Angels from the realms of glory

St Wendredas roof 

Sir John Betjeman: "Worth cycling forty miles into a head wind"

Nicolaus Pevsner: “The most splendid roof of Cambridgeshire”

This is the amazing Angel Roof (120 of them) in the church of St Wendreda in March, where I’ve just been privileged to confirm David, Susan, Cherrie, Simone, Peggy and Joy. Wendreda was sister to Ely’s Etheldreda. Her relics were enshrined in gold and kept at Ely until captured by Canute, when they were taken into battle by Edmund Ironside against him, but failed to carry the day. From there they went to Canterbury, and then supposedly back to March in 1343, but only the angels know where they are now.IMAGE_254

Another puzzle: what is the origin of this strange tablet, now in the wall of the fine new Parish Rooms and before that in the wall of the Schoolroom. Pevsner thinks it is two putti controlling a mob of schoolchildren!

Out on the farm

I had a great day out this last week in the company of our Bishop’s Rural Adviser, Geoff Dodgson. After 15 years in Cumbria I am not completely wet behind the ears about agriculture, despite a very urban upbringing. But you can’t get much more different in farming terms between North West and South East, so it was about time I did my homework.

Geoff organised a great day out for me, touring north and west of Ely first seeing a machinery auction, pumping station and typical fen towns with the farmsteads right in their hearts, then on to the RSPB reserve near Fen Drayton and the planned agricultural settlement there (where Geoff lives) which gave redundant miners 5 acre smallholdings and a new start.

Come into The White Swan. Click Here.On to a great lunch at the White Swan Conington with local farmers Keith, Michael and John (good ‘crack’ as they say in Cumbria, which is conversation, not cocaine), and then very generously Keith invited me up to Red Hill to meet his wife Helen, see the Gloucester and South Devon cattle they keep, and have a go on the huge Challenger tractor.Keith and Helen Burgess

The Gloucesters are a rare breed and Helen’s special interest. One of their claims to fame is that it was this breed that Edward Jenner worked with in  developing the smallpox vaccine. The depiction of the cow on the old stamp suggests that the breed’s looks have changed a bit over the years! None of the ones I saw had pictures on the side …

After lunch we went on to two very different larger enterprises – the Pecks at Scotland Farm, with their cathedral-size grain drier, and then the Jenkins at Childerley, an amazing old property still surrounded by its own estate, and the place where Charles I met Cromwell face to face and was arrested.

As if all that hadn’t been enough, we then went on to license Susan Johnson as the new part-time vicar based at Bourn in the Papworth Team nearby: what a splendid day out! And many thanks indeed not only to Geoff but also to everyone who gave so generously of their time, conversation and hospitality (and tractors).

Oooh la Lille

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We popped into Lille today for a bit of atmosphere and a spot of lunch. Almost Belgian in feel (the county of Flanders straddled the modern boundary), and now the seat of an archbishop, who we entertained to dinner last night. The cathedral was built as a shrine to the Virgin, becoming first a basilica and then recently in 2008 a metropolitan cathedral. I particularly admired the stations of the cross by Jean-Luc Bonduau – more perhaps of these later.

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Oberkirchenrat

IMAGE_242Grrr.. my phone camera had its macro switch on for most of the time I was in Germany, so I’ve come home with a fine collection of hazy memories.

This one came out OK though, a typisch shot of the wonderfully named and overall rather wonderful Oberkirchenrat Volker Thiedemann, who was out guide and mentor for the visit. He put himself out enormously for us and we’re hugely grateful.

An Oberkirchenrat is a senior official in the Church Office, and officialdom over there is much taken up at the moment with the merging of the Landskirchen (state area churches) of North Elbe, Pomerania and Mecklenberg (the latter two were formerly in the DDR) into a single huge Nordkirche or Church of the North ‘Together on the Way’.

Nordkirche map 

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The Northelbian Bishop in Schleswig, Gerhard (Gerd) Ulrich has been elected as its Chairman, and we look forward to welcoming him here for our 900th anniversary celebrations on the Feast of St Etheldreda (16th- 18th October), along with his chaplain, Volker and their new ecumenical contact, Christian.