Anglo-Saxons Ahoy!

The list of events being put on at the British Library to support their Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition just grows and grows. And there’s real quality there too. Go to to catch up with the latest.


Lead us into Truth

I’m just travelling back from a splendid Harvest Service at St Bride’s, Fleet Street, and an equally splendid lunch at Painter’s Hall, courtesy of the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists and their Hon Chaplain Geoff Dodgson. Malcolm Guite was there too, to read one of his sonnets: my job was just to say grace.
The CEO of the Tenant Farmers’ Association delivered the sermon on the truth of Christ which sets us free. I found myself thinking in a more applied way. Good folk though these Guildswomen and men are, we are living in a post-truth world and they are heavily engaged in PR as well as journalism. So I wonder what the temptation to step over the truth line looks like to them, why it might prevail, and what might help them counter it. I wonder.

Bringing lllumination to Life Through Words and Music

I’ve just booked into this evening event at the British Library on  Wed 12 Dec 2018, 19:00 – 20:30.

Exploring and performing the Vespasian Psalter King David scene

The beautiful and intriguing Vespasian Psalter, which contains many images of musicians and instruments, is brought to life as a panel of experts and musicians explore the instrumental sounds of the 8th century.

Carbon dating has enabled us to date the ‘River Erne’ horn (a wooden trumpet discovered in the river in the 1950s) and confirm that the wooden horns shown in the Vespasian Psalter were present at the time it was produced. The accurate reproduction of two of these instruments gives us access to a true sound from the 8th Century AD. 

Joanna Story, joined by musicians Simon O’Dwyer, Barnaby Brown and Malachy Frame, ask whether the Vespasian Psalter illumination of a group of musicians performing together is a reflection of a real scene or a product of the imagination of the artist, through inspection of aspects of the illumination and live performance.

In association with Ancient Music Ireland

Image: an image from the Vespasian Psalter with horn and lyre players


Name:Bringing lllumination to Life Through Words and Music
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: Wed 12 Dec 2018, 19:00 – 20:30
Price: Full Price: £12.00
Member: £12.00
Senior 60+: £10.00
Student: £8.00
Registered Unemployed: £8.00
Under 18: £8.00
Enquiries:+44 (0)1937 546546
Book now

Go back to God with David

Cardinal (St.) John Fisher was Bishop of Rochester and Chancellor of Cambridge University in the dangerous days of the Henrician Reformation. Before being executed by Henry as a Catholic loyalist, he was highly influential, working with Lady Margaret Beaufort for instance to found John’s and Christ’s Colleges. He also published a short commentary in English on “The Seven Penitential Psalms” (key texts for Lay devotion at the time), which was the religious “best-seller” of the day, before it and his subsequent reputation in the Church of England were lost along with his head.

Prompted by a reference in Eamonn Duffy’s latest book (Royal Books and Holy Bones – a super retirement present) I’ve downloaded the commentary to Kindle (free from He opens his comments on the first psalm (6) with a re-telling of the story of David, and then very effectively makes David an exemplar of returning to God in penitence after a fall, that no sensible person would ignore:

Which of us now that were sick in any part of his body, being in jeopardy of death, would not diligently,search for a medicine wherewith he might be healed, andfirst make inquisition of him that had the same sicknessbefore? Would we not also put very trust and hope to have remedy of our disease by that medicine whereby like manner sickness and diseases were cure4 before?Sith we now therefore have heard tell for a truth how greatly sick and diseased this prophet David was, notwith sickness of his body, but of his soul, and also with what medicine he was cured and made whole, let us take heed and use the same when we be sick in like manner as he was, by our sins, shortly to be cured; for he was a sinner as we be, but he did wholesome penance, making this holy Psalm whereby he got forgiveness and was restored to his soul’s health. We in like wise by oft saying and reading this Psalm, with a contrite heart (as he did), asking mercy, shall without doubt purchase and get of our best and merciful Lord God forgiveness for our sins.

That’ll do nicely for a morning devotion today. And you didn’t misread the reference to David in the title of this post, did you? 🙂

Angels in the depths of Herts

More excavated remains from the Stone Age… Back in 1980, en route to ordination, I was learning how to make a retreat, and went over to the convent of St Mary and the Angels  that the Sisters of the Love of God had then in Hemel Hempstead. The chapel is pictured above. It closed in 2003 and fifty houses stand there now, I think. A Betjeman moment is allowed.

Anyway, I was captivated (of course) by the sisters, and find I wrote a rather Betjeman-like poem about them; and here it is.

St Mary and the angels live
In Hemel Hempstead’s posher parts.
St Mary? Well, we’ve heard her name;
But angels, in the depths of Herts?

Yes, angels, six, with squeaky voices,
Patched up slippers and spectacles.
Sisters there for the Love of God
And so – just so – His oracles.

Angels, like that Yiddish carthorse,
Forgive me sisters, for being bold,
Whose listening spoke to Rabbi Blue
Of truth to self in Mile End Road.*

They’re still there now at Terce or Sext
While I’m off on the 125.
A rumour as I run away
To keep the love of God alive.

* I was reading Lionel Blue on the retreat – ‘Backdoor to Heaven’ I think – and he recounts a meeting with a carthorse in Mile End Road who becomes an angel to him [for his listening rather than his speaking].

A liturgy to mark the ending of a parish ministry

I’m sorting things out as we get ready to move, and came across this little liturgy from another farewell – when I left Cockermouth in 2003 to become an archdeacon. It struck me then that we make a great fuss when a new minister is put in, with the bishop there and a special service – but much less when the minister leaves. And that’s a shame because there are often some very mixed feelings around a real need for both thanksgiving and handing on. So here’s what we did back in the Stone Age:

A liturgy for the ending of a ministry

After the Post-Communion Prayer:

The minister who is leaving moves to chancel step where he/she is joined by ministerial colleagues, churchwardens [and congregational representatives]

On a small table nearby: a chalice & paten*; a Bible; church keys [and gifts for the congregation**]

Minister              Handing chalice and paten to ordained colleague

                           X, on behalf of the clergy of this parish/these parishes, receive this chalice and paten as a sign of the ministry of the sacrament which we have shared and which I now leave with you.

                           Handing Bible to lay colleague

                           X, on behalf of the ministry team of this parish/these parishes, receive this Bible as a sign of the ministry of the word which we have shared and which I now leave with you.

                           Handing keys to churchwardens

                           X and X, on behalf of the churchwardens and people of this parish/these parishes, receive these keys as a sign of the responsibility which we have shared and which I now leave with you.

                           [Handing gifts for congregation to their representatives

                           X and X, on behalf of the congregations of this parish/these parishes, receive these gifts to distribute to God’s people, as a sign of the new life in Christ that we have shared together and which we will now live out in our new situations, still one in Him.

The minister kneels at the chancel  step and a colleague leads prayer for her/him – e.g.

Colleague            Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for the fellowship and ministry which we have shared with X during her/his time as Y in our parish/es. We now release her/him for her/his new ministry as Z, and ask that you will bless her/him and bless her/him richly, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The minister then stands and turns and says the prayer of blessing on the people and the service then continues with the final hymn and dismissal.

* Bread and wine could also be used.

** The gifts given at the first use of this liturgy were seed peas (variety ‘Forward’!) which the members of the congregation were asked to sow and harvest as a sign of their continuing growth under God after the minister had left.

Loving one another

I’m glad to see my Ely ‘Farewell Sermon’ over at is getting good traffic. It’s on the eternal theme of Loving One Another.

As I look back (and look forward) taking this really seriously seems crucial. How couldn’t it?

If we do not love as Christ has loved us, we are not in him, and do not share his life. If we do not follow his command to love, his Spirit is not sent to us. If we are not loving one another then we are not the body of Christ and not his Holy Church.

I’ve sometimes read that “one another” means the commandment only applies between <genuine> Christians. Some of the many one-another sayings are indeed focussed on the body of believers, but when it comes to love, Jesus breaks down every barrier, and there can be no mandate to do other than love brothers and sisters, neighbours and enemies alike.

That is what the love of Jesus is like, given to us when we were yet sinners. That is what our love must be like too.