Sunday, 23 April 2017

Why Kneel?

Elephant Misercord, Exeter Cathedral

From "The Pilot", 1968 comes this, an interesting historical ramble.

Some Church Customs Explained
By S.G. Thicknesse

Why Kneel?

All the possible attitudes have been used for worship down the centuries. Because kneeling is among the most helpless and uncomfortable it has been employed by all who have wanted especially to express before God their humility, their supplication, and their penitence.

So when Solomon had made an end of his great prayer that God would continue to bless and keep his people after the Ark of the Covenant had been brought into the new temple that he had built, `he arose from before the altar of the Lord, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven' (I Kings viii. 54).

Christians seem to have knelt rather more than other people at their prayers, perhaps because their sense of sin and unworthiness was stronger. In the early days, however, as they particularly associated kneeling with humiliation and penitence, they stood for general public prayer.

This was the usual custom among the Jews, as it was among the Romans. In the story of the Pharisee and the publican, for example, Jesus has described how `the Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself ... and the publican, standing afar off . . . ' (St. Luke xviii. I r-13).

St. Mark also tells (ch. Xi. 25) how Jesus said to his disciples, `When ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses'.

Early Christians when they stood praying often extended their arms: Tertullian says in the attitude of Christ crucified. There was, however, one group. of people in the early centuries which had to kneel almost continuously at worship. This group comprised the penitents, people who, unlike the outcast `mourners', had been allowed back at least into the church porch, but were dismissed by the bishop before the prayer of consecration, until such a time as their penance was complete.

They were, indeed, commonly called `kneelers' or `prostrators', as early Christians did not distinguish in language between full prostration or kneeling upright or bowed, all of which positions they described indifferently as `kneeling'.

Even when a seventh-century Council ruled that the faithful should not kneel at all on Sundays or between Easter and Whitsun, since these were joyful days, not days for remembering sin, the `kneelers' were especially excepted.

Despite this ruling, and the feeling that to kneel was especially to admit sin, some Christians took it upon themselves to kneel when they need not. Some of them became remarked for their holiness because of it, as did St. James the Just, whose knees, from his constant kneeling, became calloused like those of a camel.

As time passed, however, some people preferred kneeling to standing, and wished that the formal occasions for it were longer; others disliked it and continued to stand when they should have knelt. Among the first were monks and others who had to stand through long offices; when the time came to kneel they would some-times prop themselves on their arms or hands, or even lie prostrate, and be glad of the rest. It was as an act of mercy towards such people that many choir stalls were fitted with misericords from the thirteenth century.

 Beverley Minster

These additions to the underside of the ordinary hinged-seat of the stall, jutted out unobtrusively, and so furnished a small ledge on which the monks or canons could prop themselves as soon as they had to stand and their hinged- seats had been folded up. There are some very spirited carved misericords in some English churches, as for example those in Beverley Minster.

Among the second group of people who preferred standing was the congregation of Bishop Caesarius of Arles in the sixth century, which gave him occasion to exclaim, `When I often, as I ought, and heedfully take notice, as the deacon cries, "Let us bend our knees," I see the greater part standing upright like columns!'

A thousand years later, in England, some upright and unbending people became known as Puritans. They held, as Lutherans and others still do, that they should stand and not kneel to pray. It was against this opinion that the Prayer Book rubrics reiterate the order that the congregation shall be meekly kneeling upon their knees, even on occasions when primitive Christians stood.

Jenny Geddes so much disliked the introduction of these rulings into Scotland, that on the 23rd of July, 1637, she threw a footstool at the head of the Bishop of Edinburgh in St. Giles's Church.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

The dry land

Jersey is in a time of drought, but there are other kinds of drought than the merely material. This poem explores drought across the world, both physical, and spiritual.

The dry land

Bare bones, a valley of the dead:
Famine, no breaking of the bread;
The wind came from south, so dry:
Clear skies above, no cloud to spy;
This is a dry land, the land of dust:
The migrant begging for a crust;
The sky is clear, blue, bright, cold:
Rich pickings for the wealth, gold
To plunder, everything has a price:
Geography is a lottery, throw of dice,
And some are lucky, having plenty,
Others starve, their bellies empty;
Dry earth: and there is no dew fall,
And no one hears the stranger's call;
Crops fail, famine across the lands:
Time trickles like wind-blown sands;
Palaces, riches, walls to keep out,
Build of arrogance, with no doubt;
The eleventh hour, almost too late:
The stranger calling at the gate:
Turned away, by folly, avarice, greed,
Hoarding of food in hour of need;
The sun is high: it is nearly midday
The people come, are turned away:
The starving children, farmers toil,
At failing crops, the empty soil,
While gluttons feast, the city strong,
Walls keep out all who do not belong;
Enough is enough! Shalom the way!
Take what is needed for the day,
And leave the gleanings in the field,
That poor might eat, world be healed;
Greed rules, fields ploughed, destroy,
No left over scraps for poor to enjoy;
Sun so bright, bones bleached white,
Dying in a world of plenty, their plight
Ignored, a deaf world, and blind eye:
The economy ruling all: that’s the lie!
Compassion needed more than ever:
Not cut off, like limbs to sever;
Military leaders, medals and sashes:
Dust to dust, ashes to ashes;
This is a last chance, a final endeavour:
Famine stalks the land, a grim spectre,
Reaching out, touching: a connector;
A choice to be made: we are all one:
All creatures beneath the rising sun;
Bleached bones: dig our own grave,
In economic domination: to enslave;
The dry land, drought, cracked soil:
Furrows of the dying, empty toil;
We need to pray for rain to come,
Join the dance, and beat the drum;
All hold hands, clasp palm in peace,
Pray that wars will someday cease;
Share the food, drink deep of wine,
Open the gates, let the light shine,
Down dark alleys, narrow streets
Let all come share, all come to eats
The hour is close, time draws near:
Reach out a hand, not draw back in fear;
The dry land, possess all you will:
Starvation looms, and it will kill;
The angel of death, across the sea:
No hiding place, no place to flee,
Time to mourn, sackcloth and ashes:
Take off the medals, burn the sashes
Lay down the weapons, kneel at pray:
Deliverance from drought: the rainy day;
Call for rain, a small cloud in distance,
Water, the necessity for existence:
And living water flows in streams,
I have a dream - no - many dreams,
Of walking together hand in hand,
Across the desert, bone-white sand;
The dry lands: wilderness, desert:
Warm air, dust blowing, dust, dirt;
The wind is coming from the east,
And welcomes beggars to the feast;
And when the wind turns to the west,
The rains shall come, all shall be blest.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Who was St Ouen - part 2

From a 1948 copy of "The Pilot" comes this piece by G.R. Balleine. When it comes to the names of our Parish churches some are recognisable from the gospels - St Peter, St Mary, St John - and some are other saints. 

The first posting (here) looks at the authentic history of St Ouen

In this second half, Balleine looks at how the cult of St Ouen developed.

Who was St Ouen - part 2
by G.R. Balleine

When St. Ouen became recognized as a major Saint, a demand arose for Lives of him, from which extracts could he read as Lessons in church and in the refectories. At least a dozen Lives of this kind were produced. But a Saint's Life was dull reading, unless it was filled with miracles.

So now amazing stories began to be inserted: how as a baby, when his mother was going to bath him, she found the spring had run dry, but the infant struck the rock with a twig, and water gushed out ; how at Mass, a dove brought hint in its beak a prayer on a slip of parchment, which protected everyone who used it against lightning; how once St Ouen deputized for the Pope ; on one visit to Rome he convicted the Pope of unchastity, and sentenced hint to seven years' penance, and occupied the Papal Throne till the penance was completed : another Pope on his dying bed entrusted him with his ring, and ordered him to rule the Church, until God revealed to him who was to be his successor.

Another legend exalted St. Ouen. not only above Popes, but above St. Peter himself. It told how a lame man went to Rome to pray to the Apostle for healing, but St Peter told him in a vision that no one but St. Ouen could cure him. So he started for Rouen on his donkey.

On the way it was stolen by robbers but at last he reached the Archbishop's Shrine, and, as he kissed it, not only did his legs recover strength, but the lost donkey came galloping up the aisle to greet him !

We have thus two Lives of St. Ouen, the real life and the legendary one and this is instructive. In the case of St. Helier we had only the legendary lives; but St Ouen shows how widely a legendary life could stray from the real facts.

One disadvantage of being a Saint was that your bones were never allowed to rest in peace. When Vikings-overran Normandy in the ninth century, the monks hurried the Archbishop's bones from one refuge to another. till after seventy years they returned to Rouen, to be burnt eventually by Calvinists at the Reformation.

But meanwhile, wherever they rested on their wanderings, a fragment was left as a relic in return for hospitality. In this way they were divided and sub-divided, till fractions of them found their way to many different countries.

In the tenth century Canterbury possessed a portion of St. Ouen's skull, a rather terrifying relic. If you were worthy of healing, when you touched it, your diseases vanished ; but, if you were unworthy, you were hounded from the cathedral by visions of avenging angels.

Other fragments of the skull were at Malmesbury and Dublin. In this way probably our Jersey parish obtained its name. No altar in those days might be consecrated, unless it contained a relic.

So, when some early de Carteret built a little chapel on his Fief, he most likely secured from Normandy a splinter of one of the Archbishop's bones. Thus the altar became St. Ouen's altar, and so in time the church and parish became St. Ouen's.

For further particulars see Father Vacandard’s Vie de St. Ouen.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Who was St Ouen - part 1

From a 1948 copy of "The Pilot" comes this piece by G.R. Balleine. When it comes to the names of our Parish churches some are recognisable from the gospels - St Peter, St Mary, St John - and some are other saints.

The material on those is often fragmentary. St Helier only exists in legendary accounts dating around 400-600 years after his lifetime, which are untrustworthy. St Brelade is mentioned in Bishop Grandisson's ordinate, circ. AD 1330. Grandisson was Bishop of Exeter. Confusingly he lists two saints of similar names:

St. Branwalethri, a martyr son of King Kenem.

SS. Branwalader and Mellenus, confessors and bishops. St. Branwalader is also commemorated in a Winchester calendar, and one at Treguies in Brittany. In the Exeter Litany, cited by Mabillon, there is also an invocation of him. On January 19, 905, King Athelstan translated the body of St. Branwalader to Milton. William of Worcester says before it reposed at Branston, eight miles from Axminster. His days were June 8, January 19, June 5.

But with St Ouen we are on terra firma, with solid history. In this first part, here is that history, and tomorrow will be the later embellishments.

Who was St Ouen - part 1
by G.R. Balleine

When Ruskin was asked “Which is the loveliest Church in Christendom? He answered: “the glorious Abbey of St Ouen at Rouen”.

All over Western Europe are churches bearing this Saint’s name. There was one in the City of London, another at Gloucester, another at Hereford, another at Bristol (though under the name St Ewen), another at Armagh in Ireland. In Spain the Cathedral of Vich is St Ouen. Near Naples, he has a shrine to which the deaf flock for healing.

In France there is hardly a Department that has not several towns or villages called St. Ouen-sur-this or St. Ouen-des-that. The Diocese of Rouen has thirteen churches dedicated in his honour. The Diocese of Coutances has ten. Who was this Saint, who left so deep an impression on the Western church?

He is not a Saint, out of Legend Land like St. Helier or St. Brelade, but a real character, whose life-story can lie verified from contemporary documents. He lived in the seventh century, in days when the Merovingian conquerors were ruling France.

His real name, a common name among the Francs, was Dado. Later, when he was made a Bishop, this was Latinized as Audoenus. In French the first syllable was dropped, and he became Ouen.

The Merovingian Kings kept round them a corps of lads of good family, who later would have been called pages. Admission to this corps was the first step toward a public career. Dado became one of these pages. King Dagobert was a typical barbarian chief, a drunken ruffian with three wives and a vast seraglio of concubines . but among his pages was a group of lads who even in these unsavoury surroundings were enthusiastic Christians.

Here Dado formed a lifelong friendship with the boy who later was fatuous as St. Eloi, and several other of his companions became well-known Bishops. Step by step he rose through various offices in the Household until, while still under thirty, he became Referendaire or Keeper of the King's Seal. All official documents had to be sealed by him, and charters survive, which bear his signature.

He was now a Chief Officer of State, a man of influence and wealth ; and he founded a monastery on his father's estate, and secured as its first Abbot an aged disciple of the  Irish missionary, St Columban.

 In 640 something happened which revolutionized Dado's life. The Archbishop of Rouen died. Bishops in those days were elected by the laity, and Dado was popular in Rouen, which he had often visited in the King's train.

The citizens crowded their cathedral to choose a new Archbishop, and someone proposed Dado, and, though he was a layman only just thirty, whose whole life had been spent in secular affairs, to his horror he was elected by acclamation. He tried to escape, but the people would not let him.

So, since no man might become a Bishop, till he had been a year a priest, he was ordained, and spent twelve months with a mission that was trying to convert the Spanish Arians to orthodox views of the Trinity. Then he returned to Rouen, and was consecrated Archbishop.

Rouen was the largest Diocese in North France. The young :Archbishop had about two hundred clergy under him, and all neighbouring Bishops, including the Bishop of Coutances, were his suffragans.

By all accounts Ouen. as we must now call him, was a hard working ecclesiastic who ruled his diocese vigorously for forty three years. France was nominally Christian, but in the north the country-folk were still semi-pagan.

They were baptized and attended Mass, but, if a cow fell sick, offerings were left on the broken altar of one of the old gods, and at certain seasons everyone dressed in animal skins and joined in orgiastic dances.

 St. Ouen set himself to suppress this. He visited every village; he increased the number and quality of the clergy ; he encouraged the foundation of monasteries in remote districts. According to his biographers he stamped out the. last vestige of heathenism. In statuary he is represented as crushing the head of a dragon.

Apart from this he seems to have done all that was expected of a Bishop. He attended the Council of Chalons. Though no longer an officer of the Household, he maintained his influence at Court, and from time to time intervened in the blood-stained politics of the period. On one occasion he negotiated peace between the Kingdom of Neustria and Austrasia.

But the mystery about him is how he gained his reputation as a Saint. He was no martyr or heroic missionary, for in his contest with Paganism he had the power of the State behind him. He was no John the Baptist sternly rebuking, the corruption of the Court. He was no great preacher or theologian (two writings were attributed to him later, the Salic Law and the Life of his friend, St. Eloi; but neither came from his pen). Nothing in his record suggests any exceptional level of holiness. He was just a man who did faithfully and well the work that was given him to do. Many Bishops must have been just as diligent and successful.

But there seems to have been something about him that history has failed to make clear. Almost immediately after his death, his contemporaries acclaimed him as a Saint. (here was in those days no formal canonization).

Five years after his burial his body was removed front its grave, and reburied behind the Right altar in the Abbey Church at Rouen, which henceforth was no longer called St. Peter's but St. Ouen's. And almost immediately other churches began to be dedicated in his name.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The UK Election

There can be no doubt that Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election is a masterly one. Her political career, to date, in the matter of Brexit has been one in which she consistently outflanked and outmanoeuvred her opponents. She has also been lucky, both in the failure of any coherent opposition to her strategy, and in the way she came to power.

When we look back to June last year and the Referendum, it is notable that while Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party led a very lacklustre campaign, her own light shone even more dimly,

Although she was nominally on the side of David Cameron and the Remain movement, her support was largely confined to private occasions, as was discovered by a later leak in which she addressed bankers including Goldman Sachs. But that only was revealed in October 2016, by which time she was in place as Prime Minister and wholly committed to Brexit.

When Cameron fell, she was close enough to the centre to be able to swing the other way and rebrand herself as committed to the people’s decision. Like Harold Wilson with his “white heat of the technological revolution”, she cast herself in the role of favourite for Prime Minister without saying anything substantial.

"The campaign was fought... and the public gave their verdict. There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door... Brexit means Brexit".

The first round saw off all but two candidates, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom. Again luck played a part: Michael Gove had so brutally betrayed Boris Johnson that his chances of becoming Prime Minister were as slim as Judas being appointed Pope.

Andrea Leadsom, meanwhile, played the mother card, which spectacularly backfired in the implication that somehow motherhood made a woman better suited to the role of Prime Minister, and that May was deficient in this important regard. It also transpired that her CV may have been massaged to look better than it was.

Gove retired to the backbenches and the world of journalism, becoming a regular columnist for The Times, also contributing to many other papers, but managing to avoid the opprobrium heaped upon George Osborne.

So May took the crown, but did not hold a general election. Cleverly she appointed strong leave campaigners to high office - Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, David Davis as Brexit Secretary, and Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary.

She refused calls for a General Election, and pressed ahead with plans to trigger Article 50, first facing off a court battle which the government lost, which gave Parliament sovereign right to approve any Brexit bill. However, she swiftly recovered, presenting to the Commons and Lords a bill so devoid of substance that it again gave her a free hand.

It was at that point that a coalition of the SNP, of Labour, of Liberals and of Conservatives opposed to the bill could have made changes of substance in directing the post-Article 50 policy. That they did not was almost entirely because of Jeremy Corbyn who ordered his Party to vote in favour of the bill. If he had gone the other way, concessions could have been made, but he himself was also now openly committed to Brexit. It was left to the Lords to attempt to introduce some mitigating amendments to direct the shape of Brexit.

After that was complete, nothing could stop May from triggering Article 50, which she duly did, setting out a timetable for negotiations which was promptly derailed by the European leaders acting together, ensuring that trade talks come later rather than parallel, in negotiating.

That could have led to problems with her premiership, as some of the predictions of the remain camp appeared to be realised, but it was here that she pulled a masterstroke, and called a general election. To call it before triggering article 50 would have left that as a question on the election table for the electorate to reconsider, but by doing so after triggering article 50, she is in a much stronger position. What is more, she can be almost certain of a 2/3rds majority needed to gain an election, from her own party and from Labour.

The SNP’s call for independence will be weakened if they lose any seats, and having a high point where they have all but three seats in the Commons over Scotland, they are almost certain to lose to other parties.

Her own critics are also silenced, as they will have to fight an election on a mandate pro-Brexit, post-Article 50 where the best they can hope for is to stress the need for a softer Brexit in terms of trade, immigration and services. That is certainly also the position of the Liberal party.

Labour meanwhile is a mess, having managed to lose a bi-election to the Conservatives when it opposition, and in a seat formerly held by Labour. No one can unseat Corbyn, but it is unlikely that he will lead the party to victory; indeed labour may see the same degree of devastation that it did under Michael Foot’s leadership.

UKIP meanwhile, will almost certainly go for as hard a Brexit as possible. If they fail to achieve any real breakthrough, and their rag-tag party, riven by internal struggles, is not likely to do so, then they give May the opportunity to take that as a rejection by the country of a hard Brexit, should she so wish.

The only real question is whether she can keep up the momentum in the same way that Wilson did, and get to power before anyone realises that she still is being vague on details. Expect then a manifesto which sets out certain markers along the road to Brexit, but in such a way that diversions can be signposted if required.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Hospital Funding: The Sensible Option

I saw this piece by Ben Shenton and felt it was worth repeating here. He offers what I think is the most sensible position. While Scrutiny have provided a good alternative, I think when the States debate the matter, someone should also put Ben's option on the table.

The different options are on his blog, which I would also recommend reading in detail. It also contains background news stories of other small island jurisdictions who have borrowed over much and paid a price for lack of prudence.

One has also to consider that it was Alan Maclean as Treasury Minister who has to take at least most of the responsibility for the approach taken by the Medium Term Financial Plan, in which measures were passed - health charge, waste charge - without actually specifying any details - so much for saying he wanted "I wanted long term solutions not short term fixes".

The States in their collective folly passed this against the wisdom of Scrutiny, with a result that the waste charge is still under negotiation for how it is actually implemented, and the health charge fell at the first hurdle. 

Presumably as Treasury Minister Senator Maclean also advised Senator Green that it was a charge like Long Term Care and not a tax, and certainly did not contradict his fellow Senator, before doing a volte face on the Long Term Care charge and asking the Solicitor General to conform that it was in fact, as his critics, had said all along, a tax.

Ignoring his past mistakes as the folly of political youth  (albeit expensive ones) as signing of the £200,000 movie grant, setting up a badly structured Innovation Fund, and signing off loans as Economic Development Minister, his record as Treasury Minister also shows a lack of clarity. His ability to pluck a method out of the air without giving alternatives, and they way he assumed it must be correct and try and rush it through the States reminds me more and more of his predecessor. I hope that wiser heads prevail.

HOSPITAL FUNDING - The Sensible Option
By former Senator Ben Shenton:

When I moved house in 2005, and re-arranged our mortgage I felt that interest rates would move lower but, aware no one can see into the future, decided to fix half the mortgage, and take out a base rate tracker on the other half.

In that way if interest rates went up I would have the protection of the fixed element, and if interest rates moved lower I would benefit from lower interest rates on the base rate tracker. On hindsight the base rate tracker only would have been the best option but I was comfortable with my choice – especially as previously I had been tied 100% to a fixed rate mortgage.

This, in my opinion, is the approach we should take to funding the hospital – £200 million from the strategic reserve / £200 million borrowing.

There are a number of advantages of this approach:

  1. Funds will be “as required” during the long build phase (as invoiced). With a £400 million bond a substantial amount would have to be held on cash deposit, at a significantly lower interest rate than we are paying on the bond, for a considerable period. It cannot be invested for the long term as it is short term money.
  2. We won’t have to “max our credit card”. Issuing a bond for £400 million will take us right up to our credit limit (which is why Government had to admit that Long Term Care is a tax). As a Government we cannot have borrowings above our total annual tax take. 
  3. Surely it makes sense to leave an emergency borrowing buffer rather than borrow to the limit – albeit we could always change our finance law to allow more borrowing and watch our credit rating go through the floor, and borrowing costs go through the roof. Always arrange your credit facilities when the sun is shining.
  4. If stock markets continue to perform as the London experts expect we have only reduced the strategic reserve by £200 million – so it is still substantial and we benefit accordingly from the investment returns.
  5. If investment returns are much lower than the London experts suggest then at least our ‘endowment trap’ is only limited to £200 million. We don’t end up in a hole like so many endowment policy holders – albeit most got funds back by claiming “mis-selling”. Perhaps we could claim from the current Council of Ministers?
  6. Scrutiny talks of rebuilding the strategic reserve – the cost of this will be halved – putting less strain on taxpayers. However a strategic reserve that is never utilised is as useful as a chocolate teapot.
  7. Interest costs will be halved to £6 million per annum approx from £12 million.

Sadly with collective responsibility the London Advisers will probably sell us a £400 bond we don’t need and they will pick up their substantial fees as a result. It was London Advisors that said not to sell the Andium Homes bond to local investors. 

The £250 million bond issued to pay for housing had an interest rate at 3.75% which Treasury’s experts said at the time was extremely attractive. Those bonds now have a fixed funding level 1% above what could be achieved today – and the bonds trade at a 32% capital profit for the institutions ( at the time of issue we suggested selling to locals who would have locked in a 3.75% interest rate). 1% interest on a £250 million bond over 40 years is substantial. 

Local advisers did say at the time that interest rates may move lower, London advisers disagreed.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Christianity and the Cardinal Virtues

On Virtue

Part of the problem of living in today’s world is that in the West there is a cultural legacy which is supposed to be Christian, but which actually pre-dates Christianity, and was part of Greek culture, absorbed into Christianity, pre-dating the advent of Jesus.

In particular, some of those Greek values became so much part of the fabric of the Christian society, that it has left us with a notion that to be a Christian means to be a good person, to follow the ethical guidelines that Christ espoused, to follow his example.

In fact, these values have very little to do with Jesus Christ. As an example of Christ’s teaching, I think you can probably take the Sermon on the Mount as one instance. Here are a few of the sayings from that:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. "

These are bound not only into a theistic framework – “they will see God”, “they will be called children of God”, but also into a Christ-centric one “because of me”. This is also born out in his teaching later, especially in the sentence:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me.’”

While that may have an anachronistic interpolation “carry your cross”, it certainly is at the core of the teaching of Jesus, and variants of it occur elsewhere, in the call to the 12 disciples, the rich man, and the exchanges with Pharisees. 

And the notion that following Jesus can mean "following his example" when looked at in depth, does not really have a lot of coherence except for theists. Even liberal theology at its most succinct, promoted the fatherhood of God and brotherhood of all men; the former underpins the latter, as we see in the Sermon on the Mount.

So let us leave Jesus to one side and look back to what are called the “cardinal virtues”. These are values espoused in Plato and Aristotle, amongst other ancient writers.

The term "cardinal" comes from the Latin cardo (hinge);the cardinal virtues are so called because they are regarded as the basic virtues required for a virtuous life.

They consist of the following qualities:

  • Prudence : also described as wisdom, the ability to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time
  • Justice: also considered as fairness, the most extensive and most important virtue; the Greek word also having the meaning righteousness
  • Temperance: also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, discretion, and moderation, so tempering the appetite. Only later did it get a meaning of not drinking at all!
  • Courage: also termed fortitude, forbearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation

These virtues derive initially from Plato's scheme, discussed in Republic Book IV, 426-435. They are taken up by Aristotle in his Ethics, and also by Protogoras and Cicero among notable later writers.

Much later, Christian writers such as Ambrose and Augustine and Aquinas adapted them and merged them into a Christian framework, and these are the values, I believe, that people now consider to be Christian values or part of a “Christian philosophy” or guide to life.

As Christianity decays as a mainstream culture in the West, it is perhaps not surprising, giving the a widespread general ignorance of history, that these should be seen as somehow Christian, but they can be quite easily detached from Christianity, because their origins lie in the Greek philosophers, and have nothing to do with Christianity.

They are, however, I believe, important values which we should espouse and aim to live by in our lives. They are part of what the Greeks thought of as living a good or virtuous life.

That is not to say that we have not built on these values over time and improved their application. 

The idea of fairness, that all peoples should be treated equally, regardless of whom they are, was a value that directly contradicted the society of ancient Greece, where women and slaves had not rights.

It was therefore easy to have a modern slave owning or slave trading society, as existed in the West, in the USA and in Britian. The abolition of slavery and the slave trade, and universal suffrage with women being able to vote is implicit in the cardinal value of justice, but it needed to be thought through, teased out, and argued for before change could come.

Changes still occur and in my lifetime we have seen more improvements on fairness with regards to gender and sexuality, but fairness with regard to economics, to sharing the world’s resources with the poorer countries, or of ordering of a fairer economics within our own society is a matter of neglect, and in many respects we have moved backwards and become more selfish.

Economic exploitation also flies against fairness and a just and equitable society, but the concentration on matters of sexuality and gender has tended to downgrade and even obscure that it is just as important.

And a consumer oriented society needs to hear more of restraint of the appetites before we consume the planet. More temperance is certainly needed.

In a world increasingly riven by tensions, of acts of terror, and the threats of war, as countries rattle their modern nuclear sables, prudence also known as wisdom is much needed.

So the ancient virtues still have challenges for us today, and are still something we can and should aim to live by, whether we are Christians or Humanists.

Sunday, 16 April 2017



A BBC survey reported that a quarter of people who describe themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. However, almost one in 10 people of no religion say they do believe the Easter story, but it has "some content that should not be taken literally".

It is difficult to know what to make of these surveys, especially as reported.

Gavin Ashenden has recently made the provocative statement:

"Those people who neither believe in the Resurrection nor go anywhere near a church cannot be 'Christians'.

That is an extremely insular statement. Neither the Quakers nor the Salvation Army have a church in the sense that Dr Ashenden seems to mean; and surely Christians in countries where there is great persecution may still practice their faith, but in small groups rather than in the formality of a church setting.

But what of the first part of Gavin Ashenden’s gripe. The earliest creedal statement of belief we have for Christianity is the Apostle’s Creed. It is now universally accepted that it does not come directly from the first apostle’s, but it is a statement of belief derived from the early church, most probably from responses in the baptismal liturgy. The latter part of it states:

Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,
sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem,
remissionem peccatorum,
carnis resurrectionem,
vitam aeternam.

Which translates to:

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. 

Belief in the resurrection, as we see in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, formed part of the kernel of early Christianity. Indeed Paul says:

If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins. It would also mean that the believers in Christ who have died are lost. If our hope in Christ is good for this life only and no more, then we deserve more pity than anyone else in all the world. (1Co 15:17-19)

However, the accounts of the resurrection are very strange. Most of the gospel stories overlay the text with references from the Hebrew Bible (The Old Testament), but there are none in the resurrection stories; it is almost as if this is something unprecedented, something beyond the grasp of existing categories.

Yet there are discrepancies in the texts. They are not straightforward. Matthew has guards at the tomb, two women, an earthquake rolling away the stone while they are present, and one angel. Mark, the earliest gospel, has three women, a stone already rolled away, and a young man in a white robe. Luke follows Mark with three women, a stone already rolled away and two men in shining robes. John has one woman, Mary Magdalene, a stone already rolled away, two angels slightly later just appearing to Mary, and Jesus appearing to Mary.

Another feature in both Luke and John is the way in which these “appearances” take place. The risen Jesus seems at first to be so unlike the mortal Jesus that he is not recognised, until he says or does something which triggers the moment of recognition. It is not like a ghost story, where the ghost is instantly recognised as a dead person.

So what can we say of a “literal resurrection”? What precisely would that mean? Paul, again, uses a language of analogy to try and convey in word pictures that this is more that than the re-animation of a corpse.

Someone will ask, "How can the dead be raised to life? What kind of body will they have?" You fool! When you plant a seed in the ground, it does not sprout to life unless it dies. And what you plant is a bare seed, perhaps a grain of wheat or some other grain, not the full-bodied plant that will later grow up. (1Co 15:35-37)

This is how it will be when the dead are raised to life. When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. When buried, it is ugly and weak; when raised, it will be beautiful and strong. When buried, it is a physical body; when raised, it will be a spiritual body. There is, of course, a physical body, so there has to be a spiritual body. (1Co 15:42-44)

Being Jewish, Paul knows only that humans are embodied beings, not discarnate “souls” (whatever a “soul” would be) and so he uses analogy to say that the resurrection body is also a body, but quiet unlike anything we know or can think of.

Other analogies gave been given through the ages. A caterpillar turning into a butterfly: earthbound, then able to soar into another plane of existence, but no less real. A water bug, bound to the water in which it lives, until in emerges as a dragonfly, and leaves behind the water bound existence, yet is as real and more free but startlingly different.

So what precisely would a “literal resurrection” mean in the context of these teachings and images? It would not mean the resuscitation of a corpse. It would not mean the picture in the wall painting in the Fisherman’s Chapel of graves opening and “giving up the dead”, a “conjuring trick with bones”. It would not mean a ghost, a shadow of the former self.

Can a waterbug understand what it feels like to be a dragonfly? This, if anything, is what resurrection means, another mode of existence that is almost impossible to grasp. How can that be “literal”? If literal means reduced to something we can understand, then the resurrection cannot be literal. It is as Paul says:

What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete---as complete as God's knowledge of me. (1Co 13:12)

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Interstitial Time

Interstitial Time

Past, present and future: we see only part
Images reflected, distorted: a mirror dark
Imagination breaking asunder in this art
Within a crystal of time, a transient quark

Interstitial time, one moment and the next
And the gap between: void space of time
Changes between life and death perplex
In the hour striking, between the chime

The space between times, between then
And now; the darkness of the Friday night
With the finality of that great amen
And the blazing dawn of Sunday light

Fragments of each life, and not the whole
Weeping: An empty tomb, an Emmaus stroll

Friday, 14 April 2017

A Short History of St Paul's Church

Digging in the archives, I uncovered this rather lively history. It is from the 1949 Pilot Magazine, and is a look at the history of the Church by G.R. Balleine.

A Short History of St Paul's Church
by G.R. Balleine

St. Paul's had a troubled and tempestuous birth. By the beginning of the nineteenth century- the population of St.Helier had grown to over 10,000, while the Town Church could only scat about 800l. A second church was clearly needed.

But in those days the creation of a new parish was beset by legal difficulties. In England this deadlock had been eased by building Proprietary Chapels, akin to those attached to Colleges and Hospitals; these had no parish, and remained the property of their founders. One such already existed in Jersey at St. Aubin's. So in 1811 a group of townsfolk petitioned the King in Council for leave “to build a Private Chapel for the performance of Divine Worship," and the Council granted their request, and gave to them and their successors “the perpetual right of appointing the Minister to officiate therein."

This sounded very laudable: but more lay behind the request than appeared on the surface. Political feeling at this time was extraordinarily bitter. In the Town the Rose (or Radical) Party was dominant, and the four organizers of the petition, .Jurats Bailhache and Nicolle, Philip Winter the Constable, and Aaron de Ste. Croix, one of the Churchwardens, were Rose leaders.

Dean Dupré, the Rector, in his younger days had been more Radical than any of them ; but the French Revolution had frightened him, and he had swung to the other extreme, and  become a vehement champion of the Laurel (or  Conservative) Faction. And he could not keep his politics out of the pulpit. The Rose men resented the Dean’s denunciation of their Party in his sermons, and this made them eager to build a church in which they could worship unannoyed.

But no clergyman welcomes the secession of half his congregation, and Dupré opposed the registration of the Order in the Royal Court. demanding to be heard before the Privy Council before it was enrolled.

This held matters up for four years : but the Founders went on with their plans. They bought a garden in New Street. The foundation stone of the Chapel was laid in 1815 and by 1817 it was ready for use, a solid building of Mont Mado granite, seating 1,400, with high pews over which the heads of the congregation were just visible, three galleries and a three-decker pulpit concealing the Lord's Table.

The entire cost, £6,000, was borne by the twenty-four Founders. The Court finally registered the Order in October, 1817, and on 14th December, the Opening Services were conducted in French by the Rector of St. Ouen's.

The old account-hook still shows the entry:

“Paid to Jas Deal for his carriage to bring the Rev. Mons. Ricard from St. Ouen's, 37 -."

But the Dean inhibited all local clergy from officiating in the building, and it had to be closed.

Two of the founders then went to England. An entry in the Ledger runs :-" Expenses of Messrs. De La Taste and De Ste. Croix on their journey to  London from 27th January to 14th February, to find a Minister, £37." But their efforts were in vain. All English clergymen, whom they approached, sheered off, when they heard of the Dean's attitude.

Meanwhile their colleagues were trying to come to terms with Dupré, offering him £35 a year to cover any possible loss of fees. But he remained adamant. Their thoughts then turned toward France. The Ledger records a payment of £34 to “Clement Nicolle and others for their voyage to Paris for a Minister."

This time they were successful. They found a young Frenchman, Pardus Emilius Frossard, who had just been ordained as Minister of the French Eglise Reforme -. His father was a D.C.L. of Oxford, and the son was -willing to accept Anglican orders. He was accepted by the Bishop of Winchester; but again the Dean intervened, and his ordination was postponed.

The Founders then fell back on a clause in the Act of Uniformity, which, while requiring all Clergy to be episcopally ordained, specifically exempted Ministers of the Foreign Reformed Churches. Local lawyers advised that Frossard's Huguenot ordination was sufficient. There were precedents for this.

Louis Michel, who had ministered at St Aubin's for eleven years, had been only in Huguenot Orders, and it was urged : ' Many persons now living will recollect a late Rector of St. Clement's taking possession of that living, without ordination, who also sat in the States till the day of his death.’

Frossard began his Ministry in Nov ember 1818 and drew crowded congregations (The Services were, of course, in French).

Confronted by this situation, Dupré hesitated for eleven months, and then summoned Frossard before the Ecclesiastical Court to show his licence from the Bishop. Frossard refused to appear; declaring that in that Court the Dean would be both Prosecutor and Judge and appealed to the Royal Court for protection. The Founders also pleaded that St. Paul's as a Private Chapel was outside the Dean's jurisdiction.

The Dean retaliated by excommunicating Frossard.

After a great deal of legal sparring, the Court eventually referred the matter to the Privy Council, and meanwhile prohibited the Dean from interfering with St. Paul's till the Council's decision was known. This enabled Frossard to continue his ministry for another eighteen months. But then the Council adjudged that –“the Citation issued by the Dean of Jersey is no infringement of the Order in Council."

This ended the struggle. Frossard preached his farewell sermon in May, 1821, and returned to France, where he became Pastor of the Eglise Reformee at Caen.

The Bishop then informed the Founders that he would license any suitable clergyman of the Church of England, whom they would nominate; and they were fortunate in their choice. Thomas Hornsby, Rector of Waddesdon, Bucks, and Chaplain to the Duke of Dorset, happened to be in Jersey, and he accepted the post. He took the Services in English, and, as these were the only English Services in the island, he attracted most of the English residents.

Successive Governors were regular worshippers at St. Paul's, and on occasions when the whole island contributed to some common cause, the St. Paul's collections always headed the list. For the Irish Famine, for example, St. Paul's gave £64. Hornsby worked here for more than ten years, and was succeeded by Archdeacon Mant who had just resigned his work in North Ireland.

For fifty years Minister succeeded Minister, and the church continued to prosper. Other churches were built in the Town, most of which felt the influence more or less of the Oxford Movement, but St. Paul's remained staunch to the older Evangelical views. It was the last church in the island to drop the use of the black gown in the pulpit.

Its congregation proved generous supporters of the Church Missionary Society, the Bible Society, the Zenana Missionary Society, the South American Missionary Society, and other similar institutions.

Nor slid they neglect the needs of their own neighbourhood, for the St. Paul's Day Schools at the time they were built were regarded as models of educational efficiency.

In 1839 St. Paul's people had a severe shock. The foundations of the church began to give way. The ground on which it was built had once been a marsh, and architects reported that repair was impossible; the building was unsafe. and would have to be rebuilt. This was a big task for one congregation, and the faint-hearted began to talk of a tabernacle of corrugated iron. But subscriptions flowed in, and hopes revived.

The congregation was held together by Services in the Oddfellows' Hall; and on Michaelmas Day, 1891. the present well-proportioned and attractive church was opened.

Two obstacles, however, blocked the way to its consecration; first the fact that it owed a debt to the builders. and secondly the fact that the Bishop disliked the system by which the whole body of seatholders chose by vote the incumbent. By 1912 these difficulties has been removed. The debt was paid off; and the seat-holders resigned their right to appoint to a body of Trustees. And the church was consecrated by Bishop Talbot on May 13th.

The new church has been singularly fortunate in its incumbents. It would be invidious to mention names: but people still speak of the crowds that filled it to overflowing during the seven years' ministry of that eloquent Welshman, Bulstrode Price. St. Paul's has contributed many souls to the company of the Church Triumphant. May it long continue to do so.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

And so to bed...

I finish each night with a quote on Facebook, and for those who have missed them, here are some recent picks. My rules for choosing them are that they must be short, but not one-liners, and must say something inspiring and joyful, or reflecting the sorrow and pain of the world.

Mainly I choose them because I like them, and I hope you, gentle reader, will like them too. On the blog I've also taken the opportunity to add a few extra pictures of the writers themselves as I think it is rather nice to see the authors as well as their quotes

And so to bed...

And so to bed... signs of Spring are in my quote from William Wordsworth:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

And so to bed... after a day of coughing fits... quote for tonight comes from John Gay:

Nor love, nor honour, wealth nor pow'r,
Can give the heart a cheerful hour
When health is lost. Be timely wise;
With health all taste of pleasure flies.
Thus said, the phantom disappears.
The wary counsel waked his fears:
He now from all excess abstains,
With physic purifies his veins.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Madeleine L’Engle:

Sometimes the very walls of our churches separate us from God and each other. In our various naves and sanctuaries we are safely separated from those outside, from other denominations, other religions, separated from the poor, the ugly, the dying…The house of God is not a safe place. It is a cross where time and eternity meet, and where we are – or should be – challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently.

And to to bed... quote for tonight is from John O'Donohue:

The search for meaning is really the search for the lost chord. When the lost chord is discovered by humankind, the discord in the world will be healed and the symphony of the universe will come into complete harmony with itself.

And so to bed... quote for tonight (on a Spring clean, rubbish clearance evening!) is from Ivan Klíma:

Rubbish is immortal, it pervades the air, swells up in water, dissolves, rots, disintegrates, changes into gas, into smoke, into soot, it travels across the world and gradually engulfs it.... Rubbish is like death. What else is there that is so indestructible?

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Kamand Kojouri:

Make no mistake about it.
We are born blind, deaf, and mute.
It is neither these eyes that give us sight,
nor these ears that give us sound.
It is not even these lips that give us voice.
It is only love.

Love makes us seek beauty and truth.
Love yearns to connect. To experience.
To understand.

So close your eyes at once.
Don’t utter a word.
Perk up your ears and listen
to that silent sound inside you
where all this is found.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Susan Cooper:

Still in the black hemisphere the stars blazed and slowly wheeled; beneath them, Will felt so infinitesimally small that it seemed impossible he should even exist. Immensity pressed in on him, terrifying, threatening - and then, in a swift flash of movement like dance, like the glint of a leaping fish, came a flick of brightness in the sky from a shooting star. Then another, and another, here, there, all around.... Wish on a star, said; a tiny voice in his head from some long-departed day of early childhood: Wish on a star - the cry of a pleasure and faith as ancient as the eyes of man.

And so to bed... quote for tonight is from Frank Herbert:

She rides the sandworm of space!
She guides through all storms
Into the land of gentle winds.
Though we sleep by the snake's den,
She guards our dreaming souls.
Shunning the desert heat,
She hides us in a cool hollow.
The gleaming of her white teeth
Guides us in the night.
By the braids of her hair
We are lifted to heaven!
Sweet fragrance, flower-scented,
Surrounds us in her presence.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The Dean’s Legacy

The Dean’s Legacy

As the time approaches when there is a new Dean coming into Jersey, I’ve been looking back at the legacy of the former Dean Bob Key.

In many ways, he has been the most controversial Dean of the post-war years. His failure regarding safeguarding issues, when it was already known that a churchwarden had to be “chaperoned” was no doubt something he thought would go away, but the matter was left to the new Bishop of Winchester by his predecessor, and he commissioned what became the Korris report.

As Bishop of Winchester, Tim Dakin was to some extent propelled into taking actions, some ill-judged, some less so, because of the climate of the times.

Having inherited the record of actions taken by his predecessor, with notes on the treatment of a young woman called (in the Korris report) as “HG”in a matter of a complaint to the Dean of Jersey regarding a churchwarden, he must have felt duty bound to commission an independent report by Jan Korris.

After all, the news was full of cover-ups regarding cases of abuse, with both the Church of Rome and England implicated in either looking the other way, or moving people about, and trying to tackle matters internally. This was not a climate in which it was prudent to attempt to sort matters out behind closed doors, especially where safeguarding and abuse were matters under consideration.

Once the Korris Report was commissioned, the Bishop would have found himself in the same quandary. To publish or not to publish? Not to publish, if the report’s existence ever leaked out and the press got hold of it, would have been extremely damaging to the Church and the Bishop's reputation.

Even in 2016, a report by Ian Elliott, a safeguarding expert, showed glaring deficiencies in the past record of three Anglican bishops and a failure to act; he also accused the Catholic Church of "minimal responses and empty gestures" and noted that "behind every disclosure that is received lies human pain and suffering that can be so intense as to be life threatening. It deserves everyone's close attention".

So the Bishop took the decision to publish, although it was clear that the report had not been sufficiently redacted, and he also failed to consider the effect on the vulnerable young woman at its core and the added trauma it would cause her, and include her in the loop at this important initial stage.

Once published, again a question of action needed to be taken. The report was highly critical of the Dean in his handling of the case, and seemed to require some kind of action to be taken.

The action the Bishop took seemed on the face of it straightforward – to suspend the Dean’s commission, until such time as the matter could be properly investigated. This was an error of judgement.

There is a mantra which I have heard so often – it came to light in the suspension in Jersey of Police Chief Graham Power – that “suspension is a neutral act”. In terms of strict law, it may be, but in fact it almost always never is. When the recipient of a suspension is highly visible in the public eye, it is extremely damaging to their reputation. It is never a neutral act.

Notable “Pillars” of the Jersey Church became involved – Sir Philip Bailhache, Gavin Ashenden and Bruce Willing among others, and a public meeting was called. The matter became polarised, and the Bishop of Winchester became, effectively, in the eyes of some Anglicans in Jersey, almost an agent of the anti-Christ, to be demonised. Instead of trying to seek reconciliation and peace between the parties involved, this only fanned the flames and made matters worse. The peacemakers might be blest, but they were in short supply.

Rather like the quarrel between Henry VIII and the Pope, this had damaging consequences which spilled over to the wider relationship between Jersey and Winchester. This led to the Anglican Church in Jersey and Guernsey being separated from Winchster, and placed under the oversight of the Bishop of Dover, in the Diocese of Canterbury.

The Dean apologised for mistakes he had made and was duly reinstated. Bizarrely, he then later received an apology from the Archbishop of Canterbury. He did not however retract his previous apology for mistakes made, so one wonders precisely what, outside Ecclesiastical PR departments, the Archbishop’s intervention meant.

The Dean, in the meantime, saw no reason to apologise to the people of Jersey and Guernsey for the damage the conflict between himself and the Bishop of Winchester had caused; equally, the Bishop of Winchester offered no apology either. And yet had both been removed from the conflict, there would be no conflict. The first major split in the Channel Island since the Reformation can be attributed to a dispute between two individuals in which others took sides like l'affaire Dreyfus.

Meanwhile, the Bishop of Winchester had commissioned two reports, a more legal minded Steel report, looking at how accurate the Korris report was, and his own actions and those of the Dean, and the Gladwin report, about safeguarding issues.

When completed, the Dean continued to press for the release of the Steel report, but seemed strangely taciturn about the Gladwin report, which to some degree was the more important one, as it would deal with safeguarding matters, and how they could not be dealt with by cosy fireside chats with the Dean and his wife, or sometimes, apparently, the Dean’s wife on her own.

While Winchester had a long established relationship as an institution with regard to the Channel Islands, Canterbury did not, which meant that later safeguarding sessions provided to Anglican clergy and lay readers, betrayed a complete ignorance of Jersey law, and the important role of the Honorary police in the Island’s legal system.

That is what happens when you break chains of connection that go back centuries, and while not all of it should be laid at the Dean’s door, at least some of it must be attributed to a failure to seek any kind of reconciliation between the two men at the centre of the dispute. There is no indication that the Dean himself sought anything of the kind; certainly he mentioned nothing of that in his public utterances on the matter.

The Dean also saw to a major reform of Jersey’s Canon Law which dated from 1623. Not reformed for centuries, it was clearly out of date in some aspects .The original contains such choice sentences as

“. . . no manner of obedience or subjection is due, within the Kingdoms and Dominions of his Majesty to any [foreign] Power; but that the King’s Power within the Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland and other his Dominions and Countries, is the highest Power under God . . .”

And fathers and masters of a family were exhorted to ensure that their children and domestic servants be instructed in the knowledge of God and that they went to church. Churchwardens were go into taverns and drive people out and into the churches!

Of course much had fallen into disuse, but it was still there, even if it would have been impossible to actually execute it in a court of law, and needed pruning. The work to reform the Canons had been going on since 1990, and finally in 2012, the new Canons came into existence. The Dean was to be congratulated for finally getting the new law on the statute books.

But they contained some provisions which would mean it rapidly became out of date. It states that “Nothing in these Canons shall make it lawful for a woman to be consecrated to the office of bishop”.

Now that was fine when the Church of England had not legislated for the introduction of women bishops. That happened in 2014, and the Isle of Man passed its own measures within 6 months. But under Bob Key’s leadership nothing happened.

At some point the legislation should have appeared on the table of laws being worked on by the law officers, but repeated Freedom of Information requests have shown no sign of it. Guernsey, when questioned, replied  that Jersey were holding the whole process up.

Instead it seems to have been farmed out, presumably with the approval of the Dean, as a kind of part time project to a lawyer who is also a member of the Jersey synod, who seems to be as efficient as the lawyers in Bleak House in reaching any kind of resolution.

It should be noted that at least one of the Dean’s supporters at the time of the suspension crisis was the Vicar of Gouray, who did not even acknowledge the validity of the ordination of women to the priesthood.

As the instigator of the Reform of Canon Law, it seems apparent that now, perhaps because of theological reasons, the Dean was reluctant to make further necessary changes, even though the Jersey Synod had agreed to follow England on this matter.

It is notable, and possibly a rebuff to the delay under Bob Key, that one of the requirements of the new Dean is to make the requisite changes in Jersey’s Canon Law as soon as possible.

One could cover other matters which seem to have been problematic in the Dean's tenure, ranging from clergy recruitment – which included, believe it or not, an X-Factor style “preach off” – to the singular lack of engagement with Deaf Church in Jersey.

The Dean resigned this year to take a new role as part of the Archbishops' Evangelism Task Group. Perhaps the longest lasting legacy, which was approved by the Jersey Synod, yet surprisingly not taken up by the media, was the decision of Jersey and Canterbury to fund the Dean’s “mission costs” to the tune of £20,000 each for the next two years.

It is unknown whether the ordinary man or woman in the pew is aware of this decision taken on their part, and how their weekly alms giving is supporting such a worthy cause.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Tony's Newsround

Jersey Action Group

The Jersey Waterfront Action Group has changed its name to the Jersey Action Group, and has said it wants to become a "political force" in Jersey to address wider issues such as tax and discontent with the current government. A number of those involved are previous States members and say they are going to help people stand in the May 2018 elections.

Chairman Sean Power says “We are more like a political pressure group, a political forum or even a coalition of like minded people who feel they want to do something about what's happening in Jersey right now."

With the advent of larger constituencies, if that is passed by the States, there will certainly be room for change. Of course, while the States have approved the change, when the actual law comes before them, there is still room for a degree of perversity, the States Chamber being a fickle lot.

I remember when the Chief Minister was changed from a secret vote to an open vote, despite the States having voted to approve the change, there was still a rearguard action against any the change when it came to the enabling law. In the end it was passed, which was a good thing, as it removed at a stroke all the backdoor hidden horse-trading which went on, so that the public could see how the representatives they had voted for had voted.

But now everything is set to change in 2018 in one of the largest shake-ups since 1948. In many of the larger constituencies, 5 States members will be chasing 4 seats, and there will be losers despite the advantage of sitting candidates over new ones. I am sure there will be no "safe" Deputy seats without some election taking place, as has sadly happened in the past.

After the debacle of the last election, where two Deputies tried and failed to make Senator, one of whom was Sean Power, it is unlikely that many will be so tempted again. But not all the Senators will be standing, so change will occur. The Senatorials are heavily weighted towards a rural constituency, so it is unlikely that much change will occur there, despite discontent with the current government.

Reform have made little headway out of St Brelade, and two seats in St Helier. Whether more seats in St Helier will open greater opportunities is another matter.

But it will be interesting to see how the new pressure group, and its support for prospective candidates changes the political landscape. Current levels of apathy at elections indicate a culture in which democracy is in danger of being eroded. New groups and new electoral boundaries might just revitalise Jersey politics.

Is banging heads the best approach?

The BBC reported that

“At a protest on Sunday, Assistant Chief Minister Paul Routier, representing Senator Ian Gorst, came out in support of the local crew who resigned after their coxswain Andy Hibbs was sacked. Senator Routier said he hoped the RNLI would ‘see sense’.”

Paul Routier apparently told reporters that “It's a matter of banging people's heads together, hopefully the RNLI will see the sense of ensuring that we get our local crew, who have all the expertise of the knowledge of our island waters. We can't do away with that expertise on a whim."

In the meantime, a petition set up to reinstate Andy Hibbs, who was the coxswain of the St Helier RNLI lifeboat, has gained nearly 1,800 signatures in 18 hours.

I’m not sure that banging heads is the best approach. Any dispute tends to polarise sides, and what we manifestly do not want is anything resembling a Dreyfus Affair. What are needed are people who are expert at conciliation, at pouring oil on troubled waters, and making sure that rather than barrages of emails and press statements, that talks take place with all the principals involved.

The more time goes on, and the more divided things become, the smaller the chance of reconciliation between the parties involved.

We have only to look at the dispute between the former Dean Bob Key and Bishop of Winchester Tim Dakin to see how not to proceed. Instead of seeking some kind of rapprochement, some Jersey “pillars of the church”, such as Sir Philip Bailhache and Bruce Willing, and the former Vicar of Gouray Gavin Ashenden appeared to make it into a simplistic black and white issue in which Bob Key was right, and Tim Dakin wrong.

As a result there was the bizarre situation in which Bob Key peculiarly apologised for his actions, then received an apology from the Archbishop of Canterbury for his treatment. The dispute so split Jersey and Winchester than oversight was transferred to Dover over what was essentially a clash of personalities. That is what happens when intervention by an independent peacemaker is ruled out: all kinds of mess.

It is notable that when a strike is now planned, Unions have to allow a cooling off period. This doesn’t always work, but it does give an opportunity for talks to take place. It is still not impossible for a resolution to be found, but it needs a troubleshooter with a particular set of diplomatic skills to engage with all parties.

Incendiary language like "banging heads" does not really help a peace process.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Through a Glass Darkly by Jostein Gaarder: A Review

Through a Glass Darkly by Jostein Gaarder
A Review

"Who are you?"
"I still don’t know who you are?"
"But we know nearly everything about you. It’s just like a looking glass."
"Like a looking glass?"
"You see only yourselves. You can’t see what’s on the other side."

It is nearly Christmas. Upstairs, a young girl, Cecilia lies ill in bed, enfeebled and tired, and although she will see this Christmas, it will be her last; for she is dying, and both she and her family must come to terms with this. Then Ariel steps through her window. Only she can see him, and he is an angel. He is not like a conventional angel; what he most likes to do is chat about life and death, and the cosmos.

This is a slight book, only 161 pages long, beautifully written by Jostein Gaarder, and wonderfully translated by Elizabeth Rokkan. It explores deep meanings of life and death in a poetic form, and examines what it is to be human, and how humans are "an animal with the soul of an angel".

The book has many delights, and I must be content with picking out just a few.

Time and again Gaarder takes old stories as stories, not as literal truth, but revitalises and subverts them by putting them in a different perspective. One example is a wonderful re-write of creation mythology in terms of childhood, both humorous and deep. As Ariel relates it:

"When God created Adam and Eve, they were inquisitive little children who climbed trees and played around in the big garden he had just made. there was no point in owning a big garden if there were no children to play in it. So they were tempted by the serpent to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, and then they began to grow. That’s how they were gradually driven out of their childhood paradise. The little rogues were so hungry for knowledge that, in the end, they ate themselves out of Paradise."

Then there is a delightful description of childhood linked to the idea of creation and rebirth, sand how "the world is created anew every time a child comes into the world":

"To be born is the same as to be given a whole world - with the sun by day, the moon by night, and the stars in the blue sky. With an ocean that washes in over the beaches, with forests so dense that they are ignorant of their own secrets, with strange creatures running across the landscape. For the world will never become old and grey. You humans become old and grey. As long as children are put into the world, the world is as new as on the seventh day when the Lord rested."

How can Cecilia see Ariel? He tells here that:

"There are several ways of seeing. Some people are blind. They have to use their inner eye. That’s the same eye that you see with when you dream pleasant dreams… Nothing can damage the inner eye."
"Why not?"
"Because it isn’t made of flesh and blood."
"What is it made of, then?"
"Of mind and thought."

Gaarder uses the permanence of angels and their existence as a contrast to the transience of the natural world. Angels are unseen, but so solid, that the material world is cloudlike to them, they can just pass through it; it is the material world that is the shadow land:

"Even a mountain is slowly ground down by the forces of nature and turns to earth and sand in the end… You are ghosts to us, Cecilia, not the other way round. You come and go. You are the ones who don’t last. You suddenly appear, and each time a new-born child is laid on its mother’s stomach, it’s just as wonderful. But just as suddenly you’ve gone. It’s as if God is blowing bubbles with you."

As the conversations continue, Cecilia comes to see that the limitations of human knowledge is what makes us human, and that it is only in death that we pass "though the glass":

"We see everything in a glass, darkly. Sometimes we can peer through the glass and catch a glimpse of what is on the other side. If we were to polish the glass clean, we’d see much more. But then we would no longer see ourselves."

Finally, and daringly, Gaarder takes Cecilia, and us, through the mirror to the other side, to beyond the experience of death.

This book is not a treatise on angels, nor is it a book of theology. rather, it uses ideas about angels and God, and Odin (and his ravens!) to explore the transience of life, and how life can be seen to have an inner meaning, yet this has to be perceived not through external senses, but though our inner eye. 

It is not an easy book to pin down, and indeed it is not intended to be; to read it is to experience different modes of perception, different ways of seeing, and Gaarder has succeeded creating a book that is as more to be experienced by the imagination as grasped by the intellect.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Notes on the Calendar: April – Part 1

From the 1947 Pilot, this piece by G,.R. Balleine, which also mentions a few Jersey customs, may be of interest. 

I would note that the etymology of Easter from Eostre, a Goddess of the Dawn, which Balleine assets as fact, is now considered questionable by most scholars. This goes back to a single mention in Bede, which has no other corroboration anywhere. Sometime in the next ten years, it is to be hoped that the public and clergy will catch up with that.

The Venerable Bede did write in the 8th century that the name Easter stems from the goddess “Eostre” who gave her name to the “Eostur” month. How easily the public has swallowed this statement (one mention in “Temporum Ratione” (The Reckoning of Time))  as “fact,” however, testifies to why the world needs historians. No historical evidence exists to support Bede’s statement. Indeed, scholars have long known that Bede provides interpretations based on his own opinions instead of supporting historical evidence (i.e., not everything he says is correct!).

Historian Ronald Hutton, lamenting how Bede’s statement “has been so often quoted without any inspection or criticism,” stresses that “it is equally valid…to suggest that the Anglo-Saxon ‘Eoster-monath’ simply meant ‘the month of opening’ or ‘the month of beginnings’, and that Bede mistakenly connected it with a goddess who either never existed at all, or was never associated with a particular season, but merely, like Eos and Aurora, with the dawn itself.” As historical evidence for this “shadowy deity” evaporates, Hutton continues, all evidence for a March/April “pre-Christian festival in the British Isles” also evaporates.

Notes on the Calendar: April – Part 1
By G.R. Balleine

April got its name from the Romans, who called it the “Aprilis” month, which is Latin for the month when things open. April sunshine and April showers coax the buds open. And in ourselves much is too tightly shut. We, need open eyes, open ears, open minds, open hearts. May  genial April make us hear the Voice that whispers, " Open unto Me."

Anglo-Saxons called this month Eostre-month, from Eostre, their Goddess of the Dawn ; and the name still clings to Our great Spring Festival, Easter, the Festival of the Living Christ, with its triumphant message, ' Jesus is alive to-day.'

All churches are gay with flowers. All Services ring with Alleluias. And every communicant remembers the all embracing rule that bids him greet his Risen Lord in the Service lie appointed. At least three hundred million communicants will be kneeling at their Lord's Table on faster Day. Our own churches will take their share in that world-wide Eucharist.

Easter Day was also called Joyful Sunday. At Capri after their Communion, the congregation open scores of cages and set free a cloud of birds, symbol of souls released from captivity to the grave.

In South America boys let off the biggest bangers they can buy. If you ask “Why?” they reply, “It is the Victory”. Hungarians dress up scarecrows labelled ' Death,' and pelt them with mud, and burn them. It is their way of saving, “No longer now can thy terrors, Death, appal us."

Every Church Season used to be marked by some special food. Christmas pudding, Shrove Tuesday pancakes. Good Friday hot. cross buns. At Easter it was eggs, for the chicken bursting from its shell was taken as a symbol of Christ rising from the tomb.

The Northumbrian name. Bow-leg Sunday. Is puzzling, till you realize that the hyphen has got misplaced, and it should be Bowl-egg Sunday, when hard-boiled eggs were bowled downhill to see whose would reach the bottom first.

In .Jersey another food was added. Ch'n'cst pas Pâques sans Simné. Jersey simnel is quite unlike English Mid-Lent simnel cakes. We all know the bowl-shaped biscuits made of flour, egg, and butter.

And, if you want to keep up old customs. You must have tansy pudding for dinner in memory of the Jews' Passover ' bitter herbs.'

But, before Easter, comes Good Friday, the anniversary of our Lord's death. Hugh Redwood has appealed to his fellow Free Churchmen to make more of this day. He says rightly that England will never be Christian, until it thinks more of the Cross. Year in and year out we must preach Christ Crucified.

But on this day we have behind its immensely powerful allies. Deep-rooted instincts springing from thousand-year-old traditions, backed by Press and Wireless, combine to turn men's thoughts to the hill called Calvary. In Jersey the special Good Friday dish was not hot-cross buns, but “les fiottes”, dough balls floating in boiled milk.

Church-folk, however, do more than observe Good Friday. We keep the whole week as Holy Week.

You may be interested to watch some of the Services of our ancestors on the Thursday and Friday.

Imagine yourself in one of our Parish Churches in the year 1500. The Thursday had several names. It was Sheer Thursday, for every man had his hair and beard sheared (i.e., cut) in preparation for the morrow. It was the Birthday of the Chalice for on this day our Lord instituted the Holy Communion. But its commonest name was Maundy Thursday, Jeudi du Mandé from Old French, mandé, a command.

What command? Some say. ‘This do in remembrance of Me.' But historically the name seems to come from the words, ` A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another ' which was the first Antiphon sunny in that day's Service.

One feature of the Morning Service was the Feet-washing, when the Priest and the Seigneur washed the feet of thirteen poor men in memory of Christ washing His disciples' feet. The Bishop did this in his Cathedral, the King in his Chapel Royal, and .special Maundy money, silver penny, two-penny, three-penny, and four-penny pieces, was struck as gifts for the King's poor men.

The Evening Service was “Tenebrae”, which means Darkness. The lights were extinguished one by one as the Service proceeded, till the whole Church was in darkness.

On Good Friday the bells were silent, and people were summoned to church by a wooden rattle. The chief Morning Service was the Creeping to the Cross. A large crucifix lay on the chancel floor, and everyone crept on his knees to kiss the feet of the Christ.

One old writer says:-"As on Good Friday Christ was the most despised of mankind, Holy Church hath ordered that on Good Friday mankind shall do Him this reverence." The special evening ceremony was the burial of a consecrated wafer in the Easter Sepulchre.

In France and England this was often a recess in the chancel wall: but in Jersey it was an oaken cupboard brought in for the occasion. Here the wafer was laid to rest with much ceremony, to be taken out again triumphantly early on Easter morning. There was no three hours service. This is a comparatively modern innovation, started by a Jesuit missionary in Peru in 1687.

Several strange superstitions clung to Good Friday. Iron was in disgrace, because of the nails driven through the hands of Christ. Poker and tongs were hidden away, lest they should forgetfully be used. To shoe a horse was to court certain disaster. And the only way to get double wall-flowers was to take the seed to church and shake it during the Good Friday Service.