Easter Sermon 2013

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Early in the morning, in the cold early light of the day, some of us gathered to celebrate this Great Feast. Bishop Gregor lit the Easter Fire outside and then we processed into church to welcome the risen Saviour with hymns and confirmations and baptisms and great rejoicing. And afterwards we made our way to the Synod Hall for a splendid breakfast rejoicing in the good news that on Easter Day there are no calories in anything.

I was reminded as we ate our breakfast together of an Easter celebration that took place some years ago whilst I was at college.

It was the custom in that University Chapel for a great basket of Scottish Morning Rolls to be processed to the altar to be blessed. One of the rolls would be chosen to be the bread for communion on the altar and the rest would be put to one side and then these were shared as a breakfast after the service.

One this particular occasion, I remember the University Chaplain choosing the bread roll carefully from amongst those offered to him. It was to become the Bread of Promise after all.

He put it upon the silver paten. He said, The Lord be With You and went on to bid us Lift Up Our Hearts.

It was easy to do. It was Easter and our hearts were all rejoicing.

When he finished the Eucharistic Prayer, he carefully and devoutly took the Bread of Heaven in his hands and broke it carefully. And as he did so, I thought I saw a moment of deep prayer.

He stood frozen to the spot and then a shiver appeared to go through him. It was as though the Holy Spirit has suddenly descended upon him.

We waited a moment and then he said, “oooh”.

We looked at him in anticipation. [Read more…]

George C and Ann W

Sometimes one’s twitter feed appears to simply light up with activity. It did so for me as countless people that I know posted their instant reactions to the things that George Carey and Ann Widdecombe said at a meeting held to co-incide with the Tory Party Conference, which was intended to rally the anti-same-sex marriage faithful. The long and short of it is that they seemed to imply that equal marriage would be the next stage on a slippery slope towards a totalitarian political system. It is reported that when asked about opponents to same-sex marriage being called names (the “bigot” word is what we are talking about, I fear), Lord Carey apparently said that such namecalling could lead to people facing the same kind of persecution as the Jews in Nazi Germany.

It is nonsense, of course, and all the more offensive as he seems to have forgotten that gay people were very particularly targeted by the Nazis too.

David Cameron may be a lot of things but I’d say that, having met him, I am pretty sure that he is not preparing a final solution to impose upon former archbishops and their followers. One might have thought that such comments were beneath even Lord Carey’s rarefied pomposity, but it would appear not.

So, what do I say about all this?

Firstly, it is worth remembering that these comments have at least as much power in rallying the pro-same-sex marriage cause as the anti-brigade. Indeed, all this does seem to recruit people to the fight for equality. It is hard to think anything other than that these comments make same-sex marriage all the more likely. No sensible politician is going to align themselves with this style of debate anyway. (I don’t think Ann Widdecombe was ever a serious politician though I will confess that in her barmy single-mindedness she remains, like Tommy Sheridan and Arthur Scargill, one of my very guilty political pleasures).

Secondly, it is worth reflecting on how easy it is for church people to get themselves into the news. It interests me that George Carey (once the Primate of All Englandshire) can still get column inches in the same kind of way that Richard Holloway (who was at the same time Primus of our own dear Scottish church) still can. Richard is still one of the more interesting and sane people prepared to say things to the press and consequently gets good coverage.

One of the lessons to learn from Lord Carey’s nonsense is that the press will still report things if clergy have interesting (and indeed, yes, outrageous things to say). I got lots of good press recently for saying that everyone is welcome in our churches and that we would happily look after any disaffected Roman Catholics for one Sunday only whilst their own church was saying hideous things.

It isn’t terribly exciting to say that everyone is welcome in St Mary’s. It is what we and many others say very often. Interesting though that if you articulate the risks and blessings of that kind of welcome, all of a sudden, the press puts it on the front page.

(Incidently, I do hope that the Roman Catholic church wants to look after any disaffected Episcopalians who are in need of sanctuary. They’ve been actively recruiting from the top with their Ordinariate scheme and we must wish anyone who signs up godspeed and good wishes).

Getting back to Lord Carey and Ann W though, what shall we pray for them. A blessing of wisdom, I say, and let us pray that the Holy Spirit might bless them both with a dose of compassionate holy common sense.

God bless them both.

Do I hear anyone say, Amen? (And a retweet if you are twittering….)