Advent Glory

By John Ellis

The trumpets sounded from on high. Everyone looked up in expectation. Was this the Advent when the King of Glory would come at last?

Not quite. But it was a monarch. Her Majesty the Queen, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, entered a packed Westminster Abbey and was conducted with the Duke of Edinburgh to their seats under the Lantern, opposite three rows of ecumenical guests. Then unfolded a Eucharist, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, to mark the start of the tenth five-year General Synod of the CofE.


The Ecumenical Guests

While the service was unmistakably Anglican, a Methodist contributed to the prayers and the preacher was the Roman Catholic Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher to the Papal Household. That would have been hard to imagine when the first General Synod met in 1970. He urged that to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Christians of all traditions should embrace and celebrate the doctrine of Justification by Faith and work to ensure it was presented winningly to contemporary people. He noted that in those parts of the world where the Church is being persecuted, internal doctrinal differences hardly seem significant.


General Synod assembles for the Royal Address

In her address later to the opening session of the Synod, the Queen returned to the ecumenical theme. She remarked on the “notable advances” that had been made since she opened the first Synod. She welcomed the presence of ecumenical representatives and urged the Synod to continue the quest for Church Unity.

With the Synod members all in formal dress, the occasion was also a striking ecclesiastical fashion parade. One noticed that the royal hat had flecks of episcopal purple and was wider than any of her bishops’ mitres. Archbishop Justin Welby reflected on how her royal predecessors had been adept at exercising influence over the Church.


Fulbourn URC in Cambridgeshire

It was all a long way from the delightful village United Reformed Church in Fulbourn where I had preached two days previously. But Catholic and Protestant, Queen and commoner, Royal Abbey and village chapel all look towards the day when the King of Glory will come.

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