Reverend William Taylor

Today I interviewed Father William who is the Vicar at St John's church in Notting Hill, London. He is a lovely man, warm and thoughtful with a devoted flock and a deeply appreciative staff. In my twenty years of living in London he is the only vicar who has ever invited me to church. And so I went. I was thrilled with the sermon - the essence was the imporance of community to us as individuals. As he says, "...outside our relation, we are not."

This, too, is the heart of that matter, for him, where virtue is concerned.

In summary, Father William believes that virtuous acts are actions we do that benefit other people and that require some cost to ourselves. Paying taxes, in his view, is an act of virtue! Cost to ourselves for what we hope is benefitting society as a whole. What makes it attractive for us to do things for other people at some cost to ourselves, ironically, is what we get in return: a sense of community, without which we will lead lonely, sad lives and risk ending our days in isolation. In addition, being in a community makes it easier for us to do virtuous things for that community - and so the virtuous circle is created.

How do we embed virtue?

It is the responsibility of both individuals and institutions to create and help create connections and, thus, to stimulate the virtuous circle. Individuals must recognise that there may be more people in their lives who will be pleased to hear from them than they may necessarily think. It is up to the individual actively to forge those connections: re-contacting people with whom they may have lost touch and/or more actively connecting with the people in their lives, performing acts of service, however small, with no thought of compensation. Father William challenges all individuals to do what they can for others rather than ask what others can do for them. It is up to the institution to encourage, to facilitate, to provide a connecting point, and to give guidance on the foundations of the relationships as that institution sees them. The institution can have a profound impact on the individual but the individual can never delegate responsibility away from themselves.

I challenged Father William to tell me how he interacts with both his flock and his peers to embed virtue. Responding about his flock, Father William is clear: it is all about encouraging his parishoners to increase the size of their own and the church's community. To that end, St John's is a church in which people are required to achieve things together and are asked to invite their friends and neighbours to church, that being the best way to increase the size of the community. His peers, he maintains, present a more difficult challenge. He believes that the clergy do not always work well together. They are a profession, like any other, and professional rivalry and jealousy often get in the way of developing global solutions.

In summary, it comes down to individuals in their local community. There they have the real sense of caring and being cared for that fosters virtuous behaviour.

4 Responses to “Reverend William Taylor”

  1. Greg Kloehn

    08. Feb, 2015

    Reverend William Taylor is an absolute genius. He is worldly , dynamic, and courageous - few know of his close working relationship with the Arch Bishop of Canterbury, his intellectual work in Jordan and the Middle East or his ease at interacting with regular citizens through church. We are all very fortunate to have him in our lives- even if it were several years ago. A true icon.

  2. virtuousbread

    09. Feb, 2015

    Dear Greg, thank you for your message. I was really lucky to have met Rev Taylor and found him a warm and lovely person in addition to being so clever and thoughtful. If you have a chance to meet him (and I just wrote and asked!) you really should. It was a meeting to treasure.

  3. Dr. Gregory Kloehn

    04. Mar, 2015

    William has time and compassion for kings, peasants, and everyone in between. He puts people at ease, a lost art in today's ecclesiastical universe. He has immense experience. He once said that the politics and complexity of Lambeth Palace make Downing Street look like elementary school . All he touches , academically and occupationally benefits from his vast experience. All this and a polished , gentle demeanor as well. A true beacon in the night. Thank God

  4. Hannie Smithson

    13. Dec, 2015

    William is a very special person, kind very clever indeed and modest with it. He is also one of the most discreet priests I have ever met. Confidentiality will never be betrayed.

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