Saturday, 21 February 2009

Rowan Williams: "Mainly Monk"

(Ed: The author of this piece, Theo Hobson, is a regular Guardian Comment is Free contributor.)

The main thing that struck me, as I read Rupert Shortt's biography of Rowan Williams, was how amazingly sheltered the Archbishop of Canterbury's life has been. I don't mean economically privileged (most of us are pretty much on a level in this respect), or emotionally easy (whose is?) – I mean ideologically and institutionally fixed.

He decided as a boy that he would be a priest and theologian, and never had any trouble getting there. (His career plan met as many obstacles as that of Martin Amis, who is one year older, which feels a bit wrong.) He never had a period of adulthood, or even adolescence, in which he wondered what to do with his life, in which he dipped even a toe into another form of life. He has always belonged to the subculture of Church, and since undergraduate days it was obvious that he would have a successful career in it, and the universities joined to it. Contemporaries rightly saw him as a donnish prelate-in-waiting.

So his life has been sheltered by the institutions of Church and Oxbridge, to a remarkable degree. He has never had to seek employment, or existential meaning, outside this world. He has almost always been housed by either Church or university, thus being spared a major form of worldly responsibility and angst. He happens never to have driven a car, another reprieve from dirty worldliness. I bet that his computer has never malfunctioned without some institutional employee on hand to fix it. He has never quite lived in the difficult modern world.

This is of central relevance to his thought. Read more
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Falling numbers close Romford church

AN 82-YEAR-OLD church which has struggled to attract a big enough congregation is facing closure.

St John the Divine Church, in Mawney Road, Romford, which survived attacks from the Luftwaffe in the Second World War, could shut in less than eight weeks.

It's Parochial Church Council, the body elected to represent the congregation, opted to close it because of its continued low attendance - an average of 27 people - to its Sunday services.

St John the Divine's PCC voted in favour of closure by eight votes to nil with two abstentions at a meeting in January.

The decision is now awaiting approval from other committees. Read more
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