EVERY so often, you stumble across a parish magazine that rises above the average with something of both substance and style; or your attention is drawn to it by someone who has turned the best bits into a book.
Now I hear from Dorothy Woolliscroft and Peter Wright, compilers of Saints Ancient and Modern: Articles written for the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, Attleborough, Norfolk, by Father Val Hollands*. This well-produced booklet with its full-colour cover has 40 of his pieces on holy men and women — and I see that it is offered as daily Lenten reading; so now you could have a few to spare for Easter Week at least.
The order is broadly chronological from Alban to Edith Stein, followed by Janani Luwum and the Ugandan martyrs, who bring the story up to that era because the author proceeds from the victims of the 19th-century King Mtesa’s abuses to the many who suffered under Idi Amin. An earlier piece tells the story of the Bugandan martyr Bishop James Hannington, who precedes in this collection the “Hermit of the Sahara” Charles de Foucauld (whose name is the only misprint that jumped out at me).
Not everyone has to be a martyr, of course. Until now, I knew nothing about the work of Caroline Chisholm, “The Emigrant’s Friend”, who settled more than 23,000 poor people, fought for the dignity of girls and women, and helped to turn Australia from a destination for transported convicts into a nation.
And, of course, I didn’t know about Fr Hollands — “one of today’s saints”, the Rector, the Revd Matthew Jackson, says. Fr Hollands is still sending these monthly articles for The Link from his second retirement in Yorkshire. Whatever they say in Rome, that sounds like an example of heroic virtue to me.
*£5 from Attleborough Church Office, or £6.50 including p&p from D. Woolliscroft, 4 Queen’s Close, Attleborough, Norfolk NR17 2EQ; cheques payable to Attleborough PCC.
Horse to tractor
MENTION of Plough Sunday in Poet’s Corner (19 January) brought back fond memories for the Revd Toddy Hoare, in Oxfordshire, who was serving the Hillside Parishes in North Yorkshire when an old horse-plough would be wheeled in for a special service of blessing put together by the Arthur Rank Centre.
“I had ploughed with horses in the village when a ploughing competition was held, and I had entered with my old grey Fergie and two-furrow plough all askew on the wrong settings. There was advice and help a-plenty, but the highlight was to plough some furrows with horses.
“One old parishioner told me: up at five to feed and ready the horse, set off at seven, start work at eight, a rest at ten, two hours’ rest to feed the horse and lunch 12-2 p.m., off home at four, feed and groom the horse at five, home for a meal at six. A long day; and arms and back had to be sturdy, legs untiring.”
Between Epiphany and Candlemas, or sometimes later, when ploughs used to go in, “the plough service was a welcome liturgical break of relevance, and attracted a few folk into the church.” It also helped to focus minds on the Harvest Festival later in the year.
As chaplain, he was responsible for the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Harvest Festival. “As it was one year in Selby Abbey, there was an old, polished Field Marshall tractor, as on my grandmother’s farm. It didn’t half rattle the stained-glass windows when it fired up,” he says.
Churchwardens, be warned.
Neale and Sussex
CONTINUING on a rustic note, I don’t suppose J. M. Neale’s name will be widely known in the C of E for another generation, unless they start projecting his hymns on screen in all those “resource churches” that are popping up.
But there is a good chance that he will long be remembered in Sussex, because, besides his prolific output of original hymns and translations — which gave Anglicans “All glory, laud and honour” on Palm Sunday, for example — he took a keen interest in the county around him.
A recent long article by M. J. Leppard, of East Grinstead, for Sussex Archaeological Collections 155 (217), 165-179 (for those of you who would like to track it down), is titled “The Unregarded Sussex of J. M. Neale”. It draws attention to Neale’s antiquarian and folkloric interests, as well as his ability to conjure up the landscape, the accuracy of his descriptions, and the local scene-setting found in his fiction.
“Neale’s identification with Sussex verges on the promotional” in his story Gill’s Lap, first published in the Penny Post in 1858, this writer suggests. Neale confesses that Crow-borough Beacon can be bleak in winter, but praises Ashdown Forest in spring: “people often go further and fare worse; . . . they go to the Lakes or into Scotland, after scenery which is not equal to that which they might have within forty miles of London.”
Unlike other authors who imitated dialect to patronise locals as yokels, Neale had great respect for it. Indeed, in The Hymnal Noted, next to the line “Lovely voices make a concert”, his note appeared: “Had I dared, I would have used our very pretty Sussex word, chavish. It means the sweet confusion of melody that birds, in springtime, make in a wood. — J. M. N.”
A happy thought, you may agree, in a wintry Lent.
FOR family reasons, I find myself increasingly away and among the eight-o’clockers at a service labelled with time-hallowed licence “1662”.
A change is as good as a rest, they say, or, in the words of Bishop James Herbert Lloyd of Lewes, in his foreword to The Church Travellers Directory (CLA, second edition, 1973): “A change in the presentation of the Holy Mysteries may be no bad thing for any of us, when away from our accustomed altars, but the Mass and the Sacraments must be seen to be readily available.”
I can’t recall a bishop sounding much like that lately, but I am brought back to the present and the recent Synod debates by a remark in the foreword by the editor, the late Fr Peter Blagdon-Gamlen: “The information . . . must not be taken to imply any particular churchmanship, but one or two churches where the visitor cannot, alas, be sure that a validly ordained priest or bishop will be the celebrant have deliberately been excluded.”
If there’s ever another edition, it could be quite short.