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Diary

by
16 May 2014

by Sister Rosemary

ISTOCK

Ticks in boxes

IS BRITAIN a Christian country? David Cameron's assertion was predictably followed by howls of agreement or dissent. It fell to the dependably rational, though not headline-friendly, Lord Williams of Oystermouth to make the obviously true reply: "It depends what you mean by. . ."

It is true that a majority of people in this country tick the "Christian" box on the census form; and that, although far fewer attend church regularly, many others do so on special occasions, at times of national grief or personal stress, or as part of a tourist day out.

It intrigues me to see how many of those who would normally be dismissive of "nominal Christians" like this appeal to the census figures to justify their claim that this is still a Christian country, and that the Church of England is still entitled to its privileges. Nominal Christians do not count, it seems, except when it is convenient for us that they do. 
 

Incorrect inference

"YOU love Rev, I love Rev, everybody loves Rev." So reads a review that goes on to complain thatthe programme "undermines the Church". The programme is not, the reviewer says, what it is sometimes claimed to be: an insider's view of the Church of England.

I love Rev, and, no, it is not an insider's view, or it would not contain those irritating howlers about liturgy and church legal procedures (where are the programme's ecclesiastical consultants when we need them?)

In spite of that, it is a brilliant programme - hilariously, achingly recognisable to those familiar with the Church of England beyond the leafy suburbs. Adam Smallbone's dogged attempts to remain faithful and hopeful in the face of repeated disappointments must surely resonate with us all.

The programme is actually at its best when it forgets that it is supposed to be a comedy, and engages seriously with important issues. The last two episodes of the third series were of this kind, and were absolutely gripping and unforgettable.

But the reviewer's chief complaint is about one such occasion, which mercilessly reveals the mess that the Church of England is in over same-sex marriage. He takes exception to Adam's - and the programme's - sympathetic approach, which is at odds with "the Church's view".

I have news for him: many clergy and laity throughout the land heartily agree with Adam, and are increasingly furious that the opposite line is being vociferously presented as "the Church's view".

"Will God bless our union?"

"Of course he will."

Well done, Rev.

(But no, Adam, you cannot perform a wedding for a couple who are already married - another howler.)

 

Life-and-death puzzle

Thou shalt not kill, but need'st not  trive
Officiously to keep alive.

THIS couplet is often quoted, with approval, both by those who are pleading against the continuation of burdensome and ineffective treatment for the dying, and by thosewho advocate euthanasia or assisted suicide.

They seem entirely unaware that the lines come from a savagely satirical poem that castigates the self-serving and hypocritical morality that the writer, Arthur Hugh Clough, saw as prevalent in Victorian England. Anyone who knows the source of the lines would regard them as ammunition against bringing about, or allowing, the death of another.

Our Community is, at the moment, deeply concerned with considerations about old age, disability, and death. Modern medicine, which has produced such great benefits for us all, also presents us with new problems. When, if ever, is it right not to prolong life at all costs? And are we really prolonging life, or just postponing death?

These are difficult questions, and we gain nothing by pretending otherwise.

 

Rejoicing in her faith

WHILE we are thinking about death, I have just been to a funeral. Not an uncommon event for a priest, or a Sister; but this was no ordinary funeral.

It was that of Denise Inge, the wife of the Bishop of Worcester. The invitation said, "All welcome," and the great cathedral was packed to the walls with a congregation that included numerous bishops. Both Archbishops were prominently involved.

The service was a high mass, with clouds of incense, the cathedral choir and a praise band giving their all, and the congregation raising the roof with numerous hymns and songs in different styles.

And was all this to celebrate Denise? Certainly not. There was much in the service about her, but, as in all the best Christian funerals, the focus was not on her, but on God. We were remembering a woman of radiant faith - won not by denying the hard facts, or avoiding the difficult questions, but by facing them, and working through them to a genuine Easter hope.

I was streaming with tears for much of the requiem, as were many others - grieving for the bereaved family, of course, but also overwhelmed by the intensity of this presentation of resounding faith. "And weeping at the grave, we make our song: Alleluia."
 

The Revd Sister Rosemary CHN is a nun at the Convent of the Holy Name in Derby.

Forthcoming Events

19 June 2021
RS Thomas & ME Eldridge Society Festival
With Gwyneth Lewis, Rowan Williams and Mark Oakley.

23 June 2021
Book launch: Looking East in Winter
Rowan Williams introduces some of the aspects and personalities of the Orthodox Christian world.

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