Renewal and reform
GILL SANS is so last-millennium and “Common Worship”; but now that typeface has gone from these pages, taking its nasty habits with it — among them, to my mind, a tendency, given certain letter and punctuation combinations, to look as if word-spacing has been left out. We are Whitney fans now instead.
Please excuse the Church Times typographical shop-talk, but for a time, at least, church life as we know it may end and I shall not notice. That is the effect of any little design revolution: autopilot has to be turned off, though the Church Times design department puts a brave face on it. If you didn’t go to the College of Printing, perhaps the best training for such a crisis is the more tedious aspects of having studied orchestration.
We aim, of course, at evolution, not a revolution; for, during one of those, not so long ago, really, the readers didn’t like it when Linotype, Ludlow, and all the compositors’ lovely box of tricks became history. Times New Roman on paper that it was not designed for, and long-sighted readers’ despair? Never again, please; nor the weeping for a reversed-out purple title by mourners who refuse to be comforted.
Needs and fashions change, however, and the internet has no monopoly on the webs that a newspaper publisher must worry about; but if CT readers should, by chance, still want to see our faces grinning out from photo bylines, they can do so online, where they will find some of us, after the example of the late Muriel Spark, remarkably well-preserved.
THE funeral of our late proprietor and editor Dr Bernard Palmer fell on a Wednesday, when the printers expect things of us; but the Editor attended.
The service was at St Nicolas’s, Witham, in Essex, where Dr Palmer was as regular a churchgoer as any incumbent could wish for. The order of service was a simple one with well-known hymns, followed by a committal at Chelmsford Crematorium.
Among those little facts that you learn for the first time at funerals were that he had been brought up to eat puddings with two forks, and even applied this technique to jelly; while another example of the spirit of England was an account of a serious accident that befell him when trekking, with his wife, Jane, in distant lands afar.
Tackling a precipitous mountain path as the light was fading, Dr Palmer slipped over the edge and plummeted a long way. Luckily, the ground was soft, though he was hospitalised for more than a week. The first that Mrs Palmer heard of it was a voice out of the darkness: “Bugger! I’ve lost my glasses.”
This was mild, I would judge, given the circumstances. His move to Essex a few years ago from the Miss Marple-ish village of Charminster, in Dorset, reintroduced him, he told me (who grew up in Chelmsford), to words that he hadn’t heard since his National Service.
‘Our full homage’
JUDITH DIMOND, of Canterbury, tells us that the Families Online report (News, 22 December) has confirmed her in her advocacy of traditional nativity plays — though she never hears anyone else argue for them.
She writes: “The play that was performed year after year at my C of E primary school — Hampden Gurney, in central London, in the 1950s, and performed in the Church of the Annunciation, Bryanston Street — was my first experience of the holy, and a foundational step towards my conversion (since I did not come from a Christian family).
“The angels shimmered like the dawn, Herod strutted, and Gabriel’s multi-coloured wings hovered over the stage and sky. Not a word of the script — chiefly King James verbatim — changed, so that by Year Six I was word perfect in every part (I was only ever a silent angel, too naughty to be honoured with a speaking role).”
At the climax of the play, the birth of Jesus, a silent tableau gathered around the manger, the lights were dimmed, and her teacher, Miss Shepherd, sang as a solo “Let all mortal flesh keep silence”. Then followed John 1.1-14.
“In the echo and the darkness, something beautiful grew within me, never to be forgotten,” Ms Dimond continues. “I have enjoyed my own children’s Christmas plays, and laughed with pleasure to see my grandchildren in their school plays, but not once has the mystery and power of the story been conveyed to actors or audience. So, please, bring back the simplicity of the traditional nativity play, with or without a donkey.”
A little research shows that Judith Dimond is the author of several books for SPCK. I wonder how surprised Miss Shepherd would really be.
In tray, out tray
A REPLY that we have seen from the Archdeacon of Middlesex, the Ven. Stephan Welch, to a correspondent who has a bone to pick with the diocese of London includes the reminder: “As I have pointed out to you in the past, anything that goes to the office of the Bishop of London on matters concerning churches in Teddington and Twickenham ends up on the desk of the one whom you describe as ‘the Bishop’s Lackey’ otherwise known as the Archdeacon of Middlesex.”