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26 August 2016

Church Times

For the fallen: the memorial at St Botolph’s, Bishopsgate

For the fallen: the memorial at St Botolph’s, Bishopsgate

In this sign
DID City workers, I wonder, break earlier for lunch in 1916? On Friday 4 August that year, a service at St Botolph’s, Bishopsgate, in London, at 12.30 p.m., was followed by the unveiling at 1 p.m. of a stone cross in the churchyard in memory of Lord Kitchener. He had been lost at sea, about the time of the Battle of Jutland (Diary, 3 June).

One hundred years later, a substantial congregation, including representatives of the Honourable Artillery Company, gathered to mark the rededication of the cross by the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Adrian Newman. Given a 1.10 p.m. start, there were plenty of people around to be interested in recording the event on their phones. In 1916, it was the Pathé News cameras that were there.

The cross is, I’m told, the first freestanding war memorial from the First World War in London. Bishop Newman reminded us — as a Lord Mayor had once pointed out — that its inscriptions drew together the statesman-warrior (Kitchener), citizen soldiers (the HAC and the “brave dead of Bishopsgate”), and a sailor lad of humble origins (Jack Cornwell VC).

Thus it cut across all divisions of class and educational background in a common cause, “the self-sacrifice that ennobles the human condition”. It was also a rallying-point when the prospects for the war were not particularly sunny.


Wayside cross
WITH choral music by Walford Davies, from his Short Requiem, the Heroes Band accompanying the hymns outdoors, and one of Rupert Brooke’s “War Sonnets” — “Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!” — spoken from memory by Ian Adams — this service gave a flavour of 1916. It included the same lesson from Wisdom 3.1-9, and prayers from a collection by Henry Luke Paget, Bishop of Stepney, who had given the original address.

But nowadays you can’t take a chance on a congregation’s knowing Hymns A. & M. 370 and 595, or “God the All-Terrible”; while “Land of Hope and Glory” is generally frowned on for liturgical purposes. Suitable substitutes were provided.

St Botolph’s has opened more than one front. It is hosting the exhibition “Exploring London’s First World War Memorials”; and what a remarkable variety is on show. After looking at the exhibition boards, I wanted to head straight to the Pru in Holborn to look at the bronze and pink-granite monument to that company’s employees, which truly has the look of no expense spared.

But the St Botolph’s memorial, in its rustic simplicity, must have been just what was wanted by a new movement that was seeking to restore England’s wayside crosses (see 100 Years Ago, 24 June) as a fitting tribute to the fallen.

Indeed, whom do we find at a meeting on that subject with Lady Troubridge, Lord Halifax, and Athelstan Riley, in July 1916, reported in the Church Times, but none other than Bishop Paget again? “Such wayside crosses as they had in mind”, he was saying, “would seem to claim the whole countryside for Christ.”

My Lord of Stepney was clearly not a man to let his episcopal vision be obstructed by “the ’ouses in between”.



Not the 8000th
THE danger of reminiscing is that, like silver threads among the gold, it gives the game away. I wouldn’t tell a lady’s age, but I wasn’t the only person able to look back, at the time of our 8000th issue (Diary, 15 July), a little further than is fashionable.

The Revd Dr Jennifer Zarek wrote in of a “glaring omission”, and wondered wrily why the CT was not giving access, at least online, “to the never-to-be-forgotten gem, issue No. 666, Not the Church Times”, dated 22 September 1981.

Dr Zarek recalled such features of the church scene as Grichael Meen (author of I Believe in Goblins), Father Fank Brown (requiring a litre of gin to revive him after seeing “a woman” in his congregation), and Canon Colin Sempter (speaking about silence on Radio 4).

But then, as now, she suggested, “some of the best reading was the small ads”. That was the issue that advertised for a “weedy, boring and faithless priest”.

If this is all a mystery to you, the good news is probably that you are not yet short in wind as in memory long; and the bad news is that, of course, Not the Church Times is not in our archive, because it was an unofficial rose cultivated by a bunch of fund-raising London clergy.

It was briefly available from newsagents. I, ever so young, was with one of my brothers in W. H. Smith’s when he obtained the copy that I still have (somewhere) — in spite of its being borrowed for longer than any other publication I have lent.

Years later, the culprits were still remembered at the CT with a hint of disapproval (“cruel”). But the Revd David Johnson was such a competent pasticheur that John Whale appointed him our TV critic.


Praise indeed
AFTER last week’s report on holiday clubs, we hear from a Roman Catholic priest, Fr Paul Teece, a “doggie” (to use the local word) born and bred in North Ormesby, about a visit he made to North Ormesby market, and to the parish community centre, “for coffee and a bacon bun; though I couldn’t resist the home-made cakes”.

He says: “The welcome extended to all is magnificent (but especially so for those with disabilities), the prices charged are very low, and the service is warm and friendly. I spoke with many, Christian and not, who felt ‘at home’ in that lovely building, and then crossed the cloister to the beautiful church, which was open and well-visited.”

The centre also hosts the North Ormesby Minstrels, he tells us. They “provide concerts of the highest quality for the local community, many of which I have enjoyed with all my family. This is only what I have personally experienced, but it is church in the community at its best. Thank you to the parish community of Holy Trinity, and keep up the good work. God bless.”

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