We are weeks away from the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III and the ancient Coronation Court has become the ‘Coronation Claims Office’ in the Cabinet Office (less Camelot romanticism, more bureaucracy). During January it sought representations from anyone who felt they had an historic claim to take part in the coronation some, ceremonial or otherwise, considering ‘matters including whether the role or service was performed in 1953 or not, what the basis is for it to be performed now and the claimant’s connection to those who previously performed the role or service’. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are probably in the clear, but others will have had to get their paperwork in and it’s not obvious that the 100-plus bishops in the Church of England have any guarantee of being there on the day although they might be allowed into one of the nearby video links. But let’s not worry just yet. An official statement was reassuring. ‘Officials from the Coronation Claims Office will consult with ecclesiastical experts from Lambeth Palace and ceremonial experts from the Royal Household when considering claims.’ Obviously there has not been a coronation for 70 years, whereas within the preceding 55 years there had been three.
As Pope Francis marked his decade on the throne of St Peter, days later Archbishop Welby notched up his first ten years on St Augustine’s seat. It is too soon to say what their legacies might be. Admiration for Welby in clearing the hurdle that was the impasse over women bishops when he first arrived has dissipated and more recently been drowned in the LLF clatter. His anniversary also coincided with three years since the first national lockdown, and numbers have not been recovering post-pandemic. The 2020 official decision to align with the government and going further than required in ordering churches to close will dominate his record. ‘75 per cent of non-church members wanted access to churches as places of quiet reflection and comfort’ is the finding of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture at the University of York. The archbishop cannot be blamed for this entirely; it was a time of known unknowns. But the now legendary Easter Eucharist from his kitchen and not the fine private chapel within Lambeth Palace was a gimmick of faux-solidarity too far.
Congratulations to the Revd Canon Sarah Foot who will become the next Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, from 1 July 2023. Since 2007, she has been Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Oxford, serving as a Lay Canon at Christ Church then as a Residentiary Canon since her ordination in 2017. She is not able to assume the role until July, however, as she was ordained deacon on 1 July 2017 and ‘Deans must be in Holy Orders for at least 6 years before taking up their appointment’ says Canon C21. It will be a happy way to celebrate her sixth anniversary in orders. An Independent Review of governance at Christ Church is currently taking place, under the chairmanship of Dominic Grieve KC. Anticipated to be a lengthy process, Dean-designate Foot intends to step down once it is included and sadly may prove to be the last ecclesiastical Dean of both college and cathedral in Oxford.
Meanwhile, her predecessor is promoting his new book, published by Canterbury Press. Subtitled ‘Liturgies, prayers, poems and reflections for dissenters’ it ‘offers practical resources for pastoral care that celebrates people on the margins of the church, and provides liturgies for those who suffer racism or injustice, who experience tragedy and loss, who raise their voices in protest or lament, and more. These texts do not carry the stamp of approval of any church body, but will bring the light of the gospel where it is needed.’ Something to comfort millionaires everywhere.
A letter last month to the Church Times about treatment of refugees was signed by a number of clergy, including Canon Richard Truss. ‘We must urge our Government to make it a priority to work with other countries for a global solution to the refugee crisis,’ it said. Perhaps Canon Truss could speak to his niece, the Rt Hon Liz Truss MP, who upheld the Tory government’s plan for deportation flights to Rwanda, although she probably sees that as a ‘global solution’ in itself.
Incumbents are known to impose their own preferences on a parish. They might rearrange the furniture in church, or switch to a different style of vestments, or even bring in Common Worship. But neither do the clergy limit themselves to liturgical matters. Beetle drives can be axed and new coffee arrangements put in place. All Saints, Margaret Street, is holding a Eurovision Party this year. ‘To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often,’ said St John Henry Newman.
Congratulations to Scotland’s Revd Canon Joseph Morrow, Lord Lyon King of Arms, and Westminster Abbey’s Revd Mark Birch appointed CVO and MVO respectively in the Demise Honours List 2023 for services on the Demise and to the State Funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.