START WITH UNITY as a given. Then we’ll stand a chance of reaching some agreement in the Church of England. There’ll be no agreement unless we start with unity as a given. We are already united in Christ. God’s achievement, not ours. Start there, a joy-filled place to start, and agreement may follow. Unity isn’t dependent on us. It’s dependent on God. Already given.

Optimistic stuff from Archbishop Sentamu in a wide-ranging address to clergy and lay ministers of the Diocese of Chester at the Cathedral tonight. Invited to speak on The Challenges Facing The Church of England Today we might well have been there all night – given the archbishop’s first-hand knowledge of the size and complexity of some of those (human) challenges. Could have been. But weren’t. For the archbishop didn’t stay with merely human challenges, thank God. He’s an archbishop, after all. And he saved what I thought the best line of a half-hour or so address – yes: a bit like the wine! – until last.

“The Challenges Facing The Church of England Today? GOD“.

Amen! God first. Perfect underlining of our need to start with Unity as a given. As a God-given. As a God-is. Preceded by an archi-episcopal admonition: “if you want to talk about doctrine, ask yourself how your doctrine matches up to Jesus” – (do you love God’s people or do you just like preaching to them?) – God was presented fairly and squarely as the biggest and the best challenge facing the Church. And there, ultimately, I believe, lies the salvation of the Church and of the world: in that Divine challenge, in the Divine invitation to each of us that we remember who God is, and who God is not ( – is, and is not, limited, in both cases, by the provisionality of our human imaginations).

God is not our possession, not a celestial-Santa-Claus-in-the-sky. We may not command God. God is not made in our image. We do not have God all worked out. God is “immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light, inaccessible, hid from our eyes”. And God has already given unity, as surely as God has given life. God is Life, and that “in all its fullness”. Our unity can only ever be in our resting in that Life, in God’s Otherness. Beyond. And yet also incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, as in every single element of the Universe. United elements. Given elements. Given prophets, priests, kings and a Christ. United in God the Word before we’d begun to string words together.

Unity as a given. Perhaps that’s what’s behind the archbishop’s being able, cheerfully, to say: “I’m blessed. I’m the luckiest man in the Province!”

I’ll post a link to the Archbishop’s address if and when it becomes available here


A lovely picture of Bishop Morris Maddocks

Image via Wikipedia

SEVERAL FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES attended the recent Thanksgiving Service for the late Bishop Morris Maddocks – a well-known instrument of God’s healing in the English Church. They’ve reported a wonderful occasion at St Michael le Belfrey in York. The Bishop’s own Trumpet Theme for Organ was played before the Service and the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu was the preacher.

I thought of Maggi Dawn’s delightful accounts of the observable humanity in the Archbishops’ recent visit to Cambridge when a friend and colleague said of Archbishop Sentamu: “He’s not a very big man, but you can’t not know he’s there! He lights up something inside you. He literally cares.”

And that’s what drew so many to Bishop Morris. That’s what drew so many to Jesus. That’s the stuff of real good news. Something lighting up inside you. Something or someone that reminds you that you’re loved today and forever. The Eucharistic service for the occasion was adapted from the Kenyan Rite, 1989. It tells us where the light comes from:

Is the Father with us? He is.

Is Christ among us? He is.

Is the Spirit here? He is.

This is our God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We are his people. We are redeemed.

Redeemed. Morris Maddocks and John Sentamu, like Jesus, have long looked as though they believe it! We are redeemed. And can each of us, therefore, become instruments of healing.

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I’VE ALWAYS LOVED CLOCKS. The long-case clock in our Sacristy here brings untold comfort and peace to me. The quiet ten minutes or so of silent preparation for Worship has made undemanding friends of the clock and I.

Tick … tock. Tick … tock. Breathe gently. Go placidly. Remember God. Redeem the time. Tick … tock …


Image via Wikipedia

Our Sacristy clock reminds me of another clock’s calling me to “go placidly”. It was standing close to the clock, in Chester Cathedral, where years later I’d be ordained both Deacon and Priest, that I first read “Desiderata”:

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, for they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune but do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann (1872-1945)

Tonight another clock bade me and my companions “go placidly” as we prepared for a quiet office of Evensong at Bramall Hall. And I recall the gentle, measured counting of the clock inside York Minster. Perhaps Archbishop Sentamu has been touched by it. Please God that the world might be touched by the peace-full voice of the clock …

Breathe gently. Go placidly. Remember God. Redeem the time. Tick … tock …

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ARCHBISHOP SENTAMU OF YORK has given up a planned holiday in Austria this week. The “Watchman for the North” will, instead, “camp out” in York Minster calling men and women of goodwill, everywhere, to join him in prayer and in fasting for peace …

“We have an opportunity to stand up and be counted with those in Israel, Lebanon and Palestine and all over the world who seek after Peace. This is what this week will be about, people coming together for one purpose alone – to pray for peace in our troubled world and to pray especially for the Middle East”.

Many will want to heed the Archbishop’s call – and bless his example. And I shall pray that York Minster will be only one amongst many centres of focused and purposeful gathering in the coming week. May temples, synagogues, mosques, churches, schools, workplaces and homes throughout the land be filled with peoples bound by common purpose. Filled with peoples united by their conscious longing for the peace that can only be granted to any of us – individuals or nations – by something or someone quite BEYOND ourselves and our limited horizons and aspirations.

And may that great and diverse gathering “for one purpose alone” renew in all of us a sense of our common brotherhood and sisterhood in the family of our humanity. May we remember that the Creator of the World hears the cry of the poor, of the little ones, of the bewildered and the dispossessed. May we remember that God bears no ill will or ill intent for ANY child of his making. May the Watchman for the North inspire each of us to be watchwomen and watchmen for the very food of our continued presence in this world: a united humanity. Peace. Peace. Peace.