Faith Matters column: Cry God for England, Harry and St George!

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As we have celebrated St George's Day, a priest in Sussex reflects on the enduring meaning of marking this day, which has less to do with dragons and flag-waving and much more to do with how (perhaps whether) we are living as we can and should.

It is often remarked upon that, unlike other subjects of His Majesty the King in this United Kingdom, those of us who live in England do not enjoy a bank holiday on the day of our patron saint’s feast day (23 April, St George’s Day). Though at present we treat this day like any other work day, we should nonetheless celebrate the saint under whose heavenly patronage and protection we live.

Very little is known about St George. What we do know is that he was a Roman soldier, who refused to recant his Christian faith in the face of imperial pressure, leading to his death in 303 A.D. under the Emperor Diocletian, who was no friend whatsoever of Christians. George was from what is now Turkey and it is fair to say never stepped foot on our shores. England has been under his heavenly patronage since the mid-1300s when King Edward III, who reigned from 1327 to 1377, made him the patron saint of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, which he established.

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In a sense, though, the little we know is enough. George was a martyr, which literally means witness. By refusing to bow to the imperial will, by refusing to deny the reality of the love poured out by God in Christ, George followed his true Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Many Christians to this day suffer at the hands of earthly rulers, who find claims of allegiance and obedience owed to a power above themselves disturbing at best and downright subversive at worst. Other brothers and sisters, too, pay the ultimate price for witnessing to the dignity of humanity, that is all of it, from the unborn all the way through to the terminally-ill and dying.

St George, patron of England, among many other placesSt George, patron of England, among many other places
St George, patron of England, among many other places

Celebrating St George’s Day, then, should lead us to ask ourselves to what (and to whom) are our lives witnessing. England’s patron saint continues to give us his example of faithful obedience and courageous self-sacrifice all these years on. He continues to pray for us and with us, that each of us, whoever we are and whoever we are becoming, may fight and overcome all the dragons that get in the way of us living and loving as Christ did, George’s Master and ours too.

Dates for your diary

Rogation Sunday

This year Rogation Sunday falls on 5 May. This is an ancient church festival where a blessing is sought for a community and its sustenance. The word 'rogation' derives from the Latin verb rogare, meaning 'to ask'. Do join a celebration local to you, perhaps including a 'Beating of the Bounds' of your parish. 'A Church Near You' continues to be a useful source of information about what is going on in your parish.

Christ in Colossions and Ephesians

Use the link below to book your place at this seminar being held online on Thursday 2 May between 10am and 12noon, which is free.

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How the Victorians transformed the Church

All are welcome to what will be a wonderful lecture by the renowned church historian, The Revd Prof William Whyte of the University of Oxford, held at St Bartholomew's Church, Brighton, on Wednesday 29 May, beginning at 7pm. Tickets cost £5 and can be bought on the door.

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