This has been a very odd three weeks in the Church of England in general, and in Durham in particular. Who could have imagined it a year ago when our new bishop was welcomed to Durham. I think it finally sunk in last night when ‘Have I Got News for You’ showed the photo of Justin knocking on the Cathedral door. A friend tweeted my precise thought. We had just seen someone we knew on HIGNFY. But the person was not Justin – the person was Trevor the verger, standing in the background. Somehow seeing Justin there was sort of normal – already.
One of the many exciting things about the appointment is that the new Archbishop is such a contrast to his predecessor. I say that as a huge admirer of both Rowan and Justin. The differences are obvious, but the similarities are a bit more subtle. This is my list.
- Both have the ability to listen very intensely and deeply and then to respond. This is rare, but it underlies greatness both in leadership and in pastoral care. One-to-one conversation with either can have the quality of deep attentiveness.
- Both read voraciously. Both research. Both enquire deeply and find things out. Many with less demanding ministries and lives read a fraction of what they get through. They both feed the hunger to know – and this lies behind what they have to say. Their leadership is fueled by the humble habit of learning.
- Both can move easily in and out of prayer, silence and liturgy. This lack of awkwardness or show about spirituality is a delightful gift and the sine qua none of true priesthood.
- Both give voice to that thought that they know is going to be a bit uncomfortable. Both bring truth into the room and, simply by being there, insist on a high degree of social seriousness and mutual respect. Both know the importance of both truth and reconciliation.
- Both often wear a black shirt. That’s cool. It’s also ecumenical; and it gives a message of solidarity to the troops.
- Both have the quality of wisdom but also real wit and a robust sense of humour.
Thank God for both.