Will 2023 be the year we finally see a vintage from the vines planted in the vicinity of Walsingham some time ago? What new arrivals might we expect on the Shrine shop shelves? Chateau Vièrge maybe, or Domaine Notre Dame, Apellation Apparition?
Our modern-day bank holidays have strong roots, I think, in the religious calendar. Festivals were the excuse for raucous celebrations. Some got rather out of hand, such as the St Bartholomew Fair in London’s Smithfield which featured sideshows, prize-fighters, musicians, wire-walkers, acrobats, puppets, freaks and wild animals; and banned in 1855 due to public disorder, indecency and debauchery. It was even described as a ‘school of vice which has initiated more youth into the habits of villainy than Newgate [Prison] itself’. None of this has deterred the national Gin & Rum Festival, however, which seems to be on tour throughout the nation’s urban centres pedalling ‘a unique experience that celebrates the best Gin & Rum right now and promises the party of the year’. Venues include Manchester Cathedral, Peterborough Cathedral, St Alban’s Cathedral, Newcastle Cathedral, and the Lutyens Crypt at Liverpool Cathedral. As one translation of Ecclesiastes 9.7 puts it: ‘So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this!’
Archbishop Welby will be back in his diocese soon after the great day at the Abbey for a special event at Canterbury Cathedral. In conversation with Dean David Monteith, he will offer ‘Reflections on the Coronation’ on 7 May as part of the Canterbury Festival in the nave at 7pm. For £21.50, attendees can discover ‘his personal experience of officiating at the Coronation of King Charles III, and hear first-hand his thoughts on crowning the new king’. In addition: ‘Your ticket includes a coronation goodie bag featuring a drink, snack, and coronation momento’ [sic].
Keen followers of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s social media accounts awoke on Easter Sunday to be greeted by a festal message. The image, however, was familiar as it had graced the cover of New Directions last month. Congratulations again to Pisit Heng on his powerful image of ‘a tomb in Israel’ (actually Nazareth) and available from the royalty-free Unsplash.com website. He must be as glad as we are that the Lambeth Palace social media team liked the picture too.
Save the Parish may have to widen its horizons. Developments around LLF and the move to accommodate gay relationships have led to certain evangelical parishes in the Diocese of London to declare UDI and set up their own ‘deanery’ in which they align on this issue alone, along with a shared identity in churchmanship. Do we really need another deanery synod though? Surely life is exciting enough with the current arrangement.
Good Friday and Bishop Sarah Mullally gave a media interview, not on the message of Holy Week and Easter but the nurses’ strike. Bishop Mullally knows a good deal about this, however, as during her five-year stint as the country’s Chief Nursing Officer she negotiated Agenda for Change, which came into agreement in December 2004 and graded NHS staff on agreed pay scales, covering over 1 million people. Getting employers, unions and the government to agree this was a major achievement. Sadly her more recent experience with LLF has seen an outpouring of vitriol and personal threats in her direction, so much so that she found it almost impossible to speak about them at a recent diocesan synod.
The Ambassador to the Holy See, His Excellency Christopher Trott, has a challenging role. Daily he must navigate Vatican politics and the general chaos of Roman life. Explaining religion in Britain has been a tough call. ‘The late Queen died a Presbyterian and was buried an Anglican,’ he comments. ‘They can’t quite get their heads around that here.’
Archbishop Fisher’s special book of devotions for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II back in 1953 was a very commendable action and drew on his headmaster’s experience; Archbishop Welby has done something similar this year. Church House Publishing is to be congratulated too for producing Daily Prayers for the Coronation of King Charles III. It’s an accessible booklet which brings together themes prayers over four weeks with Scripture, teaching, and generally useful information. One of those involved was Fr Philip Barnes, formerly at the Shrine in Walsingham and recently announced as a Prebend of St Paul’s Cathedral. Further congratulations!
A brickbat to Cambridge University Press, however. As Their Majesties set off for their first state visit to Germany and not via France, as initially intended, the new Book of Common Prayer began to appear. Someone on the publishing team had done a find-and-replace of ‘Elizabeth/Charles’, clearly not knowing their prayer book or reckoning with the scrutiny of Prayer Book Society members. For there at the end, The Ratification declared ‘This Book of Articles before rehearsed, is again approved, and allowed to be holden and executed within the Real, by the assent and consent of our Sovereign Lord CHARLES, by the grace of God, of England, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c.’ Perhaps President Macron might like a copy.