Comments: more from Putney

Going to hear a firebrand preacher wouldn't normally be my first choice on a warm summer evening. But driving down the North Circular while listening to Presiding Bishop Katharine give a short homily (My preference for sermon length!) during a live broadcast of Choral Evensong from Salisbury Cathedral, I had the sense that St Mary's Putney would once again enter the history books.

The friendliness and sense of anticipation in and around the church was apparent on arrival. A welcoming cafe on the south side leads directly into the nave, where the high altar, unusually, is situated on the North side, with views of Putney Bridge and the sky above the Thames. A fire gutted the interior some years ago, and the restoration gives the church a modern feel.

I spotted five of the Telegraph's fifty most influential Anglicans present - all liberal ones of course! The Health Minister arrived on pushbike, looking dapper in jeans and casual shirt. One aisle was reserved for visiting clergy. Otherwise the congregation were a mixture of regulars, the press and the curious. The choir gave us the Magnificat from Stanford in B flat during the communion. It could have been any Anglican church.

The hymns were appropriate for the occasion: Thine be the Glory, Risen Conquering Son; All People That On Earth Do Dwell; There's a Wideness In God's Mercy; and Just As I Am, the second verse of which seemed apt:

Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt
Fightings and Fears within, without,
O Lamb of God I come.

Bishops' sermons don't normally feature on the national news, apart from at Easter and Christmas on quiet news days - this was a Sunday in Ordinary Time. Gene Robinson's sermon is a paradigm shift: a bishop advocating gay rights, love not fear. You could see how attractive this simple populist message might be with the young and those who have given up on religion. Perhaps reform of the House of Lords might result in elected bishops here too. We need more bishops like Gene!

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Monday, 14 July 2008 at 11:23pm BST

"The notion that if the legislation passed we’d immediately elect another gay bishop is speculative. The notion that we’d suddenly have five or six is hallucinatory."


Posted by JCF at Monday, 14 July 2008 at 11:51pm BST
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