IN NORMAL occasions, the Queen spends about seven weeks at Sandringham within the depths of the winter. Throughout January, a diocesan bishop arrives early on every Saturday night in dinner time, preaches on the Sunday service, and stays on till Monday morning. The Bishop of Norwich follows this routine yearly for the weekend instantly after Christmas.
Most diocesan bishops have this expertise simply as soon as. The Bishop of Norwich often writes prematurely to supply some recommendation. My letter included a phrase of warning in regards to the sermon: a State of the Nation tackle was not required, I ventured. As an alternative, a quick sermon (emphasis on transient) of the type preached in any rural church on that Sunday was greatest.
Many bishops had been nervous on the prospect, as I used to be, too, in my first 12 months. However the Queen is so good at being hospitable that almost all of bishops benefit from the expertise. I by no means talked about the Duke of Edinburgh in my preparatory letter. Maybe I ought to have completed, since just a few bishops discovered his interrogation of their sermon — it may go on for the remainder of their go to — draining.
Clergy generally complain that nobody ever feedback about their sermons besides to consult with an illustration or anecdote. I by no means heard the Duke of Edinburgh say, “Beautiful sermon, Bishop” (to me or anybody else), however he did interact with the content material of no matter I preached — as he did with others, too. He listened intently. He anticipated a lot of the preacher. He wished to be intellectually and spiritually engaged.
As soon as, I stated that St Mark’s Gospel was the primary to be written. Afterwards, Prince Philip requested how I or anybody else knew that, and, if it was so, why did Matthew come first within the New Testament? It was a bit like being again in a theological-college tutorial, however his thoughts was fascinated by how issues labored and developed. I recall sending him a duplicate of Anthony Harvey’s brief introduction to the New Testomony, One thing Overheard, as a consequence.
Prince Philip was a voracious reader. He might not have recognized in regards to the primacy of Mark’s Gospel, however he may shock me together with his theological data. Recalling that I used to be as soon as Bishop of St Germans, he requested me who these sanctified Germans in my previous title had been. I instructed him about St Germanus of Auxerre coming to Britain to suppress the Pelagian heresy. “Isn’t that the one the place you save your self by your personal efforts?” he stated. “What’s improper with that?” I discovered myself defending justification by religion alone, my interior Lutheran rising.
Pelagianism is the good British contribution to the listing of heresies; it’s not stunning in a rustic that has all the time admired self-made males. Prince Philip might have been born royal, however he was just about stateless as a younger man, and needed to create a place for himself. I can see why Pelagianism appealed.
He might have been baptised within the Greek Orthodox Church, however he appeared extra at dwelling at matins than excessive mass. I believe sermons had been extra vital to him than sacraments. His was a cerebral religion, and, in that sense, he was a son of the Enlightenment. However he did have a sacramental understanding of creation. His e-book Survival or Extinction, written with Michael Mann, was an early contribution to creating a Christian theology of the environment, one during which the earth was understood as a method of grace given by a Creator God, and which shouldn’t be exploited, however demanded good stewardship.
Sometimes, as I preached at Sandringham, I realised that I used to be treading on harmful floor, unintentionally. A touch upon the way in which during which folks generally wish to recapture their youth struck me immediately as dicey, given the age of my listeners. I quoted Oscar Wilde, and Prince Philip wished the reference afterwards. A personality in A Girl of No Significance says: “To win again my youth there’s nothing I’d not do . . . besides take train, rise up early, or be a helpful member of the group.” This appealed to his sense of humour.
We mourn the lack of somebody who did take train, received up early (you by no means received to breakfast earlier than him), and who was by no means something aside from a helpful member of the group of countries. Could he relaxation in peace, after St Peter is appropriately interrogated. I did inform him that there was a convention that St Mark had an eyewitness account from St Peter which knowledgeable his Gospel. Properly, now he’ll know.
The Rt Revd Graham James is a former Bishop of Norwich.
Take heed to an interview with Bishop James on the Church Times Podcast