tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
On an unrelated note: the current political situation in both the UK and the US, and the demands from Leavers and the Right in general that Remain supporters/ Democrats just shut up and accept the new status quo, I am reminded of this excellent song from the Dixie Chicks:

tree_and_leaf: Purple tinted black and white photo of moody man, caption Church Paramilitant (image from "Ultraviolet") (Church Paramilitant)
... who are running a ridiculous silly season story about a photo alleged to show Norwich Cathedral being haunted by the ghost of a bishop.* It's obvious nonsense, but I was amused by the final lines of the report:

Builders are said to have sparked poltergeist activity during the 1980s.

The incidents stopped after a visit from Church of England officials but other eerie figures have since been seen roaming the building.
(emphasis mine).

Assuming that this is accurately reported (dangerous, I know), "visit" implies that this wasn't just a member of Chapter splashing some holy water around, and does strongly suggest that they got the diocesan exorcist in. As the Star has no interest whatsoever in making a story like this less sensational, I wonder if the diocesan press officer is to be congratulated on making an exorcism sound so dull that no-one wanted to ask for further details....

* Actually, in as much as it looks like a human figure at all to me, it looks more like a member of one of those Spanish penitent guilds that parade in Holy Week, or possibly the KKK, neither of whom seem likely to be haunting Norwich.
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
This article in the Daily Telegraph is, broadly speaking, a good overview of the politics surrounding the appointment of the next Archbishop of Canterbury - with the caveat that I cannot imagine where the journalist has picked up the idea that Sentamu "is first preference for the liberal/Catholic/High wing." He's not, remotely. (The answer, incidentally, is probably Graham James of Norwich, though actually there is no obvious Catholic candidate, liberal or conservative, since the Bishop of Ely has only just got there, and the Bishop of Reading is only a diocesan).
tree_and_leaf: The Archdeacon from Rev., 3/4 profile, holding something, wearing tonsure collar. (archdeacon)
The text of a letter to the Times supporting gay marriage:

... We welcome current moves by the House of Bishops to consider again its view of civil partnerships and human sexuality. We hope this will lead to a recognition of God’s grace at work in same-sex partnerships and call on the Church to engage in theological discussion and prayerful reflection on the nature of marriage.

We also welcome recent reported statements by the Bishop of Salisbury and the new Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral calling on the Church to affirm same-sex couples who want to take on the commitment of marriage.

It is our belief that the Church of England has nothing to fear from the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples. It will be for the churches to then decide how they should respond pastorally to such a change in the law.

Signatories include the Bishop of Buckingham, the Very Rev'd Jeffery John, Dean of St Albans, and some more deans and some retired bishops.
tree_and_leaf: The Archdeacon from Rev., 3/4 profile, holding something, wearing tonsure collar. (archdeacon)
The Bishop of Buckingham (or @alantlwilson as he is known elsewhere) on gay marriage:

I am Evangelical enough to believe that Christ is, in fact, risen and we are, actually, his body in the world, charged in Matthew 28 to be good news to the whole creation, by observing his commands. He didn't say “keep everything the same” let alone “suppress gays.” He did say “Love your neighbour as yourself” and “Judge not that ye be not judged.” He did say “take the beam out of your eye before you try and remove the mote from someone else's” and “Love as I have loved you.”

Is there anything unclear about any of that? I don't think so.
tree_and_leaf: The Archdeacon from Rev., 3/4 profile, holding something, wearing tonsure collar. (archdeacon)
This short address by the Archbishop of Wales is the most encouraging take on the subject I've heard from a senior British Anglican (not my branch of the Communion, but it's something that our neighbours have more sense). He's trying to start an honest debate on how the church should respond to the institution of civil partnerships and possibly same-sex civil marriage, and identifies as the key question

how do we hold together faithfulness to Scripture and tradition with the wider New Testament call to love our neighbour?

And his final paragraph makes it fairly clear where his sympathies lie:

The question then as now is, will the church protect and support pastorally, faithful, stable, lifelong relationships of whatever kind in order to encourage human values such as love and fidelity and recognise the need in Christian people for some public religious support. As Helen says in the novel "Nightwatch" by Sarah Walters – a novel written in 1947, "what could she do to say to the world that Julia was hers?" She could have gone on to ask "what can the church do to show that this relationship is not simply something between my partner and I but that somehow God is in our midst as well and longs for our wellbeing". It is a discussion we need to have.

It's slightly embarrassing - though a compliment to Sarah Waters(!) - that he thinks "Nightwatch" is from 1947, but that's a minor point, and I am happy that ++Barry has set out the terms of debate in the way he has.
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
In A Country Church

To one kneeling down no word came,
only the wind’s song, saddening the lips
of the grave saints, rigid in glass;
Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,
bats not angels, in the high roof.
Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long,
and saw love in a dark crown
of thorns blazing and a winter tree
golden with fruit of a man’s body.

R.S. Thomas.
tree_and_leaf: Red and white striped lighthouse, being hit by wave (lighthouse)
I urge you, if you are a British citizen or resident and you care about the future of the NHS, to sign this petition to drop the NHS bill. It is being overwhelmingly opposed by NHS medical staff and, we now discover, some of Lansley's own party are not happy about it either.

The NHS is one of the proudest achievements of this country. If you care about it, make your voice heard, and don't let the government push through this unholy mess.
tree_and_leaf: Peter Davison in Five's cricket gear, leaning on wall with nose in book, looking a bit like Peter Wimsey. (Books)
Very sad to hear that Reginald Hill has died. Although I didn't talk about them much here, I absolutely loved Dalziel and Pascoe and the rest of the Mid-Yorks crew. Such good detective stories - gripping, well-written, with utterly believable characters, and the ability to explore very dark things without losing a sense of humour - which is, after all, one of the ways of coping with the darkness.
tree_and_leaf: Burne-Jones angel playing trumpet, caption "Make a joyful noise." (joyful noise)
There's a lot of good music for Epiphany, which unfortunately often doesn't get heard as much (unless, like my first choice, it gets co-opted for carol services).

So: here's King's Cambridge doing Cornelius' "Three Kings." The soloist is more forward than he often is in performance/ recordings, but I don't think it's a bad thing, though it may be partly explained by the difficulties of recording in Kings, which has a rotten acoustic.*

I tried to find a decent recording of "Brightest and Best" - an unusual hymn, in that the first verse is addressed to a star, although one might chose to read the star as an image for John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, who is often linked with the star in patristic (and later) writings.** But this is surprisingly difficult, and not helped by the proliferation of tunes. The following recording, a bluegrass tune sung by the McLain Family Band, was not what I was looking for, but I think it's rather charming:

And, although the Russian Orthodox don't celebrate Epiphany for another thirteen days, I like this snippet of the Epiphany liturgy, the troparion (a stanza chanted at various points in the services throughout the day, if I have got that right - Orthodox liturgy is a bit of a closed book to me, as it's very different to the Western tradition):

You will notice that the troparion seems to be more appropriate to the Baptism of Christ, but this is because, as the name suggests, the fundamental point of the Epiphany is not the wise men or the gifts, but the simple idea of Christ revealed to the world, and thus revealing God to the world; so there's an obvious thematic link. This is also picked up in the very Anglican hymn, Songs of Thankfulness and Praise (horrible audio warning!), which goes from the visit of the kings, to the baptism of Christ, to his first miracle at the Wedding at Cana, to his healing ministry, and looks forward to his 'great Epiphany' at the end of time, when he will judge the world and be recognised by it. It's actually one of my favourite Epiphany hymns from the point of view of lyrics, although Salzburg is not an exciting tune, and on balance "Brightest and Best" still just wins...

(This is a poor quality recording, but there wasn't a lot of choice!)

* It's not as bad as St Paul's but few things are. I have never understood the psalms, or even the readings, there, and it's not down to the failures of the choir.

** There is, for instance, a plausible interpretation of the famous line from Crist:
Éala, Éarendel, engla beorhtast,
ofer middangeard monnum sended,

(Hail, Earendel, brightest of angels, sent to men over the earth) where, although Earendel seems to be the name for the morning star, it would refer to John as the herald of Christ, as is certainly the case in the Blickling Homilies.
tree_and_leaf: Burne-Jones angel playing trumpet, caption "Make a joyful noise." (Make a joyful noise)

Westminster Cathedral Choir singing the Advent Prose (Rorate Caeli - Drop down ye Heavens from Above, and let the skies pour down righteousness). Westminster Cathedral really do have a great choir, especially when it comes to Gregorian chant.

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" by the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge (the church is actually the cathedral at Bury St Edmunds, though).

"Lo He Comes With Clouds Desending" - Lichfield Cathedral Choir (taking it rather slow, but it's still a cracking hymn).

"Wachet Auf" - Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Concertus Musicus Wien (nb: this is 28 mins long...)

tree_and_leaf: Text icon: Anglican Socialist Weirdo (Anglican socialist weirdo)
After the prolonged spectacle of the Dean and Chapter of St Pauls making asses of themselves over the Occupy London protests, I'm heartened by Giles Fraser's integrity (though I'm appalled that it's become necessary for him to do it, and I cannot think what the Chapter have been thinking, other than that they're running round like headless chickens in an unnecessary panic).

Despite the icon, I might note that Cramner, no bleeding heart liberal to say the least, broadly agrees with me.

Of course, I always wondered how long Giles Fraser could stick it at St Pauls...
tree_and_leaf: Francis Urquhart facing viewer, edge of face trimmed off, caption "I couldn't possibly comment" (couldn't possibly comment)
I have rather wasted this morning by getting distracted by the Grauniad website, and worse still, the comments section (I ought to know better than to read below the line). It's too easy to point and mock some of the things that people say in CiF threads (there's an obvious reason, dear reader, why someone picked McCartney rather than Lennon in a discussion of the greatest living songwriters...), but it's still surprising to see how old meme continues to circulate.

Such as the guy who commented on the (shocking and dreadful) story about stolen babies in Spain, in which the Spanish government and apparently also the church authorities played a very discreditable role, by saying, more or less "No wonder Cardinal Newman thought it was OK to lie!"

That particular line's a real blast from the 1860s...
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
A (right-wing) friend on Facebook indignantly cites a claim by the Spectator that:

there are 360 union officials not only working full-time in government departments but paid by the taxpayer to do so at a cost of some £19 million.

Contextualisation of this from people who know more about the labour movement? I know that shop stewards and the like are entitled to paid time off for their union activities, but that doesn't seem to be what he's banging on about. (I also strongly suspect that the truth is not going to shock or appall me, given that I think that unionisation is a Good Thing).
tree_and_leaf: Francis Urquhart facing viewer, edge of face trimmed off, caption "I couldn't possibly comment" (couldn't possibly comment)
I have nothing very much to say about AC Grayling's proposed "New College of the Humanities", except that it sounds like a colossal rip-off* that won't get you anything you couldn't have got cheaper at the various colleges of the University of London, other than a extra few lectures by a bunch of ego-mad media dons, so I will merely record my amusement at Boris Johnson's take on the matter:

London's mayor, Boris Johnson, backed Grayling's idea, saying "it fully deserves to succeed and to be imitated".

It prompted him, Johnson added, to recall his own idea of founding "Reject's College, Oxbridge", which would be "aimed squarely at the wrathful parents – many of them Oxbridge graduates – who simply could not understand how their own offspring could rack up three A-stars and grade 8 bassoon, and yet find themselves turned down".

* Of students, and also of the University of London's investment in developing courses and syllabuses (with public money, one might add).
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
(Or: more glaringly bad reporting of religious issues than usual).

Daily Fail headline: Church of England row as cathedral opens doors to tarot card readers and crystal healers in 'new age' festival.

The story proceeds:

The event - featuring tarot card readers, crystal healers, dream interpretation, and a fire-breathing vicar - is to be held in Manchester Cathedral in May.

But the move is certain to anger traditionalists, who feel the Church has already strayed too far from tradition.

Hundreds have already defected to the Roman Catholic Church after deep splits over the ordination of gay and women priests.

Anglican leaders in Manchester decided to hold the festival in the historic cathedral in a bid to embrace alternative forms of Christianity.

You will note that the row refered to in the title hasn't actually eventuated (weasel words: 'certain to anger traditionalists'). Good old Daily Mail, ever keen to find an excuse to shoehorn in an extra bit of extra misogyny and homophobia. Actually, I suspect that even the angriest member of FiF is probably not going to do more than role their eyes and mutter something along the lines of "sodding Fresh Expressions", because the event as described by the Diocese of Manchester" is a good deal more innocuous. I mean, in many ways (other than the obvious) my spirituality is pretty traditionalist, and although in many ways it doesn't sound like the sort of thing I'd enjoy (though the icon workshops sound pretty good)... meh. I've heard many more dubious things proposed in the name of Fresh Expressions.

The 'crystal healing' appears to be the thing about the Christian symbolism of gemstones. Which doesn't excite me, but - I've read enough mediaeval literature by perfectly orthodox Catholic Christians to find it boring (Y HALO THAR WOLFRAM!), rather than anything else...

In other words: don't trust the Daily Mail.
tree_and_leaf: Francis Urquhart facing viewer, edge of face trimmed off, caption "I couldn't possibly comment" (couldn't possibly comment)
I don't know how I missed this at the time, but: the new Trade Secretary is Stephen Green*, who was chairman of HSBC (no, he's not an MP, but that's not the peculiar bit).

The peculiar bit is that he is also the Rev'd Stephen Green, and an Anglican priest. I'm not sure who the last minister in holy orders was, though I have a feeling it was William Juxon, who combined being Bishop of London with First Lord of the Admiralty and Chancellor of the Exchequer under Charles I (and later gave Charles the last rites). Not, I fear, the most auspicious immediate predecessor, though his grace had a fairly peacable Civil War; he retired to the country to hunt, and was briefly Archbishop of Canterbury before his death under Charles II, so I suppose it could have been worse...

Still, I find the thought of a priest in government rather odd. (I also have a terrible urge to write Yes, Minister-esque dialogue: "Ought we to call you Father, Minister?")

ETA: I was wrong about Juxon; see the estimable [profile] sir_guingulan's remarks.

*Definitely not to be confused with the Stephen Green of the truly dreadful Christian Voice conservative Christian pressure group who rather charmingly bullied a group of hospices into turning down a substantial donation from the makers of "Jerry Springer the Opera".
tree_and_leaf: Photo of spire of Freiburg Minster (14th C broached gothic) silhouetted against sunset. (Schönste Turm)
I'm still feeling gloomy about the state of the church, partly because of the Southwark business, but also, ironically, because of the fallout from General Synod. I suppose the fact that I just reread The Handmaid's Tale, and then read +Ebbsfleet's pastoral letter, which was being commended by one of my traditionalist friends on FB as thoughtful and well-considered, and an example to the other side. (Various things irritate me about said letter, but let's not get into that).

However: while I think Synod's decision on women bishops was right - and I think it would have been impossible to have found a compromise that satisfied all sides - I am sad about the hurt caused to some, about the anger, about the division. It can't be helped, I suppose - what was it Peter Wimsey said about principles?

(Or, as a friend of mine said on her RL blog, the church is called to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep - and right now is in the uncomfortable place of doing both simultaneously).


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October 2017

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