“Without Even Having Sacrificed His Whiskers” : Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln

Here is another – less troubling – monument to be found in Lincoln Cathedral.  It is slightly tucked away, but then it would probably be too large to move.  From a distance it appears to be a statue of the Pope, which would be a surprising thing to find in an Anglican Cathedral, but – as you will see – it is, in fact Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln between 1885 and 1910.  It is still unusual to find such a monumental monument to a Clergyman (the photograph does not really convey the size of the thing). It would be surprising if, for instance, Bishop Tim of Leicester were to be commemorated in this way after he vacates his Cathedra.

Closer to, he seems rather less intimidating and, indeed, rather kindly.  There is a hint, perhaps, of Private Godfrey putting his hand up to be excused.  (This photograph, incidentally, might give the impression that the statue is made of solid gold, but that it is not the case).

I must admit the name was unknown to me, but it appears he was certainly one of the better sorts of Bishop.  He was appointed at the age of 59, having spent most of his career in Oxford, as the Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology, Canon of Christ Church and founder of St Stephen’s House.  As Bishop, according to the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, he “won the affection and reverence of all classes by his real saintliness of character” and, according to another source was “the most loved man in Lincolnshire”.  His great strength seems to have been in the area of pastoral care.

The most dramatic incident of his career as Bishop was his trial before Archbishop Benson for “ritualistic practices” between 1888-1890.  Apparently this stemmed from a complaint lodged by a Solicitor from Cleethorpes named Ernest de Lacy Read.  In his opponents’ view

“By the work he maintained at Cuddesdon; by his apparently sincere regard for Romish playthings; by the display of gaudy gew-gaws at his enthronement; and by his self-conscious vanity in sitting to be ‘taken’ for the admiration of ‘the faithful’ without even having sacrificed his whiskers to the Catholic razor, he is unquestionably assisting in ‘digging the grave of the Establishment.'”

The outcome of the prosecution seems to have been a compromise, whereby he was allowed to continue with most of his “ritualistic practices” as long as it was understood that there was no sacerdotal significance to them.  He was allowed to have lighted candles on the altar, for instance, but only for the purposes of illumination.

In an interview with the newsletter of the Friends of Lincoln Cathedral, Rowan Williams gave his view of the trial (King might have struggled to understand the second sentence here)

“Here was one of the holiest, most learned, most pastorally engaged, most involved bishops in the Church of England going through a ridiculous process, which everybody was embarrassed about.  Archbishop Benson was clearly embarrassed about it, and I think that general embarrassment did teach Church and State something about the need to give the Church a little bit of room to work out its own disciplines on its own terms about worship, and to catch up with the flexibility and changes in worship practices that were going on on the ground.”

He also comments, rather feelingly –

“I think he would be amazed at the amount of paperwork and regulation that we’ve created for ourselves and that we’ve created in response to Government pressure, and I think he would be disappointed that we were focussed so much on rather short-term goals.  King was a deep man, and he believed that clergy ought to have depth; that they ought to have the kind of training that allowed them to go deep in their own faith, and the resources of the tradition, and of the Bible, and I think he would have said that we’re very much at risk of crowding that out, of creating people who are problem-solvers rather than thinkers and reflectors.”

Following his death, there were calls for King to be canonised, though he has had to make do with a lesser festival on the 8th March.  I don’t know how the monument was paid for, but it would not be surprising if it was by public subscription.  It is possible that he is shown in the act of making the sign of the cross with the flat of his hand (one of the “ritualistic practices” for which he was prosecuted) – one way, I suppose, of , as it were, showing two fingers to the Cleethorpes Solicitor.

Unlike his predecessor (Christopher Wordsworth) there is no evidence that King was a sporting man.  His nephew, the Rev. Robert Stuart King, however, played football for Grimsby Town and one match for England (a 13-0 win against Ireland).  His great-nephew (also Robert King) played one First-Class cricket match for Essex and later went on to umpire in the South African Currie Cup.

Forgive What We Have Been, Amend What We Are

A couple of weeks ago I paid a visit to Lincoln Cathedral.  It has its fans (Ruskin, Pevsner) but – magnificent though it is

it seemed to me to have an uneasy atmosphere, something that suggested it was not quite happy in its skin.

The Cathedral was rebuilt and greatly enlarged by St Hugh of Lincoln, the exemplary 12th century Bishop, who was canonized shortly after his death. The Cathedral invites visitors to imagine themselves as mediaeval pilgrims visiting his shrine.  It’s true that many pilgrims would have been attracted by Great St Hugh, but more would have  there to venerate this shrine (what’s left of it) – the shrine of Little St Hugh.

Little St Hugh was a nine-year old boy, the son of a woman called Beatrice, who disappeared from his home on July 31st 1255.  On 29th August his body was found in a well in the vicinity of what is now called the Jew’s House (Lincoln had a thriving Jewish community, partly because the elder St Hugh had been well-known for offering them protection).  A Jew called Jopin (or Copin) was apprehended and confessed that the boy had been crucified as part of a ritual murder by a group of Jews assembled for that purpose.  He did so either because he had been tortured, or, according to other accounts, because he had been offered a pardon if he confessed.

At this point, King Henry intervened.  Copin (or Jopin) was executed and 90 Jews arrested and held in the Tower of London.  18 were hanged (for refusing to submit to the authority of a Christian court), the others pardoned and released.  The explanation for this seems to be that Henry could confiscate the wealth of those who had been convicted, and his brother could continue to tax those who had been released.

Meanwhile stories spread about Little St Hugh (for instance that when his body had been discovered the well had filled with a blinding light and the odour of sanctity) and there was a rush to canonize him.  He was mentioned by Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales, a popular ballad was written about him (later recorded in a bowdlerised, Jew-free version by Steeleye Span and others) and Lincoln Cathedral became a major and lucrative site for pilgrimage.

There is something very contemporary about this story.  We can imagine the successive news reports – “Fears are growing for a nine-year old boy from Lincoln who disappeared from his home on 31st July … police are appealing for any information about the whereabouts of nine-year old Hugh of Lincoln … the remains of a boy have been discovered in a well in the Steep Hill area of Lincoln

… a 39-year-old Jew is helping police with their enquiries …”  We don’t have to use too much imagination to picture the angry mob, or the clamour for an early arrest.  Perhaps there was a ‘Justice for Hugh’ campaign.  Accusations of ‘ritual abuse’, too, are not unknown in our own time.

Nowadays, when a child is killed, their shrine takes the form of a spontaneous eruption of flowers and soft toys.  In Lincoln they did things more formally and erected an impressive four storey Gothic edifice over the box containing Hugh’s bones.  This shrine was destroyed during the Reformation and Little St Hugh gradually became something of an embarrassment.  His feast day was removed from the Anglican calendar and the Roman Catholics claimed he had never been properly canonized at all.

The people of Lincoln seem to have been ambivalent about their famous son.  The Jews’s House is still there and is something of a tourist attraction.  There was an attempt to claim (in the early 20th Century) that the well itself had been discovered in the basement of the house, and postcards were sold of it.  The owner of the house later confessed that he had arranged for the well to be dug himself, in an attempt to stave off a threat to have the house demolished.

What to do about Hugh is also something of a problem for the Cathedral authorities.  At St Alban’s Cathedral, the shrine of St Alban has been reconstructed from what is left of the original (again destroyed during the Reformation).  This has not been attempted in Lincoln.  Instead the bones of  Hugh (who, of course, never asked for any of this) are relegated to an obscure aisle, accompanied by an apology which states (quite correctly) that “such stories do not rebound to the credit of Christendom” and ends “so let us pray: forgive what we have been, amend what we are, and direct what we shall be.”

To the casual observer, the chest looks as though it is designed to keep boots in, or umbrellas and I’m sure many a weary pilgrim has perched on it to take the weight off their feet.  All very pathetic, as they would have said in the 18th Century.

A Wayside Pulpit (On The Way To Trent Bridge)

The Cricketer (rightly, surely) includes Trent Bridge in its list of the best grounds to watch Test Cricket that features in its latest edition.  But (although I admire his use of the semicolon) I’m unsure about the explanation provided for its inclusion by Sambit Bal of Cricinfo –

“Lovely walk to the ground; the openness; the swing; the multiculturalism.”  

The openness and the swing I can see.  The multiculturalism may well be in evidence for a Test Match against India or Pakistan, though less so at County matches.  But I do wonder if he knows a route to the ground that I’ve missed, or whether he might be approaching it from a different direction.

If approaching from the station, it is possible to walk to the ground alongside the canal – which is pretty enough – but the quickest route (the one you need to take if you’ve caught the 9.37 from Market Harborough and want to be there for the start of play) is through a housing estate. 

This has the – admittedly – lovely name of The Meadows, and has (or had) two pubs with the pretty names Poets’ Corner and The Riverside (Poets’ Corner is now closed, with the picture of Lord Byron that used to adorn it removed). The estate can present a jolly aspect of a sunny morning, with cricket in the offing, but in the evenings – at the close of play – it tends to be strangely deserted, apart from the odd hoodie-shrouded youth on a bicycle.

But it does look as though someone has the best interests of the estate at heart.  On approaching last week through the traditional underpass, I noticed that all the graffiti had been erased except for this –

My first thought was that the Government has decided to adopt guerrilla tactics in its War on Obesity, but, a little further on, I deduced from handwriting evidence that it is the handiwork of the local Vicar.

I particularly like “lovin’ the crap out of each other” – perhaps a loose translation of Mark : 12 :31.

I wonder whether it ever occurs to the Rev. Dave to seek a little spiritual salve (perhaps after the Sunday Soak) over the bridge from his estate, at the home of Nottinghamshire cricket?  I know I would, in his shoes.

Inexplicable Splendour : City Churches At Christmas

In the first week of December I spent a free afternoon walking from the heart of the City of London (and it does have such a thing) to Trafalgar Square.  I’ve always felt that this is the part of Christmas-time when London is at its most attractive (assuming that you aren’t completely broke, in which case it’s always fairly wretched).

There is a prickle of anticipation, but the shopping frenzy has yet to reach Maenad proportions, and the streets of the City itself aren’t yet full of impenitent bankers spewing Chateau Petrus into the gutters and waste bins.

My walk was in the opposite direction to the Sunday excursions that Dickens made when he was living in Covent Garden, and recorded in his essay “City Churches“, published in  “The Uncommercial Traveller“.  Dickens was writing at a time when the exodus of the residential population from the City had left its Churches attended on Sundays only by skeleton congregations (almost literally so in the case of St Mary Woolnoth) but before the C of E had done the sensible and unsentimental thing by demolishing many of them to pay for new churches in the growing suburbs.

What’s striking is how – a century and a half later – then unanticipatable life has returned to those churches that survived the cull.

In St Mary Woolnoth – sandwiched between the Mansion House and the Bank of England – the Vicar was conducting a two hour open service (“come and go as you please”) before a congregation of what might have been penitent bankers.  It was so packed it didn’t feel seemly to take a photograph.

Moving down Cheapside past St Mary-le-Bow (whose restaurant was doing a roaring trade), St Vedast (home to Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous),  the usefully occupied St Paul’s itself and St Bride’s (inspiration for wedding cakes everywhere), I stopped in at St Dunstan- in-the-East, which, like many other City Churches, has come to what, in footballing terms, would be called a ground share arrangement with the Romanian Orthodox Church.  The C of E holds lunchtime services during the week, and the Romanians have it at the weekend.  This results in some interesting cross-cultural and cross-temporal hybrids –


Progressing on to  the City boundaries, the Templar Church in the Temple (of which more anon) was having an open day (admission £3.00) –

and finally  to St Mary in the Strand, marooned on a traffic island in the middle of that street.  This has survived several attempts to destroy it, most recently a road-widening scheme.

As you can just about make out here, a small choir were rehearsing for a carol service.  This St Mary is the official church of the W.R.N.S., but the choir didn’t look like Wrens, and were probably from nearby King’s College,or perhaps the Courtauld Institute.

My walk also took me past the inexplicably splendid branch of Lloyd’s Bank, where T.S. Eliot used to work –

All Inexplicably Splendid.

“We Cannot Always Stand Upright” (and George Winston’s January Stars)

Let us say farewell to the month of January with the collect for the fourth Sunday after Epiphany –

“O God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright : Grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

(And which of us, Brothers and Sisters, has not – at one time or another –  found ourselves unable to stand upright?  I know I have … etc.) 

and another piece of music.  You may not recognise the name, but you’ll probably know the music, as it often crops up on the soundtracks of TV documentaries and the like (often those featuring polar bears).  George Winston had the great misfortune (critically) to be signed to the Windham Hill label, which saw him consigned to the New Age bin alongside various crystal-gazing Pan Pipe merchants and was often dismissed as music for yuppies.  This was less of a misfortune commercially as his albums Autumn, December and Winter into Spring all went platinum in the U.S.A.

He prefers to describe his own music as “Rural folk piano”.  Try to banish from your mind any thought of a Californian in Gap chinos sipping a wheatgrass smoothie and aim more for a Walden vibe.  This is the first track (in old money) from Winter into Spring (1982) and is entitled January Stars.

(I’d got this far before discovering that the video couldn’t be embedded , but the link should take you there presently …)

January Stars

Evening Prayer : Darkness Visible

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned” (Matthew 4.16)

I’m afraid words seem to be failing me slightly today, so here are a couple more images of Lights in the Darkness.  I have noticed, looking back through the photographs I’ve taken this year, that certain themes recur no matter what I’m intending to photograph – doorways, entrances and exits, signs of all sorts, gravestones and memorials.  But this seems to be the predominant one.  I’m sure my subconscious must be trying to tell me something. 

This is a statue of Mother and Child from Peterborough Cathedral (I’m afraid I failed to note the sculptor) –

and that was the River Jordan at about 6.30 one morning last week (the lights here are street lights rather than will o’ the wisps).

“Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night …”  

and – of your mercy -pray for the soul of the 15 year old friend of my daughter from her old primary school, who was murdered last week in North London.  Rest in Peace – though, of course, that is the last thing a 15 year old should be doing. 

In the Gloom, the Gold Gathers the Light Against It

I’m either a little late for this, or a little early, but I understand that either the Monday just past, or next Monday, is meant to be the gloomiest day of the year.  This Monday certainly felt thoroughly gloomy to me, though I feel things have brightened up slightly since then and the (dread phrase!) “direction of travel” is in the right direction.  There are now, at least, birds audible as they go about their business at 5.30, after the truly dead time of the year in midwinter when “no birds do sing” and (O Joy!) there is a little light when I leave work.

But here is a photograph that I feel provides a little light to lighten our darkness.  During the Christmas break I was lucky enough to have visited the Anglican Cathedral in Peterborough and Pugin’s Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Barnabas in Nottingham.  I had some thoughts about these and will try to gather and present them to you in due course, but, to be going on with, this is the Rood in Peterborough Cathedral, sculpted in gilded aluminium by Frank Roper.  Roper’s obituary in The Guardian had this to say about him –

“Roper was a man of entrancing contradictions: a modernist whose work absorbed tradition, deeply conservative but a vivid individualist. His working days were hard and hazardous, but, like Magritte, he dressed at all times in collar and tie. He attracted and amused a wide circle of friends, and relished sharing sculptural toys with his daughters and grandchildren.

Given its ubiquity in churches, Roper’s work remained surprisingly little-known, a fact which perhaps reflects his humility in placing the function of devotion above expression of the artist’s personality. Writing of his work at Llandaff, he referred to Pace’s suggestion, “that I should seek inspiration by putting my head into a thorn bush, a painful operation intended to prevent my formalising, or inflicting my conventions on the subject”.”

An odd thing to take any kind of comfort from, of course, but millions do.

“In the gloom, the gold gathers the light against it” 

(Ezra Pound, Canto VII)

(The inscription underneath reads Stat Crux Dum Volvitur Orbis (The Cross is Still While the World is Turning) – the motto of the Carthusian Order).

Three Canopied Niches : J.L. Carr and Kettering Parish Church

A few days ago (El Salvador, Nerja) we witnessed the despoliation of many Spanish churches during the period of the Civil War.  We have, of course, been through a similar process ourselves (albeit for different reasons), during the Reformation and then again during our own Civil War.

But here is evidence of a small attempt to restore what had been lost, in the Parish Church of  S. Peter and S. Paul, Kettering, made by my Father’s friend the novelist, teacher, cricketer and self-publisher J.L. Carr

The guide to the church describes them thus –

“Three canopied niches over the door contain modern statues of the Virgin and Child, St Peter and St Paul by the late J.L. Carr”

Byron Rogers, in his 2003 biography The Last Englishman : a life of J.L. Carr had this to say –

“Some at his [Carr’s] funeral service at Kettering parish church walked through the churchyard, remembering other churchyards through which an antiquarian had walked with them.  A few would have looked up and grinned at the weathered stone figures of St Peter and St Paul over the North door, knowing it was no anonymous stone mason of the Middle Ages but J.L. Carr who had carved them to replace the originals destroyed at the Reformation.  They would have known that their angularity had been forced upon him, the stone coming from window-sills and kerb stones demolished by the council, but a Mrs Pulley, who didn’t, wrote to complain about St Paul’s mouth, which, she said, portrayed a ‘miserable, sulky character’.  She appealed to him to straighten the mouth and to add colouring.”  

I’m afraid the sulkiness – or otherwise – of the mouth is not apparent in these photographs (Mrs Pulley must have had very good eyesight or a long ladder), but they might give you some idea of what they are like.  Well worth a detour, if you happen to be in the area.

The Virgin and Child –

St Peter

and St Paul

Cloud and Majesty and Awe : Advent Sunday with Sufjan Stevens

Advent Sunday : “O my God, in thee have I trusted, let me not be confounded ; neither let mine enemies triumph over me …”.  Amen to that.

The C of E doesn’t often do “cloud and majesty and awe“, but I think the humblest congregation can aspire to a sense of the numinous with a performance of this hymn, which no doubt we shall be singing this evening.  As a child it was potent enough for the solemnity to survive the unfortunate notoriety (at the time) of a film with a similar title.  Any giggling had usually subsided by the time the organ made its entrance.

Part of its power, I think, comes from the fact that it feels ancient (unlike most hymns which feel Victorian) and, indeed, it is ancient.  The verses derive from the O Antiphons (in which Christ is addressed by seven of His various titles).  The Antiphons date from at least the 8th century and were originally sung separately.  They seem to have been first sung together in about the 12th century and sung to the familiar tune by the 14th. 

This is a modern version by Sufjan Stevens (whom we have met before in his devotional guise (see here)).  I don’t know whether this is exactly awe-inspiring, but, in my view, it is like totally awesome …  

(Two versions here – the first a fragment, the second full-length) –