June Magazine leader

From the Vicar

On 15th June 1215 Magna Carta was sealed at Runnymede.  First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons. There are only four copies of this original document that survive. One is held by Lincoln Cathedral, two are in the British Library and the fourth and best copy is the one to be found in Salisbury Cathedral. This month marks the 800th anniversary of this important event and Salisbury Cathedral has gone to great lengths to focus on this celebration, to which end they have mounted a splendid exhibition at the Cathedral. Indeed there are many events on offer in Salisbury over the summer, but a key one is the walk and LiberTea on Sunday 14th June. Things kick off at 12 noon at Old Sarum with music and food. There is an act of worship at 1:30pm. At 2:00pm the pilgrims set off on foot for a 2 ½ mile walk to Salisbury Cathedral. On arrival at the Cathedral, they will join those already gathered in the close for the LiberTea, which is a free tea party, for which non-walkers will have gathered at 3:00pm. You are encouraged to go to this event. It will be a great occasion.

The phrases in Magna Carta are still part of the law of this land. One protects the freedom and rights of the English Church. Another relates to the privileges of the City of London. The third one is generally held to establish the right to trial by jury. It is interesting that it was the Archbishop who originally was a party to drafting the document. Stephen Langton was deeply involved in the politics of the day, particularly in the stand-off between King John and Pope Innocent III.  One of his predecessors, Thomas Beckett, had crossed King John's father and had paid for that with his life. Today, Archbishops do not hold such power, but the Christian faith has a view about the world, which demands political involvement. The Christian view sees this as God's world, for which we share a responsibility for its care. How life is shared, how communities are built and sustained, how our resources are used and how we face up to the obvious damage we wreak on our environment are all concerns which flow out of a vibrant faith. There is no suggestion that the Christian view must take precedence over every other view, but our faith inspires us to make our voice heard. We have a vision of hope for the world and the belief that we are part of a transformation that is bringing in the reality of God's Kingdom on earth. We share something of the New Life of that Kingdom and a care to share that Life with others. Politics is about how our shared life is ordered and we cannot somehow live lives divorced from the world of politics. And perhaps Magna Carta always needs its champions. It speaks of freedom, human rights and the value of the individual. It creates community in limiting what might otherwise be the absolute power of the Crown. In our troubled age, difficult decisions need to be faced about how to sustain our common life, in the face of a high level of immigration, as well as how we maintain security against unprecedented terrorist threats. Even so, proposals to abolish the Human Rights Act or the Working Time Directive should not pass without proper challenge. In the end, decisions about such things are never easy, but standing for the freedom, rights and value of every person is a deeply Christian thing to do. How we face the inescapable realisation that we are living beyond our means is a matter of economic judgement. If a consequence of austerity measures is ever growing queues at food banks, then for the Church to raise its voice, and ask why people are going hungry, is a valid thing for it to do.

Others have been this way before us.  Oscar Romero once said that when he fed the poor, he was called a saint, but when he asked why the poor are poor, he was called a communist. His challenge to the political system of his day, in El Salvador, led to him being shot dead on 24th March 1980 as he stood at the altar presiding at the

Mass.  It is said that the assassin was paid by the government. Last month he was beatified by Pope Francis, the penultimate action before his church declares him to be a saint. Already he appears in the calendar of the Church of England as a modern day martyr and he is one of the statues of Twentieth Century martyrs above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey. In 2008 one magazine included him in their list of 15 Champions of World Democracy. For all of us he is a good champion to remember as we celebrate the precious democracy which continues to flow from Magna Carta.

Nigel Lloyd

 

 

 


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