Rowan Williams, 9/11, and the women in his life

The Times has published today an article about and a moving extract from a new biography of Archbishop Rowan Williams. The largest part of the article recalls Williams’ experiences on 11th and 12th September 2001, when he was an eyewitness to the attacks on the World Trade Center, and the next day preached without preparation in the nearby cathedral.

Ruth Gledhill posts only a small part of the article and of the extract, with the interesting title Rowan Williams: ‘Haunted by Suicide’. This title refers to one of the three women in Rowan’s life, a woman with whom he seems to have had a relationship which might have been described as inappropriate although not apparently physical (yes, Jay, such relationships can exist!) shortly before she committed suicide. The second woman was a German Lutheran ordinand to whom he was engaged for a time. And the third woman is Jane Paul who became his wife.

I knew Jane slightly when we were undergraduates in the same year at Clare College, Cambridge. Rowan’s biographer writes that

she had held fast to her evangelical roots, and was active in the Christian Union at her college. … She came from a tradition where speaking in tongues was relatively common …

But during her undergraduate years she was rather on the fringe of this Christian Union, in which I was an active member. She was I think more involved in the college chapel, under Arthur Peacocke and Charlie Moule. Maybe she became more active in the CU as a graduate student, after I left in 1978, and when perhaps speaking in tongues would have been more acceptable in that group which was very conservative in my time. Ironically it is only after I left Cambridge that I too started to speak in tongues. But I can’t help wondering if the prayers of more charismatic fellow students like Jane Paul were partly involved in the softening of my heart towards the gifts of the Holy Spirit and my eventual acceptance of them.

2 thoughts on “Rowan Williams, 9/11, and the women in his life

  1. Peter,

    I really appreciate the post that you’ve made, but I’m afraid that I’m commenting just to complain. In your RSS feed, what text was a link and what was just words was clear due to my browser preferences. In this web page, it is not. I humbly request that you consider changing the style for this blog to make your links more apparent (I have probably missed some before!)

    -JAK

  2. Justin, you make a good point: my links are not clear. When I have time I will look into another theme as I am getting bored with this one. And I will make sure the new theme has clearer links.

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