On Saturday, October 1st 2005, QCA was represented at the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals/Christian Concern for Animals service in York Minster.
This is probably my favourite of all our Gothic cathedrals, but I had not realised that, in walking through this airy, wonderful building, suffused by sun that afternoon, I could have been walking in the steps of Constantine, proclaimed Emperor on this site in 306AD. Of course, it was a Roman fortress then, but the very foundations of this Minster are closely connected to the earliest days of the Christian faith in England.
End of history lesson
Some 200 worshippers attended this service, entitled The Servant-King. After the Introduction by the Bishop of York and Welcoming the King, Eeyore, a rescued donkey from the Elisabeth Svendsen Trust, the royal mount of peace, was led into the Minster. Few could have failed to remark the difference between this round and well groomed creature and the pathetic maltreated donkeys depicted on the displays outside.
There were readings from William Cowper’s The Task, which begins: Detested sport,
That owes its pleasures to another’s pain;
The City of York MP, Hugh Bayley, read from Ezekiel about the ” bad shepherds who neglect, abuse and exploit their flocks, rather than care for them.
An RSPCA Inspector read the dominion passage from Genesis and then Jesus’s explanation in Luke of how Man’s rule and authority should entail humble service. We are the servant-species.
James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, picked up this theme in his address. The birth of Jesus in a stable, then cradled in a feeder for the animals, speaks of God’s care for all species. Before Christ nourished man, he was as sustenance for the animals too.
In Revelations, there is a vision of four species man, lion, ox and eagle. To the Christians of the west, these symbolised the four Apostles. Bishop James reminded us, however, that the Christians of the eastern tradition saw the four creatures as representative of their species the human animal, the wild animal, the domesticated animal and the bird.
There were prayers for all the animals and then representatives of the animal groups present were invited to join the clergy before the Altar to exchange a sign of peace.
These groups, which also had stalls in the North Transept, were:
ASWA Catholic Concern for Animals Quaker Concern for Animals RSPCA The Brooke Hospital for Horses and Donkeys Bransby Sanctuary for Horses and Donkeys – Compassion in World Farming the League against Cruel Sports – Greyhound Action and Humane Research.
It was a pleasant and inspiring event in a glorious setting, a good opportunity to meet up with old friends and make new contacts. I was very happy, after much cyber correspondence, to meet our Friend from Blackburn, Stuart Hartley, and to talk to Friends from York Meetings.
Thanks to Samantha Chandler and friends for organising this important service and for giving the QCA clerk an unusual opportunity to share a stagewith two bishops in their regalia!