From Mr Thomas Ward
I was delighted to read Bishop Keith Ackerman’s article ‘To Whom Shall We Go?’ (ND, June 2016). The clerical collar, as he rightly points out, identifies a priest who is always ‘on duty’. It is a calling, not simply a profession.
Such a sign can be abused though, as I encountered not long ago in a local coffee shop. I arrived to find two priests deep in conversation, one of whom had loosened his collar allowing it to fall around his neck. Much like an untied bow tie at the end of a long party, it very much suggested that this priest was ‘off-duty’. If this is the impression that our clergy are giving out when seen in public, then what chance have we of encouraging people to reach out to the Church?
From the Revd Geoffrey Squire
Although I am very busy in my ‘retirement ministry’, I now have more time to watch historical, cultural, and religious programmes on the television. Many contain a common fault that is both annoying and incorrect when they refer to our own Church of England as ‘Protestant’, or to a time when ‘it used to be a Catholic church’.
Of course there are some very un-Catholic happenings in the CofE; but it is still part of the one Catholic Church, and is not a Protestant denomination. That is made quite clear by all our official formularies, our Creeds, and our Ordinal.
Long ago, when I was a boy server, the local press referred to the Vicar as ‘the local Protestant priest’. He was in the office of that paper the following morning, demanding a correction. The result was that the next week’s paper not only carried an editorial apology; but also the vicar’s story of the catholicity of the Church of England, quoting its official formularies. Confronted with that, no one could dispute what he said.
But he did more than that: he asked the servers and those who he referred to as ‘people who will understand’ to write to the Editor of any paper that called the CofE ‘Protestant’ or ‘non-Catholic’. A short while later I bought some chips wrapped in pages from The Times, and there I saw the CofE referred to as a ‘Protestant Church’. I immediately wrote to the Editor to correct him, quoting our Creeds and official formularies. I then took the letter and the press cutting to show to the Vicar. ‘That is excellent,’ he replied, ‘but I would add that you are aged fifteen’. A few days later, I received in the post a letter of apology from the Editor, and a copy of ‘The Times’ with my letter in it.
I think that what that priest was doing was a part of a campaign organised by the Church Union. Certainly the press were bombarded by letters from the faithful every time they made similar errors. The plan seemed to work, as for many years after they rarely made that mistake. Recently, however, things have gone backwards. Errors are creeping back in – especially in television programmes – so perhaps we Catholic faithful need to get to work again and bombard them with letters quoting the facts whenever they are in error.
Is this something that the Catholic Societies could organise? All it would need is an initial article in the Catholic publications and the occasional reminder. It will only work properly if everyone ensures that the relevant Editors get a hefty bunch of letters or emails.
From Mr Thomas Rookes
I was concerned to read Tom Sutcliffe’s report about the decline of classical concert attendance in London (ND, June 2016). This has been paralleled by the closure of so many record shops; but in a wider sense the reductions in government grants is surely a major factor, as libraries and further education have also been affected.
In my area the situation has improved; but this is probably because of the increase in car ownership, and wealthier older people. The improvements have been largely in chamber music concerts and the greater activity of amateur groups – including a vast improvement in the quality of amateur orchestras. The less rosy side is that, like London, theatres and venues where operatic events take place are struggling to survive – although this is mitigated by events at the local university and opera broadcasts at the cinema. However, the modernisation of some of the performances – designed to make them ‘relevant’ – is off-putting to many people and more likely to deter them from attending.
Thomas E. Rookes
From the Revd John Hawthorne
Church vestries are fascinating places, especially the drawers. You never know what you might find in them – like the mousetrap mixed up with the stoles which I found in one of my churches. I have now retired to Devizes, but for many years I was Rector of Tetbury, in the diocese of Gloucester.
The first thing I found in Tetbury vestry when I rummaged around was a framed, black and white photograph. I cleaned it up, and hung it on the vestry wall. It was of Charles Fuge Lowder. From 1845 until 1851 Fr Lowder was curate of Tetbury, and in the year of his arrival a chapel-of-ease – St Saviour’s – was opened at the bottom of the town for poor people who could not afford the pew rents at St Mary’s parish church. Almost as soon as St Saviour’s opened, however, pew rents were abolished and so, from its inception, it had lost its original purpose. Its congregation declined until 1973, when it was declared redundant and placed in the hands of the Council for the Care of Churches.
I was fascinated to discover that Fr Lowder, a giant of the Catholic Movement, had been a curate in Tetbury. Not long before I left Tetbury, Mgr John Broadhurst, then Bishop of Fulham, celebrated the Eucharist at St Saviour’s on 9 September, the day on which Fr Lowder is commemorated.
St Peter’s London Docks is – as many Devizes worshippers know – closely associated with St Peter’s Devizes. The parish of St Peter’s London Docks was founded by Fr Lowder, and he served there until his death in 1880 – and is still revered there. Fr Lowder was visited in Wapping by a young undergraduate, Lincoln Wainwright, who hoped to go straight to Wapping when he was ordained. Fr Lowder thought, though, that he needed experience first, and suggested he serve his first curacy at St Peter’s Devizes, which he did. He later joined Fr Lowder as his curate, and three years after Fr Lowder’s death Fr Wainright himself became Vicar and remained so for more than fifty years – another giant of the movement.
When I first retired I had no idea of this connection between Fr Lowder, Tetbury, and Devizes. But to think of it is inspiring.
From Mr Kenneth Powell
‘Thurifer’ gives a misleading impression of the reordering proposals for St Wilfrid’s, Harrogate (ND, June 2016). The chancel screen was installed, as a war memorial, in 1921. The church was completed in 1935, with the east end, including the exquisite Lady Chapel, designed by Leslie Moore, Temple Moore’s partner and son-in-law. Leslie Moore was himself an outstanding architect, well able to continue the project begun by his mentor, adapting and developing it – Temple Moore had, of course, died in 1920.
The screen was almost certainly designed by Temple Moore and seen to completion by Leslie Moore. It is one of the glories of the church, considered Temple Moore’s masterpiece and the only Grade I listed building in Harrogate. It is a magnificent feature of the church and no good reason has been given for its removal. A nave altar, if wanted, could easily stand in front of it. I should add that the proposals for reordering – the subject of many objections – include the dismantling of the chancel fittings, encasing side chapels in glazed screens, and destroying the entire character of the east end by levelling floors. The proportions of the Lady Chapel would be entirely lost.
‘Thurifer’ writes: ‘I am grateful to Mr Powell for pointing this out. My paragraph was based on information locally acquired. I am now torn. My instinct is that the architect’s intention should prevail; but, to my eye, I can see an aesthetic advantage to its removal and would not go so far as Mr Powell in his criticism. But then, I am not Temple Moore.’ We understand that the parish has withdrawn its funding application for the reordering scheme.