Saturday 31 March 2012

Palm Sunday: All glory, laud and honour.

All is prepared.

Tomorrow  we come together to take part in the first of the Holy Week liturgies - to begin our following of Jesus on the way of the cross.
We begin with the blessing of palms, as we re-enact  the thrilling atmosphere of the Lord's triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem.
It isn’t long, though, before the scene shifts and the mood changes completely. In the Passion Gospel on Palm Sunday we see Christ tried by Pilate & condemned to death; we stand before the foot of the cross and watch him die, betrayed by his friends into the hands of his enemies.
Holy Week begins. 
Come with us as the Church remembers throughout this week what happened to Jesus.
Come to the Upper Room on Thursday, where, anticipating the offering of himself on the cross, the Lord celebrates the Passover Meal with his disciples - the beginning of the Eucharist. 
Keep watch before the Blessed Sacrament as he prays in the garden of Gethsemane until the soldiers come & lead him away.
Reflect with Christians throughout the world in the Passion liturgies on Good Friday on the meaning of the cross - that Jesus died for you and for me.
On Saturday night, stand in the darkness as, represented by the flame, divided but undimmed, of the Pascal Candle the light of resurrection bursts from the tomb and we celebrate at the Easter Vigil the new life only Christ can give us.
This is the most important week of the year.
Come with us as the Church remembers....

Holy Week begins with tomorrow's Palm Sunday Procession ... 
(Our photos from a few years' ago)

But this is how they do it in another place -

Friday 30 March 2012

Stabat Mater

For the Friday of Passion Week, part of the Stabat Mater by Francis Poulenc - not as well known as it should be.

Thursday 29 March 2012

Ecclesiastical gesture politics: much heat, little light

A Welsh Anglican priest has announced his resignation over the Church's reluctance to sanction gay marriage.
Report and interview here from the BBC.
"Some members of the Anglican communion, including elements of the Church in Wales, have become more homophobic, claims a vicar who has resigned over the issue of gay marriage.
The Reverend Andrew Morton, vicar of Llangybi, Monmouthshire, is the first in Wales to step down over the issue.
He says he would have been willing to carry out such ceremonies....
Mr Morton, who has been a vicar for 33 years, says many of his colleagues privately agree with his stance, and that homophobia is endemic in some respects.
"First of all I felt that the church's position on same sex relationships, never mind same sex marriages, was increasingly judgemental and not really inclusive in the way that I felt that it should be," he told BBC Wales.
"I feel a greater degree of homophobia in the church than I've felt for a long time. Maybe it's just my personal perception but it certainly seems to be more prevalent in some quarters of the church.
"I felt that in order to offer an authentic critique of the church as an institution, the most honourable thing was to do it from the outside rather than from the inside which was what prompted the resignation."  
...The Church in Wales said: "We regret the resignation of any of our clergy over an issue that has not been resolved by the church.
"We are trying to move forward gently in a way that takes everyone along with us and that calls for time and patience."

The Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales said in a statement it abided by the Christian doctrine of marriage as the union between one man and one woman freely entered into for life.
"We acknowledge that whilst issues of human sexuality are not resolved, there are couples living in other lifelong committed relationships who deserve the welcome, pastoral care and support of the church and we are committed to further listening, prayerful reflection and discernment regarding same-sex relationships," it said."

We should hesitate to criticise someone who is prepared to make a stand on matters of conscience even when we strongly disagree with him. 
We should applaud Andrew Morton for his courage in being prepared to put his head above the parapet - just as long as we see his gesture for what it  is, a piece of theatre designed to give additional momentum to an increasingly vocal campaign for change within the Church itself. 

The sad but predictable use of the word 'judgemental'  to describe the Church's present position and those who seek to defend the existing Christian teaching on marriage does little to advance understanding and, like the allegation of widespread 'homophobia,'  is grossly unfair to many Anglicans (not to mention those of other traditions), who, for theological and scriptural reasons rather than gut prejudice, have grave reservations about the change in the very definition of marriage which lies at the heart of the British Government's present proposals. 
Even the Archbishop of Canterbury (certainly no homophobe and, in his youth, the author of The Body's Grace) has signalled his reluctance to see the law used in this way as a blunt instrument to engineer social change.

Moreover, in relation to the Church in Wales' stance on this issue,  a commitment on the part of the Province "to further listening, prayerful reflection and discernment"  should not imply that we are moving towards a commitment to support change, either to the civil law or to ecclesiastical discipline, although I fear that is precisely the direction in which we are heading. The 'inclusion' the advocates of change are working for in the Church will be anything but inclusive for those who hold to a traditional Christian theology of marriage. 

It doesn't detract from the principled stand he is taking, but Andrew Morton, now 61, will, when he leaves office at the end of June next year, be approaching the age of retirement...(my apologies for initially suggesting he had already reached it.)

Wednesday 28 March 2012

The sheer beauty of creation

Bogged down as we so often are by what the intercessions at Morning Prayer today aptly refer to as "the confusion of our lives,"  it's easy to forget the breathtaking beauty of the world in which we live.
Twenty Celsius here today with the Spring triumphant all around us.

Monday 26 March 2012

Barking? New ways of being Church?

I've never been a great fan of liturgies involving animal blessings, but this video, from Nicaragua, is so wildly off the scale it - almost - changes my mind. And if it encourages devotion and an awareness of the Communion of Saints, why not?
But even this is still preferable to puppets, clowns or liturgical dance - in any shape or form: I'm sorry but there is for some of us something which seems essentially, well, pagan, about dancing girls in places of worship.
And, no, before you ask, our new puppy won't be dressing up for mass this week. Her Sunday best is what she was born with.

Sunday 25 March 2012

The future is concrete and glass

The Government plans a 'new city' for the West Midlands to cope with the demands of 'a rapidly rising population.'  Planning laws are to be relaxed. [here
'A senior Downing Street source' is quoted as saying:
“these reforms were never intended to allow the concreting over of the countryside. This is about reforming Britain’s planning system, which costs our economy £3 billion a year. There will be protection for the green belt and areas of outstanding natural beauty, along with a clear commitment to sustainable development.”
We shall see.
In all kinds of ways, it would seem that modern urban values are now unassailably triumphant.

Binsey Poplars

(Felled 1879)

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering
weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew-
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being so slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,
Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc unselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

A setting of  the poetry of Matthew Arnold for orchestra, choir and narrator, this is Vaughan Williams' evocation of a now vanished world, one which would have been very familiar to Hopkins himself.


Passiontide begins

Saturday 24 March 2012

A loose federation of Churches indeed: Church of England rejects Covenant.

What price now (what remains of ) the unity of the Anglican Communion?
The reasons behind Archbishop Williams' resignation are becoming clearer by the day.
The dioceses of the Church of England reject the Anglican Covenant. [report from the BBC here]

British Summer Time

 Given the weather, 
the for once aptly-named British Summer Time 
begins tomorrow. 
Clocks go forward one hour at 1 a.m.
No excuses to be late for mass!

Sloppy language

Catching up with news after last week's computer crash, I've come across this report of recent comments by the Coalition Government's Equalities Minister:
"Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat minister for equality, has said that the language the Church of England and the Catholic Church has used is homophobic and that the views that the leaders are expressing belong in the Dark Ages.." [here]
We could say that this displays a ignorance of history so shocking that it should disqualify anyone from public office. 
Although, given the Prime Minister's own comments about "medieval"  barbarity in Syria [here], perhaps a lack of knowledge about the past is actually a qualification for office - in this government at least. 
And - in relation to the so-called "dark ages" - it was G.K. Chesterton who wrote that Christianity provided the one path across the dark ages which was not dark.
Why is this kind of sloppy language a problem; after all, we all know what was meant?
It is a problem, not only because of the wild inaccuracy of the words themselves, but because behind them lies the equally sloppy ideological belief in the myth of human progress, something to which our amnesiac contemporary culture seems once again addicted, after the caution rightly engendered by the horrific events of the mid-twentieth century. 
Yet the worrying  language now being used by the equality warriors (see also the comments made by a  'celebrity' on BBC's Question Time a few weeks ago) reminds me of nothing more than a joke from the long-running T.V. series The West Wing: 'What's the good of being in power if you're not going to haul your enemies in for questioning?' 
Except these people are deadly serious. 
If this is 'progress,' Ms Featherstone is a 'liberal.'
Whatever happened to the maxim attributed to Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?"
We have an equalities minister (a strange post if ever there was one), what about a government minister for the protection of civil liberties and traditional freedoms?

Friday 23 March 2012

Robert Falcon Scott

Scott and his companions at the South Pole, 
 the disappointment etched on their faces.

The next few days mark the hundredth anniversary of the tragic end of Captain Scott's attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole  in 1912. Scott, of course, was beaten to the South Pole by the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen. 
His own compelling account of the ill-fated epic journey, published as Scott's Last Expedition,  remains a classic of the literature of exploration and is a witness to the triumph of the human spirit in the face of death, disaster and near impossible odds and goes a long way to explain our enduring fascination with the story. While it is possible, with a considerable degree of hindsight, to identify some of the mistakes Scott made in his polar attempt, we have at least moved on from the gratuitous and somewhat adolescent debunking of our national heroes exemplified by Roland Huntford in his book, Scott & Amundsen . 

Probably the most readable account of the Discovery Expedition itself - as much a scientific venture as a mere race for the pole - is that of Apsley Cherry-Garrard in The Worst Journey in the World. It contains a moving account of the finding of Scott's tent, as well as this arresting opening sentence, “Polar exploration is at once the cleanest and most isolated way of having a bad time which has been devised.”  

These are among Scott's his last words, written while a blizzard was raging outside the tent in which he and his companions died:

"...We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last ... Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale......"

The Epilogue from Ralph Vaughan Williams' Sinfonia Antartica. 

A secular view

of the issue which has caused such an convulsion of self-righteousness among metropolitan opinion formers and our otherwise visionless political class:

From Brendan O'Neill at Spiked

The fact is that marriage is not simply about co-habitation or partnership; it is not even simply about having an intense relationship. It has historically been about much more - about creating a unit, with its own rules, that is recognised by the state and society as a distinctive union often entered into for the purpose of raising a new generation. Yes, some couples enter into it for other reasons - for companionship, larks, a party or whatever - but we are not talking about individuals’ motives here; we are talking about the meaning of an institution. Collapsing together every human relationship, so that everything from gay love to a Christian couple who want to have five kids is homogenised under the term ‘marriage’, benefits no one. It doesn’t benefit gay couples, whose ‘marriage’ will have little historic depth or meaning, and it doesn’t benefit currently married couples, some of whom may feel a corrosion of their identity....

........... But the gay-marriage campaign has nothing to do with liberty and equality. Rather this is a cynical campaign of opportunistic moral grandstanding on the part of the cultural elite, which will end with gays being fobbed off with a pretty meaningless form of ‘marriage’ and married couples simultaneously finding the ancient institution they have signed up to being further drained of meaning. Just say ‘I don’t’ to gay marriage.
Read it all here

Tuesday 20 March 2012


Back online after the computer was hit by an aptly named  malicious virus.

But tomorrow is officially the first day of Spring!

My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

from The Song of Solomon Chapter 2

Friday 16 March 2012

Archbishop of Canterbury to resign

After ten years in perhaps one of the least enviable jobs in the world, Dr Rowan Williams is to step down at the end of the year to return to academic life as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge.
The announcement from Lambeth Palace is here

Thursday 15 March 2012

Computer Problems

No posts,I'm afraid, until the problem is fixed!

Monday 12 March 2012

'They help us become who we're supposed to be'

"...Interestingly, the connections we have with the animal world, especially with our dogs, have an important role to play in our growth and self-understanding. Put simply, we don't hide in front of our dogs: we see ourselves as we really are. Whether it involves the love and generosity of spirit expressed in getting our dog necessary and expensive medical treatment, or experiencing our uncontrolled anger erupting over an accident on the carpet, dogs have the capacity of bringing out the light and dark in human nature. By taking such moments of personal insight seriously, we have a daily touchstone with reality: we can change and grow. Perhaps one of the reasons we are so devoted to our dogs is that they help us become who we're supposed to be...."   
          The Monks of New Skete, Cambridge, New York State, U.S.A.

Sunday 11 March 2012

O - please

"The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, who leads the 26 bishops who sit in the House of Lords, tells The Sunday Telegraph that David Cameron’s policy to end Britain’s 300-year-old succession laws risks overturning the Church’s constitutional role.

Bishop Stevens also defended the bishops’ recent political opposition to several Government reforms and said that they were watching draft legislation carefully for measures that could disadvantage particularly poor or vulnerable people.
He argued that the Prime Minister’s plans to repeal the ban on the monarch being married to a Catholic posed a serious potential risk. Currently the Queen is required to take on the role of Supreme Governor of the Church of England — making it the established Church. But the bishops said that it would be impossible for a Catholic monarch to have that role."  [here]

Given the fact that the first generation to be directly, if hypothetically, affected by this proposed change to the constitution would most likely, barring tragedy, be the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's grandchildren, it might be thought, given the theologically suicidal agenda being pursued in the Church of England by the Bishop and his fellow prelates, this might be a rather ....  well .....  academic ....  issue.
As someone has commented to me, 'a deafening silence on other matters, but........'

This is why we are not exaggerating

"In a highly significant move, ministers will fight a case at the European Court of Human Rights in which two British women will seek to establish their right to display the cross.

It is the first time that the Government has been forced to state whether it backs the right of Christians to wear the symbol at work.
A document seen by The Sunday Telegraph discloses that ministers will argue that because it is not a “requirement” of the Christian faith, employers can ban the wearing of the cross and sack workers who insist on doing so..."  [Full report here]
This is why we are not exaggerating when we express fears that Christianity is being made invisible in modern Britain and gradually forced to the margins of public life  When even those who have been traditionally our friends can do this, we are right to be fearful of the future.
It is all too symptomatic of the modern political (and ecclesiastical) trend to utter reassuring noises while doing the complete opposite. What price Baroness Warsi's speech at the Vatican now?

But these are the questions which need to be answered:
Why exactly is it legally necessary or of benefit to society for the Government to contest this case?
Under what principle of harm does the wearing of Christian symbols at work fall? Health and safety issues are merely red herrings; they can easily be dealt with, where necessary, to everyone's mutual satisfaction. 

Clearly it is a minority of Christians who would wish to advertise their allegiance openly in this way and, admittedly, it is not a requirement of any Christian tradition to do so, but why should those who do so wish to identify themselves have no right to do so, given the ubiquity of distinctive religious symbols and clothing worn - at work - by those of other faiths?
This is about much more than that. How, from being fiercely protective of our liberties, did we become such a passive nation so willing to be corralled, stifled and bullied by bureaucratic oppression?
We should be told what this particular Government's agenda is in terms of its attitude to religious faith and the Christian faith in particular. And the Government, in the person of the Prime Minister, if he is man enough, should be prepared to spell it out.
Until such point, as an Edwardian politician once said, if left in the dark with people like this, one would do well to count one's small change.
And remember our principles when we are next in the polling booth.

Thanks to Fr Mervyn Jennings' blog  for publicising the story


Not an early reference to St Patrick's Day, but the new addition to the Vicarage household...

Part of our Lenten discipline is patience and perseverance!

A suitable piece of music?

....or, if that's too obvious a choice, there is, of course, Elgar's Enigma Variations, (dedicated to ' my friends pictured within') of which the eleventh variation,  'G.R.S.', is named after George Sinclair, the organist of Hereford Cathedral; one story is that the music depicts Sinclair's bulldog, Dan, splashing around in the River Wye after falling in.

This is the full work, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, connducted by George Hurst.

Saturday 10 March 2012

A final word

for now about the whole unnecessary and essentially manufactured 'gay marriage' fracas.

The logical flaw of those, like the present U.K. Government, who argue that any change in the law will only affect 'civil marriage' and will never lead to religious traditions being coerced into following suit, is that the ethical language used by all the advocates of a change in the State's marriage law, who constantly (and inappropriately) compare their campaign to those who fought against apartheid, simply will not allow of any 'morally acceptable' exceptions to the demand for full 'equality.' Can we imagine any religious tradition being allowed to discriminate in terms of race?
No, and rightly so. But the disingenuous reassurances of those who claim that gay marriage is only a limited matter of equality in terms of the civil law*, forget that, for its advocates, equality is indivisible. Period (as the Americans say.) As we know, the Anglican proponents of women's ordination would agree, hence their attempt to silence or eject all those who oppose them.
For the acolytes of equality, the arguments of traditionalists in defence of apostolicity in the Church, or, in politics, of  social conservatives in defence of a traditional understanding of marriage, are not only mistaken but 'offensive' and, as such, they should be prevented from even being heard, much less given practical expression in the life of the community.
The problem lies precisely with the unconstrained and unbalanced modern redefinition of 'equality' (as an activist agent to enforce and police social change, rather than the previously accepted principle of equality before the law which is 'merely' and conservatively protective of liberty) and with the uncritical and largely unchallenged acceptance of this form of 'equality' in contemporary society as being in itself something which is not only desirable but even essential to human well-being. So far, the social Marxists and their fellow travellers (whose ranks, regrettably, appear to include the Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party) have won the public debate hands down.
If we're that enamoured of the French Revolution, what about a campaign for equal billing for liberty and fraternity?

*They also, of course, forget that there is no such thing, strictly speaking, as 'religious marriage', (although canon law is in practice admittedly somewhat confusing on the subject)  marriage being part of the natural law.

Weekend round-up

A few interesting items from the week's blogs:

I didn't sign up for this - neither did any of us, but it seems to be where God has put us, so just get on with it!

C.S.Lewis' Latin Letters, showing a not unexpected prescience of where society was going  [here]

The Ordinariate is given an RSV translation for the lectionary. Good - it's a faithful translation in good english and without hidden agendas. Perhaps this is a lead for all of us to get away from the more dubious aspects (sheer ugliness of expression included) of most of the other 'modern' translations of Holy Scripture. [here]

And this cartoon from Matt in The Telegraph nicely sums up the noisiest of today's controversies:

Friday 9 March 2012


Glenn Gould: Bach Keyboard Concerto no 3 in D Major bwv 1054

For even though the the fig does not blossom,
nor fruit grow on the vine,
even though the olive crop fail,
and fields produce no harvest, even though flocks vanish from the folds
and stalls stand empty of cattle,

Yey I will rejoice in the Lord
and exult in God my Saviour.
The Lord my God is my strength
He makes me leap like the deer.
He guides me to the high places.

Canticle for Morning Prayer (Habukuk 3: 2-4, 13a, 16-19)

Monday 5 March 2012

A good question

"But as long as people viewed law enforcement as a moral activity, how could that be farmed out to profit-making bodies?" Peter Hitchens [here]

Just don't expect any coherent answers from our present crop of politicians (relativists and utilitarians to a man - or woman) any time soon...

Friday 2 March 2012

Just what we've all been waiting for

It hasn't taken that long, has it? A 'feminist theologian' has come out with this priceless piece of  reasoning (she actually gets paid for this?)
In her paper “Intersex & Ontology, A Response to The Church, Women Bishops and Provision”, Dr Susannah Cornwall of Manchester University argues that it is not possible to know “with any certainty” that Jesus did not suffer from an intersex condition, with both male and female organs.

“There is no way of knowing for sure that Jesus did not have one of the intersex conditions which would give him a body which appeared externally to be unremarkably male, but which might nonetheless have had some “hidden” female physical features.”
In her own words here

Of course! We are so evidently superior to every generation which has has gone before us that we can't resist doctoring the past (literally in this case) in order to make it fit in with our very twenty-first century social prejudices.
It is not possible to know "with any certainty" ....... that really sums up the whole battle, doesn't it?
But it is Dr Cornwall herself who has made the direct connection between this kind of intellectually dishonest sleight of hand and the ordination of women, not me. We are pygmies standing on the shoulders of giants indeed, but perhaps not in the usual sense of the expression.

Thursday 1 March 2012

St David's Day - news

David Jones:
'Dewi Dyfrwr Gwedia dros Gymru'
[David the Waterman pray for Wales]

O blessed irony! Today's dedication of the restored Shrine of Saint David [link here]
'The Lord giveth...'

To coincide with St David's Day, the Ordinariate has announced the setting up of three exploration groups in Wales - at Abergavenny, Cardiff and Swansea. More information here

And a setting of the Jubilate by William Mathias

Almighty God,
who in love towards thy people called thy servant David
to be a faithful and wise steward of thy mysteries:
mercifully grant that, following his purity of life and zeal for the whole Gospel of Christ,
we may with him receive thy heavenly reward;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom with thee and the Holy Spirit
be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
[from The Book of Common Prayer 1984 of the Church in Wales]


What Would St David Do?

It seems that Welsh Labour ministers have blocked a new power which would have enshrined the rights of Welsh local authorities to hold prayers. The Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles fast-tracked an order in effect to overrule the recent controversial High Court decision in the Bideford case which threatened the continuance of town hall prayers. However, the Labour-controlled Welsh Executive has rejected the invitation of the U.K. coalition Government to have Wales included in the legislation designed to protect the rights of  local authorities. [BBC report here]
The Welsh Assembly can itself opt to rectify this situation very easily by passing the necessary legislation. If it doesn't, one hopes Christians of all traditions in Wales will know where not to cast their votes in future. Or does the oft-repeated claim that British socialism (and there are, of course, two 'socialist' parties in Wales - Labour & Plaid Cymru) owes more to Methodism than Marx no longer hold true?