Diary

by
02 July 2008

by Glyn Paflin

After Henry

TODAY, when newspapers go into mourning, they do it in grey, not black — paying their respects by the many columns of type they devote rather than the thick rules that used to be the convention.

So it was in the Church Times the week before last, when, by a strange coincidence, the Revd Professor Henry Chadwick and John Whale, the chairman of the proprietors and the editor, respectively, at the same changeful point in its history, went to their rest on the same day.

Perhaps a note should have explained that in Professor Chadwick’s obituary the paragraphs about Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd had been prepared some years ago by Dr Lionel Dakers, who in fact predeceased him in 2003 (but was still the best man for the job).

The funeral at Christ Church, Oxford, was on our press day (Wednesday) last week. I am told that it was all very fitting, with Croft and Byrd and Fauré, and an address by the Bishop of Guildford; and that the stole that was a papal gift was on the coffin. The choir sang the Negro spiritual “Steal away”, included in Common Praise, thanks to Henry’s advocacy in the editorial committee. The arrangement there is by Dr Allan Wicks; at Christ Church, they sang Michael Tippett’s version from A Child of Our Time.

The Revd Professor Owen Chadwick, Henry’s brother, gave the eulogy. I understand that he mentioned Henry’s lifelong characteristic — that even as a boy he would refuse to get into a row or slanging-match.

With this in mind, I think he may have been spared much. On one of his occasional visits to our office, he once remarked that it wasn’t the issue of women priests, but that of women bishops, which would really “smash the Crown Derby”.

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St Bart’s send-off

JOHN WHALE’s funeral followed, a day later, at St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield — the City of London church in the news because of a civil-partnership blessing there. The rose petals reportedly scattered over the happy couple are, I am told, imaginary: like many details printed in orders of service, they failed to become a reality.

The same, however, could not be said about John’s funeral, which seemed a near-perfect fit in a way that such services so often aren’t — except that the former Director General of the BBC, Alasdair Milne, was prevented by his health from taking his part in the prayers.

John and Judy Whale had worshipped at St Bartholomew’s since living near by in Clerkenwell. John loved the fine music and Prayer Book tradition, and helped to keep the intellectual level of the preaching up (“I am not sure that your answer was adequate to the question that you posed”).

Julian Haviland, a former TV colleague, in the course of his moving eulogy, recalled ITN’s doubts whether those inherited Whale vowels were demotic enough, and John’s great embarrassment, when he was elected to Richmond Council in the Labour interest, at being hoisted on his comrades’ shoulders as they sang “The Red Flag”.

The Revd John Schofield, another friend, read from Sohrab and Rustum by Matthew Arnold; Professor Peter Sinclair and John’s daughter-in-law, the actress Susan Brown, read the lessons; and when we sang “Through the night of doubt and sorrow”, a photograph of serried worshippers at a great ecumenical service floated into my mind. John had headlined it: “One the earnest looking forward”.

The choral music was in the romantic vein: Fauré, Stanford, and Parry’s uplifting Blest Pair of Sirens — setting, of course, “At a Solemn Musick” by John Milton, another writer with a classical training and a high purpose. It sent me back to Tovey’s famous Essays in Musical Analysis, where he points out that Parry’s music is particularly respectful of Milton’s sentence structure. After 24 lines: “Here is Milton’s first full stop! And here, too, in spite of (or rather because of) his beautifully clear form, is Parry’s first real full stop. . .”

It is a point that John would have appreciated more than most.

Pick your paradigm

I DON’T subscribe to the Sky Arts channel, but, judging by the Revd Professor Hans Küng’s recent “Roots of Faith” lecture, which was being recorded for a broadcast, it must be for what someone called “Third Programme people”.

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The Attlee Suite, Portcullis House, was the venue, arranged through Sir Patrick Cormack MP, Lord St John of Fawsley said: the Lords didn’t have a room big enough. It was a good audience, and with few preliminaries Professor Küng took it on a historical tour of the three monotheistic religions.

The thrust of his argument seemed to be that there is a belief shared by all three in “the one and only God of Abraham, the gracious and merciful Creator, Sustainer and Judge of all human beings”; that you must go back to origins for the essentials (the rest is contingent); and that each has gone through “paradigm shifts”, so that now believers may be living in one paradigm or another.

These paradigms — responses to crises created by external factors — might be, for example, medieval Roman Catholic; Enlightenment modern; or the “paradigm of the Ulama and Sufis”. A Christian and Muslim in a parallel or similar paradigm would feel that they had more in common with each other than with co-believers inhabiting different paradigms. (Thereby hangs a tale.)

If this sounded too schematic or heavy-going, we could always muse on his Lordship’s comparison of Professor Küng to W. H. Auden. . . On what grounds? Christians with characterful faces, of course.

Two for tea?

THE Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, has made his wife, Celia, a deacon; but it is not the first media moment in the couple’s life together.

Edward Mirzoeff, writing in the Betjeman Society’s journal, The Betjemanian, says that when he was making A Passion for Churches with Sir John for the BBC in 1974, they filmed a marriage at Lyng in Norfolk, where the bride’s father, Canon Townshend, was Rector. . .

The BBC team wanted to send the couple a present: a coffee maker, with a personal wedding ode by the Poet Laureate. Betjeman kept putting off the task until Mirzoeff finally cornered him on a British Rail outing at Olympia station and demanded some verses on the spot. Flustered, the poet produced what Mirzoeff describes as “his shortest and least felicitous poem”:

Nigel and Celia, may you be

Fonder of coffee than of tea.

Mr Mirzoeff concludes his story: “It turned out that neither of them much cared for coffee.”

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