*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Diary

15 April 2016

ISTOCK

Three-decker hymns

AT THE end of our Easter Day eucharist, I was chatting with another retired cleric about some of the potentially confusing lines in the hymns we had just sung. I was particularly bothered by “Now above the sky he’s King”.

That morning, the church was full of families, children, and young people. What did these inhabitants of a world of cosmic probes, flights to Mars, and constantly discovered new evidence of our astonishing and possibly infinite universe, make of it all?

They know that they do not live in a three-decker universe. Did they (as I feared) simply sing the hymns because the tunes are quite good, and secretly file away the whole idea of heaven and the resurrection of the dead in a mental cupboard labelled “Old-fashioned nonsense”?

 

Needed for the afterlife

I WAS reminded of the hilarious incident recorded by Tom Wright, in Surprised by Hope (SPCK 2007), of a widow who secretly placed in her husband’s coffin two cans of the adhesive he used to affix his toupee.

The consequence was an ex­­plosion at his cremation which bent the furnace doors. Wright’s com­ment is pertinent: “What sort of belief, if any, does all this reflect?” I fear that, to some extent, it reflects a consequence of our failure to ex­plain that resurrection, in Christian terms, is a spiritual rather than a physical event. Jesus was “put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3.18).

Our hymns and liturgy present poetry and vision as cherished aids to devotion, but the modern mind­set is not very good at poetic vision and metaphor. We are a stubbornly literal generation. If our glorious Easter hymns create this problem, just wait for the Ascension!

The Church Times has done its bit with the recent series of articles on theology. Now those at the sharp end must distil this scholarly in­­formation in ways that speak con­vincingly to ordinary 21st-century people.

Otherwise, it is years more of what I call “up there” tributes at memorial services, and goodbye to the “sure and certain hope”.

 

Hats, trousers, kilts

GETTING on for 75 years ago, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued a statement: “Questions are frequently asked in these days concerning the old cus­tom­­ary rule that women should not enter a church building with their heads uncovered. The Scriptural authority behind this rule is St. Paul’s regula­tion, but this required that they should be veiled. That has long ago fallen out of use, and, after consulta­tion with the Bishops gen­erally, we wish it to be known that no woman or girl should hesitate to enter a church uncovered, nor should any ob­­jection to their doing so be raised.”

My grandmother declined to indulge in such frivolity, and wore a hat in church to her dying day. My mother, on the other hand, who was very proud of her auburn hair, aban­doned her staid Sunday bon­net, and from then on displayed her glossy locks in church, weddings and funerals excepted.

Today — I checked last week — it would be a surprise if you saw more than a couple of hats on female heads in church, except for those maintaining the tradition of their homelands.

The other thing I checked was the number of women in church wear­ing trousers. I can con­fidently say that they were in a large majority. Yet Deuter­onomy strictly forbids women to wear “men’s ap­­parel”, a practice that is “abhorrent to the Lord” (22.5). The same ap­­plies to men’s wearing women’s clothes, but I could not find a single kilt.

It seems, then, that we have all decided — liberals and conservatives — that some clear commands that are undoubtedly “biblical” (”in the Bible”) are no longer obligatory for present-day Christians. One could add other less frivolous examples: stoning for those who gather sticks on the sabbath, or a mandatory death pen­alty for adulterers.

I constantly hear the word “bib­lical” used as a defining ad­­jective, but clearly there is work to do in establishing what it actually means.

 

Looking like him

THE death of that brilliant comed­ian Ronnie Corbett will, I imagine, bring to an end one completely unintended in­­fluence he had on my own life. For 40 years, I have endured people constantly telling me “You look like Ronnie Corbett.”

Personally I’ve never seen it, but as, over the years, probably hun­dreds of people have said it, there must be a likeness somewhere. We were more or less the same age, we are both short (although I am three inches taller than he was, as I discovered when I met him). We both wear glasses, and people say there is some trick of the mouth that confirms the resemblance.

Be that as it may, the perceived similarity once gave rise to a strange encounter. My wife and I were at holy communion in the parish church of Lampeter, in Car­mar­then­shire. During the first hymn, I noticed that the woman on my left kept looking at me, which was un­­settling. Seizing the opport­unity of the Peace, she shook my hand and said: “You’re Ronnie Corbett, aren’t you?” I smiled and denied it, and we moved on to the offertory hymn.

When I returned to my seat, having received communion, my prayer was interrupted by a sharp tug on the sleeve. “Oh yes you are!” she said, and, in the interests of peace and propriety I said nothing.

Probably the next morning she was in the Co-op telling everyone that she had sat next to Ronnie Corbett in church the day before. I think he would have liked the story, and might have suggested that there were fork ’andles on the altar.

 

Canon David Winter is a retired cleric in the diocese of Oxford, and a former head of religious broadcasting at the BBC.

@churchtimes

Thu 26 May @ 05:06
“Its recommendations are bold, ambitious, and comprehensive, and there is much to welcome, especially the emphasis… https://t.co/XMBDRDBmPG

Job of the Week

Clerical

Priest in Charge (Rector Designate)

London and Home Counties

Our suburban parish on the border between the London Borough of Croydon and the lovely Surrey countryside and with a spacious modern Rectory, is seeking a Priest-in-Charge (Rector Designate) to lead our church as we seek to fulfil our mission to proclaim Jesus, change lives and serve our community.   We are looking for a leader who, with energy and dynamism, who will develop the vision for the church to enable the children and families work to be a priority in order to grow the church both in numbers and spiritual maturity. In addition, the new person will care and tend for the existing ageing congregation many of whom have ¬faithfully served the church for many years.   The person we are looking for should have: strong communication skills, the ability to engage and encourage people across the age ranges and to convey the church’s mission, vision and priorities; a commitment to preach the Word of God in thoughtful and stimulating ways; an energy and dynamism probably more extrovert than introvert; a pastoral heart, showing empathy and good listening skills, the ability, willingness and experience to help us to develop and enjoy a variety of worship styles, including a wider range of musical worship and a deeper corporate prayer life -whilst recognising and valuing our heritage;   For further information and to apply, please click the 'apply for this job' button below.   For an informal conversation with the Archdeacon of Croydon, please contact the Archdeacon’s PA Kathleen.bailey@southwark.anglican.org to arrange a time for a phone conversation.   Closing Date: Sunday 12 June 2022 Parish Visit for shortlisted candidates: Monday 11 July 2022 Interviews: Monday 11 July 2022   Please note we have a policy in Southwark Diocese that to be appointed to an incumbent status post, a priest must have served a title in an Anglican church in the British Isles.   This post is subject to DBS enhanced disclosure

Organists and Layworkers

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)