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A View from St Giles’ T

Katharine Rumens Rector, St Giles’ Cripplegate

hings would have turned out so very differently if the Dodo had been on the International Olympic Committee. The games

would have taken a quaintly unrecognisable turn but there would have been no unhappy tears. No harsh starting instructions of ‘one two three and away’, but everyone could begin running where they liked and leave off when they liked although that would make it hard to know when the race was over.

And the winner? ‘Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.’ The Dodo is clear about this. Think how gentle and happy the outcome, how full of smiles the crowded winners’ podium. As it is competitive sports are so sad and for us sensitive types when there aren’t enough medals to go round.

As I write this, it is all underway. It is hard to tell enthusiasts from their outward appearance. A friend surprised me by telling me he had been weightlifting. I had not put him down as an athletic type. What he meant was that he had been to watch the weightlifting, which I found equally astonishing. He said you could tell who was going to win by the way they looked at the dumbbells. I would hope victory was more than the determined look in the eye of the competitor, but what do I know about weightlifting? I needed the amazing opening ceremony to get me thinking nice thoughts about the Olympics. That morning I found the hot water had

packed up. The electricity supplier couldn’t come to check the relay box. Oh no, they were not sending anyone into central London till the middle of September. As I accommodate neither new-born infants, nor an extended family of frail, elderly relatives they could not treat it as an emergency until I told them otherwise. Let this be a warning to us; we’re on our own until the nights start drawing in and the children are back at school. We await a marathon or three after church over the next Sundays, which is apposite seeing that the readings are about David running off with Bathsheba. Not that either of them had very far to run: just from her bathing spot on the roof to the palace. More a quick sprint than a marathon, although the marriage was a pretty turbulent form of the latter. It’s good to have a summer break from the Church of England and its wearisome theological convictions. We’re still on women bishops and the traditionalists’ cry for real men only as their bishops. In case you didn’t know, a real man has never knowingly been ordained by a woman or in turn ordained a woman. An added bonus would be if he had not been taught by a woman after the age of seven and that, best of all, his mother was actually a man. I fear we are in for an autumn of competing theological convictions.

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Come the autumn, we are celebrating the 350th anniversary of some almighty theological convictions. This is the Act of Uniformity of 1662 which saw 2000 clergy ejected from the Church of England. I don’t know if there were bothersome headlines at the time drawing attention to yet another scandal which is the church. There you have it: a nice new prayer book and the traditionalists are having none of it. Here were public prayers, the administration of the sacraments and other rites of the Established Church of England all in one handy volume. The woman in the pew must have wondered what was going on, ‘New prayer book, what new prayer book?’ Most people would have yet to

see a copy – it having only hit the bookstalls 4 months before the ejections began.

Being an awfully broad church we never did get round to kicking out those who turned their noses up at Common Worship in 2000. And we are back to bishops. In 1662 you had to have been ordained by one thereby overturning some of the more freeing habits that had crept in during the Civil War.

Samuel Annesley, father of Susanna

Wesley and thereby grandfather of John and Charles was ejected from St Giles’. Things had been so promising when he was presented by Richard Cromwell to the vicarage of St Giles’ in 1658 and again after the Restoration.

He gave his farewell sermon and prayed an immensely long farewell prayer which contains these words: “for we do not know any upon the earth more vile than ourselves: The very aggravations of our sins, to render us monstrously abominable;” Meanwhile Dr Bates was praying at Dunstans in the West, ‘We confess we have had ten thousand experiences of those corruptions that are within us; for our whole Lives are full of provocations against God.’

And Mr Jenkins was praying at Christ Church, ‘We do renounce our own Works, and we cry out in ourselves, Undone, undone.’ All in all The Book of Common Prayer must have come across as a breeze of cheerfulness in comparison, even in its grislier moments like the Commination with its curses, ‘cursed is he that smites his neighbour secretly and cursed are the unmerciful, fornicators, and adulterers, covetous persons, idolaters, slanderers, drunkards and extortioners.’ The Dodo would just have made everyone run around for a bit until they had recovered their equilibrium.

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