SSM members—or at least as many as could make it—made their way to Middleton mid-April for four days of discussions, primarily centred on the meaning of membership and religious profession within the Society.
Dr Tolliday’s snapshot took the perspective of ‘a moment in time’, using the profession of the Reverend Catherine Pennington in October 2015.
Those present at Middleton were invited to reflect on the three tiers of formal involvement in the Society—companions, members and professed (members)—as given liturgical expression in the service of admittance.
Dr Tolliday emphasised that the differences and contiguities between the three aspects of how people may be articulated into the Society did not seek to represent some definitive statement or ‘last word’, but rather, ‘disclose what the Society thought at a specific point in time’.
Discussion ebbed and flowed as those present sought to encounter the historical and thus somewhat provisional meanings of the terms.
Firstly, companions of the Society agree to offer prayerful friendship to SSM, its members and their work. In turn, they can be assured of SSM’s interest in and prayers for them.
Secondly, members do as the companions, but they are also asked to participate in the ‘good works of order’ of the Society to the best of their abilities.
Thirdly, profession is a further step within membership of the Society, whereby the prospective candidate is asked if he or she wishes to seek the will of God as ‘a member of the Society’.
According to Dr Tolliday, perhaps one of the most significant aspects from the meeting at Middleton was that Christopher’s unplanned and unavoidable absence, though deeply felt, did not create a feeling of paralysis among those who were there.
‘Conversations continued and viewpoints were expressed with customary verve and good humour. Needless to say, the conversations continue and we look forward to the next gathering with a full complement of numbers and everyone in good health.’