Yesterday evening, the Archbishop of Canterbury was addressing a gathering in the Parish again. It couldn't have been much closer to home, just five minutes walk from the Vicarage, at the Temple of Peace. On this occasion I received advanced notice, from the secretary of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs - of which Archbishop Barry is president. I was grateful to be able to attend.
His subject was 'Ethics, Economics and Global Justice', and he spoke with impressive understanding of his subject, to judge from the responses he evoked. I confess I found it hard to follow because Rowan's tendency to avoid using cliché, re-stating many things others would skate over in a fresh insightful and original way offered too many alluring insights for my magpie mind to be sidetracked by - failing to hold the treasure chest firmly, because of the fascination with the particular jewels it contains. I am therefore most grateful that the talk is posted on his website.
The man offering the vote of thanks afterwards made a point of appreciating the contribution to public life made by leaders of the Church in Wales over the time since its disestablishment, following the earlier period when non-conformity overshadowed Anglicanism and its absentee prelates. He found it significant that a church leader could speak so authoritatively on a secular subject on a secular environment like the Temple of Peace.
Well, economics is supposed to be a science, as it uses lots of statistical data to interpret the world of human behaviour. It can do so on times with about as much accuracy as religious forms of divination and necromancy. It presumes faith in materialism. As an apologist for faith and spiritual values, and a leader in the dialogue between faiths, it's not surprising that Rowan should be well rehearsed in this set of 'religious' beliefs, and able to offer more than just a capable ethical critique of the economic situation.
It's just over a month since I was last in the main hall of the Temple of Peacer standing hand in hand with a Muslim Sheikh who was praying for the world and its needs before a gathering of equal size, not all of whom were believers. He'd been addressing issues to do with domestic violence, feminism and terrorism, all equally current 'secular' concerns, but he still ended in prayer. Bishops and Archbishops pray in all sorts of places sacred and secular before such mixed crowds. So why not in the Temple of Peace? Or is it there a loss of confidence by our leaders in people's real ability to tolerate them for what they they really are - people of prayer, as well as people of learning?