AFTER waxing lyrical about the online London Diocesan Kalendar
January), it seems only fair - indeed, a duty and a joy - to
put in a word for the diocese of St Albans, where the Bishop, the
Rt Revd Alan Smith, has shown exemplary faith in the value of that
good old medium the printed book.
St Albans is part of a quartet of dioceses - the others are
Chelmsford, St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, and Sheffield - with
centenaries this year. While the other three were new in 1914, St
Albans is celebrating its Anschluss of the county of
Bedfordshire, with this handsome episcopal tribute to "the
Christian men and women who have served God in this area, and to
those who draw inspiration from them in their life of faith
The Bishop's mighty tome - weighing in at 2.24kg - isn't,
strictly, a diocesan calendar, although it is intended that it can
be used with the daily Office.
It would, after all, be odd, even in the age of episcopal
feminism, to bump St Paul and even St Peter off 29 June so as to
give dulia to the excellent Margaret Beaufort, mother of
Henry VII. But - who knows? - perhaps that is what they do now in
Oxford and Cambridge, where she founded two colleges, had another
one named after her, and founded a Cambridge chair of Divinity, as
Bishop Smith helpfully informs us.
The Bishop seems not to have noticed that Oxford also managed to
squeeze a Lady Margaret Divinity chair of its own out of all that
pious abundance; but he does give an honourable mention to Margaret
Beaufort Middle School, Riseley. I wonder whether that has ever
seen much of her cash.
She is not, of course, the only good woman in his pages - one
page for every day of the year, each with a spaciously laid-out
mini-biography, a substantial quotation, a prayer, and occasionally
a beautifully reproduced portrait - as in the photo of Jennifer
Worth, author of Call the Midwife, which is on our Books
pages this week (page 31). This book will look impressive
on a lectern or prayer desk - which is, I understand, the Bishop's
cunning plan for every church, school, or chaplaincy in his
Among those whom he claims as linked to St Albans are Dame
Cicely Saunders, Mother Jane SLG, Mother Mary Clare CSM, and Mary
Augusta Ward, as well as a selection of historic personages
including Katherine of Aragon, Queen Elizabeth I, and even her
tiresome sister (the Bishop is far more ecumenical than I am on
ut they do not have to be famous. Joan Wilkins (1918-2001),
known as "Dorkie", was born in the workhouse, the Bishop writes.
She became a live-in housekeeper, and was eventually churchwarden
at St Mary's, Shelton, for 40 years. "The Church was the centre of
her life and, thanks to her, thrived in a village with barely fifty
Editor and Dean
EVEN editing the Church Times is not a bar to inclusion
in Bishop Smith's catalogue of holiness, since Rosamund Essex gets
a page, as does as her theological minder at the CT in the
1950s, Dean Thicknesse, who was wounded when he was serving as a
military chaplain at Ypres. His page has a reflection by Antonios
Kirepopoulos on arms reduction, and a prayer to be saved from "the
sins that lead to conflict and war".
John Bunyan, Ninian Comper, Isaak Walton, Trevor Huddleston,
Herbert Sumsion, John Tradescant, Adrian Fortescue, and saints of
the Universal Church - there is nothing if not variety here. I was
glad to be introduced to Alexander of Neckam (1157-1217), an
Augustinian canon who was born at St Albans and taught at
Dunstable, and was "the first Westerner to write about the way that
sailors could utilise the compass to help them navigate". A
surprising contribution from land-locked Bedfordshire, you may
The quoted passages range widely, from St Benedict and St
Cyprian to William Law, Austin Farrer, C. S. Lewis, and Kenneth
Leech. The selection reminds me a little of that scholarly
anthology that came out a few years ago from OUP, Love's
Redeeming Work. This would, no doubt, please Charles Williams,
a Press man himself, who features as an alumnus of St Albans
School, and with a passage from his wonderful book The Descent
of the Dove - and that really is a tribute, since I
find his poetry and fiction quite unreadable.
Saints and Pilgrims in the Diocese of St Albans is published
by the Amphibalus Press at £25 (CT Bookshop £22.50);
IT WAS one of the differences between the Church Times
and the generality of newspapers that, when I first joined the
staff, much of the space in the newsroom cupboard was taken up by
elderly volumes from the Henry Bradshaw Society.
This was nothing to with railway timetables. The society, it
appeared, had been in the habit of publishing medieval liturgical
texts on expensive paper with a scholarly apparatus and no
concession to the educational shortcomings of what is known as the
Perhaps it had once been a necessity for the CT's
reporters to have rapid access to such volumes on discovering
sensational scandals - perhaps a mistranslation by Bishop Frere in
a collect for a lesser saint's day in the 1927 Prayer Book; or that
Percy Dearmer had invented a piece of ceremonial in his
Parson's Handbook just because he thought it would be nice
So it is pleasant to discover, with the arrival in the office of
English Monastic Litanies of the Saints after 1100: Volume II,
Pontefract-York (Boydell Press for the HBS, £45
(£40.50); 978-1-90749-727-8), edited by Nigel J.
Morgan, that the society still exists, and still does very much the
same thing in the same style. I need hardly say that the notes on
the manuscripts are very full, and that this is an edition, not a
translation, and so would-be readers will need to brush up their
St Albans (see left) is well represented, with star
billing in its manuscripts for St Alban himself, of course, and for
St Amphibalus and St Oswin. But this is a project that grew like
Topsy, Volume II taking Professor Morgan's tally of litanies from
all corners of the land to CXIII (you see: the style is
Moreover, as the Publications Secretary's preface announces,
there is "breaking news": "an addendum to Volume I presenting a
recently discovered fragment of a litany from Norwich Cathedral
Priory. That addendum stands also as a tribute to Professor
Morgan's remarkable energy in doggedly pursuing every line of
enquiry in order to bring us the most up-to-date picture of
medieval English monastic litanies."
So now you see why such books belong in a newsroom.
Change at Holborn
PARTINGS are all the sweeter sorrow when you know that in fact
someone isn't going far.
The former Archdeacon of Hackney, the Revd Dr Lyle Dennen, an
occasional contributor to our pages (who stood in for the Bishop of
Chichester after he inconvenienced our Sunday's Readings column by
having a heart attack), has just retired as Rector of St Andrew's,
Holborn. He is moving to the East End of London.
His farewell Candlemas service in St Andrew's was quite a do,
with a packed church despite the Tube strike, and a touch of
theatre reminiscent of both the medieval Church and the 1970s TV
version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, when his wife,
Xenia Dennen (chairman of the Keston Institute), sang the
programme's famous closing music, Geoffrey Burgon's solo setting of
the Nunc Dimittis, from the church's gallery, at the point when
Simeon utters it in the Gospel reading.
Dr Dennen, who was once a high-flying lawyer in the United
States, and has been referred to as Pontius Pilate's brother
(because his brother Barry took that role in Jesus Christ
Superstar), explained his own surprising career path to
inner-city ministry in London (much of it in Kennington) by quoting
an unlikely and rather sweary Southern Baptist pastor.
This gentleman had replied to a young man's question about why
he had become a minister: "Because I was called, yer damn'
fool." And, of course, the point of the story was that the
rest of us are called, too.