‘Working from home, believing from home’ – Presidential Address of the Archbishop of Dublin at D&G Synod
Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Synods is taking place online from Taney Parish Centre, Dublin, on Wednesday 6 October 2021 from 5pm to 7pm. The business of Synods began after a celebration of Holy Communion in Taney Parish Church celebrated by the Archbishop of Dublin. Archbishop Michael Jackson delivered his Presidential address shortly after the opening of Synods.
‘Working from home, believing from home – through the eyes of Jesus the carpenter’s son‘
Working from home and believing from home over the last 18 months have resulted in many people becoming self–sufficient in ways they never anticipated, Archbishop Michael Jackson said this evening (Wednesday October 6) in his Presidential address to Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Synods. The 2021 Diocesan Synods took place in people’s homes as, for the second year running, the gathering was held online.
The theme of the Archbishop’s address, ‘Working from home, believing from home – through the eyes of Jesus the carpenter’s son’, drew on St Matthew 13: 55 ‘…Is he not the carpenter’s son? Archbishop Jackson observed that the time Jesus spent as a carpenter’s apprentice was a time about which we have no great insight or knowledge in Scripture. St Luke 2:51 says ‘Then Jesus went back with them to Nazareth, and continued to be under their authority’. And then ‘As Jesus grew he advanced in wisdom and in favour with God and men’.
“It is precisely this unique combination of human and divine that the lockdowns have offered on our doorstep to us as members of these United Dioceses,” he said. “And my hope and prayer are that you yourselves have used the lockdown time to advance in favour with God and men as did Jesus Christ when he was working from home in Nazareth.”
While working from home was not a new phenomenon, he said, working and schooling from home was a sharp uphill lesson in multi–tasking. The role of churches added the equally important component of believing from home.
“Believing from home is not in any way a second best to working from home. It is, rather, its foundation […] Our home became the place where our values were fashioned, formed and tested. Our home became the place where immediacy of response, and the joy and delight that brings, became the order of the day. Our home became the place where Scripture and the trivial round and common task met and talked. The circumstances were from time to time tense and intense but it was, as many indeed found, a journey worth taking, a camino on our doorstep, in our kitchen. For many of us, this opportunity will not return. You will be glad that you have seized it in a Godly manner,” he said.
The Archbishop pointed out that from home we had the opportunity to grapple with individual responsibility and contribute to the common good as well as to face our limitations and discover neighbourliness. He suggested there would be a tremendous positive spiritual benefit from learning to pray and worship at home.
He paid tribute to all who had helped to keep the dioceses buoyant and solvent, vibrant and happy throughout the past 18 months. He thanked clergy for all they had done and continued to do.
Looking to the future, the Archbishop said that nobody knew what it held. He said it seemed clear that there would be more variants and more vigilance. Some people who withdrew from mixing with others may never really return to the level of social circulation they took for granted. This, he said, was an extreme sadness.
“While it is easy to see this and to want to help in the lives of those who are family members, it is equally important not to forget those who are neighbours, whether they live alone or with others. The danger for everyone is that for those who have all life’s benefits at their fingertips, they think that everything is the same as ever it was. Despite appearances, this could not be further from the reality. The amount of trauma, of alienation, of on–line tension, of domestic violence and of sheer hopelessness in the face of debt and unemployment, of poverty and homelessness and indeed of personal worthlessness as our society prepares for yet another technological revolution together with blended working and blended economy, is raw and bewildering for so many,” he stated.
He continued: “As followers of the carpenter’s son who will have learned the relationship between raw materials and precision of workmanship leading to a satisfying finished product at home, we need to hear the cries for justice of the many worldwide buried beneath the rubble of the self–interest of a few. Vaccine–justice is a pulsating issue in our global village. We need also to tune our ears and open our eyes to the voices of hope that are outside and inside us. Many of us have grown tired of superficiality and pretension in the Lockdowns and many of us have grown self–sufficient in ways we never anticipated. The future offers us the opportunity to invest all of this in the service of the common good, the well–being of others beyond ourselves and beyond our church, as is the constant calling of every Anglican”.
He said the carpenter’s son, who was willing to live and work in an earthly home, was an exemplar to us as we clamber out of a global pandemic, as we seek to leave nobody behind in social bereavement and social callousness and as we move up through the gears of self–sufficiency.
Archbishop Jackson thanked all who had made Synod 2021 possible, in particular Heatley Tector and his team. He assured all who were joining from home that a lot of work had gone into making Synod possible.
You can read Archbishop Jackson’s Presidential Address in full below:
DUBLIN AND GLENDALOUGH DIOCESAN SYNODS ADDRESS 2021
Working from home, believing from home – through the eyes of Jesus the carpenter’s son
… Is he not the carpenter’s son ? (St Matthew 13.55)
Working from home sounds like something newly invented when employers decided that it was the only way that their employees, to whom they had a contractual duty of care, would be safe and out of their workplace once the coronavirus first took hold of our society and its people. But, since time immemorial, people the world over have done this and still do. To many of us, with a workplace life and a homeplace life which are quite distinct environments, it was a novelty in our own lifetime. But if I take a longstanding example, a lot of caring of the elderly and infirm and of the disabled is at home for as long as is humanly possible. Working from home, in our new situation, also became schooling from home. Parents found themselves working and schooling from home all at once for months on end. Home became the place where it was all happening. This was a sharp and an uphill lesson in multi–tasking as never quite before. People had long ago become unaccustomed to being in one another’s feet all day long. It took a lot of getting used to and a lot of adaptation.
The role of the churches was to add, for people of faith, from the very beginning an equally important component, that of believing from home. For strong Public Health reasons, it was ill advised and positively dangerous to think of having church buildings open. They were, after all, places of gathering and a virus delights in gatherings. In relation to the virus delighting in crowds that are not able to see the wisdom in dispersing immediately, almost nothing has changed in what is a timeframe of one and a half years. I have spoken in the past of the need to respect the virus. Many thought me wrong to do so and were not slow to tell me. However, I shared this idea at a Four Nations Faith and Order Theological Consultation and Professor Oliver O’Donovan said: Yes, Michael you are right. After all, Job had to learn to respect Satan.
Believing from home is not in any way a second best to working from home. It is, rather, its foundation. It is the most important gift that the successive Lockdowns have given to people of faith. Believing from home in a sustained way, perhaps for the first time in our lives, gave a strong, an intimate, an inescapable and a direct connection to that very powerful clause in The Prayer that Our Lord taught his disciples in which he said … on earth as it is in heaven. It concerns the coming of the Kingdom and the doing of the will of Our Faither on earth as it is in heaven. Believing from home brought discipleship of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ instantaneously to life and into everyday life. Maybe as never before, we were given the godly privilege of making our earthly home a heavenly place wherein The Holy Spirit makes his dwelling, as the hymn gives it voice. Our home became the place where our values were fashioned, formed and tested. Our home became the place where immediacy of response, and the joy and delight that brings, became the order of the day. Our home became the place where Scripture and the trivial round and common task met and talked. The circumstances were from time to time tense and intense but it was, as many indeed found, a journey worth taking, a camino on our doorstep, in our kitchen. For many of us, this opportunity will not return. You will be glad that you have seized it in a Godly manner.
From our home, we had the unique opportunity to grapple again with individual responsibility and to contribute to that most elusive of things – the common good – in the simplest of ways. We also had the unique opportunity to face our limitations and to discover and share neighbourliness all at the same time and without contradiction, to show appreciation of the unsurpassed work of frontline workers – so many of whom were doing day after day, night after night, work that we simply could not have done; and maybe, just maybe, we had taken them for granted and not really noticed them until they became indispensable to the continuity of our lifestyle and the care of those we knew and did not know. And I have no doubt that many of you were and remain Frontline Workers. It was Pope Francis, after all, who added refuse collectors to The Beatitudes: Blessed are the refuse collectors … It has a very realistic ring to it after all. For none of this did we need a church building and this was, surely, a new experience and a fresh revelation to us. God was there fashioning and empowering us in new ways. God was giving us day to day discipleship directly into our hands and into our hearts. The principal connection now was between God and us, in a way that is in direct apostolic continuity with the carpenter’s son.
But there was more. And there will be more – a tremendous positive spiritual benefit from this in the years to come. We learned to pray and to worship at home and, more often than not, alone. We learned also to appreciate The Seasons of The Church’s Year as never before, hearing the direct voice of The Holy Scriptures as the one consistent, assured religious voice in our lives as we lived in Lockdown the rhythm of the Seasons one by one, at our own pace and with our own deepening spiritual reservoir of understanding and reflection. It was a great source of joy for me to learn and to hear first–hand the voices of praise and thanksgiving to God on the part of so many members of our United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough extolling their blessings in the midst of anxiety and sorrow along with the voices of service and commitment in the midst of need and concern. So many people instinctively set themselves to one side and concentrated on the wellbeing of their neighbours. And it was the then Minister of Health, rather than any religious leader, who suggested to the nation that our ethic should be one of kindness. At a time when it was not possible to visit parishes except to pre–record services – and I remember one particular Sunday when I was worshipping in five different churches in the same morning through the virtual platform of pre–recording, and I was delighted to be invited by those clergy to do so – I turned to writing letters. Of course clergy received letters. But every diocese has components and members as well as clergy and ours is no exception: Readers, Residential and Nursing Homes, schools primary and secondary, colleges, hospitals along with all our international connections of communion and fellowship. Such connectivity gave me a continuing sense of a functioning and a flourishing diocese. This all sat alongside the exemplary and outstanding work carried out by the professional staff in The Diocesan Office together with the similarly exemplary and outstanding work carried out by The Diocesan Communications Officer. This was and remains second to none, along with the work of my own PA. It is to these people that we need to express our homage of gratitude for keeping the diocese buoyant and solvent, vibrant and happy throughout these past eighteen months – a very long time if you find yourself sitting at a desk at home serving the needs of a complex diocese such as ours.
I should like to thank all clergy for what you have done and continue to do in these times. The ready assumption that everyone could go on–line simply was not a fact; the ready assumption that your connection would hold stable was not a fact either. The ready assumption that you could do all of the new things along with all of the old things at the same time was neither realistic nor sustainable. And, in any case, the on–line platform was not for everyone, nor is it, nor again is it meant to be. Some people are at ease with a wide range of technological communications. Some people live in a communications black hole. I am, therefore, all the more impressed by what clergy with others in so many different ways have done to keep the flame of parish life going, however and wherever they have done it. They have encouraged others, they have connected with community agencies, they have put their own foot forward and often at times when this simply was not an easy thing to do. Pre–recording, worshipping by zoom: some people simply are built for this and some just are not. I want to thank clergy for what you have done to make possible a continuity of publicly offered worship when you inevitably had your own priorities and anxieties, personally and domestically, either related to the coronavirus or not.
Working from home and believing from home connect us with the carpenter’s son, a profession of dignity, of importance and of relevance. The time that Jesus spent as a carpenter’s apprentice is a time about which we really have no insight or knowledge in The Canonical Scriptures. We learn only the following from St Luke 2.51: Then Jesus went back with them to Nazareth, and continued to be under their authority … The following verse speaks of what is our main theme this evening: belief at home, like this: As Jesus grew he advanced in wisdom and in favour with God and men. St Luke sees no disparity, no discrepancy between Jesus being at home and advancing in wisdom and engaging directly with God and neighbour. It is precisely this unique combination of human and divine that The Lockdowns have offered on our doorstep to us as members of these United Dioceses. And my hope and prayer are that you yourselves have used the Lockdown time to advance in favour with God and men as did Jesus Christ when he was working from home in Nazareth.
Like me, you are bound to be asking: What of the future? Honesty compels me to say: Nobody knows precisely what the future will be like, or what the future will hold. The one thing that seems clear is that there will be more and more variants and there will be more and more vigilance. Some people who withdrew from mixing with others once COVID–19 arrived may well never really return to the level of social circulation they and we took for granted. This is an extreme sadness. While it is easy to see this and to want to help in the lives of those who are family members, it is equally important not to forget those who are neighbours, whether they live alone or with others. The danger for everyone is that for those who have all life’s benefits at their fingertips, they think that everything is the same as ever it was. Despite appearances, this could not be further from the reality. The amount of trauma, of alienation, of on–line tension, of domestic violence and of sheer hopelessness in the face of debt and unemployment, of poverty and homelessness and indeed of personal worthlessness as our society prepares for yet another technological revolution together with blended working and blended economy, is raw and bewildering for so many. As followers of the carpenter’s son who will have learned the relationship between raw materials and precision of workmanship leading to a satisfying finished product at home, we need to hear the cries for justice of the many worldwide buried beneath the rubble of the self–interest of a few. Vaccine–justice is a pulsating issue in our global village. We need also to tune our ears and open our eyes to the voices of hope that are outside and inside us. Many of us have grown tired of superficiality and pretension in the Lockdowns and many of us have grown self–sufficient in ways we never anticipated. The future offers us the opportunity to invest all of this in the service of the common good, the well–being of others beyond ourselves and beyond our church, as is the constant calling of every Anglican.
THE SYNOD OF 2021
And this brings us to the heart of our Synodical gathering and presence in the presence of God. Once again, it is on line and I wish to express my gratitude and thanks to Mr Heatley Tector and his team for making this possible and for making this happen. For those of you who are sitting at home, I assure you that massive work has gone into making this evening’s Diocesan Synods take place at all. We do so to fulfil our Spiritual trust first and foremost. The regulations and the strictures of the secular world ought not to impede in any way that fact that in good faith we are, by our gathering, the place in which The Holy Spirit makes his dwelling. Every synod is convened by God and does its prayer and its work in the Spirit of God. During the early part of the summer we saw the overreaching of the arm of the secular state into sacramental life when we were told during a Press Conference that baptisms were also ‘gone.’ This was a disturbing moment in the life of an open democracy.
The Collect for today places our hearts firmly in the care and in the moulding of The Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit who both burns and heals, who both rages and calms, who both corrects and inspires – because The Spirit is Truth. And so I quote the Collect, the Prayer of Gathering for a synod:
Who didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people,
By the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit;
Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things,
And evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort;
Through the merits of Christ Jesus our Saviour,
Who liveth and reigneth with thee,
In the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end.
A Synod therefore is a thing of God, not a thing of women and men. You may notice too that the invocation, the calling on God is unique in The Prayer Book. It does not begin with: O God … as we might expect. It begins with: God … We are taken to the core of divinity infusing, inhabiting and inspiring humanity: God is not only our refuge, as the psalmist has it, God is our direct point of access to our best selves. In the new life in The Holy Spirit, we are taken back into the lived experience of the carpenter’s son: The Holy Spirit, like The Son, is Very God of Very God. We are privileged to be given this Spiritual charge in our own day and in our own time. The Collect picks out as the attribute, the nature of The Holy Spirit: light. Again this connects us with the range of Scriptural Readings allocated For the Opening of a Synod, some of which we have heard read today.
1 PETER AND LAMBETH CONFERENCE
I want to take us to another Scripture, one that is prescribed for The Lambeth Conference of Bishops that is now projected to take place in 2022. The Archbishop of Canterbury has set The First Letter of Peter as the Bible Study to form the core of the Conference. We are delighted that The Reverend Canon Professor Maurice Elliott, Director of The Church of Ireland Theological Institute, is part of the writing team for these Studies. It is a singular honour for him and by extension for us. The time may indeed come, perhaps after The Lambeth Conference, when there will be an opportunity to study 1 Peter taken up by Rural Deaneries and by other groups and in other settings, including the voice of children and people with disabilities, and I hope that this will be the case. And we will all have the decade together between the forthcoming Lambeth Conference and its successor to do so, if such is our will and the will of The Holy Spirit. There is also every good reason that this type of Scriptural exchange could happen, in part at least, through the zoom platform with our existing partner dioceses and their bishops.
I want to home in on 1 Peter 2.4–5 where the work is that of another profession, the stone mason who, of course, works alongside the carpenter on many building projects anywhere worldwide. This passage speaks directly to our synodical life and it is familiar to you all but I remind you simply to re–fresh you and to re–invigorate you and to re–inspire you:
So come to him, the living stone which was rejected by men and women but chosen by God and of great worth to him. You also, as living stones, must be built up into a spiritual temple, and form a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
This passage issues an invitation to a journey; a synod is a gathering of those who have made a journey and will make another journey when they leave the synod. It speaks also of a building project of humanity in collaboration with divinity; this too is the fundamental work of a synod. The most liberating thing is that this journey and this building project are based in rejection rather than in perfection; and this is a salutary and liberating realization for those who gather to synod and leave from synod. This is because rejection is the state of being in which vast numbers of people who are just like you and like me live right across the world and here in Ireland with no prospect of dignity or love or indeed with no prospect of prospects. To them, this world once looked so close and now is so apart. It is for reasons such as this that we are called to walk the walk of discipleship of the carpenter’s son who is also The Son of God without contradiction and without embarrassment and with embrace by and of those rejected. The same carpenter’s son who was to take down the mighty from their seat was also to lift up the humble and meek, in the Song of Mary his mother. He too became despised and rejected of men and of women. The world was changing and we hope and pray that it can and will change again.
THE CHALLENGE OF THE CARPENTER’S SON
What, then, is the challenge offered to us by this extraordinary carpenter’s son? As the Son of God, he was eager to live in an earthly home with earthly parents and in such a way as this to come to know the ways of human folk. As the Son of God, he was eager to work from home and in this way to understand the dignity and the satisfaction of a job begun and completed and a job well done among human folk. As the Son of God, he was willing to immerse himself in the belief system of his culture and of his day. In all of these ways he is an exemplar to us as we clamber our way out of a global pandemic, as we seek to leave nobody behind in the sort of social bereavement and social callousness that can all too easily rise to the surface as our own life takes off again and we move up through the gears of self–sufficiency.
The Church of Ireland in its provision of Collects in the fulness of time got round to recognizing the saintly life of Joseph of Nazareth, the carpenter father so to speak. We might conclude by musing if perhaps Joseph himself might be for us The Patron Saint of Lockdown as we listen out of Season, but right in tune, to his Collect:
Who from the family of thy servant David
Didst raise up Joseph to be the guardian of thine incarnate Son
And spouse of his virgin mother;
Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life
And his obedience to thy commands:
Through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.