Entering York Minster is always a wonderful experience. There is something about the stone and the light, the space and, in many ways, the simplicity of the place which makes it a supremely beautiful place to worship. I remember listening with horror to the reports back in 1984 of the fire which devastated the south transept. Those as old as I will remember that Blue Peter ran a competition to design some of the new roof bosses for when the transept was finally restored to its glory. Now work is going on in restoring the amazing east window.
Today the Minster was packed with regular worshippers, visitors and members and officers of the General Synod. As I had predicted ++Justin presided and ++Sentamu preached. ++Sentamu began his sermon by talking about his recent time in St James’ Hospital, Leeds, and the way in which on his admission forms someone had written against religion, ‘unknown’! He said they had done it to give him some anonymity! The force of the sermon however was to call us back to that missionary zeal that we find in the gospel for today (Luke 10.1-11,16-20) where the Lord sends out the 70 in pairs. It fitted well with yesterday evening’s decision to call for the re-evangelisation of England.
After the Eucharist I made my way to the Deanery where the Dean, Vivienne Faull, had very kindly organised a reception for some of the members of the Synod. It was good to be able to chat to the bishop from Iceland who had addressed us on the first day.
From there it was back to the University campus and the fringe meeting on monastic life. The Bishop of Dudley, Bishop David Walker, chaired the panel which comprised of Fr George Guiver CR, Sister Hilda Mary CSC, the Revd Dr Jo Bailey Wells, Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Vanessa Elston of Moot. The discussion was very much around how the traditional and new forms of monasticism within the Church can support and encourage one another. Having heard a great deal of Moot, a new, growing form of monastic life based in the City of London, it was good to hear from Vanessa.
It seems that there is a great deal of energy around monasticism at the moment and that is a real answer to prayer. There has been a real growth in the numbers of those who wish to be formally associated with the traditional religious orders – as members of the Third Order, as oblates or companions and also in those who are called ‘alongsiders’. These are people living alongside monastic communities but not committing themselves formally to the life. It is fascinating the way that all this is moving. It’s both a challenge and an encouragement. As Fr George commented, ‘There have always been new forms of monasticism – the Franciscans, the Beguines, the Jesuits – and the older forms of monasticism have not always been initially welcoming – but in the end we have learnt from each other’. It was an extremely positive gathering.
Making the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela earlier this year, I saw so many people waking the Camino, in their own way, in their own time. It seems to me that the spirit of the age is much more about accessing church, spirituality, the things of God, in different ways, at different times, alongside complex lifestyles – but that the passion for God remains as intense as ever.
Archbishop George Carey described our religious communities as the ‘best kept secret’ of the Anglican Church. Perhaps all of this energy will bring the communities out of the cloisters – though to be honest, many of us have been rejoicing in their presence and their prayers for a very long time.
Pray for vocations to all forms of monasticism.
Lord Jesus Christ
in your great love you draw all people to yourself:
and in your wisdom you call us to your service.
We pray at this time you will kindle in the hearts of men and women
the desire to follow you in the Religious life.
Give to those whom you call, grace to accept their vocation readily
and thankfully, to make the whole-hearted surrender
which you ask of them, and for love of you, to persevere to the end.
This we ask in your name.
And now to the Chamber – it will be hot and the men’s final at Wimbledon is being played but duty calls.