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16 February 2010

by John Pridmore

Praise be for Tennessee

I WAS moved by the first collect for the First Sunday of Christmas: “Praise be to thee, Father of myriad waters, for coursing life gushing upon the land of Tennessee — for prancing freshets reviving the earth; for sweet streams to slake man’s thirst; for swift rivers carving paths for hunters’ feet. After thy leading have thy people followed, resting only where beaver or man has caused the flood to pause. . .”.

We were staying with my stepson and his family in Philadelphia, and had gone with them to the Wash­ington Memorial Chapel, Valley Forge, for the parish eucharist. There, they say a prayer each Sunday for a different state of the United States.

Here, surely, is a good example for the English Church. Any further revision of Common Worship should provide collects for our coun­ties. These would have to be in alpha­betical order. We would pray first for Bedfordshire, then Berkshire, and so on, Sunday by Sunday, until we came finally to Yorkshire.

Our calendar of county collects might start thus: “Almighty God, we bless thee for Bedfordshire — for Whipsnade Zoo, where the proud Arabian Oryx has been saved from extinction; for the 306th Bombard­ment Group Museum, Thurleigh, which, as thou knowest, reopens on 6 March; and also for Biggleswade, where, O God of justice, we urge thee not to overlook those living on the wrong side of the River Ivel.”

Buses trump Bhutan

I AM rightly reprimanded. In my last Diary I mentioned that passengers on Brighton buses thank the driver before they get off. I suggested that this does not happen anywhere else.

“Outraged of Oswestry”, “Livid of Limpsfield”, “Incensed of Ipswich”, “Riled of Rickmansworth”, and many more, have quite properly taken me to task. They tell me that they and their neighbours are just as courte­ous to their bus drivers as we are in Brighton.

I have been writing these Diary pieces for 15 years, but nothing I have previously said has raised such a storm. I am intrigued that my re­mark about Brighton buses should have touched so many nerves, espe­cially in view of something else I said in the same Diary, a comment that elicited no response whatever.

I pointed out that in Bhutan they have built a society approximating to the Kingdom of God without any assistance from Christianity. Appar­ently, I am alone in finding that circumstance interesting.

Hidden treasures

I WAS pleased to be invited to speak at a recent ecumenical conference in Leeds, “Communion Treasure”. The event focused on the involvement of children in holy communion. I was glad to be asked, but also surprised.

For 40 years, I have been boring everyone in earshot with my opin­ions about children’s participation — or lack of it — in the eucharist. I should have thought that the pros­pect of more from me on this matter would cause a stampede to the exits. At my requiem, I shall hammer on the lid of my coffin in protest at the rule that the only chil­dren allowed to share in my farewell party will be the select few whose names are in a register kept in the vestry.

By way of preparation for my Leeds talk — and to indulge my mor­bid appetite for the macabre — I revisited the C of E’s Regulations on the Admission of Baptised Children to Holy Com­mun­ion.

Everything epitomising the ascend­­ancy of the managerial mind-set is here: the constipated legalese, the battery of bullet points, the prioritising of the procedural over the pastoral, the terror of the untidiness that charac­terises life and growth, the hectoring dictatorial tone, the lust for lists, the purple tape. Every window is sealed against the wind blowing where it wills.

Kafkaesque words catch my eye: “A child who presents evidence in the form stipulated in paragraph 9. . .”. I read no further, for I am close to tears. I think of a kind man who took children in his arms and blessed them. If I remember rightly, he did not have an archdeacon at his elbow, demanding from these little ones evidence of their acceptability.

John Paul’s legacy

SLUSH on the pavement has turned to ice. It is dark and very cold. The short stroll back from Sainsbury’s, in Fulham Broadway, where I have been shopping, to the front door of the house where we are looking after the cats is as daunting as a polar ex­pedi­tion. Ahead, beneath a lamp-post, schoolkids, some hooded, are exchanging loud obscenities.

I retain enough street-wisdom from my Hackney days to take avoid­ing action, and I step into the road. Immediately, my feet slide from under me and I fall heavily. My shop­ping is now scattered over a wide area of SW6. Fulham youth contem­plates this spectacle with interest.

Then a girl breaks away from the group. She comes over to me, helps me to my feet, picks up my shopping, and insists on seeing me safely home. She tells me that she goes to “the Pope John Paul II School”. I mention that I saw this famous pope when he visited this country. She is still lumbered with my shopping; so I do not burden her further with my sad­ness that a pontiff who so warmed to wonderful young people like her did little to defrost the Vatican.

Well remembered

I RECEIVED an email recently that cheered me up no end. It was from David, who attended the school where I was the chaplain. I hadn’t heard from him for 30 years.

He reminded me of a prayer I taught the youngest boys and girls. We called it the GIANT prayer:

God, you love me so much.
I want to love you more.
All the time you’re with me.
Never need I fear.
Thank you, God. Amen.

David tells me that he has recently been accepted for training for the ministry. I hope that he will go on saying my simple GIANT prayer, even though the organisation he will be working for makes everything so horribly complicated.

The Revd Dr Pridmore, a former Rector of Hackney, has retired to Brighton.

Out of the Question will return next week.

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