What does London's St Paul's Cathedral represent to others, I wonder? For Londoners it symbolises many things, not least indomitable survival. As a northerner with a love-hate relationship to the Great Wen of the English capital, my feelings are more complex but just as deep. St Paul's is not quite my people's cathedral - 'wor cathedral' of Durham and the beauty of Lincoln both have claims to that. Yet it is also the people's cathedral for me - a very different entity from the royal chapel of Westminster Abbey. It is also my cathedral in a very special sense, as the place of my ordination as priest. Set in the centre of a great world city St Paul's also speaks to me of a love and vistas which are uiniversal and ever outward looking. Its design is also open to the future and to reason. Even the tomb of Wellington is tamed by poets and progressive purposes. Sadly Dean Alan Webster, a beloved mentor, is long gone. Yet his spirit still speaks to me, with St Paul's, of a greater peace and a rich and genuine liberality which even now could perhaps enable London, Europe and the wider world. Today's bridge across the Thames links Donne with Shakespeare, making the point even more powerfully to me.
my address to the Vesak Conference at UNESCO, Paris, 28 May 2015 as part of the Toowoomba 'Model City of Peace and Harmony' presentation
Let me begin with some words from a great poet and priest in my Anglican tradition:
No one is an island entire of itself; every one is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; … any one's death diminishes me, because I am involved in humankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
This wisdom is still powerful today, even though John Donne himself lived through the violent crises of his own age 400 years ago. For they are words for us all. Whilst they embody Christian understanding about human-divine solidarity, they are also reflected in other wisdom traditions, not least Buddhism. For no one can be an island today: no person, no religion, no country. What happens, for example, here in Paris, affects the rest of the world. In response to their own trials, many French people have said Je suis Charlie Hebdo. At it its best, that is another way of saying what John Donne said long ago. For whatever bell tolls - in Sri Lanka, USA, Israel-Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, the Congo, Toowoomba, or wherever – it tolls for us all...
Jo Inkpin an Anglican priest, trans woman, theologian and justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice and sustainable creation.