I DON’T know whether the Anglicans of Wales have recovered yet from the calendrical coincidence of Ash Wednesday with 1 March.
St Davids Cathedral got round it (or crashed right into it, depending on your way of thinking) with an interesting move. They had a vigil or anticipatory choral eucharist on Shrove Tuesday evening, with “Ashing Ceremonies” and including S. S. Wesley’s “Wash me throughly”.
Then, at 6 p.m. on Ash Wednesday a festive choral eucharist was celebrated, with Darke’s Collegium Regale, Wynn Jones’s “O Ddewi Sanctaidd”, and Bruckner’s Locus Iste. The hymns aren’t listed, as they were in the orders of service, but I suppose an imaginatively lachrymose rewrite of “In our day of thanksgiving” might have been suitable.
This seems a good point at which to change the subject to one of my contenders for an all-time favourite book title: Roger L. Brown’s In Places Where They Sit: A social history of the church pew in Wales*. It is a revised and much enlarged edition of his 1998 study Pews, Benches and Seats.
A retired vicar, he has, of course, cottoned on to the fact that church seating is rarely the inconsequential matter that an innocent could imagine it to be, but tells one a great deal about the social and economic pecking order. So this is a carefully footnoted and illustrated study of changes in a range of churches, and all the palaver about pew rents and “free and open churches”.
One day, no doubt, he or someone else will write a sequel about the advent of the comfy chair — but perhaps that is one of those things that aren’t the issue in Wales which they are in England.
*Pixel Tweaks Publications, 978-0-9956190-0-5; £12 (cheques only) including p&p from the author at 14 Berriew Road, Welshpool SY21 7SS, phone 01938 552161.
Paying the price
THE economics of religious news are more complex than they used to be, but even so it has rarely been a licence to print money. A century ago, amid austerity on the Home Front, G. J. Palmer & Sons, the proprietors of the Church Times, made a melancholy announcement.
”On and after the 16th March the price of The Church Times will be increased to 2d. . . Ever since a restriction was placed on the importation of paper-making materials by the Board of Trade, the price of paper has gone up to such an extent that for some time past newspaper proprietors have suffered heavy losses.
”And now the Prime Minister, in his impressive speech in the House of Commons on Friday last, announces that still further restrictions must be made, so that the supply of paper will be reduced by one-half of what it was in 1916, and, if the necessity should arise, the supply may cease altogether.”
This announcement had caused “another yet more serious rise in the price of the raw material”, and so a price rise was “inevitable”. But “The Proprietors of The Church Times have long resisted a change of price, not on business grounds only, but for a sentimental reason. This journal was the first of all Church newspapers to be published at the popular price of one penny, more than fifty years ago.”
So old Mr Palmer’s vision of a penny paper was consigned to history, though the great work went on. To help readers grasp the point, a large ”2d.” was printed in a circle, though there was no two-penny coin at that time: you would need to hand over two of those large brown pennies for which one felt so short-changed by the tiddly little new decimal ones in 1971. Blame Europe twice over, if that’s your bag.
I’VE heard so much about the see of Sheffield lately, and whether it could cope with a traditional Anglo-Catholic, that it jogged my memory about a perhaps surprising emanation from a bishop associated with somewhere so urban.
The Rt Revd David Lunn was its Bishop from 1980 to 1997; but beneath that traditionalist mitre was always a local-history enthusiast (he had studied history and theology at King’s, Cambridge), and Wetwang Saga: Part Two, From the open fields in 1806 until about the present day* is, he says, the last instalment he will write himself of the history of the “unimportant East Riding village” (his words) where he lives in the Yorkshire Wolds.
It is no cursory study, but a 350-page hardback with 194 pictures, comprising 12 sections on subjects such as the enclosures; farmers and farming; transport; shops and trades; local government; and sport, with diversions to focus on the 1870s, or gather up the remnants.
Unsurprisingly, the Vicars and the C of E School get sections to themselves; but the jewel in the crown is probably his exploration of Methodism in an area where once every village would have had Primitive and Wesleyan chapels.
The ordinariness of Wetwang is its strength, because it exemplifies much that would have been going on elsewhere, too; no doubt many other parish councils were troubled about “the light in the phone box” (”or, to be accurate, the fact that there wasn’t a light in the phone box”) in the middle of the 20th century. You should probably read this book in parallel with Winifred Holtby’s South Riding.
The Bishop tells me that it is also “really a hidden defence of the traditional Church of England”. In the chapters on the Church, his views are not as hidden as all that, though presumably taking up less of the limelight than they would in any future book that he may write, which, he suggests, he will call Apologia Ecclesia Anglicana, or The Dinosaur Speaks.
*High Wolds Heritage Publications; 978-0-9562495-6-2; available for £18 including p&p from the author at Rivendell, 28 Southfield Road, Wetwang, Driffield YO25 9XX.
Gift for Lent
A BIT of uplift is always welcome; and a colleague passes on to me Praying Together: Lent 2017, the little tract-sized booklet of daily reflections and prayers, by the
Revd Ian Cowley and Canon Tom Clammer, of which Salisbury diocese has produced 20,000 copies for distribution. The cover photo of a father and daughter (perhaps) with a candle, presumably at a Paschal vigil, is pleasing, and the devotional regime is not too onerous.
I like the suggested action for Holy Saturday: “Do something spontaneous today, no matter how small, to remind you that fear does not win.” I’ll think about what that might have been while I’m cleaning the brass.
Copies available via 01722 411922 or firstname.lastname@example.org; and daily prayer points can be received via email and the PrayerMate app.