Rowan's Rule - A thousandth post

It is always splendid to bump into a Welshman in the centre of London, especially a poet with a proper beard.

On Sunday evening I left the Western Mail's Westminster office with a craving for music and a dash of Christmas liturgy so I turned right and walked up to St Martin in the Fields (an ironic name for a church located opposite Nelson's Column and one of the busiest roundabouts in Britain).

I pushed open the door and standing in near darkness to my left was Rowan Williams.



A moment later, he launched into his own advent-themed poem: “He will come like last leaf's fall. One night when the November wind has flayed the trees to bone, and earth wakes choking on the mould, the soft shroud's folding.”

One of the many differences between David Cameron and the Archbishop of Canterbury is that the Prime Minister never looks as if would rather do another job. The Conservative leader is trying to hold together the economy and, to a certain extent, the United Kingdom, but he generally has the demeanour of a batsman relishing his turn to step up to the crease; Rowan has not had such fun clutching the barrel of nitroglycerine that is the Anglican Communion.

Would he have had a merrier time as a radical MP, free to shoot from the hip on the evils of nuclear weapons and the perfidious nature of capitalism while campaigning for equality and a more considered approach to Islam? Come to think of it, he might have become Mayor of London.

He has a new readiness to venture into the political realm, most recently when he lent the “occupy” movement some credibility and gave the campaign for an international financial transaction tax a welcome boost.

When he climbed to the pulpit on Sunday, his theology and his politics chimed: “We exploit the world, we squeeze it dry; we pile up the goods of the world so that we can pretend we are safe. We invent any number of vastly complicated systems, some of them perfected in this city of London, to keep us as we imagine secure from uncertainty and from suffering and we complain bitterly when that doesn't work.”

Less than 48 hours later we had empirical proof we cannot control the world when the chancellor announced we will have to borrow £111bn more than expected and dreams of an escape from austerity vanished.

Rowan had urged the congregation to abandon the pretense of control and instead embrace a love which comes near when we drop our defences: “Understand that this is something you will never contain or control. All you can do is open your eyes, draw in your breath, receive what is to be received, and step forward.”

Rowan is an archbishop for dark nights as winter draws in. A time like now.

A Thursday Column. You can listen to the sermon here.

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