Apology for absence
I HAVEN’T been twiddling my thumbs over the summer while the witty, insightful, and thought-provoking guest diarists have been in doing a shift. No, indeed: I’m not one to sulk. I have, in fact, been getting myself elected to the deanery synod.
The election went like this. First, I asked the PCC secretary (aka my wife) if I could be on the PCC, to which her response was, “I suppose.” The PCC then elected me unanimously because of my policies, which were “I’m the secretary’s husband,” and “Please can I be on the PCC?” Second, having been elected to the PCC, I asked if I could be one of the three delegates to the deanery synod. All agreed that I was the ideal candidate, even though there were already two delegates, and it was utterly unnecessary to send a third.
Flushed with electoral success, I failed to note that the next deanery-synod meeting was three nights later. When I realised that I wouldn’t be able to attend, I sent my apologies, via one of the other delegates. It must have been embarrassing for her, on delivering my apologies, to discover that our PCC secretary (who is, as I’ve mentioned, my wife) hadn’t had time to tell the deanery-synod secretary that I had been “elected”, and so they had no idea who it was that was apologising, or for what.
Back to the future
A WEEK after I was confirmed in May 2017, a family member who works at Lambeth Palace took us on a guided tour, and we bumped into the Archbishop — as you do. We shook hands, and he told me that I looked like the Bishop of Liverpool, which was a first. I said, “I’ve only been confirmed a week, and I’m already meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury.”
I had decided to take confirmation classes, first, and most importantly, so that I could take communion, but also because it seemed to me time to step up, not just to publicly affirm my faith in Christ, but to see if I could make myself useful. Having just started work on my ancestor Thom’s 300-year-old diary, I knew that he had been a churchwarden, and I wanted him to be as proud of me as I am of him. As G. K. Chesterton observed, “Tradition is the democracy of the dead,” and I wanted to give Thom back his voice.
If we are to be “a faithful remnant”, I knew that I wanted to be in that number; I also wanted to find a way to counter far-Right politicians who were insisting that this is a Christian country. I knew what they meant by this, and it wasn’t that they accepted Christ as Lord. So here I am, missing deanery-synod meetings. It’s an inauspicious start.
Through a glass, darkly
COMING out as a Christian is, it seems to me, the most radical stance possible. Few of my friends are people of faith, and they are puzzled. It’s not enough that I invoke tradition; for most of them, the scriptures are alien and unknown, and Reason is the sole preserve of science. So I’m interested in how we might project tradition into tomorrow.
I follow an organisation, the Long Now Foundation, which was founded by the Californian thinker Stewart Brand, whom elderly hippies (like me) may remember as the founder of the “Whole Earth Catalogue”. Their headline project is to build a mechanical clock that will operate for 10,000 years. The idea is to make people think about the far future, and what it might mean to be a “good ancestor”.
Long Now asks us to imagine our grandchildren, aged 90, holding their first great-grandchild in their arms, and then to think about that child at 90, and to consider what kind of a world we would wish for them.
At the moment, it seems that we are leaving them a dangerously overheated planet, oceans choked with plastic, soil and water contaminated with pollutants, and a catastrophic natural extinction. Will they be proud of us, as I am of my ancestor? It’s hard to see why they should.
Kingdom of heaven
WALES leads the world in this kind of thinking. The Well-Being of Future Generations Act commits Wales to building a framework for planning which takes into account the needs of future children in all that it does. Wales is trying to give unborn generations a say in the kind of world that they will inherit.
The Welsh government is currently running a consultation that seeks to set benchmarks by which it can judge its success. This, surely, is also what Christians are about?
If we want our great-great-great-grandchildren to inherit our faith, what do we need to do? We could start by listening to our own children. That’s what “woke” means to me: someone who is listening to the concerns of their kids. And this is the point that I’ll be trying to make at the next deanery synod — always assuming (a) I remember when the meeting is, and (b) the PCC secretary has warned them that I’m coming.
Ian Marchant is an author and broadcaster, and the founder of Radio Free Radnorshire.