Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Bishop Edward King Centenary

It is remarkable how visible Edward King (Bishop of Lincoln 1885-1910) still is in churches in the diocese. The top picture shows where a banner and portrait from the former Bishop Edward King Church hang in St Michael’s, Little Coates. But the lower picture is less calculated and more telling: it shows King’s ‘last message to the diocese’ hanging at the back of St Nicolas’, Great Coates as it still does in a large number of churches and vestries across the diocese; when I last drew attention to it in a sermon I discovered how it is now almost unnoticed.

Within a few months of King’s death a collection of his letters was published and soon after that a first biography appeared. The scale of the informal ‘canonisation’ of which this was part was sealed in 1935 when the Archbishop of Canterbury came to Lincoln Cathedral on the fiftieth anniversary of King’s consecration to institute the use of a special Collect, Epistle and Gospel for use on the anniversary of his death each year. His commemoration on 8th March remains in the Church of England calendar.

I was in Lincoln today for a Working Party which the present Bishop has gathered to plan ahead for King’s centenary in 2010. One idea is to make a booklet widely available with quotations from the early publications so that knowledge of his life and teaching might be renewed across the diocese as a real legacy of these celebrations.

So here as a flavour are four examples (from The Spiritual Letters of Edward King edited by B W Randolph Mowbray 1910) which I happen to have used with different groups this year already.

I long to see a real and simple imitation of the life we have shown us in the Gospels. It seems to me that if people go on allowing themselves to shape their lives so much more by the circumstances of the world than by the Gospel, they will be in danger of disbelieving the truths of the Bible itself. I am anxious to prove, if it please God, in my own life that the Gospels are true.

I do value so highly a natural growth in holiness, a humble grateful acceptance of the circumstances God has provided for each of us, and I dread the unnatural, forced, cramped ecclesiastical holiness, which is so much more quickly produced, but is so human and so poor.

I have never had any harsh feelings towards Methodists because I have always felt that it was a want of spiritual life in the church and brotherly love which led them to separate. The more we can draw near to Christ ourselves and fill ourselves with his Spirit, the greater power we shall have for unity. What we want is more Christlike Christians.

We need to be more kind, more considerate, less selfish even in carrying out religious plans, more ready to acknowledge God’s presence in others, and to fall in quietly and brightly with their different ways - freedom from any religious harshness, a docile, child-like, simple loving spirit; more humility, more love.

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