Edward the Confessor's reign was very successful. A flourishing economy and a very organised, efficient system of government (and taxation) made England a leader in Europe. Hard to believe that it had all fallen into enemy hands within twenty-five years.
Edward also had a reputation for godliness; the Catholic Church eventually beatified him. Unfortunately, his childlessness, was it seems, a direct consequence of the spirituality that made him a candidate for sainthood. Rumour had it, that, though married, he remained a virgin. His spirituality, which undoubtedly at least partially accounts for his success as a ruler, robbed him of a successor. Ultimately, the lack of a natural successor not only undermined the achievements of his reign, but was central to the fall of England into the hands of the Normans. Edward the Confessor, to the detriment of Anglo-Saxon England, didn't have an Edward the Successor.(For our Scottish readers, the Scots decided to partner with the Normans, with the result that Scotland became a cosmopolitan economic powerhouse in the 11th century).
And my point? Well, it's quite simple: the church can enjoy success and have a reputation for being deeply spiritual, but completely forget that unless we have a "next generation" we're only a few decades away from decline and possibly even oblivion.
I do get concerned when I attend conferences or meetings that are considered "cutting edge" and there are only a handful of teens and twenty-somethings present - and sometimes none at all. I worry about the impact of time heavy, programme dependant discipleship approaches and approaches to spirituality and how this impacts young parents with young children. I have to ask myself continually "Are we presenting discipleship and Christian commitment in a way that is setting people up for failure?" Is it possible to be so caught up with our revelation of what we think the Holy Spirit is doing that we don't even notice that most of the people at the party - like me - are mid-life plus?
I know that there are lot of good things happening amongst younger people today. However, I do have this feeling that if we don't frequently remind ourselves of the need for a next generation, the topic could easily drift of the agenda.
So there you have it. Edward the Confessor made me think on my day off. Perhaps his celibacy within marriage will be of some profit after all.