Diary: Second thoughts

02 November 2006


WHY IS IT that when church organisations rebrand, the new name is rarely an improvement?

I once tackled the officers of what we used to call the Girls’ Friendly Society about renaming it GFS Platform for Young Women; and a former colleague had a similar axe to grind with the Children’s Society (formerly Waifs & Strays), for (at that time) dropping the words “Church of England”, and thus disguising part of its relevance to our readers.

ICS, the Intercontinental Church Society, changed its name to to keep up with the end of Empire: Col. & Con., Com. & Con., Intercon — and now just initials. CMS, of course, dropped a suffix, and the un-PC image that went with it.

If we are going to get into bed with the Methodists, something will have to be done about the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs, which has announced: “MAYC, the youth section of the Methodist Church, has agreed that it will now be known as ‘MAYC — Supporting Youth Work in the Methodist Church’.”

Are they insane? No, of course not; but the rest of us soon would be if the Church Army in its zeal for  Mission-shaped Church ( Features, 8 October) called itself the Non-Territorial Church Army.

The Mothers’ Union never changes its name, though you don’t have to be a mother or even a woman to join up. If it does, may I suggest “Mothers’ Union and Men’s Society”? Its members will still be able to call themselves MUMS.

Road and ray map
OUR Middle East Correspondent, Gerald Butt, must have been nodding like Homer recently, for we had to rely on Benjamin Creme (of Share International magazine) for some vital statistics about the late Yasser Arafat.

“Could you please give the ray structure and point of evolution of Yasser Arafat (1929-2004), President of the Palestinian Authority?” is the first question Mr Creme offers to answer.

No problem, as they say: “Soul: 6; Personality: 4 (sub-ray 6); Mental: 1 (sub-ray 4); Astral: 6 (sub-ray 6); Physical: 3 (sub-ray 7). Point of evolution: 2.4 degrees initiate. In terms of spiritual development Yasser Arafat was the equivalent of former US President John F. Kennedy (PoE 2.4) and more advanced than Mahatma Gandhi (PoE: 2.0).”

“Was Yasser Arafat poisoned?”

“No,” Mr Creme explains, “he died of a broken heart.”

Clerical page-turner
IN THE Christmas bazaars, the bookstalls have been giving up their dead. Scan them carefully, if you have enjoyed our extracts from Keble’s sermons: you might find The Vision Splendid by D. K. Broster and G. W. Taylor (1913), which I got from an open-air stall in Islington the other day.

It was the work of two college friends from Oxford, and is like two novels spliced together: one set among the Tractarians, the other among the Legitimists in France, the two worlds united when Horatia, an Anglican clergy daughter, marries a French toff, Armand de la Roche-Guyon. The epilogue is set in an Anglo-Catholic slum parish in an English seaport.

There is a scene at Oriel where one of the characters muses: “You know, Tristram, what we want . . . is some arresting kind of writing, some series of short essays in popular form that could be circulated among the country clergy — essays to prove the continuity of the Church for instance. . . . I must talk to Newman about it. I fancy it might appeal to him.”

“What might appeal to Newman?” asks a voice.
“Oh, come in, Froude. . .”

The novel isn’t mentioned in A. L. Drummond’s useful The Churches in English Fiction; but D. K. Broster (1877-1950) went on to write other historical novels (e.g. The Jacobite Trilogy, including The Flight of the Heron), which were popular. There is a good article about her on the internet. Does she have a fan base among our readers?

Parochial fantasies
MILESTONES, the parish magazine of All Saints’, Friern Barnet, in north London, is one of a number currently venturing into fiction.

I have been enjoying “Calder Wood” in Allerton Alive (edited by Chris and Carol Savidge at All Hallows’, Allerton, in Liverpool diocese), which told of Cuggly Wuggly’s first day at school. This feared day went well after Uncle Archie explained to C. W. that Jesus would be going, too: “He is never nasty and he doesn’t take sides.” A lesson for Anglicans there, perhaps.

The Milestones story is more for the adult market. “All had been set up by 10 p.m. and the hall locked up. Now, at 1 a.m., here was Mrs Sauna, a respected member of the Church Council, the Sale’s organiser, stretched out on the hall floor, naked except for a pair of wellington boots and a white patent-leather handbag covering her ***. And, in her right hand, violent-red lipstick, with which she had scrawled her dying instructions, on the said handbag: Check the bric-a-brac. Ring the Area Dean!”

As the mystery unravels, we learn that the Mothers’ Union is a front for a secret society that has existed since the Middle Ages; that Enid Blyton was Grand Mistress of the Order of the Sacred Pentangle; and that the reason why the clergy wear a “dog collar” (a question the Church Times is often asked) is that it is a secret sign related to Timmy the Dog, fifth member of the Famous Five.

Proof’s in the reading
OTHER PEOPLE’S misprints come to us; but what can we do about them? Sarah Maxwell of Bottisham, near Cambridge, was singing at a wedding, and found something in “Praise my soul” for the wicked uncles: “In his hands he gently bares us.”

Canon Giles Godber, ecumenical officer for Peterborough diocese had Church House Publishing’s Christmas brochure, and saw that the publicity shot for its 2005 engagement calendar gave 1 April as being All Saints’ Day. Oh, there’s a free sermon in that.

And the Evening Standard reported that the “Quietist” London boroughs were Sutton, Bromley, Croydon, Harrow, Richmond . . .

 We might have guessed.

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read up to twelve articles for free. (You will need to register.)