Sunday, 4 September 2016

Sunday at St Georges and a great life remembered

I was collected at ten by Rosella for the drive to St George's, so we arrived in good time for the eleven o'clock start. The church was already open and people were busy with their preparatory tasks. All I had to do was prepare the altar for the Eucharist.

The congregation is diverse, with a third of the regular worshippers coming from West Africa. There were visitors from Britain, Germany, Venezuela, and Spain, to add to the permanent Brits and Africans, and a happy welcoming atmosphere.

The Eucharist was nicely sung, with good participation all round. Afterwards, not only were there refreshments on the terrace, but also a cooked lunch of rice peas and sweet-corn with chicken. It's a custom among the Nigerian ladies of the congregation to offer this on the first Sunday of the month. It was a delightful surprise.

I took advantage of the church office fibre broadband to upload the eighty photos I've taken since Wednesday last, before being dropped off at the ferris wheel bus stop to get a ride home. Buses to Rincon are every half hour on Sundays instead of every twenty minutes, but I only had ten minutes to wait.

This afternoon I learned of the death of Bishop David Jenkins aged 91. He was a well known inspirational teacher of theology when I was a seminarian, and in my early ministry. He was a brilliant apologist for traditional Christian orthodox doctrine, rooted in biblical thought, and classical philosophy. His great strength was to translate and interpret these in the light of modern thought. I heard him talk at student conferences, and he also gave the Bampton Lectures on Christianity and Marxism, when I was a student chaplain in Birmingham.

His critique of Marxism and materialism was very exacting, as he insisted that it was necessary also to learn from them. He was radical in politics, supporting the Durham miners' strike, when he was Bishop of Durham, to the annoyance of Mrs Thatcher. The press and even the BBC worked to discredit him as a mere controversialist, in order to stir up conservative fundamentalist ire against him - this was when the religious right really started to benefit from the 'oxygen of publicity'.

The media manipulators made him a figure of fun, perhaps because they were afraid to take seriously his deep quest for truth and integrity for modern people to live by. Or else they didn't understand him or the importance of his work and way of thinking.

I was grateful for receiving a traditionally orthodox Anglican spiritual nurture in my home parish, in university, and on my ecumenical travels and encounters in sixties Greece. All this enabled me to be open and to  explore liberal and radical thinking, distrustful of the different demands of evangelical fundamentalist conservatism.

The work of David Jenkins that gave me confidence in the integrity and value of thought that went into orthodox Christian belief, from its origins in the New Testament right through to our own times. A great life, well lived.

The day was hotter than yesterday, but much pleasanter as it was less humid. After supper I walked along the seafront, listened to sounds of pop flamenco fusion emanating from a beach bar, and then did some Chi Gung on the water's edge, with the new moon fast sinking beneath the horizon. Now and then, silvered fish leapt out of the water in the dark. A relaxing way to conclude the Lord's Day.

It's eleven years to the day since I first started blogging about ministry, at that time, under the title 'Edge of the Centre', which continued until I retired and started this one. It was the day Brother Roger of Taize's murder was headline news. Like Bishop David Jenkins, his line and ministry was an inspiration to me from early days.

What a lot of thoughts and words have flowed from me into cyberspace since then!


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