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Pastoral torpor in the Close

30 September 2016

September 29th, 1916.

“SOLDIERS in the Close” is the title of a special article in yesterday’s Times. The close in question surrounds a cathedral church, not named, we suppose, for fear of giving too much away to the enemy, but recognizable by the description. All these lovely warm days it is thronged by soldiers in khaki or hospital dress, but what are the cathedral authorities doing for them in this great church? Evensong, we are told, is said, not sung; “during the war we have no choir,” the verger explains. “The ladies of the close continue to worship God and cultivate their gardens,” but everyone else appears to be content with peering through the west doors, “seeing the empty nave” and catching the “faint sound of distant voices” from the Lady-chapel, where “the simple service” is held to the accompaniment of a harmonium. The service ended, parties of the soldiers are taken round and shown the monuments. But is this all that can be done? Could not its large clerical staff, its deans, canons and minor-canons, to say nothing of a rota of prebendaries, maintain a constant round of services and devotions and addresses? Is it necessary that the nave should be “empty”? Are there not enough men in the place to enable Evensong to be sung? A day is surely coming when awkward questions will be asked concerning the use to which the cathedrals are put, and whether so many priests are needed where so little work is done, or, apparently, has to be done. . .


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