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Why do we celebrate the feast of St Swithun?

03 August 2018

Write, if you have a question you would like answered, or to add to the answers given below.


St Swithin’s feast day on 15 July is one of very few religious festivals included in my WHSmith Diary. There is a legend associated with this saint (also called St Swithun), whereby any rain falling on his feast day means rain for 40 days thereafter. There has been no such rain in my part of the country this year! My question is, why do we not celebrate the feast day of this ninth-century Bishop of Winchester? He does not get a mention in the Revised Common Lectionary.

Your answers: Swithun, Bishop of Winchester, does not get a mention in the Revised Common Lectionary, which covers only “major” feasts (in the view of the Consultation on Common Texts).

In the Church of England, 15 July in the Common Worship Lectionary may be kept as a lesser festival, a category of observance which is typically “observed at the level appropriate to a particular church”, and a collect, Psalm, and readings are supplied.

Lesser festivals are typically not observed if they fall on a Sunday, as 15 July did this year, but may, at the minister’s discretion, be celebrated on the nearest available day.

(Dr) Matthew Salisbury (Church of England National Liturgy and Worship Adviser)

London SW1

. . . The “Rules to Order the Christian Year” note that, if the lesser festival falls on a Sunday, it may be celebrated on the nearest available day, “at the discretion” of the minister. The questioner has until July 2029 to make the case.

(The Revd) Jeremy Fletcher

London NW3

Your questions: At a cathedral main Sunday eucharist recently, at the preparation of the table, the assistant clergy were given filled chalices and ciboria, and then they stood about 15 feet away from the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer. They raised the chalices, etc., about a foot at the words of consecration, and the elements were then treated as consecrated. I have never seen this done before. Were the elements in fact consecrated?

J. S.

In the recent TV showing of the 2016 film Love and Friendship, the Walt Stillman adaptation of the early Jane Austen novella Lady Susan, the Commandment to honour our parents was discussed as the fourth, whereas as displayed in Anglican churches of Austen’s time and in the Book of Common Prayer it is numbered the fifth. Was this original to the Austen manuscript or changed for the film? Was this to be expected of whoever made this choice?

A. B.

Is it still the practice at large Evangelical churches (as it seemed to be in the days of the Alternative Service Book, when I was a student) to disregard the Church of England’s official calendars and lectionaries so as to preach courses of sermons on the minister’s personal choice of readings? If so, are the relevant parts of canon law destined to suffer the same fate as the vesture canon?

A. M.

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