The Colour is Pink

THE BISHOP who happens to live nearest to me (and has devised a cunning route to our street avoiding all traffic lights) is fond of saying that the fixed and printed bits of the liturgy occupy about twelve minutes of your average morning service.

The hymns may take rather longer, certainly up to fifteen. This being so, even in this year of new service-books, it may be surprising that the periodical News of Liturgy appears monthly, while News of Hymnody, which had been all set to welcome a new Editor even as you read this, must be content with a mere four issues a year. Has there really been all that much to say about synods, committees, commissions, drafts, amendments, new prayers and old canticles, every month since the year dot when NOL first appeared? By contrast, NOH (b.1982) has often been pushed to get everything in to its eight quarterly pages.

If time spent in church were the key issue, of course, we would have to subscribe to a News of Notices every week, topped up with a daily News of Refreshments after the Service. You may laugh, but some Presidents, Celebrants, and Worship Leaders could well do with a little tuition about what to say in the notice-slot; more particularly, what not to say. Even coffee-servers could benefit from a frank exchange of views on those who hang around the hatch and cause church hall gridlock, or the merits of putting coffee in the mugs before queues start to build. Panic-buying is not the answer.

But I digress. My real purpose this month was to have been to enter a brief plug for ‘the pink’un’, the above-mentioned News of Hymnody. To come clean, I was twice parachuted in as emergency caretaker after someone else had pressed the editorial ejector button. My successor from this very month made history by ejecting before he actually started, rather like the disappearing organist I featured here in September. Guess who is left, to change the metaphor, holding the baby.

New Directions is read by some who care for none of these things. That does not absolve any of you from the need to use properly those fifteen precious minutes of hymns: your parish’s weekly ‘Sunday Quarter Hour’, so to speak. This is where I had intended to say, but now cannot, that NOH will help you; all I am now allowed is a hint that you order from Grove Books, Ridley Hall Road, Cambridge CB3 91U, for less than the price of a couple of coffees at Heathrow Terminal 3. I return, finally, to the question of traffic lights.

These, like hymn books, come in three basic shades. Red includes The Anglican Hymn Book of happy memory, and Ancient and Moderns from both 1950 and 1983. Orange or amber embraces not only Sing Glory but a variety of lesser and floppier collections. Beware these last. Green will give you both The English Hymnal and The New English Hymnal. My bishop, as I have said, avoids the lot.

However, another colour is almost as much in evidence along the Old Kent Road which is our main local thoroughfare. Blue signals either trouble, or help on the way from the emergency services. I leave you to make the equations for the varying azure shades of Hymns for Today’s Church, Praise!, and Common Praise. What I would chiefly have recommended, in happier circumstances, is pink: NOH, quarterly.

Next month, I promise, we shall be serious.

Christopher Idle works in the Woolwich area of the Diocese of Southwark