St John's Church, Harpenden - letter from the Ministry team

We publish a Parish Magazine 4 times a year and in each Magazine there is a letter from the vicar or a member of the Ministry team.

Letter from the Vicarage

We love to chart our collective past via anniversaries. Last year was rife with important memorialisations. June saw the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 1944, a date that increasingly tests the limits of living memory - so much so that the Veterans have disbanded their organisation and arranged for their flags to be hung in St Margaret’s, Westminster. In August we observed the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, a catastrophe brilliantly captured at the Tower of London with the display of ceramic poppies, each representing a fallen British or colonial soldier. And this year we remember that final and decisive defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Going further back may engage the historian rather than the man in the street, yet this year is the 800th anniversary of both the signing of Magna Carta and the opening in the Lateran Church in Rome of a general council of the Western (Latin) Catholic Church.

The original Magna Carta was agreed by King John on 15 June 1215, when he acceded to the bishops’ and barons’ demands to limit his powers and directed that it be sealed. This version can be viewed at the British Library, the Bodleian Library, and Lincoln and Salisbury cathedrals. It was revised several times, and the 1293 version became part of English law. It is right to celebrate this, as it limited the power of authoritarian rule and paved the way for trial by jury, modified down the centuries as the franchise was extended. Clause 3 is probably the most well known:

No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

The Fourth Lateran Council called by Pope Innocent III was also an event of historic significance, although I would be surprised if it receives much attention - even within church circles.

It was one of a number of attempts to reform Western Christianity. It oversaw the establishment of the parish system, which shaped church life across Europe and is still one of the pillars of the Church of England today. Anyone residing within an ecclesiastical parish can call upon the incumbent to have their marriage service conducted in church, their children baptised, and their funeral rites and burial undertaken - these principles still underpin sound pastoral policy. This Council also led to the establishment of parish benefices, and the reading of Banns of Marriage prior to a wedding.

As well as being attended by senior bishops and abbots, the Council was also attended by Dominic Guzman (St Dominic), who accompanied Fulk, Bishop of Toulouse. Dominic was very clear in his own mind that he and his followers were to preach with no other authority than the word of God, which is ‘God’s Power and God’s Wisdom’; he would have heard the Council’s statements on the need for good preaching in the vernacular and for the proper training of the clergy. The other interesting figure to attend that Council was Francis of Assisi with a little group of companions who were seeking to get their movement officially recognised, and who also saw the need for an apostolic life in which preaching was to the fore.

As we recall the 800th anniversary of these two important events - the signing of Magna Carta and the Lateran Council of 1215 - let us not lose sight of our need to play our part in building up a just and equitable society, one that seeks the common good of all. It is equally important that those of us who profess to follow Christ allow him to revitalise our lives and those of others, and indeed to seek to repair and build up his Church in these times. ‘Repair my Church today! Stir up new dreams, seek a fresh outlook! Brothers (and sisters), let us begin’ said Francis then and now: ‘Let us begin, for until now we have done little or nothing!’

With my kind regards,

Nicholas

Nicholas Anderson



Visit the Diocese's web site: Living God's Love.



Read about Lauryn's visit to the Holy Land



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