DEAN COLIN SLEE’S words, ‘I am surprisingly un-scared’, spoken not long before he died, have been going round and round in my head. I’m enormously glad that he was able to say that; glad, too, that Fred Caudwell, at whose funeral I’ve just had the privilege of presiding, was also ‘surprisingly un-scared’ when I prayed with him at the close of his time in this world. Both men were thankful. And both understood that they had cause for thanksgiving rather than fear. The lives of both men were essays in the art and gift of an all embracing hospitality. A Dean, and (actually) a Samaritan.

Last night, thanks to the hospitality of the priest and people of St Anne’s, Sale, I joyfully presented three splendid candidates for Confirmation to Bishop Robert Atwell of Stockport. My friend Fr Julian Heaton presented a further twelve. And we were delighted that Bishop Robert chose as his text for the evening the biblical “do not be afraid” – which appears, one for every day of the year, 365 times. Delighted – because having confirmed their decision to “shine as lights in the world” 15 disciples continue today, maybe slightly less anxiously, along a road that leads all of us, some day, to the same place, the same Heart. Delighted – because, in the meantime, the primary business of the Church has to be intimately tied up with the question “why are you afraid?”.

May the day dawn when every man, woman and child made “in the image of God” is able to say, thankfully and with confidence, ‘I am surprisingly un-scared’.