Elke twee maanden wordt voor Kerknieuws iemand geïnterviewd die op de een of andere manier betrokken is bij de Nederlandse Kerk. Deze keer is onze adviseur vanuit de Church of England the Venerable. Luke Miller, Archdeacon of London geïnterviewd.
Your career in the Church of England commenced exactly 30 years. In the following years you worked in Oxhey, Tottenham and since 2016 as the Archdeacon of London. What gives you joy in your ministry here in London, and what do you find challenging?
The years fly by! After seventeen as a parish priest in one of the most diverse communities in the world, and four years as Archdeacon in North London, I moved to a very different ministry here in the heart of London. We have wonderful opportunities to bring the Gospel to a global financial and business centre. We are blessed with human and financial resources that other churches can only dream of. We minister in places from Paddington, Trafalgar Square and the West End to the City which people round the world have heard of. Our challenge is to make the best use of the opportunities God has given us to make Jesus known. Personally I am challenged to keep focused on Christ and not to get distracted by ‘secular’ opportunities. We are above all communities of prayer gathered by Jesus to His Table. In all the glitz of the City and the West End I need not to forget that.
After becoming Archdeacon of London in 2016 you also became an adviser to the Dutch Church. What are your thoughts about our Strangers’ Church that has been here since 1550?
Until I came to the City I was not aware of the Royal Charter and the Dutch Church. You are so much more than an interesting historical relic of one phase of the Reformation. Your ministry to the Dutch community in London is highly regarded and the church is an important part of the life of the churches in the City. Our theology and ecclesiology differs, but pondering these differences helps us to continue to wrestle with the truth. In the ecumenical endeavor we heed the words of Fr Paul Couturier, the father of the ecumenical movement, who said that the walls we build do not reach all the way to heaven.
Due to the pandemic, the last 18 months have changed the City. As Archdeacon you played an important role in finding ways to respond to the crisis. How do you look back on the past year?
I am Faith and Belief lead for London Resilience, which normally means helping the Faith communities respond after a major incident. During the pandemic I have been serving on the London Strategic Coordination Group (SCG). In wave one we worked hard in the horribly named ‘Mortality Management Group’ and I helped make sure that the religious needs of people were met. Latterly I have been part of the Communities and Faith subgroup of the SCG. The place of ‘Faith’ is now seen as central to crisis management in London, and where before they used to say to me ‘why is there a vicar in the room’ they now say ‘we cannot do this without the Faith Sector.’ This is a major change for the place of Faith in general and the churches in particular in civil society in London and the UK.
The experience within the churches has been less happy. The Church of England went further than it needed to in being cautious at the start of the pandemic. When we started to get that right, things have been much better. I have been a member of the group which provides the national guidance for the Church of England which has some very competent people on it. Amazingly we won two big concessions. First that there should be specific ‘Places of Worship Guidance’ – this now seems so normal we forget how extraordinary it is that we are not just lumped in with public buildings. Secondly, we were not closed down again after the first lockdown lifted. There is rightly frustration that just now you can sing at the football and not in church, but we should not forget what was achieved by the lobbying, explanation, and by making the case that worship is not a discretionary activity like going to the pub.
Last month we celebrated the re-opening of the City Churches. What are your hopes and concerns for the immediate future?
I am a member of the Mayor of London’s London Recovery Board and am one of the Lord Mayor of London’s ‘Recovery Champions’. Immediately the delay of lockdown easing from June to July will mean that the offices will not really get going until September. Young people – who make up the bulk of City workers – who don’t have big houses with spare bedrooms from which to work are desperate to get back to the office. My sense is that working patterns will change, but that the offices will fill up again. The work of the church remains as it ever has been: to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ as society changes and develops around us. We will need to recognize that there are new online tools to use, but assert that Jesus was not broadcast to us but incarnate among us. The Lord’s invitation to Thomas ‘place your hand here’ and the sheer physicality of the Christian dispensation means that we have a new challenge today, but one, thanks to God, we are well equipped to face.
Father Luke Miller was interviewed
by Bertjan van de Lagemaat