By John Ellis
I spent a day in Leicester, where I was speaking at the East Midlands Synod meeting.
The Nonconformist chapels of Leicester have sent many ripples around the world. One fine Baptist chapel in Charles Street can claim links with both William Carey, who after ministering in Leicester became the pioneer Christian missionary to India, and with Thomas Cook, who invented the profession of travel agent with his teetotal railway excursions. In our own tradition, the Churches of Christ in the city shaped at least one Moderator of the General Assembly in the person of the Revd Professor David Thompson.
Synod met in Christ Church URC, a large 1930s building south of the city centre. The area seemed familiar and I realised I had been there once before to speak at a Methodist Synod in their equally large premises just two streets away. Scanning our Synod agenda I did not spot any topic that would not have resonated with the Methodists too. I wonder if I will live to see the day when we discuss these issues together.
An earlier visitor to Leicester was King Richard III, who visited just before the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and returned to the city, dead, after it. His new tomb in the Cathedral has made him the public focus of the city to a striking degree. Every signpost, poster and leaflet seems to feature him. Perhaps it was like that for Jesus in Jerusalem after Palm Sunday.
There was plenty of real blood spilt on Bosworth field. The news was full of military images of “civil war” as the Conservative Party tried to come to terms with the resignation from the Government of Iain Duncan Smith. At the tomb of Richard III one could be grateful that even the most frenzied media storm represented a better way of addressing passionate differences than a real civil war. And as the European referendum approaches, that might also remind us that there are larger and more profound issues at stake than economic advantage.