Welcomed at last
A SAD but now happier and very “2020” story relates to a parish church I know a little in south London, although it arrived from an unexpected source: the Pentecostal Credit Union, which is 40 years old this year.
The Union’s founder, the Revd Carmel Jones, was once an eager young Anglican altar server, part of the Windrush generation from Jamaica. In 1955, after attending a service in St Paul’s, Clapham, he was shocked to be asked by the “minister” not to come to church again. It put Mr Jones off, naturally; but he went on to achieve great things in another denomination, the Church of God in Christ.
The other happier part of the story is that, at its Dedication festival this year, the present incumbent of St Paul’s, Canon Jonathan Boardman, invited him back to offer a belated welcome and a profound apology for “the mistakes of our predecessors”. Canon Boardman described the rapprochement as “a moment of exceptional joy”.
Being local and a Nosy Parker, I needed to know who the parish’s clergy had been in 1955. I see that the Vicar had been there since 1931.
Watch with Father
FROM The Magic Roundabout to Tom Hardy’s CBeebies bedtime stories, children’s viewing occasionally appeals to adults as much as to children. Religious examples don’t flood to mind, but, if readers can imagine a cross-fertilisation of the rhyming Arch Books with the Haggerston Catechism, they will have a glimpse of why a little film on Facebook brightened a winter’s night for me, shortly after Hallowe’en, when, “instead of a scream of blood-curdling horror”,
In that valley of shadows the Church can’t keep silence,
But a vigil she keeps of illuminous light,
As candles are kindled to shine in the night. . .
So what is a saint? Do they pass an exam?
Are they those who have enrolled on a training programme? . . .
Yes, they have been having fun, just when we could all do with some, at St James’s, Sussex Gardens, Paddington, in their Virtual Sunday School. Puritan Percy turns up with his sledgehammer, but is asked: “Do you have in your wallet . . . a photo you like to bring out and look at?”
Our windows and statues you see as a problem
Are in fact one great Christian family album.
And, when all is done, the message is a sound one: “Banishing evil and all its constraints, Say ‘Blessed be God in his angels and saints.’”
All this was presented by an all-age cast including Saints Edward the Confessor, John Henry Newman, Angela, and Thomas Becket, and even a not very terrifying canine Wolf with his Francis, against the backdrop of the church, and with organ and piano music. “Pumpkins were injured in the making of this film.”
A similarly good time, I see, was had for the Ascension and Trinity Sunday. Even Good Friday’s Stations were, most effectively, in rhyme. If this is now cult viewing, let us not be deprogrammed till better days.
The baby awakes
THE mortal flesh of the smarty-pants set who go digging for heresies in Christmas carols will do well to keep silence this year like so many of us — and not only because of the coronavirus restrictions on singing. With Nick Page’s new book, reviewed in our Christmas supplement this week, that seam must have been exhausted for a generation.
But there is nothing heretical about a tune, and a Welsh priest whom I have mentioned before (Diary, 16 December 2016), the Revd Paul Bigmore, has taken the tune of “Away in a manger” and set it to new words so that it can be used at baptisms all year round — once we’re allowed to sing again.
The birth of a loved one is glorious and kind,
Enabling creation to shine in our eyes.
New life in abundance, a gift from afar,
Is the sign of God’s presence with wonder and awe.
A baby is born for a purpose unknown.
Only God knows the answer, but cradled with love
And joy is the sign of God’s love for us all
To nurture and cherish this new life once more.
With peace as the sign of all beauty and love,
The journey of life brings new hope full of love.
So Lord, in thy presence, our tasks have begun
As children of Jesus created to love.
This is to be part of Fr Bigmore’s planned book Darkness into Light.
Book of the Year
ONCE again, I have not been asked for my Book of the Year, an egregious omission when I have haunted so many bookshops in my time.
But even in my youth I was never in the same league as Ralph Leavis, who died recently: a brilliant musical scholar, son of Frank and Queenie, and spottable in his gown in bookshops in Oxford after the libraries were shut, or, failing them, peering into the bargain book box at St Giles’s, where he had a friend (or so I gathered) in a benignly formidable North Oxford landlady who was a churchwarden there.
He doesn’t really fit into Shaun Bythell’s varieties of Peritus (expert) in his Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops*; and I hope that I’m not Homo qui desidet (Loiterer); but I may be mistaken for Senex cum barba (Bearded pensioner). To find out in which bookshop category they might fall, readers are warmly invited to order the book from ours.
*Profile Books, £7.99 (Church Times Bookshop £7.20); 978-1-78816-658-4