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18 January 2013


NEXT Friday will be a red-letter day in the diocese of London - and I do mean that literally. The Conversion of St Paul has been promoted in the diocese from a Festival to a Principal Feast (to use Common Worship terms) - on a par with Candlemas, Lady Day, and All Saints' Day.

For readers of a detective bent, I can explain that it has been done by creative use of Canon B6 para. 5, which allows "the Ordinary to approve Holy Days which may be observed locally". So this and 29 new London commemorations are features of the new London Kalendar, which has just appeared on the diocesan website.

The Ordinary is, of course, the diocesan Bishop, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres. A handful of his predecessors - such as Erkenwald and the scholarly Mandell (not Mandall) Creighton, historian of the papacy - make it into the Kalendar, but not, of course, any whom most of us can remember, since they need to have been "deceased for 50 years".

Nevertheless, special allowance seems to have been made for T. S. Eliot, churchwarden of St Stephen's, Gloucester Road (d. 1965; 4 January); and Dorothy Kerin (d. 1963) just scrapes in, though surely her miraculous healing, and her mystical experiences in the Enfield vicarage of St Mark's, Bush Hill Park, would have fast-tracked her anyway (26 January).

Dean Inge (d. 1954), perhaps better remembered nowadays for his gloom and his views on eugenics than for his Bampton Lectures on mysticism, gets in on 26 February, the day after "Christopher Wren, Scientist, Architect, 1723" (you can't take your knighthood with you).

Among the other worthies, dear old Fr Stanton has got in on 28 March, in time for his centenary this year; George Lansbury, "Social Reformer, 1940", grandfather of the Hollywood star Angela (7 May); Granville Sharp, the slavery abolitionist ("Social Reformer, 1813", 6 July), who lies in Fulham Churchyard; and Fr Jellicoe, the slum-clearer of Somers Town (d.1935 - a short life, as he was born in 1899), "Priest, Social Reformer". Alfred Gough, Vicar of Holy Trinity, Brompton, and campaigner against the persecution of believers in Soviet Russia, is remembered on 7 October.

Among the ecumenical folk here are Spurgeon (31 January) and Whitefield (30 September), and John Houghton and his Companions, Carthusian Martyrs (1535, 4 May), which is no surprise, since Dr James Thomson, the former Master of Charterhouse, is the mastermind behind the Kalendar, for which suggestions were canvassed from the diocese.

I foresee a risk for the cathedral in announcing St Paul's Shipwreck on 10 February. The Evening Standard may phone Canon Giles Fraser about it.

"A FUN Way to Learn Church History and Theology" is a phrase that conjures up, to my mind, the image of a comfortable sofa, a packet of chocolate Hobnobs, and a sensible Victorian textbook such as Evan Daniel's The Prayer-Book: Its history, language, and contents.

But, without moving quite as far as the electronic age, Zondervan has decided that the way to brush up one's theology is now through "Theologian Trading Cards"*, developed by Norman Jeune III: "Nearly 300 cards cover major theologians, leaders, and even troublemakers . . . At-a-glance info that includes time period, writings, and significance. . . Study on your own or quiz your friends."

From Abelard to Wittgenstein, Ambrose to . . . Kevin J. Vanhoozer? - yes, my world is too small - this looks like a jolly way to do your revision, and, indeed, the idea reminds me of the Key Facts cards that we bought in the days of O levels - let alone cigarette and Brooke Bond's tea cards. But apparently the idea derives from all-American baseball cards, with which I am unfamiliar.

The theologians all arrive at once in a box, shrink-wrapped in their various categories, such as "Wittenberg Whistle-Blowers", "Münster Radicals", and even "Canterbury Monarchs", which is amplified as "English Reformers/Anglicans/Puritans". So what John Knox is doing in there is anyone's guess.

Hours of fun could be had with this in certain theological-college common rooms - but, to be honest, it does seem likely to be a toy for the boys.
*Zondervan, £17.49; 978-0-310-32858-2

THE City and Islington College offered this summary of Christmas last month: "In the UK, Christmas is the biggest religious holiday in the calendar. For Christians, Christmas is the holy day that marks the birth of Jesus, the Son of God.

"For both Christians and non-Christians, attending Mass at midnight on Christmas Eve and Church on Christmas Day play an important role in celebrating the birth of Jesus.

"The Christmas period is associated with Christmas trees, carol singing, nativity plays, pantomimes, advent wreaths, holly and various local and regional events such as the turning on of Christmas lights."

"OUT of the blue, I started writing poems," Paul Juby writes. "Not beautiful ones, not pretty ones, but all with solid messages of hope and direction. These are messages from the shoulder to church leaders and passive Christians and poems to show the way to all seekers.

"These poems can be read to congregations to stir them into action. These poems can be read in the quiet at home. Almost all bring revival to the fore. Messages are aimed at the heart of every person."

Mr Juby, a "preacher's kid", and a pioneer Boys' Brigade leader in Malaysia, now a Methodist lay preacher in the UK, has gone to the trouble and expense of publishing his poems with a US firm*; so a wider audience may find itself in sympathy with his sentiments. Here are a few snippets.

From "Meet at My House":

Our church has empty pews.
This is the fault of all,
Church members, the pastor,
And all who attend.
All have failed to evangelize.
Evangelism must be done
By every Christian. . .

From "Saved? How, Man?"

Has anyone asked you
"Are you saved?"
Did it scare you away?
The person who asked you
Had courage to speak
Even if his words
Seemed too direct.
There are better ways. . .

And from "Don't Touch Asbestos", which speaks only too powerfully to my inner churchwarden:

Years ago,
Asbestos was used
To protect us from fire.
Now it is known
As toxic to our bodies.
No longer used,
It is torn down.
The Lord gives free choice,
Free will to all,
But it's a bit like asbestos. . .

*Revival, Hallelujah! From the shoulder by Paul Juby is published by InspiringVoices ($US13.99; 978- 1-46240-128-4; or $3.99 as an eBook). www.inspiringvoices.com

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