Posted Sunday 24 January 2010
ELECTED the new Bishop of Glasgow & Galloway on 16 January, the Very Revd Dr Gregor Duncan is well known in the diocese, having been Dean since 1996 and Rector of St Ninian’s Pollokshields for over a decade.
Before taking a well-earned holiday after the election, he found time to tell DNS readers a little more about himself…
Back in 1984 when you were ordained as a vicar in the Church of England, could you have imagined yourself becoming a bishop?
No! I think I saw my future then as continuing as a vicar.
How did you see the role of bishop then?
My bishop then was someone of great authority and significance who lived in a medieval palace in the huge Diocese of Peterborough, which covers Northamptonshire, Rutland and Peterborough itself. He also had the reputation of being the rudest bishop in England! And he hated the Alternative Service Book. But he was much loved. He was someone of deep prayer and theological acumen. He was very pastoral-minded and took an interest in all of his clergy. I knew he prayed for me and cared what I was doing.
What’s different now?
Apart from the rudeness? Well, the scale is very different. Whereas the size of an English diocese can make a bishop quite a remote figure, in the Scottish Episcopal Church, you are much closer to people. A lot is fundamentally the same, though: you are there to support and care for the clergy and lay leadership, offering your personal presence, giving people time, space and prayer every day. That’s particularly important in a church of our size. Ours is also a very diverse diocese, and part of my role will be to hold it together and help people feel they belong to one another.
Tell us something that you’re especially grateful to have inherited from Bishop Idris.
I learned a lot from working with Bishop Idris. He is a genuinely open-minded and very loyal person who helped me see I also could be open-minded without being unprincipled. I also have gained a wider theological grasp than I would have.
What were the hardest things about being a candidate?
To be exposed to such deep scrutiny by my peers, especially at the Electoral Synod. Wondering if I would be found wanting, and knowing that if I fumbled the final stage it would have haunted me. Besides that, there was the huge sense of uncertainty with my life and my congregation’s. At times it seemed hard to keep that in perspective.
What was the best thing?
The sense of being prayed for and supported with love and concern was quite tangible. When it came to it, it was wonderful to know I could share myself and be open, especially with the preparatory committee and Electoral Synod.
What will you miss most about your parish work?
Being in the midst of just one congregation, helping them as they try to be a community of faith. Apart from a brief time as a theological college chaplain, being a parish priest has been meat and drink to me for years. That intimacy is not going to last much longer.
Three things you pray for Glasgow & Galloway as you look forward?
- That our clergy will know they are valued, encouraged, challenged and prayed for by their bishop;
That all of us as a diocese could be more together, enjoying God’s gifts and finding delight and joy in being together in parish life;
That the main focus of our lives as Christians is what we do in the world and not what we do in church, so we are energised, sustained and transformed by Word and Sacrament in order to live faith day by day.
Three things you want us to hold in our prayers when we pray for you?
- That I remember to seek proper support and counsel – because it is an isolating job otherwise;
That I remember to sustain the daily discipline of prayer when I no longer have my ‘own’ church to go into;
That I, too, will find joy – in being bishop.
Dean Gregor Duncan (59) succeeds the Rt Revd Dr Idris Jones, who retired last year after serving the diocese as Bishop for 11 years.
A graduate of Glasgow University, he went on to study for his PhD at Cambridge. He was ordained priest in 1984. In 1986 he returned to Scotland to serve as chaplain at Edinburgh Theological College. Before moving to his present charge in Pollokshields, he was Rector of St Columba’s Largs from 1989 to 1999.
His interests include collecting records and CDs, cooking, entertaining, and reading modern novels, travel and history books.
The election was carried out by an Electoral Synod (comprising representatives of clergy and lay church members from the Diocese of Glasgow & Galloway) and was chaired by the Most Revd David Chillingworth, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
His service of consecration will be in St Mary’s Cathedral. The date will be announced shortly.
This interview appears in the February edition of DNS