Hope is a duty

Andy Hawes is Warden of Edenham Regional Retreat House

Hope is a duty’ was one of the oft-repeated maxims of Blessed Edward King, whose centenary of his natalis or birth into heaven my home Diocese of Lincoln celebrates this year. Although titled ‘scholar, pastor and teacher’, he was before all things a Spiritual Director, for the main thrust of his ministry was to enable each individual to be a Christ like Christian. At the heart of this Christlikeness is the resistance to ‘be conformed to the pattern of this passing age’, but to bear witness to the New Creation of which the Risen Christ is the first fruits. That is why ‘Hope’ is a key theme of all his teaching and spiritual direction. The purpose of all prayer and reflection is to have the person fixed on ‘the things which last for ever.’ A contemporary at Oxford said of King he had an additional beatitude – ‘Blessed are the hopeful’.

To live in Christ ‘who is our hope’ King taught that each person must work out a ‘regulated life’ that suited their individual circumstances; he did not believe that to be ‘Christ like’ was to go against the grain ‘of the natural course of things.’ He saw the pattern of the Incarnation to be an example of ‘simple, honest, humble and joyful living in the way of our homes and families.’

He adopted, taught and encouraged that practice of the examination of consciousness as set out in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. This recommended two periods of reflection of the events and encounters of the day, one in the morning and one in the evening, lasting no more than five minutes. He wrote, ‘Go over the day and ask the Lord to help you see where you have been loving and faithful and where you might have erred’. All this was to happen within the sure hope of God’s forgiving grace.

It was Bishop King’s conviction that nothing was beyond the redeeming love of Christ – it was the amazing grace of God, which was at the centre of his own joyous soul – ‘I feel it, I know it – the love of Jesus for me!’ he told retreatants on one occasion. He had hope of salvation for all people including those condemned to death in Lincoln Prison, to whom he had a particular ministry. It was his practice to speak to them of God’s forgiveness for them – retelling in his own way the parable of the Prodigal Son. On one occasion he baptised a man condemned for murder, confirmed him, celebrated the Eucharist in the Death Cell and went to the scaffold with him. Afterwards he wrote to a friend about the prisoner – ‘he was quite beautiful – we have great hopes for him.’

For Edward King the test of Christian Prayer and Spirituality was its capacity to open the will and heart to this hope. In this hope we can be encouraged to ‘go bravely on believing that as the day shall be so shall our strength.’ For Edward King hope compelled a forward movement of generosity in love and service which is why his gracious ministry lasted into his eighty-fifth year. May he pray for his beloved Church of England that she may hope in Christ ‘her only source of unity and love’.