I KNOW what you are asking. “Did anyone solve the puzzle of Mrs T. G. Matthews, of Berkeley, Gloucestershire (Letters, 17 May)?”
She was seemingly licensed as a woman lay reader more than three decades before our former editor Rosamund Essex — thus shattering what must, without doubt, be one of the Church Times’s most notable claims to a “first” (Features, 3 May), and, more to the point, defying the laws of canonical possibility at that time.
Well, yes. Answer came there, with remarkable promptness, from Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, where the Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone had got immediately on the trail. He leaves Rosamund Essex’s achievement intact, but has an intriguing story.
So, Frances Louise Matthews (1873-1960), of Newport Towers, Berkeley, and then of Wotton-under-Edge, was married to Thomas Gadd Matthews, “the first batsman to score 200 in first-class county cricket, playing for Gloucestershire in the 1870s” (you can tell this comes from Wycliffe Hall, can’t you?).
NOW we come to the point: Frances was not, strictly speaking, a lay reader. She was licensed by the Bishop of Gloucester from the 1920s as a Parochial Woman Worker — one of three new offices launched by Bishop Edgar Gibson of Gloucester after the First World War to bring more women into public evangelistic ministry.
The three new offices were Diocesan Women Messengers, Women Catechists, and Parochial Women Workers, Dr Atherstone says. “Easily mistaken for a nun, her habit included pectoral cross and wimple.”
He has even been able to trace a photo of this, and it would be a picturesque note to end on. But there is an interesting postscript.
Her eldest son, Vivian Matthews, who won an MC during the First World War, married into the Mynors family. His father-in-law, the Gloucestershire clergyman Aubrey Baskerville Mynors, was secretary of the 1908 Pan-Anglican Congress.
Vivian’s brothers-in-law included the twins Sir Roger Mynors, the Oxford professor of Latin who helped to translate the New English Bible, and Sir Humphrey Mynors, deputy governor of the Bank of England and a Church Commissioner.
This leaves unexplained why the parish magazine designated her as a lay reader, but that that is how her ministry turned out is in no doubt: even the CT in 1957, when it had a few stays yet to be loosened, reviewed her self-published book Starlight, intended to help “busy readers” in sermon preparation, and found “greater wisdom here than might appear in a superficial reading”. That’s a line we might use again.
Essex to Kent
WE ALSO heard from David Essex — not the Godspell one, but Rosamund Essex’s son, understandably surprised to see his younger self in our pages on 3 May. He marked his half-century as a Reader last year.
We lifted the photo from his mother’s book Woman in a Man’s World. “I with my friend took all the pictures in the book,” he says. “I wonder what the record of the eldest and serving Reader is in the Church. As I said, I have been a Reader for 51 years and am still able to take part and do a bit.
“I was licensed by the then Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd David Say. I was most fortunate to have the current Bishop present on the nearest Sunday 50 years later. I now, after serving in two different parishes, live in Stone parish, Dartford.”
Playing Fr Bill
THE Earls Court Film Festival’s project to make a documentary about Fr Bill (Kirkpatrick) (Diary, 8 June 2018), that gentle pastor who had a remarkable ministry to the marginalised, exploited, and shunned, and particularly to young gay men in the sex industry and then, in the 1980s, with AIDS, got its funding and bore fruit in a charity gala première in St Cuthbert’s, Philbeach Gardens, last month, which I attended.
There were two short films: Memories of Fr Bill Kirkpatrick, a community documentary with talking heads, produced by Caroline Tod-Richardson, and the writer-director Tom Young’s Scenes from the Life of a Priest.
Tom youngPaul Albertson as Bill Kirkpatrick contemplating his future at the end of scene in Scenes from the Life of a Priest
The latter is a dramatic enactment of five periods in Fr Bill’s life: when he was a boy working in a nursing home in Canada in 1937; in London in 1968, when his former long-term partner announced his engagement; his subsequent time at Shepherd’s Law Hermitage in Northumberland in 1974; reconciling a dying young man and his family in the mid-1980s; and, in his declining years, accepting the support of a male nurse at the home where he was a patient.
This film is in a meditative, art-house style, with period locations and a cast of 15, and was beautifully acted and shot. Fr Bill is played by three actors: as a child by Archie Bradfield, as an adult by Paul Albertson, and in old age by Daniel Johns. Both films were moving to watch.
Glass and . . .
READING of the refurbishment of St Andrew’s, Holborn, in London (News, 17 May), reminded the Revd Andrew Corke, in Swanage, Dorset, of an incident in 1978 when he was a trainee solicitor, and “a colleague and I used to go to St Andrew’s to pray together at lunchtime. I still remember the unforgettable smell of incense and polish.
“One day we met the Vicar, George Timms, who was also Archdeacon of Hackney and lived in a flat on site, and he invited us to lunch. ‘Just a simple lunch,’ we were promised.
“We duly arrived and were presented with a magnificent cold buffet. Then George offered us a glass of wine. I drank it without much of a second thought — until afterwards, when my friend said, ‘Did you notice the wine? It was bottled in 1936!’ How times have changed!”
. . . gaiters
IN ONE of the brief interludes between the APCM, a PCC meeting, the Area Dean’s inspection, and the Archdeacon’s visitation service, I foolishly imagined that a green Penguin crime novel featuring a police detective was a “safe space”.
Six pages in, and without any health warning, there’s an archdeacon — incorrectly styled, I regret to say, as “the Revd” Caesar Kinrade, Archdeacon of Man. The novel is Corpse at the Carnival by George Bellairs.
The Archdeacon joins the Superintendent (as he would, of course) in interviewing at a seedy boarding house where the murder victim dwelt; and the proprietors are so awed by a pair of gaiters that they assume that they are talking to a bishop and become co-operative, if not, indeed, positively unctuous.
So, here’s a free tip for the archdeacons’ office, in return for all that they do: keep a pair of gaiters behind breakable glass for emergencies.