Friday, 5 June 2009

Is Wine Essential to Salvation?

The Church Times this morning has, as always, a 'hundred years ago' extract from its archives, telling of the triumph of the dedication festival at All Saints, Margaret Street, with the Bishop of London remarking on his support for praying for the dead and belief in the Real Presence. He goes on to remark that old hostilities and mistrust between catholics and evangelicals in his Diocese have stopped and all may dwell in peace. All very Jeeves and Wooster and good, but that happy time in English history was soon to be shaken by the First World War and a global depression as Elysian fields were torn open by the tracks of tanks and young men marched out of their schools to death on the front lines. Today being D Day, I should like to offer a pause for thought for the fallen of the two World Wars and a moment of reflection on the rise of fascism in Europe once again, witnessed by the large proportion of the vote given to Geert Wilders' party in Holland yesterday in the European elections. This is the man who called Islam 'the ideology of a retarded culture' and who would see the Koran banned in Holland, because it is a 'fascist' book.

Now, I have no bones about the Kingship of Christ and I am convinced of the claim of Christ that He is the way to the Father, who is the one God, I should not like to live in a country which banned the Bible because it was predominantly an Islamic nation which saw Christians as a threat to their way of life. I should be even more concerned if that county were Holland, more famous for Edam than terrorism. Maybe this is the natural outcome of wearing wooden shoes and living in tulip strewn windmills, but I feel it may be more to do with the Northern European history of great trading ports and the dominance of commerce in the cold harbours which has slowly opened our part of the globe up to trade, resettlement and immigration, three things which I am happy to be a part of. Our putting money first and foremost in the busy shipping lanes of North Europe has landed up in a situation of being he most multicultural part of the globe and it is now, when the economy downturns and the shipping ports and docks are mothballed that multiculturalism is found to be at fault for this situation. We cannot have it both ways, the money which built Rotterdam, Liverpool and Marseilles came from international trade and has become multicultural reality. Just as it has since the Vikings, the Romans and oh, all the other groups who have come to Britain and been gently assimilated. And don't give me any baloney about Saint George, we all know where he came from and for that is a perfect symbol of England now. This is something to be proud of, I think, not a source of unrest.

I wonder what would be the reaction if this 'a hundred years ago' thing could be done in reverse? What would our forebears have made of the headline on page 8, 'New Bishop is a Lesbian'? Was she covered in chocolate for the ceremony? Swedish Luterans, you are making history, just not very well.

As my birthday is Saint George's Day and I am going to serve in a Parish which includes a Church dedicated to Saint George, I felt that Saint Hilda's, that Victorian Church, could do with a Georgian reminder, a nod to a past of invasion, Bede, the Abbey at Whitby and Beowulf, all things which I cherish and have devoted a good part of my life to reading about. I hope to get my English literary retreats off the ground next Summer, looking at ancient sites and tracing the history of the Faith in England through architecture, music and literature. Much work is still needed on this though.

And for the moment I am taking pictures off the walls and cleaning behind them, scraping wax off the floor, throwing great boxes of stuff away and sorting through a thousand papers, weeding out what I do not need. Which is quite a lot! A monastic friend suggested, after I sighed at how difficult it is to decide what may go, that I throw away all that is not necessary for salvation. I wondered, to an encouraging smile and nod, what to do with all the wine.