sins their door?
Wilt Thou forgive that sin which I did shun
A year or two but wallow'd in a score?
When Thou hast done Thou hast not done;
For I have more.

I have a sin of fear that when I've spun
My last thread I shall perish on the shore;
But swear by Thyself that at my death Thy Son
Shall shine as He shines now and heretofore:
And having done that Thou hast done;
I fear no more.

It’s a wonderful text by the 17th Century Priest and Poet John Donne. “Donne” is pronounced “done”, and the whole poem contains a great pun on his name.

As I listened to the radio programme, and heard John Donne’s words, I knew myself to be forgiven.

So, with confidence I told the whole story to a dear Seminary friend who had graduated the year before, and was back at St. John’s College for a meeting. (I had been the best man at his wedding)

He immediately related this to the Principal (Dean) of the Seminary, saying “I believe that Michael Povey is unfit to be ordained”. Then he told me what he had done.

So I had some music to face. I met with that Principal (now a Bishop) and told him my sorry tale. After extensive counselling he gave me “sacramental absolution”, and told me that the matter would rest there, and that he would not tell my Bishop. (I have never forgotten his wisdom and grace!)

But he added that I should report this affair to DeWolf Perry, who would be my mentor/supervisor at Good Shepherd in Fitchburg.

I wrote to DeWolf, expecting the worst. He had a Post Office mail box. The day my letter arrived he’d gone to the Post Office to mail a letter to me. But first he read my sorry letter.

Then, knowing that I would be anxious, he scribbled a note on the envelope of the letter he was planning to mail to me.

It read something like this: “Received your letter. Don’t worry. All will be well, and we can talk about this when you arrive”.
No wonder that I loved and respected DeWolf so much!

And I forgave my Seminary friend years ago. I last met him some 20 years ago when he was Chaplain at Clare College, Cambridge, U.K. He is now a Canon at Westminster Abbey.

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