Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Well done thou good and faithful servant

Much is being written in the press over the laborious selection process being undertaken by the Church of England to select a new Archbishop of Canterbury. Apparently the Commission dealing with the appointment spent three days last week locked away at a secret location interviewing potential candidates, whom according to Ladbrokes include the Archbishop of York and the Bishops of London, Durham, Norwich, Coventry and Liverpool .  

The current Archbishop, Rowan Williams is retiring having had quite enough over the last ten years. I have to admit I am not a fan. He has managed to lead the Church of England and the wider worldwide Anglican Community precisely nowhere and leaves behind a legacy of division and in the United Kingdom increasing irrelevance. On Gay clergy and women Bishops no decision. On so called “gay marriage” abdicating the Opposition to the Archbishop of York and the Roman Catholic Church and on Church unity no progress. I shall also not forget in a hurry his slightly off taste joke about sheep and the Welsh at one particular Lord Mayor’s Banquet!

Clearly an intelligent man he will no doubt enjoy his retirement in Academia.

Of the contenders to take over in my view the most outstanding character is the Bishop of London , Rt Rev Richard Chartres, he is head and shoulders (literally) above other candidates. However the rumours in the press he is considered too conservative, with a small “c” and also upsets the politically correct lobby by declining to ordain women, I know however how supportive he is of the excellent women clergy who serve in his Diocese and he manages to combine traditional Church of England views (popular in the pews) without any form of bigotry. Reportedly close to the Royal family, especially Prince Charles, he rescued St Paul’s Cathedral from the disaster that threatened to engulf it last year when the “Occupy London“ rabble of the great unwashed, some of whom seem to have decamped to the former Friern Barnet Library, caused the resignation of the Dean and half the Chapter. Over the years I have been grateful for his support and advice and the way he values those who serve our City in Local Government.

It is always a special experience to attend worship at St Paul’s Cathedral and last week I attended Evensong with a congregation made up of the City faithful and curious tourists and a number of family, friends and parishioners of the Rev Adrian Benjamin whose last service at St Paul’s as a serving Prebendary it was . I am not totally sure quite what a “prebendary” does in the Church of England except St Paul’s has 24 and it is a sort of honour to those clergy who have been passed over (or could not stand Church of England Politics and declined) higher Church Office. I know Adrian has enjoyed his role at the Cathedral and, never one to miss an opportunity to preach the message, last autumn held a service on the steps of St Paul ’s for the protesters and apparently made £300 in the Offertory!

At the reception held after Evensong in a City Bank the Bishop of London spoke of Adrian ’s remarkable 37 years as Vicar of All Saints and his wider service to the London Diocese. The Bishop recalled the remarkable production of The Passion that Adrian undertook through the streets of Oakleigh and Whetstone in 2003, which similar to a Hollywood epic, involved hundreds of people, horses, Roman Centurions and  the Bishop suddenly appearing out of a window from above a shop in Oakleigh Road North to address the throng. I seem to recall that I played the role of Pontius Pilot (typecast as usual) in the playground of Sacred Heart School .

Indeed this event was recalled again on Sunday when hundreds or worshippers lead by the Deputy Lieutenant, Theresa Villiers MP and the Leader of the Council packed into All Saints Church and the Hall afterwards to pay tribute to Adrian as he retired as Vicar of All Saints .Representatives of other Churches were joined by members of the Jain Community, the Jewish Community , the Bangladeshi Community. He has become a Barnet institution serving as Mayor’s Chaplain to the late John Tiplady, conducting the weddings and funerals of numerous Councillors and involving himself in Community activity in the true meaning of evangelism. Never one to hide his Membership of the Conservative Party and his strong support for Margaret Thatcher, Hartley Booth, Sir Sydney Chapman and Theresa Villiers. His daughter is now a serving Conservative Borough Councillor in Surrey.  Indeed Adrian was always prepared to fight the good fight against those who would damage the Community, extreme evangelicals, “Guardian” readers, Labour Politicians, opponents of Church Schools amongst others.

When the chips were down Adrian was there, he is no fair weather friend or clergyman who dispenses warm words and takes no action

I know the whole Community in Whetstone and his many friends across Barnet wish him and his wonderful wife Martine a happy retirement!

Now come to think of it is it too late to reopen the candidates list for the next Archbishop of Canterbury ?


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