WE ALL remember Lord Kitchener sternly eyeballing his man in the First World War recruitment poster “Your country needs you”. But it is an image so much plagiarised and spoofed that it has become confusing to search for it online.
Is, for example, the portrait with the slogan “You are the man I want” a wartime artefact, or, trading on Kitchener’s Village People moustache, a camp modern greetings card? On close inspection, it does seem to be a genuine recruiting poster.
Few remember, however, that Kitchener was what the Church Times called a “loyal Churchman”. For 18 years, he had been a member of that great society dedicated to guarding the Tractarian flame, the English Church Union.
So, not only was his commemoration service in St Paul’s, which the King and Queen attended, found wanting by the Church Times (“deeply impressive, but we think that a Requiem would more fittingly have been celebrated”), but, at St Matthew’s, Westminster, the ECU moved swiftly to supply all that was lacking, in “a solemn Requiem for the repose of the souls of Herbert, Earl Kitchener, Field Marshal, His Majesty’s Secretary of State for War, and his personal staff, together with the officers and crew of His Majesty’s ship Hampshire”.
The stirring liturgical details are in the CT’s online archive.
Mission to reassure
KITCHENER’s death, when the Hampshire “struck a mine off Marwick Head on the west coast of Orkney and sank in fifteen minutes with the loss of all but twelve hands”*, on 5 June 1916, overcame him while he was on a “mission of reassurance” to Petrograd.
His star, Allan Mallinson writes in a new book, was in the descendant. But he had stood as high in the public estimation in 1914 as Churchill would in 1940.
The Church Times stayed loyal. “The tidings of Lord Kitchener’s death by drowning on his way out to Russia were almost unbearable, and at first were unbelievable. . . . No one was till then aware of Lord Kitchener’s having left home, so quietly did he, in this particular as in all his public services, go about his business.
“We mourn the loss of the greatest of our contemporary countrymen, and with sorrow for his death there must be mingled for some among us the bitter reflection that, even up to the moment of his death, they had plotted to compass his political extinction.
“No wonder that they are now effusive in their tributes to his genius, his industry, and his patriotism. But the nation at large mourns him with grief that has no alloy of self-reproach. It has trusted him as it has trusted no other servant of the State. . . He belonged to no class exclusively. He was a straight man, and, knowing him for such an one, all classes believed in him and trusted him.”
*Allan Mallinson, Too Important for the Generals (Bantam Press, £25 (£22.50); 978-0-593-05818-3)
THE Ven. John Cox, a former Archdeacon of Sudbury, touches an Anglican nerve that already seems over-inflamed in Hard Pews, Boring Sermons and No Loos! Excuses and reasons why people don’t go to church*.
If the title makes you squirm, you still won’t find a better summary of the kind of comments that we’ve all heard, from “They’re all so judgemental” to the charge that services are “irrelevant”. The author urges us to attend to what people are saying, although he doesn’t have easy answers to everything.
Refreshingly, too, he looks at economic and social issues, and doesn’t just write to dismiss traditional worship and worshippers as past their Use By date, or admonish those whose lavatories and seating don’t match up to the average multiplex.
The “lively” brigade can put people off, too, he acknowledges. “The anxiety may not be where to find what is happening but what on earth is going to happen next. The more ‘interactive’ the service is, the greater the anxiety may be. . .” Modern hymns may strike the visitor as “over-simplistic”.
In the torrent of literature on church decline and growth, this is a book that might interest a PCC, a deanery synod in need of something to get its juices flowing, or someone seeking an excuse for skipping church. It’s short enough to read during those boring sermons, or in the loo. Oh, sorry, there isn’t one.
*Kevin Mayhew, £10.99 (£9.90); 978-1-84867-824-8
NEIL INKLEY, of Walton-le-Dale, near Preston, thought it very good value, after returning home from shopping before Easter, to see on his receipt the entry: “Easter Pack of 10 Blessings £0.79.” It turned out to be how the shop differentiated its holy Easter cards from its bunny ones.