Surely the greatest thing about human beings, the clearest trace of our divine origins, is our capacity for deep and enduring love. The love between couples is not the only form of unconditional love, of course, but from earliest times it seems to have been a common and eminent part of our human experience. And couples who have declared their love to each other and chosen to be together for life seem always to have wanted to make their love and commitment known to the world. From the simplest village ‘hand joining’ to the announcement in The Times and the grand reception, couples have wanted to let their world know, and to have their world acknowledge, that their lives are now joined, that the two have become one.
It is a very troubled world. The longrunning conflicts in South Sudan and Somalia continue. There’s conflict in Ukraine and terror in Nigeria. And of course there’s war in Syria and Iraq, to say nothing of so many other scenes of violence great and small.
Lent, as far as I can make out, went into serious decline with the coming of the industrial revolution. The old discipline of ‘one meal in the evening’ every day of Lent must have become decidedly dangerous once large parts of the population were spending long days working around unguarded machinery or deep down the mines.
Something about New Year encourages nostalgia, or perhaps it was just driving past St Michael’s recently on my way to a funeral. Either way, I’ve been reminiscing about my first appointment as a priest, 37 years ago, and the way a priest’s life has changed in that time.
Relatively early in my time here, I met with the editor of the Newcastle Herald and journalist Joanne McCarthy. They were at pains to let me know that, despite what I might have heard, they are not anti-church but pro- the victims of child sexual abuse.