In Monty Python’s Life of Brian, there is a powerful scene where a revolutionary sect asks, “What did the Romans ever do for us?” Recognition slowly dawns that the answer is actually “quite a bit!” When we truthfully explore the origins of the Ecclesia Anglicana we face similar acknowledgement for there are several influential strands which typically sit in paradoxical tension with one another. In our understanding of Anglican history, we do well therefore to be open to ‘both/and’, rather than ‘either/or’ perspectives. This is certainly apposite to the enduring influence of both ‘Roman‘ and ‘Celtic’ forms of early Christianity. Sometimes juxtaposed as two competing elements, each continues to shape the nature and dynamics of Anglican spirituality in distinct, but also complementary, ways. Indeed, recent scholarship even questions the terms ‘Roman’ and ‘Celtic’ (some preferring ‘Insular’ to ‘Celtic’) as a designator. It points out that the various early British and Irish Christian traditions were closely linked, rather than a simple, coherent, entity. Nor were ‘Celtic’ Christians isolated from others, as if in a form of spiritual Brexit (a problem with the alternative designation ‘Insular’). For, as Patrick Wormald put it: “One of the common misconceptions is that there was a Roman Church to which the Celtic Church was nationally opposed” in some rigid sense. Nonetheless, if we are generally wise to use inverted commas, historically they reflect enduring creative tensions between the local and universal, between Christ and culture, and between different emphases in mission, prayer and order. Appreciating this rich mosaic more fully enables greater depth in our vocation and spiritual life today..
Today I received my contributor's copy of the latest Iona Community publication - what a joy! It is a book of readings, reflections and prayers about 'the bombs and bullets and landmines we drop into the heart of other people's lives' and the many good folk working for peace and reconciliation in the UK and further afield (i.e even, not least?, in southern Queensland). Like so many Wild Goose Publications, it is an excellent resource which can be used for personal and group reflection. I hope it will serve that purpose well.
My own contribution, as a member of the Iona Community's Australian sister body the Wellspring Community, is a piece about 'Building a model city of peace and harmony Down Under': telling something about our Toowoomba journey, and sharing our now well-established diverse community Affirmation, as part of an encouragement to anyone, anywhere, to 'seek peace and pursue it'. Toowoomba is no more special than anywhere else - though it is particularly amazing in sometimes quite unique ways! - for everyone can share the journey and the joy: as Jesus said, the shalom of God is right here among and within us - this is the good news, get real, get going, get loving!
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.