Wednesday 30 June 2010

What would Dr Pusey do?

Recent discussions about the post-July situation in the C of E (something which will inevitably impact greatly on the situation here in the C in W) have highlighted the fact that any comments we might make now are simply speculation. We just don't know what will happen or what the fall-out will be.
However, if the Archbishops' proposals are passed without amendment, and that is a long way from being even a racing certainty, those who stay and minister within the new dispensation (often trapped because of circumstances of various kinds, together with those who have no other theological place elsewhere) will be faced with a very much compromised and impoverished ecclesiology (even for us Anglicans who, the ecclesiastical world knows, don't do ecclesiology) and a future which falls far short of Forward in Faith's express aim of  providing a secure ecclesial future for our children and grandchildren, and which certainly does nothing to address the aim of promoting ecumenism with Rome and the East, save providing the Anglican establishment with a handy figleaf with which to clothe their essential indifference and even hostility towards catholic ecumenism.
We know very well, wherever we ourselves end up, that the question of any Anglican decision as to its future direction (posed starkly by Cardinal Kasper at the last Lambeth Conference) will have been decided in favour not only of Protestantism, but liberal revisionist Protestantism. Anglican identity will have undergone as radical a shift as has occurred anywhere in its history, and the remaining rump of 'Catholic' sacramentalists committed to apostolic faith and order, will be completely powerless to change that. For as long as they (are permitted to) remain, they (we?) will be perhaps a nagging and increasingly uncomfortable reminder to the rest of the Communion of what might have been had the convergence of the ARCIC process not been sabotaged by Anglican unilateralism, but I suspect only the space of a short generation will put paid to their resistance.
So, whatever our individual decisions might be now or later this year in terms of the Ordinariate, we should certainly all pray for its success; because it alone is capable of guaranteeing the true spirit of the Oxford Movement and any long-term future Anglo-Catholicism may have.

Certianly one historical parallel we should strenuously resist is that of the situation prevailing in the Church of England following the conversion of John Henry Newman in 1845.
Here is Edward Bouverie Pusey writing perhaps more appositely to our present circumstances:

....."and we shall then see, I hope, that all which hold 'the deposit of the faith' (the Creeds, as an authority without them) will be on one side, the Eastern, the Western, our own', and those who lean on their own understanding on the other. I wish you would not let yourself be drawn off by your fears of 'Popery'. While people are drawn off to this, the enemy (heresy of all sorts, misbelief, unbelief) is taking possession of our citadel. Our real battle is with infidelity, and from this Satan is luring us off." 
[ from a letter of 1844 to W.F. Hook]
And again:

"I look with terror on any admission of laity into Synods. It at once invests them with an ecclesiastical office, which will develop itself sooner or later, I believe, to the destruction of the faith."
                 [from a leter to John Keble]
But even Dr Pusey reckoned without the Anglican trahison des clercs, always present to a greater or lesser  extent throughout our separate history, but which gathered pace from the middle of the twentieth century until the citadels indeed have been captured.
So in the present confusion what would Dr Pusey have done? Sorry, you'll have to work that one out for yourselves.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Update: Sacred Synod in September

Concerning C in W clergy attendance at the Sacred Synod
[At the Emmanuel Centre, 9–23 Marsham Street, Westminster, London SW1P 3DW on September 24th between 11.00am and 3.00pm]
I've had a message  from Helen, the P.A. to the Bishop of Plymouth: " Bishop John says, of course, all are welcome."
It's always good to know at first hand what might be going on as (we hope) things become a little clearer after the C of E Synod in July & (immediately) after the Papal Visit. Although I realise that in our present situation clarity is probably not the most realistic thing to hope for.

Monday 28 June 2010

Sense of humour failure?

The Llandaffchester Chronicles seems to have been attracting quite a lot of flak recently, if the comments left on the blog are any indication.
I don't really understand those who are afraid of satire; it's one of the very last means of expression left to the dispossessed. Perhaps that's the problem, anything less than unconditional surrender simply isn't good enough - see this reaction on the topic of the hour from our friends at WATCH (thanks to Ancient Briton for this)  In any case, aren't 'liberals' supposed to be in favour of complete freedom of expression and diversity of views? No? Dream on.
To be in a position of authority and be afraid of being laughed at is a sign of a very deep insecurity indeed. There is a serious issue here about the repressive, vindictive (and guilt-fuelled?) spirit which seems to be abroad in some parts of the revisionist Anglican world - look at TEC: the policy seems to be, if it tries to move litigate, if someone says something they don't like, shut them up and throw them out. At least it's not (yet) like that in Wales.
I'm also convinced that the 'establishment' (unlike their anonymous defenders) can't mind Llandaffchester too much; after all (so I'm told) they are highly intelligent, well educated, Private Eye reading adults with a good sense of humour; it would be odd if they were that thin skinned; besides, they can always console themselves that to be a target of satire is really a subtle form of flattery. The only worry I have is that it may be granting them a significance way beyond their importance.
But, Llandaffchester Chronicles -  whoever you are - keep up the good work!
(This is completely beside the point - but can there be effective [that is, funny] satire which actually supports the status quo? For those fevered loyalists worried by criticism, why not give it a go? Or is the genre just too distasteful for you?)

Sunday 27 June 2010

'Let the dead bury their own dead'

(Part of) This morning's homily

Today's Gospel ends with Our Lord’s warning that 'no one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.' We are told twice in today's Gospel reading that he 'set his face toward Jerusalem'. In other words, to do his Father's will he had to steel himself for the fate that awaited him in the city that kills the prophets of the Lord.
‘Looking back’ is very often our answer to the fear we experience in looking ahead to an uncertain future. But it’s clear that we are being told that as disciples of Christ we, too,  have to steel ourselves for what is coming rather than trying to cocoon ourselves in memories of what has been. That’s the meaning, I think, of Jesus’ shocking comment: “Let the dead bury their own dead.”
Obviously the past can be a refuge for us only because it is so easily manipulated by what we think we need now. If only, we think, things were like they were, say, twenty, fifty, a hundred or five hundred years ago and everything would be fine. In a way it’s exactly the kind of manipulation that the two would-be disciples in this morning’s Gospel are trying to exercise - control over events. 'Let me do this first, then I'll join you,' they say to Jesus, ‘not now but when I’m ready.” The problem is we may never be ready, or at least never believe ourselves to be. The call of God can’t be deferred. God’s will - in whatever way he makes it known to us - can’t be just slotted in to our own existing plans and desires. He has a way of changing them.
What the Gospel is saying to us is that we can’t come to God with our own agendas - expecting him to fit in with our clearly mapped out ideas for our own future.
It's our own agendas which so often make us unfit for the kingdom of God.
We want to be part of it, we pray for it to come, but only when we're ready and only when we have the time, and only when it fits in with our own desires. Jesus, the Incarnate Word, who has no agenda but his Father's, doesn’t try to bargain or exercise control over what is going on. His face is already set towards Jerusalem, he knows he hasn't time.
But when we talk of past, present and future, we, as part of the Church, do so in subtly different ways from the culture surrounding us. The past isn’t dead and buried; those who have gone before us live, as we do, in Christ. The Communion of Saints isn’t an abstract concept but immersion in an ever- present reality. That has to make our perspective somehow different. The past speaks to us not as something irrelevant and which has completely passed away, but as something which is always with us. The Risen Christ transcends the limitations of time and space and, so do we, as part of his Body. We have to be on our guard against the modern temptation in society and Church alike to sweep the past aside as if it had no living voice of its own or nothing to say to our present and our future.
As those who are journeying towards the heavenly Jerusalem we need to have a firm grip on the past in order to be guided safely into the future God wants for us. We are part of a living stream of faith, belief and practice - a tradition - however unfashionable that may sound. but it literally means something handed down across the centuries of human experience - the things which have stood the test of time, in our sense things which have stood the test of prayer and lived experience - those things which show us the living face of Christ. We don’t try to preserve the past in ‘a negative culture’ but to take the living past with us into a future in which the Gospel of Christ can be proclaimed positively and without hesitation or subtraction or reservation.
Yet of course it is true that the Kingdom is never behind us, it is never in the past. It is ahead of always and the voice of Christ our Lord calls us on. When we say that the Catholic faith is an historic faith, we mean that something has happened in the past which clearly and explicitly determines our present and our future. In other words God has revealed himself to us in Christ and the consequences of that are inescapable and not conditioned by the passing of time.
The Gospel today has snatches of three conversations between Jesus and those who hear his call. They want to follow him but, as we said, first they ask to be allowed to do something else.
Jesus, though, remains quite unmoved - no, he says come now, nothing else matters. The response seems harsh, but the mission of proclaiming the kingdom is urgent and can’t be put off. He doesn't offer them security or permanence. He offered them the clarity of a relationship; he still does.
Even if permanence is an impossibilty in 'this fleeting world,' some security is important to us. In a way it should be. It seems right and natural that we would want a certain amount of security for ourselves and those closest to us. But Jesus’ response to that is the reminder that he himself had no place to rest his head. He  offers security to our souls and that only through our participation in his death and resurrection.
We all have our excuses and very often they are good ones too. Most of the time we don’t need them anyway because we are called to follow him in tried and tested ways within the boundaries of the familiar - that’s where we find God most of the time: in the ordinary but extraordinarily valuable things of life. But sometimes, just sometimes, in times of crisis or disruption or controversy, when in the course of a generation well-evolved structures of faith and believing, and history and tradition come tumbling down around us, then we are called just to trust, and where Christ leads, to follow.

Saturday 26 June 2010

Women Bishops: Sacred Synod for England

The following is reproduced from 1Timothy4 blog via Bishop Edwin Barnes at Ancient Richborough

"Catholic-Minded clergy in the Southern Province called to a Sacred Synod in London on September 24th 2010

The Bishops of Plymouth, Horsham and Richborough, writing on behalf of the Bishops of Chichester, Burnley, Ebbsfleet, and Fulham, and Bishops Lindsay Urwin, Michael Nazir-Ali and Robert Ladds, have invited Catholic-minded Anglican clergy of the Southern Province of the CofE to a Sacred Synod, to be held at the Emmanuel Centre, 9–23 Marsham Street, Westminster, London SW1P 3DW on September 24th between 11.00am and 3.00pm.
Their invitation is principally to those who have expressed severe reservations about the innovation of women bishops and who signed an open letter to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on that subject some two years ago, but is also open to those who are now presented with questions which cause them to hesitate, pause and reflect on the difficulties which face the CofE and the wider Anglican family, and about the future direction of the CofE.
Clerical members of Forward in Faith are welcome, as are clergy who are not members of that organization, as an opportunity for them to express their anxiety and opinion and to take counsel with others in similar situations.
All those who intend to be present should register their interest by sending an email to This is to help with planning. Packed lunches should be brought, or local catering outlets used during the break for lunch. Attendees are asked to bring £5.00 to help defray the costs of the event.
(A similar event is to take place in the Northern Province at Belle Isle in Leeds on Thursday 23rd September 2010, details to be confirmed.)"

I very much hope traditionalist clergy from the Church in Wales (& the Scottish Episcopal Church?) will be welcome and indeed encouraged to attend as we now have no such mechanism as a Sacred Synod at our disposal due to the ruthless decapitation of our integrity in the province.

Friday 25 June 2010

Drought Conditions

In this part of Britain, this is perhaps the driest Spring and early summer in living memory. Normally freely flowing streams have already been reduced to a small trickle, and I even saw a blackbird this morning in the Vicarage garden trying to drink from a slowly dripping outside tap. But I'm not going to complain about the weather - another three or four months of sun and heat would suit me just fine - but soon farmers and gardeners (not to mention the water companies) will be crying out for rain.
Drought conditions undoubtedly also prevail spiritually, pastorally, and ecclesially, as many of us are living hand to mouth, day by day, orphaned,  not knowing what the future may hold, or whether the hopes we have entertained are realistic. The first of the psalms at morning prayer today contained a cri de coeur with which  many of us can identify:
Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.........
In your goodness show favour to Sion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.
In the province of Wales, despite the controversies over the border about the recent proposals of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, it is praeternaturally quiet - rien! I'm sure a great deal of soul-searching is going on and survival strategies are being dreamt up, but I am more sceptical than ever about whether even what the Bishop of Ebbsfleet has referred to as the "Non-Juring option" will be the remotest of  possibilities in Wales for those who wish to stay on and cling to the vestiges of catholicity.

I used to admire (or at least understand emotionally) those who repeated John Keble's famous comment (of course, ecclesiologically questionable then) that even "if the Church of England were to fail altogether yet it would be found in my parish," or to the traditional SSC war cry first uttered by Fr Mackoncohie of "no desertion, no surrender!"
In my view, for what it's worth, neither sentiment is now at all tenable in a situation like ours in the Church in Wales with no prospect of any form of alternative or additional episcopal oversight being granted to "traditionalists" ('catholic' is a description which will be less and less easy to employ as time goes on), a centralising ecclesiastical bureaucracy intent on removing more and more authority from the parishes and transferring them to deaneries and dioceses, and an increasingly mobile, theologically starved and secularised  laity who largely fail to understand the wider  issues at stake.  "That's terrible - so you may have to do something else for a living, then," is usually the sympathetic but largely accepting response to this end game we are now playing. And of course they are right. The writing is on the wall plainly for all to see; only some of us - and I include myself in this - are almost too afraid to look up and read it.

It is dry and very quiet here and, to mix my metaphors completely and absolutely (I'm good at that,) perhaps this is "the deep breath before the plunge," or the brief moment of stillness and equilibrium before the ship finally goes down. I don't think it's sensible to try to bargain over the conditions for getting into the lifeboat.

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners' ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,

Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes

Them; birds build--but not I build; no, but strain,
Time's eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Thursday 24 June 2010

Hell is other people

Here's one for the population control obsessives. We are all used to the kind of argument that is plugged time and time again by the now establishment consensus - including that outrageous (and now notorious - it's good to know in the continuing Anglican crisis exactly who the province could be getting into bed with) comment from the current Presiding Bishop of TEC who basically said Episcopalians were too intelligent to have large families, unlike those (latino? - foreign anyway) Catholics and U.S. redneck evangelicals. At what point does liberal condescension simply morph into old fashioned racism and snobbery, I wonder? But when this kind of disdain is joined at the hip to the green movement and its own brand of neo-Malthusian philosophy things start to get really sinister.
Well, here's the other side - if it comes from slightly more left of field than we're used to, so much the better:

"Last week I attended a modern-day equivalent of the Malthusian Ball. It was in the luxurious crypt of St Pancras Church in Euston rather than at the Dorchester and there was no dancing this time. But we were invited to drink ‘luxury Belgian beer from champagne flutes’ and to peruse £1,500 paintings depicting ‘teeming crowds’ as we debated the ‘population problem’. The attendees were more casually dressed than their 1933 forebears - no floor-draping dresses - but once again, in between sips from champagne glasses, men and women with pronunciation far more received than mine gathered to fret over how humankind is spreading like a ‘cancer’ (their word)."
Read it all here 
From Spiked-online last week

On the subject of (anglican) liberal clericalism - I can't comment on any other kind -  it's exactly as 'Father Ted' comments:
"I'm not a fascist, I'm a priest. Fascists dress in black and go around telling people what to do, whereas...priests... "
Just substitute grey for black and a (optional) change of gender and there you have it. Although, don't you think brown is underrated as a clerical 'uniform'.....

Wednesday 23 June 2010


I was sitting in a parishioner's rose garden this afternoon (as one does in the country) and couldn't help noticing a label on one of the seat cushions. "Carelessness causes fire," it said.
Another all-encompassing, mind blowingly stupid warning from the health and safety lobby. I must be more careful then; spontaneous combustion could be an ever present danger.
I'm not sure about fire, carelessness with language causes something far worse.
"Si monumentum requiris, circumspice."
I'll shut up now.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

A sympathetic observer

As Anglican Catholics we are always complaining that no one understands us. Here's an insightful and sympathetic post from Fr Sean Finnegan here who seems to understand our situation very well.
Here's an excerpt:
"There has been a lot of quite triumphalistic stuff around, ‘Catholicism without Peter is not Catholicism’; well, quite; I believe that myself. But the trouble is that Anglicanism, despite the common assertion, is not so much Catholic and Reformed (meaning 100% of both), because that, frankly, would be contradictory. It means that there are compromises, and elements of both, in differing cocktail strengths, plus other stuff (liberalism, for instance). One might call oneself a Catholic (within the C of E, I mean) but not actually share all the teachings of Vatican II, Vatican I or even Trent. What it means is that one believes in a cocktail that is Catholic-heavy, if I can put it like that, and the elements that go to make up the Catholic bit can differ from person to person.
To some, union with Peter may indeed be desirable, one day, but there is a lot of other stuff to get out of the way first. Such a person may nevertheless feel much more comfortable in the company of Catholic-minded colleagues than among the usual mix in his deanery chapter. He may even belong to SSC and Forward in Faith. He may hate the notion of women’s orders. But is he really expected, then, to believe also in Papal Infallibility and the wrongness of artificial contraception, and, most painful of all, to submit to ordination in  forma absoluta…?"
         Read it all

For many clergy - in Wales certainly, but throughout the Anglican world - the sticking point where it comes to the Ordinariates is precisely the question of (re)ordination. It's not a concern I share myself, having enough anxiety about the doctrinal history of Anglicanism (not exactly diminished by recent decisions) to be too bullish about the sufficiency of our orders by themselves. From the perspective of both sides, some further act of sacramental validation is necessary to remove all vestiges of doubt. It's the price that has to be paid for sacramental certainty (not to mention reunion with Peter) and I don't think we should complain about it.
But do I understand those who say to me: 'How can I deny the validity of my priesthood and my sacramental actions in (say) decades of  pastoral ministry? How can I say that what I have always regarded as Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is, in effect, a piece of bread and no more?
I'm not at all convinced that that is what submitting to further ordination does commit us to, but there is a lot of work which needs to be done within our tradition in order to allay quite understandable fears of this kind.
In the end, of course, these kind of  worries may be as much emotional as theological, making them so much more difficult to overcome. Given the fact that this will be an ongoing process over a period of years not months, what should we be doing in this regard?

Just a few thoughts on the Archbishops' proposals

Below are links to comments on the arrangements Drs Williams and Sentamu want the Church of England General Synod to adopt. I'm not going to say very much, partly because it's been said better elsewhere, and also that we have to remember this is a Church of England matter; in the current climate whatever is decided there will have no direct bearing on the situation of "catholic minded Anglicans" in Wales. Archbishop Rowan can be as persuasive as he needs to be in England, but I can't see the Welsh Bench changing it's mind on the shameful decision they made two years ago - yes, it's been that long.

 In effect, what is being offered in England is the situation which operated here until the retirement of Bishop David Thomas (with minor differences attempting to address the issues related to the imminent conseration of women to the episcopate.) That should be warning enough.
If it means a longer period of discernment for those in the C of E who need it, spiritually, financially, in terms of personal and pastoral relationships, then the Archbishops' plans can be welcomed as a kind of stay of execution. If it staves off long-term unemployment or financial disaster for those who have committed their lives to priestly ministry, or a continuation of sacramental and pastoral care to devoted Anglo-Catholic laity in no position to up sticks and move, then it can't be dismissed as entirely worthless; but in the end it's a kind of theological hospice care, undoubtedly compassionate but offering no hope of recovery.
But these proposals certainly can't be spun as a preservation of the existing status quo: it's less of the same, rather than more of the same. It doesn't even attempt to address the concerns and theological and ecclesiological  issues raised by Forward in Faith nearly six years ago in 'Consecrated Women.'
 What is being offered is a substantially smaller fig leaf with which to preserve the theological modesty of those Anglo-Catholics and others who may have to wear it. It may preserve a small enclave for a generation, but it isn't a long term answer or a lasting settlement. From an outsider's perspective, these proposals (if they get through - don't assume they will necessarily)  will simply prolong the war of attrition we have all been fighting for years. Why won't a code of practice do? Because we know we can't trust many of those who will operate it.

Any secure future for the Anglo-Catholic movement will inevitably lie elsewhere, which is why it's necessary not to fall out among ourselves, but to commit ourselves to keeping doors open and to not burning our bridges but keeping them open to traffic.

Fr Hunwicke says it all here along with Bishop Edwin Barnes & Damian Thompson

Saints John Fisher & Thomas More

The end of More's trial from the film 'A Man for All Seasons.' I very nearly included a clip from slightly earlier in the same scene where Sir Thomas says to Sir Richard Rich who is  in the process of giving perjured evidence: 'Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world... but for Wales?' To whom could that possibly apply today? Answers on a postcard........

Today's feast of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More is an uncomfortable one for Anglicans (even if the two saints are now officially commemorated in the Common Worship calendar - on July 6th, ironically the date of More's martyrdom rather than Fisher's: for some reason the Church in Wales only commemorates More ) and for Anglo-Catholics and Anglo-Papalists it is especially uncomfortable. It not only emphasises just how long our separation from Rome has been and what were the original reasons for it, but also that we are in some way, whether we like it or not, the heirs of those who, unlike Fisher & More, did submit to Tudor tyranny and stood by silently while violence was done to the Body of Christ - another contradiction in a historical legacy which sometimes gives the appearance of turning contradiction into an art form. But I suppose we can make our stand on this - that the Church (even such a small part of it as ours) still belongs to God even if it is dragged through the dirt, dismembered and subject to the most abject of humiliations. We are never completely cut off from God's grace. It's a serious question and a real problem for us as we now explore the possibilities of re-union with Peter as to how much of our tradition / patrimony  we can celebrate and just how much we will have to discard as being fatally compromised.
We need the prayers of St John Fisher and St Thomas More particularly today. May their prayers help the healing of  the wounds which still divide us from one another, and the present moves towards the greater unity of Catholic Christians. We need their prayers to guide us home.

This post also published on The Anglo-Catholic

Monday 21 June 2010

Il faut cultiver notre jardin


Somewhat guiltily I have to admit that due to various commitments in the parish (four and a half parishes in fact) I had to miss the Glastonbury Pilgrimage this year. Bishop Edwin has an illuminating post about the pilgrimage here, at the same time as gauging the current (disappointingly very mixed) response to the offer of the Ordinariates. I've only one comment to make on that - don't despair! The world we have known is falling apart - everything is now provisional. The liberals have been fond of tellling us rather smugly for years that we have to learn to live with provisionality. They can't now complain if that is precisely our attitude towards Anglicanism itself. And one provisional response could be this:  "we'll go when we are ready, and when we can take as many people with us as possible." To continue the shipwreck analogy of a recent post on the Anglo-Catholic blog, it may be necessary to stay in the water a little longer than one might wish in order to encourage others to get into the life-boats.
My advice to the establishment who, despite tongue-in-cheek assurances to the contrary, can't wait to be rid of us?  Live with it. A temporary loss of face and a bit of patience is cheaper than fighting a case for constructive dismissal, and very much cheaper than losing one (or fifty)



But for me it was been a weekend of gardens: an excellent  lunchtime parish barbecue in a very well tended cottage garden belonging to a former churchwarden, and a garden opening for parish funds in a  lovingly restored arts and crafts garden with spectacular views over the Usk valley towards the Black Mountains. And on the way back, by way of flying the flag, a visit to another open garden in my parishes - this time one exhaustively written about in the national press.
Gardens by their very nature are provisional, ephemeral almost. They change from season to season and from year to year, they fall into decay and are restored. Sometimes they disappear altogether and are reclaimed by the wildness of the surrounding woodland, and spectacular new gardens are made in what was previously a patch of wilderness. That's a strangely comforting thought.



Sunday 20 June 2010

"It seems, as one becomes older,
That the past has another pattern, and ceases to be a mere sequence—
Or even development: the latter a partial fallacy
Encouraged by superficial notions of evolution,
Which becomes, in the popular mind, a means of disowning the past.
The moments of happiness—not the sense of well-being,
Fruition, fulfilment, security or affection,
Or even a very good dinner, but the sudden illumination—
We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness. I have said before
That the past experience revived in the meaning
Is not the experience of one life only
But of many generations.........."
          T.S. Eliot 'The Dry Salvages'

Saturday 19 June 2010

Another Election

At last someone I vote for gets elected. Geoffrey Hill is the new Oxford Professor of Poetry.
The obvious and also the best choice, given the stature of his published work, even if he is married to an Anglican woman priest (and fellow poet) - yet another small indication (as if we needed one) of just how "anglo-saxon" culture has changed, even on what are now its peripheries.

Here's some Hill: the last of the Seven Hymns to Our Lady of Chartres

Return, if in mauvais esprit, to Chartres;

There’s my old pension in the rue St-Jacques;
There Notre-Dame stone-turbining to Pâques
Slices the gloom with radiance of martyrs.

On the cleft hill that odd man jousting blame,
Péguy, to whom Olivier Messiaen
Part-offered Et exspecto, something brazen;
Jean Moulin whom they also thrust at fame,

His agony finessed to silver wire,
Received by Malraux at the Panthéon
With words of platitudinous haut ton,
That France might clamour, swoon, and rise entire.

Entre lutte et louange, deep-tolled sonorities,
The makers work and sleep and have their sex.
Travestied Judas reddish as a fox
Swings on his pendulum and never dies.

Malraux negotiates the elevation:
The organ barking mad, the iron vats
Terraced with candles wallowing in their fats.
This passage of great things your conflagration.

Friday 18 June 2010

This and that

Having radically cut back a large olive tree in a pot - blasted by the northerly winds and freezing conditions last winter - I'm relieved to see it pushing out new shoots all over. I'm also rather pleased with another olive and a large orange bush bought from the "bargain basement" section of the local garden centre at a very bargain price . Photos below.
It may not be the Villa Hanbury (or a roof terrace overlooking Westminster Cathedral)  but mediterranean looking enough for the far off banks of the Wye..............Ultima Thule?

Another "wandering" earlier in the week to Oystermouth ("Mumbles") on Swansea Bay where Kate and Charles Matthews were playing a lunchtime concert at All Saints, part of its music festival.
It's an interesting, beautifully cared for church, in what is obviously a well-organised and busy parish, in a lovely setting just above the seafront overlooking the town. There is clear evidence of the practice of "the faith" in its history, but I think now, politically, pretty much (if not always wholly comfortably) modern establishment Church in Wales, like most of  the many former "prayer book catholic" parishes in the province. 
Interestingly (appropriately, given the way things are going in Wales?)  Thomas Bowdler, he of the expurgated versions of Shakespeare is buried in the churchyard and, more recently, it's the parish church which helped to nurture the vocation of  the present Archbishop of Canterbury.
Below are a couple of photos of the chancel and sanctuary and a wall panel - part of the baptistery.

Part of Wednesday's concert programme. Not played by Kathryn Price & Charles Matthews (my technological skills are not up to that) but by Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich.

Thursday 17 June 2010

The first movement of Sibelius' 4th Symphony (Tempo molto moderato, quasi adagio)  - for no other reason than it seems to sum up my mood at the moment. I particularly like the composer's own comment about the work: 'It has absolutely nothing of the circus about it.'

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Anyone care to risk a prophecy?

Predictions about the future of worldwide anglicanism are nearly always extremely wide of the mark, particularly as regards the likelihood of imminent splits and divisions. With that caveat, here are a couple of interesting pieces about possible developments, from The Midwest Conservative Journal and Charles Raven
But whatever the reaction to the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent rap over the knuckles to TEC (ECUSA - whatever) I suspect it will be much less dramatic than anticipated. Never overlook the sheer business-as- usual inertia of the structures and the leading personalities of the Anglican Communion.
Yet even if we are beginning to see something dramatic in the way of realignment, including the 'walking apart' of TEC and an attempt on its part to recruit the like-minded from other "western" provinces, we know that there is still no place in all this for traditional Anglican Catholics for whom opposition to women's ordination is non-negotiable, and for whom no acceptable provision is being made or, I think, will be made, certainly within the British Isles.
And we need to be very wary of  +KJS' recent comments in a pastoral letter on 'celtic' approaches to ecclesiology - as anti-Canterbury as it is anti-Rome. It always seems to help if you know absolutely nothing about the subject you are talking about. But since when has liberal ideology ever truly subjected itself to historical scholarship, much less to the settled mind of the Catholic Church? Some will be taken in - some very close to home - by her curious and wholly anachronistic interpretation of the Synod of Whitby, but it's about as interesting, when all is said and done, as this blog's views on oceanography.
If it happens, chaos all round may muddy the ecclesiastical waters for a while, but the choice before us is still as stark as ever.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Repeating an old mistake?

News here about the Anglican Primate of Nigeria endorsing the ordination of women as deacons to work in specific areas of ministry.
"Interacting with Bishops, clergy and laity of the Province on the Niger at Emmaus House Awka during his Episcopal tour of Provinces in Nigeria, Archbishop Oko said women's ordination for now would stop at deacons for specific purposes like hospital work and school services."

It's necessary to repeat ad infinitum - because of our opponents' propaganda victory in this area  - that "catholics" (and by that here I mean anglo-catholics) are wholeheartedly in favour of the lay ministries of the church being open to both sexes, only (as successive popes have maintained)  that the Church simply does not have the authority to make changes to the nature of the apostolic ministry.
But putting the theology of the indivisibility and 'givenness'of the sacred ministry on one side - politically, I think Nigeria, cultural differences notwithstanding, will make a huge mistake if it admits women to the diaconate. Here in Wales, female deacons admitted to the house of clergy of the Governing Body in 1980 proved a potent force in the synodical drive towards the ordination of women to the priesthood. As we know to our cost our quasi-parliamentary synodical decisions have very little to do with the quality of theological debate and everything to do with numbers.
Besides, outside the liturgy, deacons dress the same as priests and, to our shame, our theologically incoherent legacy as Anglicans leads public opinion, in the pews and outside, to clamour for equal rights, as "function" and the physical ability to perform a task is the only language that is really understood. Of course, this is hugely magnified by secular pressures in the area of what we now have to call "gender equality," but the real problem is the lack (really the impossibility) of any coherent and agreed theology of ordained ministry among the various competing theological strands of  Anglicanism - not exactly a recent development!
Yet it's a strange irony that one of the great errors of modern Anglicanism (and the list grows longer every day) is the reinforcement by the feminist / liberal / radical lobby and their opportunistic fellow travellers (now "the establishment" here and elsewhere) of that popular misconception that to exercise any kind of valid Christian ministry it's necessary to wrap a clerical collar around your neck. Rampant clericalism is the legacy of women's ordination along with the associated downgrading of the lay state and the subsequent deskilling of many of our congregations.
Why do I increasingly think my vocation is to talk to brick walls?

Friday 11 June 2010

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart

A brief aside on this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart - a feast celebrating the all-encompassing love of Christ is not such an 'un-Anglican' observance; it's certainly part of the modern Anglo-Catholic patrimony. But the Sacred Heart was also the badge of the counter-revolution in the Vendee (much as the anti-Cranmerian conservatives marched under the banner of the Five Wounds in the sixteenth century - perhaps we should readopt it.)  In defence of their faith and their way of life, the Catholic royalist army marched with St Louis de Montfort's emblem of the Sacred Heart sewn onto their clothing. It still forms the basis of the logo of the modern department.

Linden Lea

Why? It reminds me of the gentle countryside and quiet villages of Dorset where my family originates. For the essential civility of the voice of Ian Bostridge and, if I'm honest, it raises my spirits in the midst of all the doom and gloom (economic and ecclesial) which is surrounding us now, even at this the very best time of the year.
A different kind of patrimony perhaps.

Thursday 10 June 2010

"That would be an ecumenical matter"

Possibly for the first time in my life I find myself in agreement with Presiding Bishop Schori of (P)ECUSA.

"At a June 8 press conference at General Synod 2010 in Halifax, U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori described the decision by Lambeth Palace to remove Episcopalians representing Anglicans in international ecumenical dialogues as " misrepresents who the Anglican Communion is."


Tuesday 8 June 2010

Metaphorical Mao Suits

A propos of nothing in particular (unless it's also prompted by the thought of that doyenne of leftward-leaning ecclesiastics, PECUSA's 'Bishop' Schori's upcoming gig at Southwark Cathedral - get used to it, it's the future) but as a result of conversations with friends who are (how shall I say it?) rather more to the left politically and ecclesiastically (if they think about these matters at all) than I am, I'm convinced that, metaphorically anyway, they would be happiest seeing all of us living in a command economy, queueing for bread and dressed in Mao suits and pace Diderot (nothing personal, of course) with various bits of my priestly anatomy being used to strangle the last king. An unbridgeable divide, even between friends? Perhaps so, when certain topics are raised, the result is mutual incomprehension.
Yes, I know I'm exaggerating wildly and probably unfairly, but as many of us have noticed, extremism of the left is regarded these days much more indulgently than that of the right. Violent "peace protesters" or anti-globalisation militants, not to mention the worst of the "animal rights" lobby seem to receive a much less antagonistic press than the various rather dubious and shady organisations who march through our streets protesting against levels of immigration or Islamic terrorism. Could it be that the former are seen to be espousing fashionable beliefs, but only going too far in their advocacy of them?  At least, the conventional argument has always gone, the far left's essential motivation is benevolent; its heart is in the right place, even if its use of undemocratic direct action is to be condemned.
But I'm not so sure that's ever been the case. Those who move from a more or less praiseworthy desire to try to change society in order to benefit the poor and disadvantaged to an ideological commitment to try to change human nature itself more often than not lose sight of their own humanity. The ends fairly soon justify the means. Perhaps I'm overly naive, but for me at least violence is violence, never mind the politics. If I'm in a prison camp because of my political views, my religious beliefs or my race, being 're-educated,' or starved and worked to death, or simply there to be exterminated, I don't much care about the ideology of my oppressor: the end result is exactly the same. I won't be too concerned about whether I'm being murdered to further the deranged aims of the master race or to promote the illusory victory of the proletariat.
We know from the experience of the former GDR that the same kind of people (sometimes even the very same people) are attracted to violent political extremism - whether it's of the left or the right is immaterial.
And the historical record speaks for itself in terms of the hundreds of millions killed worldwide under communism, which in Europe at least, as a result of realpolitik and the (unholy but necessary?) bargain struck between the wartime allies, was allowed to dominate half the continent until the whole edifice collapsed under the weight of its own internal contradictions. So why the continuing indulgence? Why is it still chic, even after all we now know, to admire Mao and Fidel and Che, even Stalin, whereas they should be assigned to the same vile category as Hitler and Mussolini and their various henchmen?
But the left has always, despite its propaganda, been rather susceptible to a villain in a uniform. Shouldn't we have moved on a bit from the 1930s?

Knuckle dusters & dreams of a faith restored - an insubstantial pageant?

A few "Anglican wanderings" of my own last week at the end of the school half term.
Firstly, a visit to Clevedon Court, just outside Bristol, the home of the Elton Family, now held by the National Trust. It's a very beautiful house in an idyllic setting, built by Sir John de Clevedon in the early fourteenth century and, despite additions and alterations over the generations, has survived with many original architectural features intact. In the later Tudor period, following the reformation, its medieval chapel was closed off and forgotten, but  was later rediscovered during building work and lovingly restored in the nineteenth century by the then devoutly Anglo-Catholic Eltons.
A curious item is displayed in a case in the Great Hall - the label says it all: "Knuckle Duster issued by the Vicar of All Saints against the Kensitites." It was never used: the Kensitites didn't descend with their axes and hammers upon Clevedon; but the defence of the Catholic faith against heretical thuggery was evidently rather more robust in those days!
The small Chapel  is worth a visit in itself, for its exquisitely simple altar, and its stained glass. The pascal candle stand was made by Sir Edmund Elton in his own pioneering pottery. I remember last visiting the house as a boy and seeing a copy of the English Missal on the altar - I wonder what became of it?
 Back to Chepstow on Friday night for an outdoor performance of The Tempest in Chepstow Castle. It was a lovely summer's evening, with a cloudless sky, swifts wheeling overhead and the valerian blooming on the castle walls catching the rays of the setting sun. The production by The Lord Chamberlain's Men was both reflective and fast paced and hugely entertaining.

It seemed somehow fitting at this time of great uncertainty, with many (as yet) unrealised hopes, but also the knowledge that in its present form our spiritual tradition is coming to an end,  after seeing a vision of the legacy of the Oxford Movement and a reminder of what might have been, to see again Shakespeare's own enforced (Clare Asquith in her book Shadowplay is quite persuasive on the matter) farewell to the stage and to public life.
"Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep."
The anti- Kensitite knuckle duster!

Detail from one the the chapel windows

Altar with original nineteenth century frontal

Home produced candle stand

The Tempest: The Lord Chamberlain's Men in full flow in Chepstow Castle