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Why do I love it? Let me count the ways. I love it because it is patient. It does not expect the world to change in an instant, or to be bludgeoned into belief, because it knows that certain things take centuries. I love it because it is kind. It is kind enough to welcome strangers, whatever their beliefs, and shake their hands, and offer them drinks. It is kind enough to suggest that the biblical teaching on sex before marriage is a mere technicality that can be disregarded, and to offer couples with clear evidence of this disregard (in the form of children) its blessing in the form of weddings when they want them and baptisms when they want them, and even both at the same time, if they want them. 

I like the fact that it is neither envious (of more flamboyant, more attention-seeking and more successful-at-proselytising religions) nor boastful. I like the fact that it is not arrogant or rude. I like the fact that it does not insist on its own way, but is genuinely tolerant of other religious beliefs and none. I like the fact that it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but quietly presents an ethical framework of kindness. I like the fact that it believes in the values of the New Testament, and of St Paul’s description of love, which I’ve just paraphrased, but also believes that it is more important to embody them than to quote them. 

I like the fact that it doesn’t speak like a child, think like a child, or reason like a child. I like the fact that it is mature enough to recognise doubt. I like the fact that it is calm. I like the fact that it recognises that the religious impulse is here to stay, and that the more you try to crush it, the stronger it will be, and that all human beings, irrespective of their beliefs, have yearnings for the transcendent.  

And I like the fact – I really like the fact – that it can commission portraits of its founder from atheists living in a bisexual ménage à trois. Faith, hope and charity indeed.


Christina Patterson: Thank God for the Church of England

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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July 2009



On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory