The Picture Everybody Wants?

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It will be interesting to look at the press over the next few days. Today is the annual St Albans Festival Pilgrimage, marking the martyrdom of St Alban, the first Christian Martyr in Britain, so as in previous years there is a grand procession in the city, led as usual by the Dean of the abbey, currently the Very Revd Dr Jeffrey John. What is notable this year is that the guest preacher at Evensong, and the president at the Eucharist this morning, is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who was instrumental in forcing Jeffrey John to withdraw as Bishop of Reading back in 2003. As such, with the current situation there is a good deal of speculation in some circles about what effect Williams appearing at St Albans will bring.

Having said that, there possibly won’t be too much to worry about. Quite apart from the fact that attention is now firmly focused on the other side of the pond, it seems many people don’t actually know what Jeffrey John looks like. One of the amusing comments in his recent interview in the Church Times was that after he was appointed to St Albans but before he took up the post, he attended a service at the cathedral, and was asked at the end to sign a petition against himself by one of the people outside who had come up to the abbey from a big evangelical Church in London. It is worth highlighting at this point that there was little opposition within St Albans to his appointment – certainly nobody from the congregation at the cathedral signed the petition, and on the day of his installation only a lone protester appeared. Subsequent to that, Philip Lovegrove, Chairman of the diocesan board of finance resigned his post, and two or three parishes in the diocese are withholding their parish share. In terms of his work at St Albans, under his leadership the congregations are growing, with regular worshipers numbering about 1400. But as I said, I think with the big events in the USA, I doubt anyone will notice.

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