Dancing, dancing . . .
IF ONLY I had thought to twerk at least, while tolling the church bell (and singing the Gloria, and engaging in telepathic communication with the man in charge of the lights) at our parish’s Easter vigil this year. . .
As the few came multi-tasking out of darkness into the glorious light of the resurrection, there were no cameras to record dancing churchwardens (we don’t currently have a vicar). That may, with the lack of a magic piano, explain why a potential Salad Days-like moment didn’t reach fruition.
“Music and movement”, as it was called when I was in infant school, and before the Charismatics became the Establishment, is what puts your church on the map now. This is the lesson I draw from the video on the Liverpool Echo’s website: “Dancing vicar shows the true spirit of Easter”.
Why, after all, should the Revd Kate Bottley hog the limelight? The Revd Alastair Prince, of St Cuthbert’s, Croxteth Park, is recorded in all his terpsichorean exuberance — throwing shapes (?) and strutting his stuff, as the Echo’s reporter puts it. He first “busted a move” to “Happy” three years ago. I hope he doesn’t bust anything else.
“We do Easter joy,” he says, “and, as a parish, it’s something we put a lot of effort into.”
There is a goodly congregation to cheer him on; and so he must be doing something right for the rest of the year, as you surely cannot fill a church on the promise of a twirling chasuble alone, and he assures the Echo that this spectacle occurs just annually.
Since Crockford says he trained at Westcott House, I’ll reflect further on whether that surprises me.
Nothing to them?
THE Holy Week and Easter exodus from the, of late, distinctly youthful and hearty suburb where I live has been more pronounced than ever.
The days of gathering ecumenically in the High Street on Good Friday to harangue passers-by from the forecourt of the Methodist church are long past. There would hardly be enough passers-by to make it worth while. It certainly wouldn’t be worth playing “There is a green hill far away” on an electric keyboard in the rain, as I once did in fear and trembling.
On Easter Day, the astonishment that Sainsbury’s could be closed was the sentiment that I heard articulated on the way home from church, not Christos anesti; but our neighbourly Orthodox, whose Easter coincided with ours this year, were by that time presumably sleeping off their late night.
Absence from among the metropolitan elite need not, of course, mean that people aren’t in church somewhere else. Like the couples who ask for their banns to be read but don’t come to hear them, they could well be warming pews in Hereford, Malvern, the Cotswolds, and suchlike places, where I comfortingly picture Brexit Britain’s churches as bursting with extras out of Midsomer Murders. No one need write in to tread on that dream.
RELIGIOUS literacy is a strange thing, isn’t it? It all depends what you mean by it, as Professor Joad used to say.
On the way to the Good Friday liturgy, one of our servers was stopped by a lovely young lady from an Evangelically leaning C of E church that flourishes near by, and was offered a chocolate Easter egg (and, of course, an invitation to join them) — not, please note, a hot cross bun.
Meanwhile, however, the similarly busy “cabaret and club bar” situated in our own parish, with its nightly programme of lively outreach, advertised Good Friday evening’s drag act, “Crucified”, with a poster that had the artiste grimacing in the foreground, and in the background a cross draped in purple.
Not in the best possible taste, you may well think, though without seeing the act it is hard to judge. But there was evidently enough material about to keep a semiotician busy over the bank holidays.
It was the Co-op, however, that fell foul of one of the CT’s correspondents in Passiontide. Fr Robert Miller, a Roman Catholic priest in Tisbury, noticed that the free-in-store magazine Food prominently featured a hot cross bun “filled with delicious-looking grilled bacon drizzled with maple syrup”.
He observes that hot cross buns are traditionally maigre sustenance on a Christian day of fasting and abstinence, or at least a meat-free day.
“This illustration probably was produced in ignorance rather than to offend Christians,” he writes; “for, given the imminence of Passover and other religious festivals dependent on the moon for dating, if religious offence was intended, a considerate editor would have gone the whole hog and pointed out that the bacon was halal or kosher, or perhaps not pork at all.”
Be that as it may, our cradle-to-grave provider doesn’t seem to have gone the extra hog to rebrand the day as “Good for Food” Friday, which shows restraint.
MAUNDY THURSDAY’s service, with the Watch till midnight which follows, is still the one that means the most to me.
When I came to London, in my twenties, I remember kneeling alone in the Sacrament chapel of a Victorian barn where the Sacred Heart had only one arm, and being, in retrospect, like a rabbit caught in the headlights in front of the tabernacle and all the blazing candles. It was hard to leave and go home.
Then, for many years, at another church, there was an altar of repose almost worthy of the Chelsea Flower Show, complete with garden ornaments peeping out between the flowers, real and silk. I bought a rosary and tried to remember to bring my manual of devotion and a little Society of SS. Peter and Paul tract that provided prayers specifically for the Maundy Watch, adapted from Jeremy Taylor.
And now that I carry so much timber that my knees protest at being too long in one position, and June of the silk flowers has gone to her rest, and everything is done much more simply, I have found a sense of relief in the opportunity to sit down quietly in front of the Blessed Sacrament and dip into a book of sermons.
Austin Farrer, A Celebration of Faith (Hodder & Stoughton, 1972): I would recommend it, particularly to ordinands (it does include a fine sermon for a priest’s first celebration). The 50th anniversary of Farrer’s death falls next year. Strange that “communications, mostly to students” should speak to the second half of life, too.