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Bishop John Delivers the Spital Sermon

Bishop John Sherrington delivered the Spital Sermon at the Church of St Lawrence Jewry next to Guildhall in the City on Thursday 7 March. The sermon was attended by The Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Alan Yarrow, the Court of Aldermen of the City of London and the governors of Bridewell and Christ’s Royal Hospitals.

The Spital Sermon takes its name from the Priory or Hospital of St Mary Without Bishopsgate, better known as St Mary Spital, founded in 1197. It has been preached every year since the 14th century. The Spital was a house for tending the sick and so the object of the sermons was to attract attention, and so alms and bequests to the hospital.

The theme of the Sermon in recent years has been ‘The Spread of Truth’. Bishop John opened his Sermon by saying ‘that we will fail to discover the truth, still less spread the truth, unless we give adequate space to the search for religious truth and bring this into dialogue with all other areas of knowledge’.

Reflecting on his own studies in mathematics and theology, he commented on the relationship between science and religion and how they can complement, not compete, with one another. He used the example of Mgr Georges Lemaitre, the Catholic priest and scientist who first developed the theory of the ‘big bang’.

Bishop John also quoted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s speech in Westminster Hall in 2010 where he spoke about how religion ‘can contribute to a more comprehensive view of the human person’. Bishop John advocated the necessity of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue in the search for truth to ‘give common witness to the importance of the religious voice in society’.

The Spital Sermon is preached by a bishop invited by the Lord Mayor of London and the Court of Aldermen. Historically the subject was The Resurrection, but more recently the theme has been The Spread of Truth.

After the pulpit cross in the courtyard of the priory in Spital Square was destroyed during the Civil War, the sermons were preached in different City churches. After the Restoration in 1797 at St Bride’s, Fleet Street, and subsequently at Christ Church, Newgate Street. Since the Second World War, the sermon has been preached in St Lawrence Jewry.

Bishop John is the first Catholic bishop to deliver the Sermon since 1993. In that year, the Sermon was given by Bishop James O’Brien. Like Bishop John, Bishop James also had pastoral responsibility for Hertfordshire. 

To read the Sermon in full, please click HERE.