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17 January 2012

by Glyn Paflin

Passage to India

AT LAST, pace Sir John Betjeman, I don’t have to associate Leamington Spa with death any more: I have been to a wedding there. And not just any wedding, but one that was featured in that Saturday’s issue of The Times. There’s glory for you.

The Cloth and the Press were pre­sent in abundance. As Times readers may already recall from 7 January, the happy couple were Kirsten Marian Bradby and Lawrence Edward Beavan — Ed combining his new marital status with that of former re­porter on the Church Times, since both are soon to be living 7000 feet above sea level in the Indian Him­alayas.

They will be serving the interests of Woodstock School, a Christian boarding school founded in 1854, to which Kirsten escaped from London’s corporate legal world a few years ago. Ed took a little longer to tear himself away from the Lord’s work in Long Lane — but that was only to be expected.

The story of the happy couple’s off-and-on romance was told in The Times, who may charge if I repeat it in its entirety; so it is enough to say that several of us packed and took a train to Leamington and St Paul’s Church, confidently expecting, from the nature of Ed’s habitual contacts, at least an hour’s sermon and a guard of honour of Christian lawyers and B&B hoteliers.

Not all our expectations were real­ised; but you could tell that this couple were rooted in the faith and girt about with prayer, not least because the large congregation sang “Love Divine”, “Be thou my vision”, and “Praise to the Lord, the almighty” with unusual heartiness. The bride, with her supporting cast, looked radiant — and Ed looked rather pleased, too.

There was a bit of play in the sermon (by one of an impressive chapter of clerical relatives) about wives who have an outfit for a wedding, and then a back-up outfit — which led to a vital question: what the Lord wants us to clothe ourselves in. A cassock, surplice, and scarf was one of the possibilities that did flit across my mind; but each to his own.

Then there came the biggest sur­prise of all: the newly married couple went out to “I’m a Believer”. Good luck and God bless, I say.

Eye spy

LEISURELY perusal of someone else’s Christmas present (the CT didn’t get a review copy) has shed light on a corner of the satirical magazine Private Eye which used to be regarded at the Church Times with particular disapproval. It was the column “Church Times” (of course).

At first, I thought that the author of Private Eye: The first 50 years: An A-Z*, Adam Macqueen, had passed over it in silence, as it has no entry to itself. It turns out, however, that its story does appear under: “HAPPY SHIP, Not A”, where he refers to the column as “one of the most con­troversial regular features ever to appear in the Eye”.

There was, Macqueen writes, “an increasing nastiness” about Private Eye in the 1980s, the era when the column was dedicated to ex­posing “homosexualists in the Church of England and the frightful Gay Christian movement”. A burly and hard-drinking New Zealander, Paul Hal­loran, was retained to com­pile it.

This was despite his association with the Eye’s printing of a story from Wilfred De’Ath about an Oxford chaplain, which had proved to be unfounded. It had resulted in the publication of an “Apology and Retraction” so worded as to show that this time the Eye really did mean to retract: “. . . The trouble is that our readers are apt to think that ‘there is no smoke without fire’. If that is the rule this is the total exception to it. Publication of this piece was a disastrous mistake.”

“Church Times” was instigated “because it went against the spirit of the new tolerance being pushed through by figures like Ken Living­stone, and annoyed and upset so many readers. And, come to that, many of [the editor, Richard] In­grams’s own staff and friends.”

Ingrams’s personal attitude to homosexuality makes the C of E seem a model of consistency. Despite all the Eye’s derogatory references to “pooves”, for example, its salacious crossword had, from 1969 to 1976, been dictated in the office on Wed­nesdays by Tom Driberg. This poli­tician, a well-known churchman, liked to boast that he could seduce any man, gay or straight, in the time that it took the lift to reach the third floor.

The editor merely installed a notice on the ground floor: “No male member of staff will take the lift on Wednesdays.”

*Private Eye Publications, £25 (£15 at Waterstone’s); 978-1-901784-56-5

Watery answer

WHEN the Cardinal Rector of St Magnus the Martyr, the Revd Philip Warner, held his Blessing of the Thames from London Bridge, on the feast of the Lord’s Baptism, he got an email of complaint.

The assistant Harbour Master of the Port of London was objecting to the throwing of a wooden cross into the water, because, he said, it added to the rubbish that had to be cleared from the river every day. “I feel there is a sermon somewhere there,” Fr Warner writes.

“I was asked whether there was a way it could be retrieved after the ceremony. I answered that, according to Orthodox tradition, the young men of the parish should dive in, and the one who got the cross was the object of devotion for the young ladies of the parish, and should we encourage this action? I think he took the point.”

Anna’s anamnesis

WHILE others may worry before Candlemas whether to focus on our Lord (the Presentation) or his blessed Mother (the Purification), the Revd Henry Mayor, of Withington, worries that Anna the prophetess is left out of the hymn “Hail to the Lord who comes”.

So here is his extra verse, in time for the festival:

Old Anna, steeped in prayer
And worship constantly,
Tells all who wait for God
To bring them liberty,
With true prophetic power,
“This child will set you free.”

Old Anna, steeped in prayer
And worship constantly,
Tells all who wait for God
To bring them liberty,
With true prophetic power,
“This child will set you free.”

If you don’t want Simeon to steal the scene, you are free to use it.

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