Manchester Cathedral – home of the great “Christa” celebration when a crucified woman was paraded before a mercifully myopic Bishop Mayfield – has been keeping a subterranean profile for sometime.

However sharp-eyed trend watchers fear another foray into the vanguard of liberal fashion when the following amendment to seafarer John Newton’s hymn was noted on a recent service sheet:

“Thus may we abide in union with each other and the Lord and possess in sweet communion boys which earth cannot afford.” ….!

The Provost of Southwark must look to his laurels.


An orthodox worshipper, obliged to attend a funeral at a neighbouring “affirming” church, reports the following:

“The service proceeded and concluded without a reference to the central matters of the faith. There might as well have been no Jesus, no resurrection”. At the end of the service, as the mourners departed, the clergyperson came and stood next to the visitor. “You probably noticed that I didn’t say anything about what happens next”….they said apologetically. “As a matter of fact, I did, ” the visitor replied. “Well”, they concluded, “that’s because we don’t really know, do we?”


A month later the unfortunate worshipper was back at the same “Affirmatorium” for a second funeral. This time the Rector was in charge. There followed twenty minutes of entirely secular comment and reading. Just when it seemed it was to be another dose of “humanism with hymns”, the Rector said:

“Before we go I’m going to read a little bit from the Bible.” Astonished but relieved our worshipper sat back to hear John Ch 14 v 1 – 6… “in my Fathers house are many mansions ” etc. On completion the Rector turned to the congregation and said, “Do you know what this passage is all about?” Most clearly didn’t, and those that did kept silent for fear of contradiction and waited for the forthcoming enlightenment. “It is”, he beamed, “all about hospitality. And you know, our Betty was a wonderful hostess!”

Can’t wait for the profiteroles at the heavenly banquet!


The forces of enlightenment and liberal tolerance have won a resounding victory in the formerly benighted village of Stow Maries. As recounted in former issues, the reactionary wardens and PCC had been lovingly condemned and compassionately berated by the vicar, Derek Cooling in pulpit, public and parish magazine, for rejecting women priests, passing A and B and joining Forward in Faith.

They had sought talks with the self proclaimed “catholic” Bishop of Bradwell about leaving the joint benefice. Dr Laurie Green, for it is he, was wise enough to delay such a decision until after the Annual Meeting.

As predicted in this column the subsequent interest in the electoral roll led to it more than doubling by the AGM date (29th April). The meeting, presided over by the Archdeacon of Southend, witnessed the vicar (who had already verbally disciplined the churchwarden for going to an old fashioned Maundy Communion rather than his specially arranged “love feast”) tut-tutting throughout the warden’s report. And when the wardens of 16 years were voted out he hissed ecstatically, “Yes! Yes!”

Clearly not only is Mr Cooling a master pastor but also something of a prophet. Before the AGM he removed the Forward in Faith sign from the door.

Even more uncannily prescient was the admission to Communion, on Mothering Sunday, of two women who were to be confirmed on May 19th. One of them, thus sacramentally qualified, became churchwarden, along with her husband who had been attending for several weeks, the other became Deanery Synod rep.

The desperate reactionaries have resigned to worship elsewhere and Stow Maries is free to “share the same vision” as Fr Cooling.

Who says there are no happy endings?


Congratulations to the Church of Scotland, the Vicar of St Margaret’s, Westminster and a host of other worthies for scrapping the deluded wanderings of the madcap revolutionary scribbler, William Blake. “Jerusalem” is clearly militaristic (bows, spears etc), sexist (arrows of desire) and anti-urban (“satanic mills” versus “green and pleasant land”). It can only be understood by those with a grasp of mystic theology and a knowledge of the real presence and only sung and enjoyed by the vast majority of English people. For all these reasons it is necessary to eliminate it.

One word of caution however. It is the hymn that the Labour Party has adopted and it may be that many upwardly mobile clergymen will want to be singing their tune after the next election.


Fans of inter-necine strife will be wending their way to the AGM of the Prayer Book Society on 22nd June, 11.30 at the Painters Hall. Distressed at his regular failure to defeat the executive and transform the society into an engine of liberalism, Mr Brennan is proposing postal voting. This avoids having to win the argument in, what is always, a well-attended meeting and gives maximum opportunity to those who enjoy the politics of lobbying.

Meanwhile his friend and ally, the Revd Norman Taylor, a retired school chaplain, is proposing to split the society by advocating welcoming women priests.

As the society has no policy on this, one way or the other, and exists solely to defend and encourage the use of the Prayer Book this seems, to most, an attempt to re-open scarcely healed wounds just when most people are trying to live together.


The pioneering work of the Rev. Jonathan Blake deserves the commendation of all forward thinking christians concerned with the church’s relevance and credibility. Blake, a self-styled “free-lance vicar” (strangely not listed in Crockford’s), performed the first Internet wedding last month connected only by a screen. So far no-one has questioned the legality of such an enterprise. Now that you can marry anywhere it is getting harder and harder to see how anyone who “can show any just cause” would be able to object to a marriage, whether it be up in a hot air balloon, scuba diving in the Aegean or “hacking into a site” on the net.

Be that as it may the real excitement is that this is the first English “virtual wedding”. Feverish ethical and doctrinal speculation has surrounded this event. Assuming that they haven’t followed the modern English tradition and taken the precaution of having it first, will they go off on a “virtual honeymoon” and thenceforth restrict their cohabitation to a site on the net and their contact to touch typing.

If so, Mr Blake will wait a long time for their “virtual christenings!”