A reflection for November 5th from our Team Rector, Peter Reiss

This uniquely British “celebration” – an event somewhat mired in myth and even more in spin! We remember the name Guy Fawkes, one of the conspirators, almost making him the hero of the piece, though it is the Guy which is burned with great celebration.

The plot was discovered and the conspirators arrested and most put to death in very gruesome ways, and quickly stories began to circulate. Part of the issue was the split between Protestant England and Roman Catholic Spain, and this was a time of growing nationalism, and religion may have been as much an excuse as a reason. It was a turbulent time.

Today we watch with great alarm at the radicalisation and polarisation in politics. If November 5th is a date for us to remember, then Jan 6th is a rather similar date for the Americans. Nearly 2 years ago there was an attempt to overthrow the democratic processes; there are stories and myths, there is polarisation so some of those who invaded the Capitol are seen as heroes to many. The USA has not recovered from that day- it could happen again and worse

In our own country there is a shift to a more exclusive nationalism, a nationalism which wants to be defined more against our neighbours than alongside them. It is not agitators from outside who are dismantling the norms but those already within government. We may have the Nolan Principles in theory, but they are ignored in practice. Alongside this the calls by various voices to have various people dismissed, sacked or marginalised are getting shriller. It is getting to the point where disagreement requires antagonism, and we have made this normal.

In November 1605 there was also division and disagreement within the Church, not just between Catholic and Protestant, but within each party as well. 417 years later there is division in our denominations and anger and unease with the authorities. In 1611 King James published an “Authorised” Version of the Bible in English – and he, as King, had had quite some say in the language it would and would not use (Henry VIII had similarly controlled the translation of the Bible in the 1530s). Today too there is a desire rom some for an “Authorised” version, but huge disagreement about what it would say, and our new King, Charles, is in no position to lead and develop a new Authorised Version which would command respect. Our Church and many churches are split or at risk of splitting.

For all these reasons, this weekend around Nov 5th, like next weekend around Remembrance, should be a time of prayer, reflection and fresh learning. Both weekends remind us of the destruction and chaos humans can cause and the impact. We pray for our nation and our world; May God’s rule be evident over the decisions made by world leaders.