This is an open invitation from the Trustees of the William Temple Foundation to those who would like to express an interest in joining our Board. Our charity strives to carry forward the spirit of Archbishop William Temple’s commitment to faith in the public square. A sense of the breadth and depth of our work can be gathered from our website.
We would like the Board itself to reflect that diversity of thought, background and endeavour. Those who can commit pro bono to opening up opportunities for others to reflect on the contributions of diverse faiths and beliefs to public life are most welcome to make contact.
Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish political parties have generally been positive about widening participation in higher education. In Westminster, the Blair government set an ambitious target of half the country going to university but twice broke their manifesto promises not to increase tuition fees, then the Liberal Democrats immediately reneged on their 2010 manifesto commitment to oppose further increases in tuition fees, when offered the chance to join a Coalition government, and now the Conservative Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, seems to have completed a hat-trick of own goals from the biggest English political parties by attacking what he derides as ‘low-value’ degrees from universities which are ‘ripping-off’ students.
Higher education is about higher values than the league table mentality that ascribes ‘low value’ to certain universities or degrees based on graduates’ first destination employment statistics. These are distorted by a variety of factors, including the rhetoric of ‘top universities’ beloved of these politicians, but also the state of the economy for which those politicians have responsibility. University is, in any event, about more than employment, and employment is about more than first destinations.
Rishi Sunak’s first job paid well but many of the graduates of less famous colleges and universities pursue a vocation in, for instance, nursing or teaching, which contribute wonderful value and values to society, despite relatively low pay. The Prime Minister is rightly lauding apprenticeships, sometimes called technical or vocational qualifications, which I too believe deserve parity of esteem with more abstract degrees such as the Prime Minister’s in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. But degrees with a vocation also merit that parity of esteem with vocational training. Indeed, as the words indicate, they have the same roots from the Latin ‘vocare’ to call. Pursuing such a calling is a noble endeavour, whether or not someone else values your life choices.
As I have pointed out at graduations over the years, so-called ‘drop-outs’ from education have gone on to greatness despite their first destinations not matching up to the pay of Rishi Sunak’s. The patron saint of Europe, St Benedict, dropped out of the mainstream over 1500 years ago and went to live as a hermit in a cave. When he was ready to be more sociable, there were attempts by dissidents within the first two communities he established to poison him. This is good experience for leadership in faith communities, universities and politics. Benedict learned resilience and created a Rule which has survived with almost no changes ever since, inspiring many to aspire to live in communities with the highest values. The Rule begins with the injunction to listen. Politicians who pontificate on universities committed to widening partnership seldom spend time visiting such universities and listening to students, staff, governors and alumni who value their diverse experiences.
There is a familiar pattern in university life. A ‘new’ subject is offered at a new university, such as Events Management at Leeds Metropolitan and Bournemouth. This is widely derided but is then copied. By the time I joined Leeds Met, 60 universities were offering the same course. Events from Glastonbury to the Olympics, you might have noticed, are big business but also nourish the soul.
In my time at Leeds Met, our statement of character and vision said that we aimed to be a university of festivals and partnerships. I proposed one of our honorary doctors, Brendan Foster, as Chancellor because he epitomised that social entrepreneurial spirit. In graduations there, I liked to use the metaphor of his Great North Run, the world’s greatest half-marathon, and of the London Marathon. Lifelong learning is a marathon, not a sprint. These mass distance events embrace world-class athletes as well as those of us who are running for fun, for charity or to improve our health and fitness. The latter group do not hold back the elite, if the occasion is well-organised. On the contrary, each inspires the other. The sight of thousands of runners wearing shirts for research into Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s has always stirred the emotions and promoted philanthropy which has helped to lead to the research breakthroughs we are now seeing in the news. The same is true in education. Those attending an extra-mural class, prompted by an interest fostered by television programmes on archaeology, for instance, or a course to help them return to work, are in the same community as world-class researchers and teachers. Each group inspires the other. This was the experience of William Temple, William Beveridge and R H Tawney at Toynbee Hall and in the Workers’ Educational Association at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Pioneering in higher education often comes from the peripheries, from the marginalised, such as the experiments of women’s colleges in Oxford and Cambridge, or the church colleges in the nineteenth century which educated and trained teachers and nurses, which turned under-valued vocations into graduate professions. Other examples abound. For instance, to take an example perhaps closer to the government’s heart, the whole notion of Business Schools has been poached by the oldest universities from the experiments of the polytechnics.
Professor Ian Markham and I have co-edited a book on university life published in this month of Rishi Sunak’s attack on universities and, more positively, this month of many graduations all over the UK. My essay is entitled, ‘The Serendipity of Hope in the Peripheral Vision of a University’. Ian’s, with his colleague Joe Thompson, is on slavery reparations, which they are pioneering in the USA. In between our essays, other contributors include former students, staff, governors and partners. Reading the diverse essays might convince you, or even the Prime Minister, that ‘serendipity’ means more than it is usually taken to indicate, as does ‘hope’, as does ‘university’.
Indeed, the lessons of this book can apply more broadly to the body politic and to the body civic. The way I would put this is that, properly understood, what can really transform individuals, communities and societies is radical hope. Political parties should now be designing programmes for government which live out the spirit of radical hope. Indeed, that is how I would recommend judging their next manifestos, along with monitoring if the winner or winners can find it within themselves to stick to their promises and turn them into action. If they do not, then civic or civil society will do our best anyway, as has been the case for colleges and universities through the ages. This is in the Temple tradition of faith in the public square.
The reason why I call my Twitter account ‘paradoxbridge’ is because I believe there is a paradox in thinking about universities. Everyone knows that Oxford and Cambridge are great universities. But it does not follow that other universities are not great. Even if it did, the people who talk about ‘top’ universities often do not understand what has made Oxford and Cambridge great. It is partly that they are each made up of over thirty smaller communities, called colleges, which means students and staff can get to know one another across disciplines and other divides, while the colleges can experiment, with new courses and new cohorts. It is also because this collegial nature encourages extra-curricular engagement with opportunities to stretch mind, body and soul. These twin strengths are missed when people focus only on traditional degree subjects, such as my own in Law, and only on degree results or first destination employment.
On the contrary, the true genius of university education is that what prove to be the deepest influences on you in the long run are often people, places, experiences, ideas and graces which you hardly noticed when they first came into your student life. At graduations this summer, graduands, families and friends should focus not so much on any short-term worries about first destinations as on the latent value and values which will yield their mysteries in the coming decades, making a difference to our ultimate destinies.
Simon Lee is professor of law at Aston University and emeritus professor of jurisprudence at Queen’s University Belfast. He has led two award-winning institutions committed to widening participation in higher education, Liverpool Hope University College and Leeds Metropolitan University. He was educated at Balliol College, Oxford, and Yale Law School. He is the co-editor, with Ian Markham, of The Serendipity of Hope (published by Pickwick, an imprint of Wipf and Stock, in July 2023). Simon Lee is also the chair of the board of trustees of the William Temple Foundation. @paradoxbridge email@example.com
The William Temple Foundation is a broad church. The first of these Temple Takes by fellow trustee, Dr David Shaw, anticipated the Coronation with a pre-emptive strike against the monarchy. Now it is my turn to offer a different take.
This Foundation explores faith in the public square. Coronations have been a prime example of this in action, over a thousand years. This month’s Coronation was more inclusive than its predecessors of diverse denominations and faiths.
While conceding that the monarchy is ‘a good show’, David Shaw notes ‘that ermine and gold braid costs an awful lot of money’. He was not alone in this approach. The Coronation was dismissed as a ‘pantomime’ of ‘obscene lavishness’ by the journalist Suzanne Breen, writing in the Belfast Telegraph.
Yet the Guardian’s exhaustive investigations concluded that the Coronation cost each UK taxpayer about £1.50. If we had been saving up since the previous Coronation, that would have been just over two pence each per year or, if we think instead of creating a sinking fund for the next one, perhaps ten pence each per year.
Since the last Coronation seventy years ago, the USA has held 19 inaugurations for 13 Presidents. These too have an oath, a ceremony, a prayer, a cathedral service the next day, and there are many inauguration balls. Some of the funding in the USA comes from individual supporters, which might be welcomed here, but some of those donors become ambassadors, which would not be. I would like the Prince of Wales, when his time comes, to adopt the model of Edward VII’s Coronation instead, for which the King opened and personally contributed to an appeal which funded a free Coronation Dinner for half a million of the poorest Londoners. William V would ideally extend its reach throughout the UK, realms and territories. The meals went ahead that summer, in hundreds of locations, when the Coronation itself had to be delayed because of the King’s poor health.
William Temple attended that 1902 Coronation as a gentleman-in-waiting to his father, who was then the Archbishop of Canterbury, and played his own part as the Archbishop of York in the 1937 Coronation of George VI. Temple enjoyed three enthronements of his own at Manchester, York and Canterbury, or four if you count the double enthronement in Canterbury as bishop of that diocese and as Primate of All England. Despite it being in wartime, the Canterbury enthronements saw him in what the Church Times described as a ‘magnificent cope and mitre’. There was gold aplenty. None of this stopped him being one of the founders of the Welfare State.
The other point where I beg to differ from David Shaw is when he imagines that defenders of the monarchy would argue that it only has a ceremonial role whereas it is more than that. The second part of his claim is correct, although he only gives examples of what he sees as self-interested interference by the royal family in the political sphere. There are many positive and practical (as opposed here to ‘ceremonial’) contributions by the contemporary constitutional monarchy which celebrate our charities and the arts, which have been prophetic in warning of the climate crisis, which give voice and opportunities to some of the otherwise voiceless on the margins of society, as in the work of the Prince’s Trust, and which bring all faiths into the public square.
Nevertheless, there is nothing necessarily wrong with ceremonial roles and nor is there anything necessarily wrong with ceremonies. Ceremony itself has its place in the public square. Religious ceremonies in particular merit serious study. Yet a pillar of the British establishment, former editor of The Times, Sir Simon Jenkins, now writing for The Guardian, is more outspoken than David Shaw: ‘Is Britain completely mad? Trying to read meaning into such events is completely hopeless.’
In contrast, Juliet Samuel in The Times, writing in the week before the Coronation, had argued that critics of King Charles III miss the point: ‘What they don’t grasp is why the institution at the centre of this weird ritual, the monarchy, has lasted on and off for more than a thousand years… Where the sceptics see a fuddy-duddy infatuated by new-age nonsense, I see traditional religion informed by modern pluralism.’
Rachel Cooke, in The Observer, could see the pageantry as a ‘preposterous vision’ but considered that, ‘Only a stone-hearted person could fail to have been moved by the multifaith parts of the service, and if you felt nothing when the choir sang Handel’s Zadok the Priest at the king’s anointment, you are either an algorithm or half dead.’
She was also impressed by the military processions’ ‘precision that was unbelievable in a country where nothing works.’ A question for a faith foundation is whether the religious ceremony worked that well. Was it sacramental or quasi-sacramental? Did the anointing bring grace? The sacred music was varied, plentiful and uplifting. Does that make a difference? Was the ritual right? Was the emphasis on service authentic or was it, so to speak, lip-service? Almost nobody approved of the formula in the oath, perhaps not even the King. Nor was the attempt to inveigle us into paying homage well received. When asked if that was his idea, the Archbishop of Canterbury claimed he honestly could not remember. When asked about the gold robes and coach, he did remember that the former were borrowed and that the latter was paid for centuries earlier. He told his interviewer, Julie Etchingham, that there was no need to be miserable about all this.
In all its aspects, each Coronation needs to be reviewed in timely fashion. Meanwhile, if you cannot bring yourself to ponder the faith dimensions of what we have just witnessed, then there are secular rites of passage which have some instructive parallels, such as university graduations. When Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, fewer than 4% of the UK’s school-leavers had the opportunity of university education. Nowadays, the figure is more than 50%. With their family members in attendance, this means that more than half the country experience graduation ceremonies. Some of these are in sacred spaces and others also draw on religious liturgies and forms but even the most secular have lessons in understanding the religious Coronation. Some staff might remain, or affect to be, miserable when asked to dress up or otherwise attend but nowadays almost all students, their families and friends find joy in graduations.
It does not need a degree in pageantry to understand the significance in graduations of the medieval gowns, the hoods, the headgear, the university regalia, the music, the formalities of wording, the processions, even in some cases the ermine on a hood or gown or the gold braid on a Chancellor’s gown. Students are burdened by the cost of the degree but only marginally more by any extra cost of graduation tickets for family and friends. They know that gowns and hoods are mostly recycled, as at the Coronation. Those attending can readily understand the concept of a Chancellor, a university’s equivalent to a constitutional monarch, even though they know that the executive power lies elsewhere. Families appreciate the effort to respect a university’s place in the history of education and all their students’ contributions to that community. They value the chance to meet staff, to give thanks and to be thanked for their support.
A Coronation is not just a graduation for the monarch. In a sense, we are all graduands as one era gives way to another. The Coronation was a rite of passage but it was also a leap of faith. Far from it being ‘hopeless’ to read meaning into the Coronation, the meaning was already there. A more charitable reading of our shared experience is that the Coronation extolled the virtue of hope for faith in the public square.
Simon Lee is Professor of Law & Director of Research, Aston Law School; Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence, Queen’s University Belfast; and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the William Temple Foundation
Exactly 250 years ago today, on 1st January 1773, the words of Amazing Grace were first heard here in Olney, Buckinghamshire. They were composed by the Reverend John Newton to accompany his sermon. In the following century, they were set to the tune we associate with Newton’s words.
The same judge who heard the Tobias Rustat case about, and in, Jesus College, Cambridge in 2022 had granted a faculty in 2021 to the Church of St Peter & St Paul, Olney, to present a more balanced account of Reverend John Newton ahead of today’s anniversary. Chancellor Hodge QC’s conclusion was that,
‘The planned changes to the eastern end of the south aisle of the church are designed to bring into regular and beneficial use what is presently a little-used area of the church and to ensure that it is available to educate visitors, in a balanced way, about John Newton, his life and his work, and to celebrate his later, and worthy, achievements whilst not overlooking or in any way seeking to diminish his earlier sins. The proposals will enhance the significance of the church through its strong connections with John Newton; and they will have no adverse or negative impact upon the significance of the church building. The four pews that will be removed are of no intrinsic, practical, or historical significance; and they will not be lost to the church. Rather, the proposals are entirely positive in terms of their impact. As the ‘Home of Amazing Grace’, with significant connections with John Newton and William Cowper, the church already attracts thousands of visitors every year; and the changes that are being proposed will only serve to enhance the visitors’ experience, thereby enhancing the church’s mission. The new displays will serve to remind the worshipping congregation and visitors alike that Jesus came “to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5, 32). They will also bring to mind the true saying of Saint Paul, worthy of all to be received: “That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1, 15) as we are instructed during the Service of Holy Communion according to the Book of Common Prayer. From the material that has been presented to me, it would appear that the church are alive to the need both to ensure that there is appropriate diversity amongst the presenters of materials which are to be displayed within the church, and to recognise the vital contributions made to the abolition of the vile trade in human flesh by African and other global majority heritage writers and abolitionists, women and working class reformers rather than simply focusing upon the work of prominent, white, upper and middle class male abolitionists like John Newton and William Wilberforce.’
In an era of cancellation, how has this legacy of a former slave-trader survived? It was an act of redemption but its lasting impact has been helped considerably by other creative acts of genius through the ages. John Newton’s eighteenth century words were blessed fifty years later by the American William Walker who set Amazing Grace in the 1830s to variations on a folk tune known as New Britain, and who popularised this version through his entrepreneurial and religious vocation of selling hymnals. Amazing Grace was revived in popular culture in the second half of the twentieth century. In 2015, it was used to great effect by President Barack Obama in his eulogy for Reverend Clem Pinckney, one of the Black Christians murdered in their own church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white gunman they had welcomed into their worshipping community. Just looking at the point where the President began to sing, on YouTube, is graceful enough but it is worth watching or listening to the whole eulogy to appreciate the beautiful way in which President Obama introduced grace earlier in his oration and, especially, around the assumption that the murderer would have had about how his victims’ relatives, friends and church community would react, where President Obama made this unattributed allusion to another insight from Olney, this time by Newton’s friend, the poet William Cowper,
‘Oh, but God works in mysterious ways’ lightly paraphrasing the opening line of Cowper’s 1773 hymn, ‘God moves in a mysterious way’.
Instead of nursing a grievance, the community’s reaction was a measured, forgiving kind of grieving, an amazing grace, to which the President added beyond measure. The congregation is electrified by this phrase 16 minutes into the eulogy. Then President Obama begins to talk about grace. He gives a moving reason why sometimes a symbol should be removed, talking about how amazing it would be for the state of South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag in recognition that slavery was wrong. He links this back to God’s grace and faces squarely political controversies around race discrimination in employment and around gun laws. This eulogy is one of the greatest of contributions to the public square. It was only after 35 minutes that President Obama began to sing Amazing Grace.
On this 250th anniversary, then, it is timely to reflect on how we add to legacies and how they are linked. For example, I think it mattered that Newton lived here in Olney, with Cowper and all those oppressed in the lace industry and other disadvantaged circumstances, just as it mattered that Temple, Beveridge and Tawney lived in Toynbee Hall, in the midst of poverty, after their privileged time together as students. Newton and Cowper tried to help the poorest of their neighbours but also learned from them. They exchanged stories of Cowper’s life-threatening mental health issues and of Newton’s life-threatening journeys, including his shipwreck off the northern coast of Ireland.
Listening to Amazing Grace, which might have been directed to him, was thought to be William Cowper’s last experience in church and this hymn might have been his last. I gave the year, 1773, but it was actually in January, indeed in the next day or so after Amazing Grace, before another suicidal episode.
How amazing that, here in this little town of Olney, within hours of each other, Newton wrote the world’s favourite hymn and Cowper wrote the wondrous phrase that is so often echoed, as by President Obama, and which is often assumed to be a Biblical verse, but which was his original expression, about God moving in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.
I think Cowper might have drawn on the Giant’s Causeway and the storm in which his friend Newton almost died in the imagery of his opening stanza. Unlike Newton’s Amazing Grace, this example of Cowper’s genius has not yet benefited from such a fitting tune. So I wonder if, in death as in life, Newton (whose fame for this itself depends so much on the American Walker’s yoking of his words to the amazing New Britain tune) could come to the aid of his friend, Cowper. Since both hymns are in that 8, 6, 8, 6 syllable-rhythm, and bearing in mind President Obama’s intertwining of the two friends’ words, could ‘God moves in a mysterious way’ be sung to Amazing Grace’s New Britain tune? Might that be one small legacy from the celebrations here today, and around the world, of the 250th anniversary of Amazing Grace?
‘God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform He plants his footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm.’
Simon Lee lives in Olney and is the Chair of the Trustees of the William Temple Foundation, Professor of Law, Aston University, and Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence, Queen’s University Belfast
In 2022, the William Temple Foundation has marked the 80th anniversaries of William Temple’s Christianity & Social Order and of the famous Report by his friend, William Beveridge, which is often credited with responsibility for the foundation of the Welfare State. We held conferences in partnerships at Canterbury Cathedral, Balliol College, Oxford, and Blackburn Cathedral, all places which had a link to William Temple’s life.
We heard from some of the most distinguished theologians and historians, convening gatherings of diverse voices, including those critical of Temple or Beveridge or of the Welfare State. We have more to do in 2023 and beyond to ensure that our panels are more evenly balanced, for instance by gender, but we have made progress for instance in listening to a range of perspectives from younger participants in contemporary debates.
For the most part, there was a recognition that the ideas of Temple and Beveridge, together with those of another college friend of theirs, R H Tawney, were influential and progressive. They were prophetic in and during two world wars, which makes their examples relevant to society amidst various crises today.
More detailed lessons from different speakers either have been published already or will be in 2023 but I would like to round off the year with a few points from my remarks at the end of the Blackburn Cathedral symposium on 15th December.
First, that setting was chosen partly because William Temple as Bishop of Manchester had the wisdom and humility almost one hundred years ago to give up part of that big diocese to create a new diocese. Its surrounding communities have become increasingly Muslim which also made it an appropriate setting to consider how we might adapt Temple’s pioneering work in Jewish-Christian partnerships to encompass the widest possible range of faiths and beliefs. Personally, I love the nominative determinism of Temple’s surname and believe that our Foundation can reach out to, and learn from, all those who have their own temples, or places of worship, whatever their particular faiths or beliefs.
Second, there was a disagreement about whether the welfare state is working as Temple and Beveridge envisaged. It is worth pointing out that Beveridge disliked the term and called his proposals instead a ‘security plan’ but the expression used by Temple proved more popular, often without an appreciation of the context in which he coined ‘welfare-state’ in the 1920s, which was as a contrast to ‘power-state’. It is timely at the end of 2022, the year in which President Putin launched his war against Ukraine, to bear in mind that security is important both for nations and for all their citizens, and that our preference is for a state which focuses on the well-being or welfare of its citizens, the ‘common good’. Within such a state, there will be plenty of scope for intermediate groups, called voluntary associations in another report by Beveridge, to play their part in the flourishing of all individuals and communities, but there is a role for the state itself in safeguarding everyone.
Third, our Foundation is a small example of these intermediate institutions, such as cathedrals, other places of worship, colleges and other places of study, academic research centres, grassroots community organisations, and diverse charities. We value working in partnerships with other such institutions, which has been a feature of our year. All these ‘little platoons’, as Edmund Burke dubbed them, have a role to play in creating and curating what one of our research fellows, Dr Matthew Barber-Rowell, calls Spaces of Hope. This is why I am so interested in what the ethos was of Balliol College, Oxford, as the nineteenth century ended and the twentieth began, when Temple, Beveridge and their friend R H Tawney were all students there. Of course, different institutions will have different values, the same institution might change values over time, and individuals might take different lessons, if any, from the same community at the same time. But there is something remarkable about the exchanges of ideas between those characters and the way they drew on the spirit of earlier generations of Balliol students and their tutors. Again, it was not about all thinking alike. Rather, as a Balliol student of the 1880s Anthony Hope Hawkins said of his tutor, R L Nettleship, it was that he ‘taught me to seek truth – and never to be sure I had found it’.
Fourth, as this 80th anniversary year proceeded, I was struck by how many reports I read or re-read not only by Beveridge but also by committees which included Temple or Tawney. This was brought out beautifully through one of the many insights of our final panel of the year when Lord (Rowan) Williams pointed out the methodology of the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, of which he is co-chair, which was established by the Welsh Government. The Commission has made a point of going out and about to listen to people in their own communities. This reminded me of co-founding thirty years ago in Northern Ireland, with a journalist friend Robin Wilson, Initiative 92, a citizens’ movement which created the independent Opsahl Commission. This invited representations from all-comers, whether or not they were subject to broadcasting restrictions, to offer views on ways forward for people and communities in Northern Ireland. Charitable funding, principally from Quaker foundations, allowed outreach workers to help new and old community groups develop their submissions and prepare for their appearances at the 17 public hearings and two inter-school assemblies held across Northern Ireland. The Commission received over 500 submissions from more than 3.000 people. The report was published in June 1993 and is perhaps best remembered for its practical proposals to promote parity of esteem between different communities. In my opinion, however, the beauty of it was in the process. As Index on Censorship observed, ‘The Opsahl Report gave a platform to voices excluded elsewhere – from the Catholic and Protestant working women of Belfast to academics and lawyers – all tired of the old polemic. It gave hope that in Northern Ireland, too, an end is stirring.’ The first IRA ceasefire came just over a year later at the end of August 1994 and the Good Friday Agreement was reached in 1998. This emphasis on encouraging inclusive processes, from Northern Ireland to Wales and beyond, connects to points our Foundation has made throughout 2022, especially in Professor Chris Baker’s public lecture in Leeds and in his wider writing on what he calls kenotic leadership.
Fifth, what Temple and Beveridge in their different ways brought to war-torn people in 1942 was ultimately a prophetic voice of hope. Today, still, what the socially excluded are ultimately excluded from is a sense of hope. Cardinal Suenens explained that, ‘To hope is not to dream but to turn dreams into reality’. When we celebrate an anniversary, we are not simply looking backwards. We are seeking inspiration to pass forwards. In war-time, people yearn for peace. The priority for those being ‘left behind’ is naturally food and shelter. Both Temple and Beveridge wanted better education as well as good health and living conditions for all. All this comes together in the gift of hope. On publication of their 1942 works, Temple and Beveridge immediately set about taking their messages around the country and beyond. The talks by Temple are collected in a volume entitled The Church Looks Forward. They include his BBC broadcast for Christmas 1942. Temple returned to the theme of states using power and force being resisted by nations that wished to promote the welfare of all through love and hope. He ended with wise words which apply just as much in 2022 as in 1942: ‘the hope of the world will not be fulfilled when’ we have overcome aggressor states, ‘that hope will be fulfilled when the lesson of Christmas is fully learnt’, by which he meant absorbing the mystery of the ‘Child of Bethlehem’, who ‘lies helpless in the stable’. Then he spoke again on the last Sunday of 1942, in a BBC broadcast entitled ‘From The Old Year To The New’, in which he asked for an examination of our individual and collective consciences:
‘So at this moment of passage from a year of so great vicissitudes, which yet closes with great hope and promise, to a year which must call for all we have of constancy in endurance, and perhaps also for the vision and wisdom to make a right use of success, let us take stock of ourselves and ask how far we, to whom a noble cause has been entrusted, are worthy to be its champions.’
Simon Lee is the Chair of the Trustees of the William Temple Foundation, Professor of Law, Aston University, and Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence, Queen’s University Belfast
Reactions to the death of Queen Elizabeth seem to contradict the familiar claim that, ‘Death is nothing at all’. In recent decades, cards of sympathy and condolence, or readings at funerals and memorial services, have told us that,
“Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged… Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well…”
These sentiments have comforted some but others dismiss them as trite or as wrong. Their authorwas Professor Canon Henry Scott Holland, a Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral in London who became Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford. He declined the offer of a bishopric but was highly influential on William Temple and others at the cusp of theology and politics as a social reformer, especially as founder of the Christian Social Union.
So how did a Christian cleric come to write words which irritate many fellow believers? What world was Henry Scott Holland living in, if he thought that death was nothing at all? When those words are quoted, the context is usually omitted but that is highly relevant to our mourning for Queen Elizabeth. He was preaching in St Paul’s on Whit Sunday, 15 May 1910, after King Edward VII had died on 6 May and just before the first royal lying in state in Westminster Hall on 17 May and the funeral on 20 May. It was a poignant moment for the church to speak profoundly to the world.
Henry Scott Holland began by saying, ‘I suppose all of us hover between two ways of regarding death’, of which the famous ‘death is nothing at all’ was the second. The first approach was the exact opposite, to ‘recoil from it as embodying the supreme and irrevocable disaster’.
How did Scott Holland resolve the tension between these two extreme views of death?
“Our task is to deny neither judgement, but to combine both… Only through their reconciliation can the fitness of our human experience be preserved in its entirety.”
It is not a fair reading of Henry Scott Holland to take one half of the two positions he was contrasting and represent that as the whole, as if he did not understand the other approach, when he had in fact already set it out in his sermon. The sermon captured the moods of the nation precisely because it was a special time in the life (and reflection on death) of the country, when the king was dead and yet when the cry went up, ‘Long live the King!’
Of course, the poetry of Henry Scott Holland’s words contributed to this effect. He was so eloquent in his choice of words, to represent a position that he did not hold, that the view has come to be associated with him.
We have the opportunity now to lay to rest not only Queen Elizabeth but also such partial understandings of Henry Scott Holland’s rounded exploration of the natural human reactions to death. The full text of this sermon, ‘Death The King of Terrors’ can be easily found on-line. It bears reading on the eve of this state funeral and in the months and years which follow. For the preacher recognised that death is not met by the bereaved with only one of these opposing views once and for all. At the bedside, at the funeral, one approach might prevail but in the following months, the other extreme might be encountered.
Hence death, as here, ‘may come to the very old as the fitting close of an honourable life’, in which case it is often possible to come to appreciate that,
What really matters is the life with its moral quality, its personal characteristics, its intense and vivid charm, its individual experiences, its personal story; the tone of its voice, the pressure of its presence felt as surely now as once through eye and hand; the tenderness, the beauty, the force of the living will — its faults, and its struggles, and its victories, and its maturity, and its quivering affection.
Even then, there will be times when the bereaved are ‘drawn under the drag of days, submerged, unnerved, wearied, out of spirits, disheartened’.
The royal family, churches, diverse faith communities, secular politicians, the wider public and the whole world have found, in response to the Queen’s death, a dignity, appreciation and compassion which is uplifting. All of this will help other families cope with griefs as best we can and will help us to enjoy life’s graces while anticipating the deaths of one another and of ourselves.
Just as Queen Elizabeth showed us there is so much to life, reactions to her death are helping us understand, as Henry Scott Holland appreciated, that death is indeed quite something, after all.
Simon Lee is Professor of Law at Aston University & Chair of the Trustees of the William Temple Foundation firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @paradoxbridge
Simon Lee unpacks a naval metaphor and wonders whether we should focus more on virtue-anchoring than on virtue-signalling.
Those of us who criticise virtue-signalling by others are, in a sense, virtue-signalling ourselves. The most famous nautical example of sending a signal by ostentatiously ignoring another signal is attributed to Admiral Horatio Nelson and worked out well for the fleet and the country at the Battle of Copenhagen. It is not quite as courageous to ignore modern leaders of ancient institutions who signal retreats in our culture ‘wars’. It is just as much gesture politics to pretend not to be looking as a storm breaks. Why not leave the virtue-signallers to enjoy their virtuosity and think instead about Nelson’s last message?
No, I don’t mean, ‘Kiss me, Hardy’. After those touching farewells acknowledging his end was nigh, Nelson’s dying instruction was ‘Anchor, Hardy, anchor!’. While victory in the Battle of Trafalgar was won, storms were about to threaten the fleet. Nelson, for all his faults in a complex life, was at the very end seeking to save the lives of others, sensing that the best hope for those on board was to drop anchor. Hardy doubted this and advised Collingwood, who had to act in Nelson’s place as the fleet’s commander, to set sail and try to out-run the weather. They lost most of their sailors and ships.
In introducing the term ‘virtue-anchoring’, I am influenced by my schooldays which act as an anchor throughout life—at least in the case of my particular school. For the title of our school magazine was The Anchor, and I played cricket and rugby for the Old Anchorians. When the rugby club became Gillingham Anchorians, that might have given outsiders more of a clue as to the significance of the anchor, at least to those who know that Chatham Dockyard is on the border of Gillingham in the Medway Towns in Kent. In addition to the white horse of Kent, Invicta, the school badge had an anchor. Gillingham Grammar School’s motto was ‘Valet Ancora Virtus’, which we translated as ‘Virtue is as Strong as an Anchor’.
At sea, in days of yore, you could signal by shouting or, if you wanted to get your message across a longer distance, by using flags, by semaphore, by Morse Code and now, of course, by modern technology. You did not, and do not, signal with your anchor.
My suggestion is to let others get on with signalling their virtue but focus ourselves on what I am dubbing ‘virtue-anchoring’.
The anchor is effective when it is unseen, working underneath the surface, keeping you balanced, even-keeled, not only when the waters are calm but also when buffeted by storms. When the anchor is visible, it is not working. You strike or lift anchor, of course, and continue your journey with your anchor ready for its next challenge. When you lay anchor the next time, it could be in a different location.
A seafarer friend, who also writes about ethics, tells me that it is not just the anchor that anchors your boat. The chain matters, as does the know-how you bring to the process in judging the length of chain to lay, how much ‘give’ to allow. You also need to understand whether the anchor is landing amid seaweed, sand, or rock. Hard work, experience and nous are needed even if, on modern boats, you will probably have a winch to help strike anchor.
Moreover, there are many varieties of anchor, partly for those different conditions, partly because of improvements in technology or changes in style.
Whether virtues are similarly changing is a moot point. The cardinal virtues of the classical world are courage, justice, temperance, and wisdom. The theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity. Virtues invoked in our time are multifarious, such as friendship, mercy, compassion, good humour, equality, diversity, inclusion, tolerance and nowadays sustainability through, for some, to the checking of privilege, but all are meant to be fundamental goods for human flourishing in society. My focus on anchoring applies, irrespective of the particular virtues you espouse and whether or not you believe them to be unchanging. Even Archbishop Justin Welby, who has to endure accusations of virtue-signalling, has embraced his oil executive past by exploring in his 2019 William Temple Foundation lecture the balance between anchoring and movement for oil rigs and for people.
The metaphor of anchoring is well-known in related contexts. For instance, the NHS is an anchor institution in promoting well-being and in regenerating communities, with the expression being applied also to the role of the wider public sector, while private sector retail developments appreciate the value of anchor tenants.
People we might call virtue-anchorians try to keep anchored by a strong sense of the deep significance of virtues or, to put it another way, by holding fast to virtues in the deep. Anchor your virtues, especially in a storm. As Henry ‘Box’ Brown, one of the most famous of escaped slaves, observed in his mid-nineteenth century memoir, the ‘hope of freedom […] was an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast’, echoing Hebrews 6.19, ‘Hope is an anchor of the soul’.
There are at least two implications of this metaphor for political decision-making. Much as I admire solo sailors such as Dee Caffari, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in both directions, danger looms when politicians and other decision-makers think of themselves as going alone, against the prevailing currents. They need to be anchored in company, as in a marina or harbour, not only secure in their own being but conscious of the need to respect others. Giving themselves too much rope can lead to their vessel damaging others.
On the other hand, simply being ‘safely’ anchored in a fleet is not enough if our politicians are not also alert to defend virtue when it is under surprise attack. On 12 June 1667, Samuel Pepys wrote, ‘the truth is, I do fear so much that the whole kingdom is undone’. At a time when the European Union and now perhaps the United Kingdom could be described as undone, why do I turn to Pepys in the seventeenth century, before even the Act of Union of 1707? Although we know him as a diarist, Pepys’ job at this time was as clerk of the acts to the navy board. He was commenting on the news that the Dutch had captured the bulk of the fleet at anchor in the Medway at Chatham and Gillingham. Earlier in the day he had been assured that all was safe. The threats today are not from the Dutch but can come from a virus, a variant, a terror attack, a loss of nerve, the discovery of an old tweet, the shame of an old interview achieved by deceit, or the re-evaluation of our heritage. Virtue is as strong as an anchor but even an anchorage is not safe if we are not eternally vigilant.
Simon Lee is the new chair of the board of trustees of the William Temple Foundation and the author of Uneasy Ethics.Email: email@example.com Twitter: @paradoxbridge