SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Bind us together with love

Sir Peter Bottomley
Sir Peter Bottomley

During the debates and decisions on how best to build our future outside the European Union, I do my best to reduce the consequences of the intensity of feelings.

Within our shared country and across our shared Europe, we can take the positive approach, accepting the result of the referendum, consciously to know the balance of advantages and disadvantages that will follow.

It would be better, I judge, if the EU system had allowed their negotiators to have parallel discussions with us about good productive future relationships, while also settling the terms of our departure from the political developments.

The introduction on Friday of the Reverend Canon Paul Taylor, and his wife, Lynn from Salisbury as priest in charge of St Matthew’s church in Tarring Road, in the company of many neighbouring religious, reminded me of the momentous development of inter-church and inter-faith fellowship.

Among the Christian denominations, the intentional growth of shared words and liturgy has helped.

We sang a number of hymns and songs; our heads were up, reading the words on screens instead of peering down at hymn books.

I was reminded of the 1974 song by Bob Gillman when he was a member of a Baptist church in east London ‘Bind us together’ based on Colossians 3:14 and generalising Matthew 22:36 to 37: it spread informally around the world.

When first I served as a member of parliament in southeast London, we held a good slightly awkward multi-denominational open air service.

When I returned from a year in the Northern Ireland office, I asked if I had missed this annual event.

The ministers, priests and vicars politely pointed out that they were in and out of each other’s chapels and churches as natural sharing of purpose and service in the shared community.

It is notable that a person leaving a Roman Catholic gathering hugged the dying Stephen Lawrence, saying that he was loved.

Traditions that are inherited, learnt or chosen should not stand in the way of greater truths and of greater unity, with respect for difference.

I told Sir Graham Leonard, once Bishop of London, that I deeply regretted his success in blocking the planned combining of the Church of England with the Methodists.

When consulted some years back about possible successors to the then Dean of Westminster Abbey, I recalled the importance of growing cooperation along Victoria Street between the Roman Catholic cathedral and the Anglican abbey.

At the risk of unintentionally offending some, my heart’s desire is that each Church of England parish that so far has not accepted the full priesthood of women will see it right to review and to revise their practice.

Moving on, I give thanks to those involved in the East Preston Festival that unifies the village.

I give greetings to all who watched the parade procession.

This was a year when I walked a little ahead.

It was fun helping to the finish the great little car that carried the youthful prince and princess.

It reminded me of the time I was on the London to Brighton veteran car run. As roads minister I was interviewed at the finish.

The driver confessed it was empty of petrol.

To avoid a silly photograph, I said we should walk alongside, appearing to pat it while actually giving a hefty shove each time.

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