I’m very fortunate that the people I work most closely with I can also count as friends. By which I mean my clergy colleagues at Leicester Cathedral – David, Barry, Johannes, Alison – and now, Rosy Fairhurst, who was safely installed this afternoon as Canon Chancellor.
It’s an especially happy day for me, as Rosy and I were colleagues some 20 years ago, in ministry in the Hackney Marsh Team parish, and part of what was also, then, a very happy and positive clergy team – thanks to Derek Winterburn , Phil Stone (no – not the Richard III Society one!) and Brian Mann, amongst others, for that! so Welcome Rosy. It’s going to be good to be working with you once more!
I was reminded of those days back in the 90s by friends who had made the journey up from north-east London – where Rosy has more or less stayed since then – as afterwards we were mildly reminiscing, as you do. And the positive quality of team relationships in those times – at least in our memories! – was a large part of what we remembered and valued.
But I mean it when I say that I count that as fortunate. What you need first and foremost in working relationships in any walk of life is, I guess, a measure of professional respect. it’s not a requirement to be friends with your work colleagues – or even necessarily to like them. But it does make life much better if you do. And if that’s true in any walk of life, how much more so in the church – where relationships, both human and divine – are the very stuff of what we’re about.
This morning in the Cathedral Johannes was preaching on a tricky passage from St Matthew’s gospel where Jesus advises how to cope with a situation where your brother or sister ‘sins against you’. The recipe, by the way, is to go have it out with in person – not mutter destructively behind their back. Johannes was honest enough to say that this isn’t always easy, but that it can have striking results. Especially when it turns out not that the other person has sinned against me – but that maybe I’ve been too touchy, too insensitive or too plain stubborn to realise it may just be the other way around. Then the Christian virtues of honesty, humility and forgiveness can all come into play. We’re a new clergy team now, and it may take time for it all to bed down together – but I’m looking forward to continuing to work in a team where we have not only professional respect, but also real friendship, and the ability to both forgive and be forgiven.
That translates onto the institutional playing field as week. Because today we’ve been able to announce that when we lay then mortal remains of Richard III back to rest next March, we’ll be able to do it with the presence of the leaders of both the Anglican and the Catholic churches in England. The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will be with us for the day itself (March 26th), and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, will be preaching at the service of Reception of the coffin into the Cathedral on March 22nd. And throughout the week there’ll be prayers led by priests of both churches in accord with our own traditions. Thus a division which post-dates Richard’s time – the English Reformation – will be if not laid to rest, at least transcended, in the face of a human story of life and death which is the stuff that all churches deal with.
As regular followers of this story will know, we’ve been the recipients of a certain amount of negative feeling and comment over the past year. Most recently it’s been in connection with our Appeal, and how it relates to invitations to the services of reinterment week, but there’s also been a lot to do with concerns over the (Roman) Catholic faith of Richard’s time as against the national and established Church of England in our own day. I’m actually not going to go into all that here; just to say that in that as in so much else, if people can only be patient , they may find things are not nearly as bad as they fear or allege! Of course, that demands a certain willingness to trust our good-will and intent. Good friends can usually manage that. Warriors of the internet, less so…
Pete – Sunday 7 September