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Tuesday, 31 January 2017
Here is a good pub quiz question: Who is the last person officially "canonised" by the Church of England? The answer is Charles, King and Martyr. Charles I was put to death on 30 January 1649. In 1662 his martyrdom was commemorated in the Book of Common Prayer. It is astonishing to know how quickly his cult expanded. In Tangiers, for instance, during the time of the English occupation in the 1680s, our own church there was dedicated to St Charles the Martyr! (Today, the present church in Tangiers is dedicated to St Andrew).
Each year, close to his feast day (30 January) the "Royal Martyr Church Union" gathers for a solemn eucharist to honour King Charles. Last Saturday, in St Mary le Strand Church in London, assisted by Deacon Frances Hiller, my Chaplain, and other clergy, I had the honour of presiding and preaching at this mass.
Whatever one thinks of King Charles the Martyr, he suffered and died for what he believed in.
Monday, 30 January 2017
|Fr William (bottom right) with members of his team and the 27 enquirers|
During the three days, the process of discernment for holy orders is explained, as well as the selection, training and deployment norms of our Church. Advice is given on spiritual direction to assist in personal discernment. Some topics pertinent to ministry in the Church of England are covered, such as the norms of obedience and authority, the 5 marks of mission and issues in human sexuality. Parish visits are set up for a variety of experiences, often contrasting with the enquirer's own home congregation. As well as priesthood, the distinctive diaconate is set out as one of the possible vocational journeys.
Such a level of interest in the sacred ministry from these enquirers is indeed heartening. Of the 27, 19 were men, and 8 women. The average age was 36.
Thursday, 26 January 2017
"I am here today in solidarity with all who are oppressed. I stand here for justice". The words of the Revd April Maja Almaas.
April is a priest of our Diocese in Europe, who serves the Anglican congregation in Trondheim, Norway. She participated in a march in that city last Saturday, joining with millions of others around the world. (It is estimated that in the USA alone more than 4.5 million marched. Others marched around the world, from Iraq to Antarctica.) "As a multi-ethnic American and a Christian I felt that it was important to speak out", said April.
In addressing the crowd, April recalled that this march was in a long line of such historic demonstrations, from the first march for women's voting rights in Washington in 1913, to that led by Martin Luther King against racism 50 years later. Along with her sisters around the world, April wished to declare that the rhetoric used in the US election campaign was unacceptable, that many have been discriminated against, and that such discrimination is not right. The tone of the march was not an anti-Trump political demonstration, but a peaceful witness for the fundamental and basic human rights of all.
In her speech, April cited the words of the US author, Lillian Smith:
“Without words, it comes
And suddenly, sharply,
one is aware of being separated
from every person on one’s earth and every object,
and from the future
and even, a little,
from one’s self.
A moment before one was happily playing;
the world was round and friendly.
Now at one’s feet there are chasms
that had been invisible until this moment.
And one knows, and never remembers—
how it was learned,
That there will always be chasms,
and across the chasms, will always be those one loves.”
April's powerful speech continued, echoing sentiments of many of us across Europe, "Around the world nationalism is on the rise, Fear sown, hatred harvested. Wrong skin. Wrong creed. Wrong documents. Wrong place—wrong time. Walls are being built. Discrimination legalized. Brutality accepted. Ism’s are being taken out of their closets, dusted off and being worn again—racism, sexism, heterosexim, classism, ableism". Turning again to Smith's words, “Suddenly, sharply, one is aware of being separated from every person on earth and every object, and from the beginning of things, and from the future, and even a little from one’s self.”
|The Revd April Almaas addressing the crowd|
April challenged her hearers to ponder, "How has it come to this? That we are standing here in bondage, trapped on our islands of privilege and need? With chasms at our feet—separating us from our sisters and our brothers, from the beginning of things”—which is God—who created each and every one of us in the very image of God? Today, I am asking all of us to extend our arms out from our islands, across the chasms that separate us, and to grasp hands in solidarity with all who are oppressed.This is not any easy task. The path towards justice is always difficult, but it is also, always the right way to go".
|April's son is holding the "She's Someone" sign|
Thank you for your witness, April. "Amen" is all I can add.
|The Revd April Maja Almaas|
Friday, 20 January 2017
|Fr Marcus Walker of the Anglican Centre in Rome|
|All Saints Choir rehearse in the. Basilica|
|The Papal Altar over the tomb of St Paul|
At the conclusion of evensong, the monks chanted the ancient Latin hymn to the Apostle:
Pressi malorum pondere te Paule, adimus supplices, qui certa largus desuper, dabis salutis pignora.
(Pressed by the might of the wicked, thee, O Paul, we approach supplicant, who are lavish to give from above the certain assurances of salvation).
Thursday, 12 January 2017
Wednesday, 11 January 2017
"Crossing Barriers" is the theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In the northern hemisphere, including in this Diocese in Europe, that week is observed from 18-25 January.
Friday, 6 January 2017
As part of my continuing education I have been participating in a programme called "Equipping Christian Leaders in an Age of Science". Today, the Feast of the Epiphany, by happy coincidence one of the topics in our sessions turned our gaze to the stars and galaxies as we explored issues related to SETI, the search for extra terrestial intelligence. A wonderful lecture was given by the Revd Professor David Wilkinson, of St John's College Durham, a noted astrophysicist as well as theologian, with doctorates in both fields.
Professor Wilkinson, from a scientific point of view, would surmise that at present we are likely the only intelligent life in this galaxy, although with 100 billion stars in the galaxy, with about 70% having planets, and 100 billion galaxies in the universe one cannot be sure! As a theologian, he maintains that SETI is important for Christians for a number of reasons:
- It invites us to observe and wonder at the complexity and vastness of the universe, God's creation.
- It is in the thought and imagination of the public, including many young people.
- It is "a fun sand-pit for theological speculation". In the sand-pit we can explore themes such as the Incarnation, the Fall, Redemption and the uniqueness (or not) of human beings in the light of the possibility of other beings on other planets....
We thought of the Sydney Carter Christmas hymn "Every Star Shall Sing a Carol" with this evocative verse:
Who can tell what other cradle,
high above the milky way,
still may rock the King of heaven
on another Christmas day?
Professor Wilkinson is one of our keynote speakers for the Diocesan Readers' Conference in May. Should be interesting!
Other themes for the current sessions have been equally fascinating: Being Human in a Digital Age, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics (including issues raised by a topic rarely discussed by bishops - sex with robots!). We were alerted to the fact that there is very little theological engagement with the huge issues raised by artificial intelligence, issues which are coming at us like an express train: ethics (do machines have rights? Is it permissible to torture a robot?); the erosion of ontological differences between animals, humans and machines; work and employment as jobs, especially among the poor, will be increasingly threatened; the nature of relationships and community in a digital world, and so on.
|Andrew Graystone lectures on AI and Robotics|
|Visit to Durham University Robotics Lab|