Why bother with Yorkshire? That’s quite a question! And it was due to be discussed recently by the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, and Sir Gary Verity in the Cathedral – the first of the Cathedral’s new St Wilfrid Discussions.
Well, the calling of the General Election meant we had to postpone it, probably until the autumn, but we did hold an election hustings instead.
Many cathedrals and churches are encouraging political debate at the moment, and rightly so. Without being partisan, the Church is bound to take a keen interest in matters political.
It goes without saying that Christians should be concerned for how political leaders are serving the common good.
Also, church buildings provide neutral space in which people might just engage in more respectful conversation and debate than can be the case in other venues.
Certainly, one of the most impressive aspects of the recent hustings event in the cathedral was the good manners shown by both candidates and audience while still providing hard, probing questions and sincere responses.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are giving us a strong lead in relation to the general election.
In a letter to the parishes and chaplaincies of the Church of England, they remind Christians that our first obligation is to pray for those standing for election and to continue to pray for those who are elected.
A second obligation, they make clear, is to set aside apathy and cynicism and to participate, encouraging others to do the same. The Archbishops encourage us to draw on the ancient and Benedictine virtue of stability at this time of political change. Stable communities will enable us to be a nation of ‘glad and generous hearts’.
They also argue that contemporary politics needs to re-evaluate the importance of religious belief. They believe that the deep virtues and practices of love, trust and hope, cohesion, courage and stability give us a firm foundation on which to live well together, for the common good.
The letter is available from the Church of England website.
Volunteers Week: 1-7 June
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has designated 1 – 7 June Volunteers’ Week. This is a great initiative in which we are all encouraged to celebrate the positive contribution made by millions of volunteers.
I constantly see the difference made by volunteers in both churches and communities across the district, even many of our libraries are dependent upon them now. And we at Ripon Cathedral certainly benefit from an army of committed and willing volunteers who help us to welcome visitors and reach out in service.
Recently, I was pleased to be at a ceremony in Harrogate when the mayor of the district, in his last full day in office, paid tribute to volunteers who serve the community.
At Ripon Cathedral we are doing our bit to celebrate volunteering by holding a special service on Sunday 4 June at 5.30pm. All those who volunteer in their local communities or who benefit from volunteers are very welcome. That is the day, Pentecost, when we celebrate God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to his church.
I believe that we see God’s Spirit at work through the self-sacrificing good deeds of both Christians and non-Christians.
This is certainly worth celebrating.