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/ 27 November 2012

Opening of St Mellitus St Jude’s hub

Location: St Mellitus College
Date: 20121127

When Synodical squalls have been relegated to a footnote in some dusty tome or dimming e-book, what we do this evening will be remembered as the beginning of a significant movement in the life of the Christian community in this world city and beyond.

Just as small flocks of scare crow scholars in the mediaeval warm period combined to give birth to Oxford and Cambridge, so strictly informal, sneaker shod students in this modern wet period have come together to fill this place with new life.

This church was built in a period of Christian confidence in the London of the 1870?s. It was financed by a generous lay benefactor the glove manufacturer John Derby Allcroft who went on to commission St Matthew’s Bayswater which has also recently been filled with new vision.

It was a generous biblically inspired vision which raised this church to accommodate 1,600 people who came to listen to the sermons of Robert Forrest later Dean of Worcester. But vision faded; demoralisation set in and this massive auditorium became a dispiriting void.

But behold, God said, I make all things new and the glory of this house shall be greater than the glory which went before.

St Jude’s was built in a London which was home to competing visions of the future of human society. At the beginning of the 19th century under the influence of Jeremy Bentham, University College was opened whose statutes banned the teaching of theology and music. Now of course UCL has a very highly regarded Jewish Studies department. This is one of many signs that we live in very different times.

Although the contemporary orthodoxy still aspires to reduce everything to the explicit and is utilitarian in ethics; overconfident of its take on reality and lacking insight into its problems there is a convulsion of the Spirit from which fresh energies are flowing.

This embryo Christian University is built on confidence not fear; but confidence not in our own individual store of reason but on the conviction that God so loved the world that he was generous and gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ He is God’s Word, the publication and the way into the spiritual evolution of the whole human race. So our whole enterprise is marked by hope and trust in God. In consequence here we are not afraid to reason and eventually intend to engage with every field of human knowledge and research. The Christian imagination urgently needs fertilisation from the best contemporary science and art. We are not afraid to reason but we are not ashamed to adore in company with Christians from all the ages from whatever part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church they come.

We are also convinced in the Spirit of the Word made Flesh that a profoundly transformative theology develops as study and engagement with the scriptures is nourished by a growth in compassion and prayer. This is a conviction which informs our work with tomorrow’s ministers of Christ at a time when it is urgent that we play our part in building a wisdom economy for the world, equipping people to use wisely the power which the knowledge of the 20th century has given us in the interests of alleviating human suffering and realising the intention of Jesus Christ that all should have life in all its fullness.

We have come a long way in a short time because of the blessing of God but also through the agency of many people. Benefactors, the Mellitus Board with my brother of Chelmsford, and those who have worked on the transformation of St Jude’s, the builders but none more so than David Orton, not a desk bound supervisor but as I saw yesterday a hod carrier and hewer of wood. A special expression of thanks should go to Nicky Gumbel the Abbot and Apostle of Alpha – a teacher and Christian ambassador of international significance. We shall be hearing from him later. But above all mitres off to the staff and students under our incomparable Dean, Graham Tomlin, who embodies the whole project in his unusual combination of gifts. He demonstrates the power of a Christ centred – outward facing life. I hand the talking stick on to the man himself – I give you the Dean of St Mellitus.

About Richard Chartres

The Rt Revd Richard Chartres KCVO was the 132nd Bishop of London from November 1995 until March 2017.

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