Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Betherinden Chantry

On our way back from the Channel Tunnel we found the grave slab of Anne Hilder, one of my fourteen great-great-great-grandmothers.  Her grave is in what at the time of her death was still the private chapel of the owners of Sandhurst’s Old Place within the Parish Church.  (This is the Kent village, not the Berkshire town of the same name and military academy.)

The first picture shows that what was a pre-Reformation Chantry Chapel continues to be recognisably distinct part of the building.  The second picture shows the deeply worn path which runs down from the church to what was the medieval manor site and is still Old Place Farm today.

Anne married a cousin and had a daughter who then married a second cousin once removed - by which complicated configuration I end up being descended not only from Anne’s father but also from two of his brothers (that is, from each of three Hilder brothers, who lived ten miles away in Rye in the middle of the eighteenth century).

Below is a beautiful piece of pre-Reformation glass from elsewhere in the church and Bodiam Castle two miles down the road.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Godshuis Belle

These are just some of the details we enjoyed at an Ypres Almshouse.  

'Belle' was the surname of the Thirteenth Century founder.  

'Godshuis' is a reminder that a whole chunk of Flemish and English is the same language give or take some spelling and pronunciation - simply 'God's house' in this case (which I remember appears in the form 'Godess hus' in the opening lines of the Ormulum, written in England at roughly the same time as the Belle Almshouse was founded).   

Monday, 16 October 2017

Menin Gate Lions

The top picture is a relatively recent memorial to 130 000 men from the Indian armed forces who died in France and Flanders during the First World War; it is on the rampart walk close to the Menin Gate.

The bottom picture is one of the lions which stood at the gate destroyed in the First World War and which have since given to Australia to be part of a national War Memorial there; it is on loan back to Ypres for a few months as the time of the Passchendaele centenary.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Gunner A H Woodcraft

I once assembled some information about a few of those commemorated by the Little Coates War Memorials.  The last of those listed was Albert Woodcraft, a fifteen year old Errand Boy from Gilbey Road at the time of the 1911 census.  He signed up in the opening days of the First World War and was dead within less than a year.

I illustrated a sheet about him with an image I had found  of the cemetery in which he was eventually reburied; it shows the layout of the graves before the standard Commonwealth War Grave Commission headstone were in use and his grave is almost at the back on the right hand side.

We were in Ypres last week.  We took a mile and a half walk out from the centre into what is almost still the neighbouring village of St Jean to find the cemetery.  A large modern hospital stands in what is otherwise still fields beyond it.  We were glad to have one specific grave to locate among the hundreds of thousands in the Ypres area. 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Worth commemorating

I was shown the Cross Road's War Memorial for the first time last week.  It is enclosed in the Park Pavilion which means it is not as accessible as a roadside memorial but also means it is unweathered despite being a hundred years ago.  The  local surnames Ackroyd, Feather, Murgatroyd and Robershaw which I've noted before are among those listed in the middle panel as having been killed.

This week, we have also see the recovery capsule in which Tim Peake returned to earth, which is on display in Bradford at the moment.  It looks more like a piece of early twentieth-century  science fiction than a genuine piece of early twenty-first-century technology.

On Michaelmas Day at the end of September, Friday Church at St James', Cross Roads added this 'Superman' portrait of St Michael to the wall of saints (and now angels) being built up at the back of church...

... and St Francis (whose day it was this week) joined them yesterday.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Sunday School crockery

I once bought a random piece of Sunday School crockery as a curiosity.  It was a side plate, part of a mass produced set of ‘vitrified hotel ware’ manufactured by a firm in the Potteries.  In the same way that any basic cafe, club or train buffet would have had its own badged crockery, so ‘The Good Shepherd Sunday Schools of Leeds Parish Church’ (in this case) had what we would now call its logo on its crockery.

I am newly in what is now the diocese of Leeds and I can begin to see that I was wrong to have been surprised that the pupils in a Sunday School should have warranted distinctive crockery of their own.  Some Sunday Schools round here (and, I assume, elsewhere) turn out not to have been a group of individuals but rather substantial institutions in huge buildings. 

Our new house is a short distance from a Primitive Methodist Chapel disused in the 1960s and the only modern housing development amidst the local terraced houses is one which has been built on the large site of its former Sunday School.  Nearby, the Brontë Parsonage Car Park next to St Michael’s, Haworth also occupies a large cleared site on which the Parish Church’s substantial late-Victorian Sunday School used to stand.

And this all came home to me when I was served refreshments at ‘my’ other Parish Church the other day – on a plate badged for ‘St James’ Sunday School’ with the letters ‘CR’ entwined as a logo to represent the name of the village Cross Roads.  The new housing on the south of the church (on the right in the photograph) was, I’m now told, built on part of the Sunday School site, the sale of which raised a lot of the money needed to build the hall now attached to the church (in the middle of the photograph)  – in which surviving pieces of the Sunday School’s crockery are not treated as curiosities but are still being used to serve refreshments.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Hospitable cultures

It has to be recognised that some cultures are more hospitable to the Gospel than others, that Gospel possibilities spoken into them are more likely to resonate in some than others. 

It is something I remember talking about at my interview for coming here. 

The example was late Victorian and early twentieth century Anglo-Catholic mission in parts of the Pacific and in Japan (the latter including service by one of my father’s aunts, but that isn’t relevant). 
The personnel, churchmanship and approach was roughly the same.  But in one place the queues of those coming for Baptism sometimes spread towards the river down the whole side of a valley.  In the other the impact was comparatively negligible. 

And a (possibly superficial) explanation is that the communal assumptions of one culture and the ‘honour’ culture of the other was the most significant factor in the different levels of engagement and impact.

It seemed relevant at interview because it is worth exploring at least the possibilty that post-war cultural shifts in England are one factor in the decline of mainstream Christianity; we would simply expect the church to be smaller in the culture which has emerged.  If so, some far from superficial analysis of this is urgently needed.

I’ve thought of all this again this month because of one hint given on the ‘faithful neighbours’ training all clergy new to the diocese of Leeds are asked to undertake to equip them for appropriate ministry in what are often multi-faith settings. 

The hint was that conversion to Christianity from Shia Islam is a greater possibility than from Sunni Islam.  It is certainly true that there are Anglican churches which find they need to read the Gospel in Farsi at services (that is, churches which have a significant number of members who originate in Iran), including one down the road from us in Keighley.   

The tentative suggestion was that minority and frequently persecuted Shia may know more within themselves about ‘passion’, while the majority dominant  Sunni may be more habituated to a triumphalist religious experience; in certain contexts the first might encounter the Gospel as speaking into their situation while the other might be much more likely to find it alien.

Meanwhile, a little ahead of myself, I’ve been looking for illustrations for Advent orders of service and have been touched by the grasped hand and held gaze in this encounter between young Mary pregnant with Jesus and her cousin older Elizabeth pregnant with John the Baptist (perhaps the moment John leapt in her womb at hearing Mary’s news) in a window at St Michael’s, Haworth.