Tour de force

The Church of England - - Comment -

Sam Wells’ Eric Ab­bott Me­mo­rial Lec­ture in West­min­ster Abbey and Ke­ble Col­lege, Ox­ford, last week was a tour de force. The Abbey’s crack­ling sound sys­tem made it dif­fi­cult to hear what he was say­ing at times but the text of his lec­ture was on sale af­ter wards and is still avail­able from the Abbey. Wells, the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields with 25 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence of a pas­tor, built on the work of Ni­cholas Wolter­storff and John Rawls to ar­gue we need to go be­yond the con­cepts of jus­tice they have so care­fully de­scribed. Af­ter out­lin­ing jus­tice as free­dom and jus­tice rights, he sug­gested there was some­thing be­yond jus­tice that in­volved rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, friend­ship, love. “Life is about more than get­ting one’s due and liv­ing free from harm. Life is about re­stored re­la­tion­ships, about flow­er­ing tal­ents, about pas­sion­ate friend­ships. about costly for­give­ness, about the re­lease of hid­den joys.” Re­fer­ring to the work of Jean Vanier and L’Arche, he said that be­yond jus­tice there is trans­for­ma­tion. He also de­scribed an event that takes place ever y Sun­day af­ter­noon at St Martin-in-the-Fields when 30 to 40 people come for a hot curr y, some­one to talk to, help with prob­lems, a shower and space to re­cover their dig­nity. Be­yond jus­tice there is church.

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