Many of you will know that I am currently engaged in a piece of PhD research. I began this work in my last post and I am now approaching what I think is the final straight! What you may not be aware of is that my research is into the way in which the Church of England talks about the devil and evil in its liturgical texts.
Those of you who have been to a baptism recently may well have heard the minister asking the parents and godparents a number of questions which included: "do you reject the Devil and all rebellion against God?" You might also have heard, though you may not have noticed, that every baptism service contains a prayer of exorcism: "may Almighty God deliver you from the dominion of darkness, restore in you the image of his glory, and lead you in the light and obedience of Christ."
When I was a curate working in the city of Gloucester I started to get really interested in what we say about the devil and evil in church, and started wondering also whether what I thought we were saying was the same as what, for example, parents and godparents at baptism believed we were saying. Out of that came a number of questions about how the Church of England deals with the subjects of evil, the devil, demons, spiritual powers and the like.
I have got to the point in my research where I really need to concentrate for a protracted period of time on writing up the last couple of chapters, and I am hugely grateful that my ministerial colleagues have offered to release me from my regular duties in the Cathedral for six weeks during the period between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday in order to do exactly that.
I will therefore disappear from the Cathedral on Monday 16 January and spend six weeks writing up two chapters of the thesis which contain most of the theological reflection on the work that I have already done. As I say, I am hugely grateful to the Dean and my colleagues for agreeing to cover my duties in the Cathedral for this period, and for all of your encouragement and support in this piece of study. While I am away David Halls will oversee the work of the Litmus department.
A date for your diary if you are interested in all of these issues about the presence and place of evil and the devil in the story of the Bible is the Wednesday of Holy Week, 12 April, where the Cathedral will host a special dramatic presentation called ‘The Devil's Passion’ by Justin Butcher, which presents the story of the Passion of Christ from the point of view of the devil (see details opposite.) This promises to be a thought-provoking, challenging and intriguing evening in the middle of our Holy Week observance.
Tom Clammer, Canon Precentor