17th January

Abandonment of Power

Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one; we have ruined no one; nor tried to take advantage of anyone. 2 Corinthians 7: 2

A group of English people went on a week’s prayer walk along the length of the river Thames. The walk began with Celtic prayers in a church near the Thames’ source which is dedicated to St. Samson. It ended near a statue of Neptune, a symbol of the power of the city of London, and of the British Empire, epitomised by the song ‘Rule, Britannia!’.

The prayer walk led these Christians into repentance for the lust for power in the English people. Ask Irish, Scots or Welsh what they most dislike about the English, and they will tell you it is the lust for power that neither notices nor cherishes the other person or nation.

Yet the true birthright of the English lies in their gentle apostle Aidan who gave up his right to ride a horse, in order to be one with the ordinary people, armed only with the defencelessness of love.

The method of church building used by most Celts was to build small, provisional buildings – the church was the people growing in relationships of love. They built churches without walls.

The Celtic clerics dressed simply; without a note of triumphalism. Many bishops were monks, which meant that they renounced possessions, and did not try to extend the kingdom of God through collecting possessions ‘for the church’.

When Celtic bishops met with Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury, perhaps on the site where that Thames Prayer Walk began, they sought advice from a holy hermit whose authority lay in his having renounced power. The hermit’s advice was: ‘If Augustine is a holy man you should take his advice. You will know if he is holy if he is humble enough to stand up to greet you. If he does not, you need not take his advice’. The result was a lost opportunity. Yet, despite ‘losing out’ in terms of worldly power, the Celtic witness, which lies in the abandonment of power, is the witness which speaks to millions today who reject a way of being church that is built upon worldly power or status.

Strip from us everything except integrity
Bring the servant heart to flower