On Monday the 13th, the morning after our big day here, I had to have an early meal in order to be in the car before ten to be on my way to London and Lambeth Palace for the licensing of the Revd Canon Mike Kavanagh as the new Chaplain General and Archdeacon to the Prisons. Despite the rain and occasional hold-ups we made pretty good time and got there shortly before noon, when the service was to begin. It took a a couple of minutes to persuade the ill-tempered gatekeeper to open the massive wooden doors into the palace courtyard and then once out of the car and in the palace itself another few minutes passed while I was escorted down a couple of huge corridors with portraits of former Archbishops beaming down from the walls on either side. When I arrived at the ancient Archbishop’s Chapel the service had just begun and the Archbishop of Canterbury was speaking. Unfortunately, from where I sat I could barely hear him and certainly couldn’t make out what he was saying. It was a bit like that for much of the twenty-five minutes or so that remained, some parts were audible and understandable and some were not. Whether it was the acoustics or the inability of the participants to project, I’m not sure. During the procedure, Mike had to swear his allegiance to HM the Queen and promise to obey the Archbishops of Canterbury, York and Wales. At the end the various Faith Advisers and Chaplains present were invited to recite together this Affirmation:
We come from many Faith traditions: together we care for all those people held in our prisons.
We commit ourselves afresh, as friends and colleagues, to provide opportunities for all to grow and develop into men and women of integrity who are strong and confident, learned, wise and truthful; free from crime, from the fear of crime and from anxiety.
We are united in our desire to work for the common good and to continue to work together in trust, in peace and in harmony, in a spirit of friendship and goodwill, in confidence that it will bear fruit in the lives of many.
Afterwards there was a buffet lunch, which, of course wasn’t much good to me but I enjoyed holding a glass of water and chatting to people while they balanced their plates and drinks and ate – and occasionally dropped a forkful on the carpet. At pudding time, a gong was sounded and Faith Advisers were invited to take their puddings in the Pink Drawing Room and sit round the table in conversation with the Archbishop to give him a sense of some of the key people supporting multifaith prison chaplaincy in England and Wales. When I had a chance to speak I told of my long involvement in prison chaplaincy and expressed my concern for the continuing development of multifaith prison chaplaincy. I explained that I didn’t see it as appropriate for Buddhist chaplains to be employed. I am happy for them to remain sessional and I see no reason why that should diminish their place within a chaplaincy team but I said that I have always felt that were I a prisoner I wouldn’t really be able to wholly trust a chaplain who was tied into the establishment of the prison. It was soon over and on the way back and since I’ve had much to think over of what I saw and heard in those couple of hours.
It doesn’t seem possible that thirteen years have passed since we last assembled in the Archbishop’s Chapel for the licensing of Mike’s predecessor, William Noblett. That was two Archbishops back as well!