01 February 2019

Michael J. Wilson writes:

THE sad announcement of the death of John Joubert (Gazette, 18 January) brings to mind fond memories of a RSCM Festival of Choral Evensong held around the country in the early 1960s under the directorship of Gerald Knight. As a treble from the slums of Teesside, I was awestruck to be part of such a large choral gathering in Leeds Town Hall in the presence of the then Princess Royal. Dr Francis Jackson was accompanying on the organ and was able to detect which section of second tenors were wrong as Knight puzzled over the sound. Then, at the performance proper in came Joubert in his academic robes — just popped up from Hull, I guess. I had never been in the presence of royalty before, but even more amazing was to see a real live composer and to sing his anthem “O Lorde the Maker of Al Thing”. It was a day that inspired me to keep being involved with choral music ever since.


Jane Thomas writes:

IT IS unfortunate that the obituary to Canon Rodney Marshall (Gazette 4 January) touched only superficially on the roots of his ministry and the theology that shaped it.

While he would laugh at the suggestion that he was, in the formal sense, a theologian (after leaving school, he trained as an electrical engineer in a Manchester foundry before being prepared by the Bernard Gilpin Society in Durham for the academic qualifications required to enter theological training), his formation at the so-called Anglo-Papalist shrine St Benedict’s, Ardwick, was far more crucial than any glib perception of socialist sympathies.

What Canon Marshall received at St Benedict’s, and what continued to inform and inspire his approach, was not so much Labour Party policy as the rich seam of Catholic social teaching. Beginning with the early Fathers, continuing with Vatican II, and all that followed in its wake, there was a clarity about what inspired Canon Marshall’s commitment to the poor. He was not just “grateful” for the Romero Centre attached to St Helen’s, Athersley. He founded it. Not (in his own words) “because we are bleeding-heart liberals”, but, in an echo of St John Chrysostom, because “when the poor go hungry, Christ is famishing at the door, and when we fail to share our riches, we are robbing the poor.”

Fundamentally, this is why he stood shoulder to shoulder with the striking miners in Goldthorpe. In part, it also informed his traditionalist stance over the ordination of women.

The language of equality of opportunity seemed curiously selective in a society — and a Church — in which other, more obvious, inequalities were being perpetuated and sustained. If he never considered himself a theologian, Canon Marshall’s blunt straightforwardness, not least where the Church’s hierarchy was concerned, was always prophetic.

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