Tuesday, 30 December 2008

An interview with Rowan Williams in the New Statesman

You can read James Macintyre's interview with Rowan Williams here. I found it thought provoking, deeply moving and challenging. here are some short extracts but I really recommend reading the whole interview.

Modesty is one of his defining traits. Rowan Williams, whom both critics and allies agree is marked by a rare humility - and even that most elusive of qualities, "holiness" - is said by those who know him to be something of a reluctant Archbishop of Canterbury, called to service by faith, not ambition. "I'm always tempted to say that anybody who wants to be Archbishop deserves to be," he said at our first meeting at Lambeth Palace in October, indicating that any hardships the job entailed were unavoidable. This would be the first of several conversations I had with this private man, whom one friend has described as "a recluse with a social conscience".
One thing you quickly learn about Williams is that he is very funny. He once said that Tony Blair was "very strong on God, very weak on irony". The same could not be said of the current occupant of Lambeth Palace. He entertains staff - who affectionately call him "ABC" in internal memos - with impersonations of the television vicar character Father Ted and sharp one-liners. "It helps to have children," he says. His favourite films are Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev and The Muppet Christmas Carol. "As a family, we've always had a similar sense of humour, which is why regular repeats of Father Ted and Black Books are well up there. I also became a serious addict of The West Wing a couple of years ago."

"Most of those casting judgement will not have met him. It is not just that he is the most prodigiously intellectually gifted person almost any of us will have ever met, or will ever meet, and one of the most self-disciplined (in a monastic sense) of people in respect of the daily practice of the virtues and time spent [every day without exception] in prayer - all of which is remarkable enough - it's that he applies all the extravagant gifts he's been given in love and service. He's on the job [of being a disciple] all day every day where most of us flit in and out.

"This is a man who really has glimpsed what it means to live sacrificially, non-judgementally, honestly, generously, truthfully, in touch in a deep way with the wisdom of God. Rowan is uncommon. If only we could just get used to that and enjoy the good news that he's here, he's real, and he's Anglican."