IF I am ever (improbably) asked: “Daddy, what did you do in the lockdown?”, I will have to explain the unworthiness of my inner life to feature in our now discontinued Lift Up Your Hearts page.
Since the Church Times took over my living room, I have learnt that watching Talking Pictures TV in spare moments, or listening to Peter Coke and Marjorie Westbury pretend to escape from an overturned boat, are not what the Editor had in mind as spiritual resources — even if the BBC’s famous serial about Paul Temple and his wife, Steve, does have an oddly Anglican ring to it.
I have become an expert on the careers of B-movie actors; and then there was an excellent short War Office film for servicemen about newspapers, in which John Laurie played a canny local pressman. I thought how something similar ought to be produced to help people to assess the “news stories” that their friends share on Facebook.
BUT it has not all been uplift. Legend of the Witches was billed as a “cult movie from 1970”. I popped it on to record as it was well past my bedtime.
Imagine my surprise the next day, when, after an X certificate from Lord Harlech, the film began with people capering about blindfold and naked in the woods with reckless disregard for health and safety, while a voiceover who could give Mr and Mrs Temple a run for their money in the RP stakes tried to make it sound educational.
But so it was; for who should then appear but the late Bishop of Southwark, Mervyn Stockwood, administering adult baptism, confirmation, and holy communion in a parish.
This prolonged segment may have been frustrating for the original audience in Charing Cross Road, but now feels like a journey by magic back in time to experience the formality (slightly chilling on this occasion) of which the C of E has spent the past 50 years divesting itself with mixed results. I ended my viewing when I saw that a black mass was starting (a separate function from the C of E service), because my interest in experimental liturgies stretches only as far as Series 2.
Stockwood seems not to have known what he was getting into. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, reproached him afterwards with a line worthy of the Dean in All Gas and Gaiters: “Can you not get more adequate advice before involving yourself in a matter of this kind?”
My information on these last points comes — after searching online for some explanation — from a book published in April, The Church on British Television: From the Coronation to Coronation Street, by Marcus, Meredith, and Barbara Harmes (Palgrave Macmillan), of which more to come, no doubt. By such strange paths may we get to know of new academic publications.
WEEK by week, research for the 100 Years Ago column indicates that the the First World War, like the pandemic, put things on hold. Once it was over, everything that had been bottled up burst out: women, the Welsh, Home Rule, strikes galore, the Church Assembly, the Lambeth Conference. . . So, be prepared.
Usually, all this was covered in unrelieved columns of text. But the first Anglo-Catholic Congress was awarded a special illustrated supplement, on 25 June 1920. Not only, as you might expect, were there photos of such happy subjects as the high altar of St Alban’s, Holborn, a new college chapel in Cambridge, and several dashing missionary bishops, but also one or two works of art.
One is Pontifical Mass — The Blessing of the Gospeller at All Saints’, Margaret Street, St Peter’s Day, 1919, annotated: “After the painting by Prof. Moira at the Royal Academy, 1920 — By permission of R. Wigglesworth, Esq.”
The other is The Viaticum, “After the painting by A. Chevallier Tayler, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1904”. This is “by permission of F. B. Palmer, Esq.”, who in fact owned the Church Times. It shows a priest hurrying past market stalls with a parishioner who has fetched him to administer communion to the dying.
The trail so far suggests that Mr Palmer may have donated the painting to Bloxham School, while goodness know what fabulous things they keep out of sight of the live-streaming apparatus in the warren that is All Saints’, Margaret Street.
But I knew nothing of Gerald Moira and Chevallier Tayler. Perhaps an expert will enlighten me.
IT HAS been pleasing to see altar servers and other lay people reappear in live-streamed celebrations. As Dr Andrew Hobley, of Andover, wrote to the Editor: “For many, their personal liturgy will be an important part of their Christian lives. However necessary remote worship is now, parishes should think carefully about future plans that may continue this exclusion.”
Of course, it is more than personal; for in the liturgy everyone has a part to play, which is why, I would add, a high mass is better than a low one, though I can’t imagine when I will go to one again.
And what if you can’t even have a missa cantata? When Dr Hobley returned to church, “We followed the instructions not to sing. But we had two hymns that we hummed, through resolutely closed lips.”
If Ritual Notes doesn’t have a term for that manner of celebration, I’ll look in Winnie Ille Pu.