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Diary: Ian Marchant

22 July 2022

ISTOCK

Under the skin

ONE of the problems of having cancer, I find, is that you don’t always feel great. So it was that I missed church on Trinity Sunday, which was disappointing, because I like Trinity Sunday very much — unlike most of the clergy I’ve met, who are called upon to give a sermon then. I was confirmed on Trinity Sunday four years ago, and, a year later, I managed to chuck the fags. Add the two things together, and you’ve got the makings of a good day, by anybody’s standards.

Why the Trinity is particularly hard to preach on I’m not sure; I’m reading Joshua with my wife at the moment, and that strikes me as much more problematic. Still, I’ve never had to preach, and I am to theology what the Archbishop of Canterbury is to drill ’n’ bass, so it’s hard to judge.

I remember my pal Catherine Fox telling me, years ago, that she had lost count of the times she’d heard preachers talk about the threefold nature of bananas. When squeezed, a ripe banana breaks into three vertical segments, all equally nice, but which, added together, make a whole banana; and so it is with the Trinity.

When I told my wife this, she had no idea what I was on about, because she had never noticed that bananas do that — despite herself being a card-carrying fan of banana sandwiches. You think you know someone. . .

 

To thine own self

PREBENDARY Steve always sends out a service sheet for those unable to attend in person, and I was moved to find on it the Trinitarian prayer by Thomas Ken, quondam Bishop of Bath & Wells, which starts, “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. . .”

I’ve developed a fondness for Ken. He attended Charles II on his deathbed, was sent to the Tower for his refusal to have James II’s Declaration of Indulgence read in his churches; he then became one of the leaders of the non-jurors, who refused to swear oaths of allegiance to William and Mary because of the oaths that they had previously sworn to James — even though they were opposed to his policies. Ken was a man of honour — imagine that!

 

Yawning gap

MY INTEREST was sparked during the writing of my new book, when I discovered that, 300 years ago, my seven times great-grandfather was a non-juror — or, at least, something of a fellow-traveller. He went to hear non-jurors preach, and had one such to dine on a number of occasions.

A few weeks back, my wife and I went on holiday to Brittany. We were due to catch the evening ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff, and we broke our journey with an overnight stay in Wells, before crawling a few churches in Devon on the way to the boat the next day.

I was saddened to learn that there is no memorial to Ken in his old cathedral, because of his having left the Church on a matter of principle. We say his prayers, and sing his beautiful morning hymns; so why he isn’t worthy of a small memorial in the cathedral after 300 years, I don’t know.

 

Light perpetual

I HAD never been to Brittany before, and for me it was an enchanted place. When I was a boy, I read Roger Lancelyn Green’s Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and always wondered what was meant by Armorica, of which Arthur was also King. The enchantment I felt in Brittany came from that place: the wonder of a boy at finding himself in part of Arthur’s lost kingdom.

We did the things that tourists do, i.e. eat lovely food and visit interesting places. The Onion Johnny Museum in Roscoff was a bit anti-climactic, to be honest, while the Musée des Artes in Rennes was better than expected — especially since there was a free-jazz band busking in the square outside. In Hereford, buskers tend to do a bit of Oasis and a bit of Queen, and expect you to be pleased. In Rennes, they seemed to be playing Ornette Coleman, and I tapped my card against their payment machine with a smile.

My favourite place to visit, though, was Tréguier Cathedral, dedicated in honour of St Yves, whose skull is preserved in a reliquary in the nave. No caff, no gift shop, no recommended donation: just a building full of life and light, and dozens of people preparing for the next day’s festival, the Pardon of St Yves. Disenchantment was nowhere to be found.

 

Comforter divine

AS I was writing this piece, and looking for an ending, I got a Facebook message from a pal who is organising a series of talks, “Ignite Me”, in the autumn, in Bleddfa church, near by. He would like me to give a talk on the Holy Spirit, and what can I do but say yes? My bluff has been called in the time that it took me to write this Diary.

I may be only four years since I was confirmed, but it’s 35 years since I stood alone on the Sussex Downs, one dark and desperate night, in a nightmare of my own devising and with nowhere else to turn, and said aloud, “Come into my life, Lord Jesus.” Since that moment, the Holy Spirit has been with me, ever present: to listen to; to talk with; to laugh and cry with; by my side always; infallible.

I guess I’ll just say that — though I might pop a banana in my pocket, just in case.

 

Ian Marchant is an author and broadcaster, and the founder of Radio Free Radnorshire.

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Sat 13 Aug @ 08:46
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