WE HEARD a piece of news recently for which we had been waiting for some time: the death of Bishop Michael Perham. He had written to many friends explaining that he was terminally ill with cancer, and that he preferred quality of life rather than duration. We could not wish his suffering to be prolonged, but we do feel his loss.
Those of us who were in the Community house in Basingstoke in the early 1980s remember him as an up-and-coming young priest who was chaplain to the then Bishop of Winchester, John V. Taylor. Bishop John’s sight was, by then, very poor, and so his chaplain carried an unusual load of responsibility. We were sure that we would hear more of him.
Care for the distressed
WE DID, but we actually met him again when he became Provost (later Dean) of Derby, and became a much loved priest at the convent eucharist. As a result of his labours on Common Worship, he acquired copies of many of its books, and the convent still houses the huge red President’s Book which he bestowed on us.
One of the most memorable events of his time as Dean was a fire in the cathedral, which destroyed most of its collection of vestments. He lost no time in offering pastoral care to the Embroiderers’ Guild, who had devoted many hours of work to making the newer items in the collection, and to the Revd Leonard Childs, who had designed them and supervised the work.
DEAN MICHAEL organised the service in which seven Derby candidates, including me, were ordained deacons (the number was accidental, but felt appropriate), and caused me much anguish during my ordination retreat because he had appointed me, whose clumsiness is legendary, as one of those who were to charge the chalices — numerous, of different sizes, and each required to contain the same quantity of wine and water — at the ordination. Why, I wondered, had he not let me be just the one who washed the Bishop’s hands?
He was appointed by the Bishop to instruct the clergy of the diocese (with a three-line whip) in the use of the Common Worship liturgy. This was much more than a “how to” course: it explained the thinking behind the new orders of service, and, for a nervous new priest, it was immensely valuable. As I presided at the convent eucharist on the day after we heard of his death, I was thinking, “Michael Perham taught me how — and why — to do this.”
I encountered him in a different capacity when I became a member of the General Synod. His clarity of mind and imperturbability of manner steered us safely through some contentious issues, and he was the public face of the liturgical texts that he had spent so much time devising. The Common Worship collects came in for some strong objections, and I remember him calmly admitting: “We got it wrong.”
Spirit of the election
THE Archbishops, together with many other Christian leaders, have again invited us all to take part in a prayer event, “Thy Kingdom Come”. The event is scheduled to take place between Ascension and Pentecost: a time traditionally devoted to prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The stated aim of the campaign is that people should come to know Jesus.
As a member of a mission community dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, whose aim is “to draw to Jesus those for whom he died”, I can hardly object to this. But I do feel some uneasiness about the content of this campaign. The overwhelming emphasis is on personal, individual conversion. I cannot help feeling that an invocation of the wind of the Spirit — particularly in an event with this title — should be about something more than praying for five named friends to find Jesus.
The timing of this venture was determined by the Church’s calendar, and the organisers could have had no way of knowing that it would cover the last full week of a General Election campaign. But now that this amazing coincidence has happened, should we not be grasping this opportunity to pray about politics?
MOST of us probably feel that the problems of the world are so vast and complex, and our opportunity to affect them is so limited, that we can hardly bear to think about them. But one power we have — one that our ancestors battled, and in some cases died, to give us, and which people in many parts of the world can hardly dream of: the vote.
Working out how to use our vote, in this time of political uncertainty, may be difficult, but it is an obvious and urgent duty. I hope that the many “Thy Kingdom Come” events will devote appropriate attention to the future course of British politics, with a real longing for the values of the Kingdom to be seen in our national life — “on earth as it is in heaven”.
The Revd Sister Rosemary CHN is a nun at the Convent of the Holy Name in Derby.