The medium of dance
THE world has changed terribly in my lifetime. I give one
instance: I was in Cambridge recently for an examiners' meeting. If
you walk into town from the railway station, the first of the many
churches you encounter is St Paul's.
When I was at Ridley Hall in the '60s, you knew what St Paul's
stood for. Under the ministry of the redoubtable Herbert Carson,
"the five points of Calvinism" were proclaimed. These, you recall,
are Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement,
Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints. (If you
have trouble remembering them, the acronym TULIP will help.)
Passing St Paul's on my way to the meeting, I was curious to see
what this fearsome Reformation stronghold had to say for itself
these days. I checked the noticeboards, and a forthcoming
attraction caught my eye: a course in "Tribal-style belly-dancing".
This is a pursuit that I do not recall being advocated by
IT IS one of life's few certainties that one is rarely
electrified in Worthing. But, recently, we were. The European Arts
Company's staging of The Trials of Oscar Wilde came to the
Connaught Theatre for just one thrilling night. Our good friend
John Gorick played Wilde. ("Is this the same John Gorick", I hear
you ask, "who so memorably played the part of the Korean
interpreter in a recent series of Holby City?" Indeed it
John delighted us with Wilde's wit. But he also bore witness to
Wilde's pain. The play's heartbreaking conclusion has the judge and
Wilde speaking antiphonally from either side of the stage. The
judge rehearses, one by one, the crimes, as they then were, for
which Wilde stands condemned - and takes savage delight in doing
From the other side of the stage we hear Wilde reciting the
famous closing lines of "De Profundis", the astonishing apologia
that he will write during his incarceration: "Nature, whose sweet
rains fall on unjust and just alike, will have clefts in the rocks
where I may hide and secret valleys in which I may weep
undisturbed. . ." There are few of Wilde's witticisms in "De
Profundis", but much of his capacity for compassion and
Wilde's suffering - and it is beside the point how far that
suffering was self-inflicted - brought him very close to Christ.
"Once at least in his life," Wilde wrote, "each man walks with
Christ to Emmaus." Wilde did so in Reading Gaol.
Staff of life
IN ONE respect, life in retirement has not changed since I was
on the payroll of the Church of England. I no longer climb in and
out of pulpits, but, defying the psalmist, I continue to "exercise
myself in matters that are too high for me".
A week or two ago, I spent the best part of the day at the
prestigious Clore Management Centre of Birkbeck College. With my
wife, I was at a conference, arranged by - deep breath - The
Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agricultural and
The theme of the conference was "Agri-Food Policy and Governance
for Nutrition and Health". I didn't wander in by mistake. Nor did I
gatecrash. I was there - for all my insecure purchase on the issues
under discussion - as an official participant. I made little
contribution to the day's proceedings.
Later, I reflected that I should have piped up more - if, that
is, my claim to be a Christian of sorts is not totally fraudulent.
Feeding the hungry and healing the sick, I seem to recall, should
be matters of consequence for anyone stumbling after Jesus of
It's all Greek to him
AT LAST month's meeting of the General Synod, the Archbishop of
Canterbury bade farewell to the retiring Bishop of Oxford, the Rt
Revd John Pritchard. Archbishop Welby suggested that one of the
"mafias" in Synod comprised those who were taught by Bishop
The Archbishop might have added that there is another and yet
murkier mafia, the raffish crew of which I am one - all now
variously doddery, doolally, or deceased - who were not taught by
Bishop John, but who had a share in teaching him. John Pritchard
was one of my New Testament Greek class when, as a callow youth, I
was on the staff of Ridley Hall.
I take the credit that, to this day, Bishop John can render into
flawless Greek such observations as "Behold! There is fish behind
the ear of the apostle!"
Peaceful hymns only
ON MONDAY, we turned the lights out for an hour as we recalled
the words attributed to Sir Edward Grey, spoken a century ago on
the eve of Britain's declaration of war on Germany: "The lamps are
going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our
How can we continue to commemorate the First World War? My own
simple suggestion is that we stop singing triumphalist hymns - at
least for the next four years, but preferably until the last
trumpet sounds, and we have some reason for singing them.
I open my New English Hymnal and a familiar line from
an Easter hymn catches my eye: "Death's mightiest powers have done
their worst." Scholars dispute the date of the resurrection, but on
balance they agree that it must have taken place well before the
first day of the Battle of the Somme. Those 24 hours suggest that
death had not quite finished.
The Revd Dr John Pridmore, a former Rector of Hackney, has
retired to Brighton.