Shouting for joy
ARE Professor Michael Reeves’s students ever to be seen bicycling through the streets of Oxford with their gowns flapping behind them? They, at least, must know all about the Martyrs’ Memorial and what it stands for.
Reeves is described on the cover of one of his two new books as “the President of the Union School of Theology in Oxford, where he is also Professor of Theology” — and there is a splendid photo of the Radcliffe Camera and St Mary’s and all that dreaming scene on the school’s website, though the campus is in Wales. Oxford hosts its “international base [which] houses our research department, learning community and publishing”.
It is “one of his new books” because he has been busy gearing English-speakers up for “Reformation 500”. Readers of this column may, in due course, be given his other book, Freedom Movement: 500 years of reformation, free of charge at church, if it has been adopted as an anniversary “evangelism tool”.
This brochure-style creation shouts at its readers in capital letters (”DELIGHT”, “PLEASURE”), symbolising the joy that pulses through it, at £1 each for 25 copies, or £4.99 for one. It is obtainable from a reformist outfit near our office: Christian Heritage London, St Botolph-without-Aldersgate, Aldersgate Street, London EC1A 4EU.
PROFESSOR Reeves’s main book, from IVP (now linked to SPCK), is, however, The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the heart of the Reformation (£9.99 (£9); 978-1-78359-529-7). I think we can all tell what we are in for here, too — that this will be no uncommitted historiography. If you align yourself with the sentiment “Poor Calvin!”, then it may light your candle.
Zwingli still seems easier to pity. In the chapter “Soldiers, sausages and revolution”, the reader learns about what the author calls “Sausagegate”, and Zwingli’s being finished off by Captain Fuckinger of Unterwalden, and the fate of the Reformer’s marvellously uncombusted heart (”There is probably something more to the story than mere superstitious hokum”), which was then divided into relics.
And we may easily believe, with this popish backsliding, that Zwingli’s admirers were prefiguring the great Anglican custom of having at the funeral exactly what the deceased would least have wanted.
A Baptist pastor in Washington, DC, Mark Deever, writes a foreword for Professor Reeves from a sunlit vantage point that I really didn’t know existed: “Five hundred years ago the Roman Catholic Church warned the Protestant reformers that their movement would divide and dissolve into countless factions if they rejected the authority of the Bishops of Rome. . .
“Now, half a millennium in, it can conclusively be said that Rome’s fears of infinite instability and division were unfounded.”
THIS is a far cry from the books on the English Reformation which were nearest to hand when I was a teenager. Of a certain vintage, they emphasised the clinging on for better times, the Catholicity that hung by a thread at the darkest hour of 1552, the Church’s coming to a better mind, and the 17th century’s incomparable liturgy that was in parts meagre or jejune, but fortunately patient of Nonjuror-style upselling.
No doubt we shall all have joined the dust of the centuries by the time the historians’ whirligig brings anything remotely like that way of thinking round again. But, after decades at the coalface of the CT’s books pages, I conclude that, if we are now in a sort of 1552 time, all will come right in the end.
I wouldn’t care to put that idea to the test of “the academy” (cue tinkling pianos in Marylebone Road), but my simple layman’s reasoning is this: lying behind all the High Church history that is now regarded as bunk was a romantic movement to emphasise the Catholic continuity and antiquity of the Church of England. The revisionism has, on the other hand, coincided with its mirror image: an underlying mood that any emphasis on continuity, or on that seductive court of appeal antiquity, would disastrously cramp our style. That, of course, also suits Roman Catholics who like to have the antiquity market cornered.
Was it Bishop Wand, Canon Ollard, Darwell Stone, or someone else, who wrote that it might have been providential that the first generation of Anglo-Catholic Reformation historians believed what they did, and that, though not all of it could any longer be maintained, there were still “loopholes”? With God, no doubt, it is possible to get a camel through them.
Dressed for mission
IT HADN’T been branded a Reformation 500 event, but the second outdoor procession of the Host to which I’ve tagged along this year did seem to attract more clergy than usual. Bearing the heat of the day in their birettas and brocade, perhaps they were saying something about Amending Canon 36.
Unlike the first procession, which was a joint effort of two City churches passing the Protestant Truth Society bookshop in Fleet Street — and it looked, for once, as if the PTS were “at home” that evening, though not especially devastated — this one was the annual festive parade, with brass quartet, through Exmouth Market, in Clerkenwell, of the parish church, Our Most Holy Redeemer.
This was formerly a neighbourhood full of Italians, and so the church was built to look as if it might be their tazza di tè. A rather Ultramontane Anglicanism remains the tradition, though I have never forgotten about a former schoolfriend who went there on a holy day of obligation, thinking it was the Italian Church because it had Stations of the Cross. It was a telltale English Hymnal that sent him running out of the door.
Nowadays, Exmouth Market is full of people dining and drinking al fresco, which is the most Italian thing about it. Before we set out, the Vicar, Fr Trundle, told us to smile and wave and look happy. That was when my septentrional Reformation instincts (see Notice Board, page 24) bridled. It shall not be for nothing that even in the mass of 1549 Cranmer declined to field a pair of synonyms for exsultatione.
THE Clergy Correspondence Chess Club (News, 7 July) was nurtured, back in the 1980s, by our Portugal Street Diary writer “Sidesman” — which led to reproaches when, under a new regime, we had less space for diversions, even mind-stretching ones.
Canon Bernard Dagnall played in the 1970s, however, when the Club used to advertise for new members (”Rabbits or Grand Masters welcome”).
“Sometimes when moves were phoned through to the Vicarage, my wife had to make sure they were
not confused with funeral arrangements,” he writes. “The result could have been the singing of ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd, Pawn King Four. He makes me Queen Knight Six’.”
It was a good relaxation, he remembers; and then reveals what was its true appeal. “Nothing could beat sitting down at a chess board after a long day in the parish, then, with a nonchalant sweep of the hand, wiping a bishop off the board. Maybe that’s why bishops don’t belong to the club. . .”