Sunday 22 March 2009

So farewell, then: Jade Goody RIP

Some may scoff at the considerable outpouring of warm feeling for Jade Goody, but her story has touched and inspired millions of people at a gut level. Why not respect love, courage and passion for life in someone else, just because they came to public attention as loud, brash and crude? The doctrines of the Incarnation and Grace, rightly understood, make it obvious that it is possible to be both.

The old Prayer Book Litany had us praying to be delivered from dying unprepared. As we have become increasingly insulated from death it has become the great taboo, something to pretend about, rather than inescapable reality. Surely anyone fair-minded will agree with Archbishop Cranmer, who usually pitches around the phlegmatic or even sour end of the Conservative blogosphere,in his conclusion that “in her living she was vibrant and in her dying she was authentic.” Mark Russell writes:
Like the late Pope, John Paul II, Jade Goody has lived and indeed lived out her death live before the world. In doing so, she has shown courage, fortitude, guts and sheer peace. As she stared death in the face, the world watched as she got her affairs in order, and put the financial arrangements in place for her little boys. I watched her wedding on tv, and found myself deeply moved by her sheer gutsy determination. She was a remarkable person, and I have prayed for her these past weeks. I was struck by her desire to be married, and to have both herself and her little boys baptised. Today, on Mothers Day, Jade has passed away. My thoughts and prayers are with Jack her husband, and her boys Bobby (5) and Freddie (4). I am sure they had their mothers cards ready for her. I hope today those little boys know how proud their mum was of them... and they should be very very proud of her.
I was struck by Ruth Gledhill’s thoughtful, humane and compassionate response, quoting a song by Anselm of Canterbury:

Jesus, like a mother you gather your people to you;
you are gentle with us as a mother with her children.

Often you weep over our sins and our pride,
tenderly you draw us from hatred and judgement.

You comfort us in sorrow and bind up our wounds,
in sickness you nurse us, and with pure milk you feed us.

Jesus, by your dying we are born to new life;
by your anguish and labour we come forth in joy.

Despair turns to hope through your sweet goodness;
through your gentleness we find comfort in fear.

Your warmth gives life to the dead,
your touch makes sinners righteous.

Lord Jesus, in your mercy heal us;
in your love and tenderness remake us.

In your compassion bring grace and forgiveness,
for the beauty of heaven may your love prepare us.

This morning’s C of E gospel from John 20 pictures Mary standing by Jesus’ cross, wanting it to stop, but unable to do anything for her son, then being given away, as it were, into the care of Saint John. Cecil Day-Lewis descrbied such love like this:

I have had worse partings, but none that so
Gnaws at my mind still. Perhaps it is roughly
Saying what God alone could perfectly show --
How selfhood begins with a walking away,
And love is proved in the letting go.

So, a funny old Mothering Sunday, as we celebrate the love that over and around us lies. Life is, in fact, a precious gift, and the measure of it is the quality of our living, not external judgments or length of days.

Millions will also pray for Jade Goody, that she may rest in peace and rise in glory, and that God will give to those she leaves behind courage, hope and the precious gift of love strong as death.


Ann said...

RCL in TEC has the snake and being lifted up -- seems to apply to your thoughts too -- looking death full in the face to be truly healed.

...paul said...

Thank you for this post about Jade, Bishop Alan. You've found the words that I would have liked to have found, but couldn't -- too many raw memories.

Pam Smith said...

She's certainly caused a lot of discussion about Christianity among people who aren't usually into talking about faith - I was reminded of my dad's remarks about the (then) Bishop of Durham who he said caused the first discussion about the truth of the Resurrection he had ever had at the pub!

I hope the basic good news doesn't get lost - i.e. that God loved her just as much when she was a 'gobby bird' as he did when in the face of death she turned her life around.

Interesting responses on Digital Spy to Jonathan Blake's comment that Jade was a saint - perhaps showing how careful we have to be to explain ourselves properly when we bring 'religious' language and concepts into public discourse.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Paul, Alan: as I often find in your words, (both when I am with you and when you blog), you always seem to hit the nail on the head! Your perception of life, the people in it and your belief and knowledge of God and His purpose educates us and gives us hope. The grief I have felt for Jade and her family is immense: I somehow felt that she was a friend I knew and went out with. Your words have given me much comfort - thank you. Much love, Rachel xxx

Archbishop Cranmer said...


His Grace, sour?

He is simply attempting to shed a little light into some apparently impenetrable shadows.

If you would be so kind as to direct him to his sour words.

But then again, perhaps the words of Jesus may occasionally have sounded a little sour - to some.

Veritas said...

Beautifully put, your grace. May we all find such grace now and at the hour of our death.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, nicely put (as others have commented as well).

Fortunately I heard the news before going off to do two Mothering Sunday services - and it fitted in with my attempts to avoid a smaltzy, cheesey talk by celebrating 'mothering in the midst of the messiness of the world'

Why not celebrate indeed!

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Many thanks to all for kind words, and for their thoughts and prayers for those directly involved, which will, I'm sure include those clergy, neighbours and friends who know the fairly personally.

A word of explanation to my former boss, Cranmer. Your Grace is perhaps more orientated on politics than religion these days, and has perhaps lost some of his historic self-effacing sweetness of nature which was sometimes mistaken for indecision or even temporizing. Yet some tenderness appeared clear as day in your kind words for Mrs Tweed. I am of course, a regular reader; occasional use of sarcastic inverted commas gives an impression of sour, or even bitter, but on a good day it spices sharp comment like the tannin in a good claret. On a bad day, we have to remember the words of the Blessed Sam Goldwyn — “You’ve got to take the bitter with the sour.”

Archbishop Cranmer said...

...and has perhaps lost some of his historic self-effacing sweetness of nature which was sometimes mistaken for indecision or even temporizing.

Your Grace,

You have made His Grace laugh, for which he is most grateful.

You ought to recount that version of history to some of His Grace's more robust Roman Catholic communicants, who are most unforgiving for the 'hatred', 'bitterness', 'duplicity', 'persecution', 'murder' etc etc he meted out to their co-religionist forebears.

His Grace was always more political than theological. Which side of him is emphasised will inevitably be determined by one's own religio-political calibration.

Anonymous said...

This girl and her family would have been better on the Jeremy Kyle show than prime time news and newspapers. Sink estates are full of their kind, and I fully agree with Michael Parkinson. If ever I get cancer (God forbid), I hope I can also afford a highly paid media mogal to tell the world of my problems. But I won't, I will keep it quiet, for the sake of my family.
Her saving grace is that she has highlighted cancer, and possibly saved some lives by doing so, but I found the whole funeral nausiating, with flowers being thrown at the hearse. Lady Di, she wasn't!

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