Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jonathan Bailey

I was sad when I read yesterday in the Church Times that Jonathan Bailey has died. He was only 69 years old. Jonathan was latterly Bishop of Derby. I worked with him when he was Archdeacon of Southend in the Diocese of Chelmsford and I was Industrial Chaplain for Harlow from 1989 until 1997; though Jonathan was appointed to a suffragan bishopric in another diocese before I left Essex. One of his roles as Archdeacon was to lead the team of Industrial Missioners, or Chaplains, in Essex, known collectively as ECCIC- Essex Churches' Council for Industry and Commerce. It was an ecumenical team, though Anglicans predominated; and the Roman Catholic contribution was more often in moral, and some financial, support rather than in the shape of personnel. Jonathan's skill, and warmth, as a team leader of a diverse team gave me a role model whom I could watch and learn from important lessons about leadership and team motivation. The monthly ECCIC meetings led by Jonathan were the most fruitful and stimulating meetings of clergy working together on a common purpose that I have ever been involved with in my ministry to date. Jonathan's death undoubtedly deprives the "Church in earth" of a wise and compassionate counsellor and teacher; but hopefully I, and others who sat at his feet, will practice and propogate those good things which we learned from him.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Archbishop urges EU to build a greener economy now

I am delighted to learn today that the Archbishop of Canterbury has joined with the heads of the Church of Sweden and the Protestant Church in Germany and written a letter to Sarkozy, as President of the Council of the European Union, ahead of the EU summit tomorrow urging him to ensure that climate action is not sidelined because of the current economic crisis. The full text of the letter can be read on the title link above from the Archbishop's website. Here are some quotes from the press release.
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop Anders Wejryd and Bishop Huber express their concern that some governments are looking to increase their allowance of carbon credits that can be bought from developing countries, rather than looking at how to decrease carbon output from within the EU. Instead, the Church leaders call for governments in the EU to take a more holistic approach to economic growth:

"The challenge of resuscitating economic growth cannot be treated in isolation from the challenges of promoting sustainable development. The choice is not between economic growth and environmental protection. .... Our economic and environmental fortunes are inextricably linked. Working sustainably for the global common good and respecting the integrity of God's creation are not alternatives – they are one and the same. To think and act otherwise is neither 'common' nor 'good'."

The Church leaders also advocate the EU taking the opportunity of the economic downturn to build up a new, greener, economy:

"The current financial crisis and economic recession represent less a threat and more an historic opportunity to bring about tomorrow's low carbon economy today. We are encouraged that US President-elect Barack Obama has responded to this challenge by pledging to invest $75 billion to create 5 million new 'green collar' jobs by 2020 as part of a wider package of measures on climate change. Although this pledge has yet to be realised, Europe's leaders must not retreat from taking similar action."

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today is one of the festivals of Mary in the churches of both the East and the West - in honour of her conception. Christians remember the starting point of Mary's earthly existence; those first cells that became the human person of the mother of Jesus; and so today the Church is celebrating the very stirrings of God's plan to restore the world.

Without Mary there is no Jesus. This is true not only at the biological level but also at the spiritual - it is Mary's graciousness which the Church also celebrates; in response to God's grace, Mary consented.

But the biology is vital.St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury around 1100,quoted in Celebrating the Saints: Daily Spiritual Readings from the Calendar of the Church of England compiled by Robert Atwell, reflects in an ecological way about how Mary's role as the mother of the incarnation of God restores all creation - "sky, stars, earth, rivers, day and night and all things that are meant to serve us and be for our good" - the whole of nature rejoices to see God choosing to partner with them - though the biological process of conception and birth - in order to restore his creation.
"God himself, who made all things, remade himself from Mary. In this way he remade all that he had made. He who was able to make all things out of nothing,when they had been defaced would not remake them without Mary's help".

As well the astonishing boldness of the assertions which Anselm made about the salvific significance of Mary - which Protestant Chistians find difficult to acccept - what interests me today is the quite natural way in which Anselm incorporated a creation-focussed perspective into his reflections on Mary's role.
Here is a glimpse of the intellectual and spiritual matrix which lies behind the fantastic images of animals and birds to be found carved and painted on the walls of so many of cathedrals and churches of Europe, founded or rebuilt, around the time of Anselm.

Most of us would let a comparatively minor festival of the Church pass by without even a thought for its ecological significance. But if we took Anselm's approach and focussed on the creation message, wouldn't this transform our spirituality and liturgy; putting our contemporary ecological imperative right at the heart of the way we live and proclaim Christian faith?