Ladies and Gentlemen, I am really glad to see that The Bishop of London is such a brilliant cheerleader! It all stems from that fact that I know he went to Trinity College, Cambridge – which, it just so happens, that I did as well, and so did the Reverend Nicky Gumbel – a bit of a mafia here I suspect!
I first came across the Bishop when we were undergraduates. He was a little bit older than me, about a year or two, and when I first came across him I always knew he was an interesting student – little did I think how interesting he was going to become as the Bishop of London! But it is so interesting to have witnessed Richard Chartres' career and his rise to fame. I remember, Richard, when you asked me to come and see the church some years ago in London where wonderful work was being done.
And so it's marvellous, if I may say so, to have this chance to come here today and see something of St. Mellitus. But to arrive here this morning and at about 10.15 to be introduced to a discussion about forgiveness was slightly a shock – I need a bit more warning I think! – but it was fascinating to hear the discussion and to have a word with some of the ordinands; and it was even more encouraging to know how many ordinands there are who want to go into ordained ministry. It would seem in today's world that this is a frightfully unfashionable thing to do, but Ladies and Gentleman, you are, in some extraordinary way, bucking the trend and I've been so fascinated having had the chance to meet some of you here in the church – although when I walked in the door I thought 'How on earth am I going to go round all this collection of very well- labelled people!'
But I have enjoyed enormously talking to the “labels” and hearing about your remarkable work in so many different areas, whether it is on the environmental front; or with the youth; regenerating entire areas of London and elsewhere; bringing churches back to life that have been derelict and redundant – that, I think, is something truly remarkable and inspiring. I am one of those people who minds about our ecclesiastical heritage – and the living tradition that I feel is of such importance in the way it continues. I have also been involved, as you can imagine, with trying to save a lot of these church buildings, particularly the really interesting historical ones, but the fact that you are able to “plant” churches and help encourage congregations in some of these previously redundant, unused churches is again enormously encouraging and I greatly admire Nicky Gumbel and, indeed, his son, (I'm so glad it is hereditary this!), for the work they are doing and for the work they are inspiring among so many of you.
The Bishop alluded to the various work I have been trying to do with my charities for the last thirty or nearly forty years. If I may say so, what I hope for frequently is increased collaboration between many of the people who are working in similar areas. One of the reasons that, for instance, I started my Foundation for Integrated Health was to try and encourage people to appreciate the fact that we are made up of mind, body and spirit – and one of the great tragedies about today's world is the way in which it has become so fragmented so that we can no longer see the whole picture, we no longer see the unity of things (let alone our relationship and inter-connectedness with nature) – because after all we are nature but somehow we are taught that we apart from it and not a part of it.
This is one of the reasons why I first became Patron of a wonderful integrated health centre in the crypt of St. Marylebone church about 25 years ago – in that project they were trying to put this in action. The thing I thought was so wonderful about that particular clinic was the fact that they used the Church of England Spiritual Healing Mission and so often the doctors would tell me they would be able to send a patient down the corridor to the Church of England Spiritual Healing Mission who would have time to listen – and it was the listening to the particular problem that people had, that actually helped with the healing process. And, again, so often those people that had been healed would come back to help with others.
It has always seemed to me that in today's world, because of the fragmentation and the disconnection, the greatest challenge is: how do you reconnect people to anything like a Spiritual understanding? It seemed to me that one way, possibly, was through healthcare, if you can reintroduce people to the Mind Body and Spirit element in their make up. That was one particular thing.
The other thing I have done is with the Prince's Trust and the work we do with young people, which is why I admire so much the work you are all doing here – and why I hope we can collaborate even further with you. The real challenge here is: how can you give people self-esteem? Once they have self-esteem and self-confidence, they can do almost anything, as so many people here will probably be able to attest.
I can only say how proud and grateful I am about all those people who work for my Trust and organisations who do all the work at the coal-face – like so many of you are doing. They are the people who really matter. I could go on for a very long time except to say that I greatly admire the work that is being done here and I look forward to seeing even more effect from the lives of the ordinands and what those who are ordained from here can achieve in different parts of the country.
It is a wonderful example of what can be done and I can only salute the Bishop and all those here in the Diocese of London for leading the way in this whole area and I hope you have great success in the future Ladies and Gentlemen.