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21 April 2009

by Glyn Paflin

Vicar’s reproaches (I)

A PACKET of pleasures from the Algarve rang a little bell when it arrived in the office with the humble thought that we might find it of “some interest when planning your next diary column”.

It held an embarrassment of riches — such as a charming brochure from Nashdom Abbey. (It isn’t entirely true that, in their triumphal days, the Anglican religious orders never publicised their work.)

Also enclosed, The Dome, an Anglican Catholic newspaper, for March 1958, argues that the Church of South India has finally revealed its true colours. The editor consoled his readers with a drawing of St Joseph by Enid Chadwick, and Fr S. J. Forrest’s comic poem based on a misprint about the hanging pyx in Bec.

For all of this, I have Ian Radford to thank. He was moving home, and found them among a few items from St Stephen’s, Grove Street, in Liverpool — a bit of very high Anglican culture in its day.

St Stephen’s was, I understand, knocked down in the 1980s. From that decade came the faint tinkle as of a Brighton sanctuary bell; for its April 1957 parish magazine bears the unmistakable stamp of the Revd John Milburn, whose colourful CT obituary by Canon Brindley I well remember reading (in 1988, it appears). After his incumbency of St Paul’s, Brighton, Fr Milburn ended his days in Hove — he was South Coast Religion to the last.

He was formidable in his photo, but even more formidable in the Vicar’s letter. “Dear friends, . . . the weeknight evening services of Lent have suffered as far as attendance counts. . . Here and now let me say that it is not the small body of ‘faithful’ I reproach — I know they do all they can — but the far larger number who have made no sort of apparent effort to observe Lent.

“You should realise that the Sundays of Lent are all feasts, and that coming to Mass or Evensong then is of no particular virtue. It is your obligation. The real observance of Lent depends upon what you do during the week.

“We are approaching Passiontide, and the Church enters her longest period of sustained remembrance of the suffering and death of her Founder. This fortnight gives even the most nominal of church mem­bers a solid and inescapable reminder of the Price of our Redemption. I feel that we have the right to expect a much greater response from you than we have had up to now. . .

“I am sorry for that person to whom this has no meaning, whose heart registers no response to the Appeal from the Cross. Don’t let it be you.”

Vicar’s reproaches (II)

HOLY WEEK services, he reminded them, were a “day-to-day enactment of all that Christ did for us then”. How different from the Lent we have just had! In some ostensibly Catholic parishes, I hear that one could look in vain for any services or sacraments between Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday. I wonder what that is sup­posed to affirm, exactly.

But Fr Milford’s sternest words were reserved for those planning to desert the Anglican fold for Rome. In “Going over to Auntie’s”, he ad­dressed himself to “an Anglican who has decided to make enquiries about joining the Roman Church”.

“I have no word of criticism for the Roman Clergy, only for many of the Anglicans who go to them for instruction. They are the first to agree that it is not always the best types of the Church of England members who ‘go over’. . .

“One thing you almost certainly will not have done is to have talked over the matter with your own Anglican parish priest. . . You, who

so pride yourself upon your fair treatment for the condemned criminal, . . . who always say wisely ‘There’s right and wrong on both sides’; yes, you are the one who denies this right to the Church which has been your Mother and the Ark of your Salvation until now. . .

“I could tell you true stories of Anglican ordinands who have received hundreds, sometimes many hundreds, of pounds of Church money for their education. In some cases they have completed their university degree. Then they become converts to Rome. . .

“Even more difficult to explain is the conduct of two recently con­verted priests, who performed their normal religious duties all through the period of their instructions, even saying Mass on the very morning when they were received into the Roman Church. What mental chicanery is this? . . .

“This strange course of ‘instruc­tion’, which in any other field you would condemn as unsound, un­critical and — from the stand­point of historic truth — valueless, has brought you to the point where you are to be ‘received’. . . But this is where you, my imaginary convert friend, will get a big shock! You will be instructed to prepare for Con­ditional Baptism.”

At least that’s different now, and perhaps always will be — provided our clergy aren’t allowed to muck about with the baptismal formula.

Stained-glass saint

I LEARNT a new word from Andrew Brown, our press columnist, last week — and it is even one that bears repetition in polite company: “pareidolia”.

The Shorter Oxford doesn’t have it; but I see from the internet that it means the sort of phenomenon where someone sees the face of Jesus in a tortilla, for example, and is the basis of the Rorschach inkblot test.

Whether it applies to my latest case is up to our readers to decide. After the story of the Barsham rood (News, 27 March; Letters, 9 April), Ted Harrison tells us: “A curious effect of light is seen at Bilsington Parish Church in Kent every February. The morning sun shining through a stained-glass window of St Paul throws an image on a side wall. The image, however, is not of St Paul, but bears a remarkably close resemblance to Archbishop Rowan Williams.”

See for yourselves (below).

See for yourselves (below).

Winner takes it all

IS THIS what Edward de Bono meant by lateral thinking? The Revd Alan Isaacson, Rector of St Nicholas’s, Bradfield, near Sheffield, writes: “An email from Amazon tells me that as I have recently purchased Faith Confirmed, Churchwardens: A survival guide, and Church Repres­entation Rules, they recommend that I purchase Mamma Mia! The DVD.”

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