Monday 27 May 2013

Listen to the churchyard

There are waves of spring flowers in Great Coates churchyard until each year we let it overgrow to let the seed set. Now dandelion, cow parsley and long grass dominate. The annual complaints will come in until Community Pay Back cut it all back for us.

Listen to the trees. The oldest pines fell in high wind so we spent thousands making them safe and planting new ones. The youngest walnut has cut flowers at its base - they arrived a few hours after the name of a young women whose ashes were scattered there had come round in my prayer diary again. The oldest walnut has new life inside it - bats are roosting there.

Notice what the moat says. Churches do not have moats, but the mediaeval manor house next door did. The ruin was there in 1697 when a traveller mistook it for a dissolved monastery and wrote of its ‘turrits’ and ‘nitches’. A nineteenth century farmhouse was built on the land, and the graves nearest to it are those of the family who farmed there. Listen to the name Riggall – one of those which used to be unique to Lincolnshire (like Blades and Leggett) but now labels new lives across the world.

Catch an echo of local concern about the safety of the railway line. It is provoked by the gravestone of ten year old Willie Adams, son a railway signalman, killed at the level crossing in 1911, and others since. It continues following another tragedy there last month which reigniting prayers in church for those for whom easy talk of new life seems hollow.

Hear the silence of the unmarked graves. We have rediscovered the name of Betsy Moore, an unmarried serving girl. She bought a purgative at the Binbrook May Fair in 1871 to end her concealed pregnancy, but died of the overdose and was buried at night without being allowed a service. She lies near sailors washed up on the Humber bank over the centuries until ‘an unknown male person found dead in the River Humber aged about 40 years’ was buried in 1918. Our remembrance is a prayer for new life for the forgotten.

Let the stone outside the south door speak to you. It is where a long vanished memorial brass was fixed. The church owns two others, and had replicas made ten years ago. After Easter children were making rubbings of the five hundred year old picture on one of them showing Jesus stepping out of his tomb. All hope of new life leads back here.

The picture is of nettles in the churchyard last week harbouring what will become a butterfly; a visit from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust last week highlighted for us the value of the churchyard's nettle patches.   The article of mine appeared in the Cleethropes Chronicle last Thursday; some elements of it have appeared in this Blog before.

Monday 20 May 2013

A view from the edge

This is the 'headline report' which we are sharing at meetings in the parish and in the deanery for the exercise initial results from which were posted here and here.  It paints a picture consistent with what people having been observing more generally, but, of course, the value of the exercise is limited by my amateur socilogical research design and by the limited size of the sample; it is only a partial look through the door

 During February and March 2013 we asked 70 people to fill in a questionnaire.

 They were all people who have taken one step towards involvement with us – booking a Baptism or Wedding, coming to a Quiet Day, or sending a child to the Youth Group.

 They come mainly from the age group (under 40s) who we do not seem to be able to recruit into church attendance in the way we did a generation or more ago.

 Many are tentative in making a reply – where we asked for a tick or cross to answer a question, each time between one fifth and two fifths left the space blank.

 58% say they believe in God, and 21% say they do not.

 Almost three quarters agree ‘I think there is more to reality than the physical world around us', and 61% agree ‘I believe in something but I’m not sure what it is’.

 63% say they have had some Christian contact in the past year (over 30% each had spoken to a member of the clergy, said prayers at home, or attending at Christmas).

 A quarter of those who had had this Christian contact had also had contact with an alternative spirituality (e.g. 10% of the sample had visiting a clairvoyant and 16% had taking part in tai chi or yoga).

 29% are doing something on Sunday morning which they might not have a generation or more ago (at work, at a dance class, in a football team, or shopping).

 But more than twice as many (63%) are simply at home, where time with family (26%) and housework (19%) and are what is most likely to be occupying them.

 They don’t suggest the church operating at alternative times in the week would be better for them: 45% say our Saturday 4.30 p.m. slot is not good for them; 45% say Sunday at 5.00 p.m. would be good, but 31% say it wouldn’t be.

 They don’t think the church has relevant things to say to them about most moral issues (e.g. 16% do think the church has helpful things to say about gay marriage, but 43% explicitly do not).

 But they do think we may be onto something when we talk about forgiveness (two thirds said this, while 12% explicitly said they didn’t).

 For them, the word God is most likely simply to trigger the words Church, Prayer, Religion and Jesus, and the word Church is most likely simply to trigger the words God, Prayer, Religion, Wedding and Funeral.

 They always say ‘Christening’ not ‘Baptism’, and are much more likely to say ‘Wedding’ rather than ‘Marriage’.

The doorway is in the Casa de Pilatos in Seville.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Ormulum continued

The other thing I wanted to discover was how closely Ormin’s translations follow the Latin of the Vulgate version of Bible he would have known and how far he was expounding rather than translating it.

I simply played with three verses (John 2.3-5) which appeared to show very quickly that he consistently took each Latin phrase of the Vulgate text and expanded it to make one of his own fifteen syllable couplets.

The example I enjoyed most was ‘nondum venit hora mea’ (‘my hour has not yet come’) for which he needed just seven syllables (‘ne comm nohht ȝet min time’ – not come not yet mine tim-e) so he had to preface these with a magnificent eight syllable line all of his own ( ‘abid, abid, wifmann, abid’ - abide, abide, wife-man, abide).

So here are the verses adapted from the handout I generated. First the Latin which Ormin would have known, then the English of the much later Wyclif Bible which tracks the same Latin very closely, and finally Ormin’s couplet.

Et deficiente vino
And whanne wijn failide
[and when wine failed]
& teȝȝ win wass drunken swa
þatt taer nass þa na mare
[… drunk so that there was no more]

dicit mater Iesu ad eum
the modir [mother] of Jhesu seide to hym
& Crisstess moderr comm till Crist
& seȝȝde himm þuss wiþþ worde
[… said to him thus with word]

vinum non habent
thei han not wijn
þiss win iss drunken to þe grund
& niss her nu na mare
[this wine is drunk to the ground/ bottom
and isn’t here now no more]

et dicit ei Iesus
and Jhesus seith to hir
& ure Laferrd [our Lord] Jesus Crist
þuss seȝȝde till hiss moderr

quid mihi et tibi est mulier
what to me and to thee, womman?
whatt falleþþ þiss till me wiþþ þe
wifmann, þiss þatt tu maelesst
[what falleth this to me with thee
woman, this that thou speakest]

nondum venit hora mea
myn our [hour] cam not yit
abid, abid, wifmann, abid
ne comm nohht ȝet min time
[which isn’t quite
Stop, woman, stop;
this isn’t the time or place]

dicit mater eius ministries
his modir seith to the mynystris [servants]
& Sannte Marȝe ȝede anan [straight away]
& seȝȝde to þe birrless [cup-bearers]

quodcumque dixerit vobis facite
what euere [ever] thing he seie to you, do ye
doþ þatt he shall bidden ȝuw
ne be ȝe nohht taerȝaeness
[do that he shall bid you
not be you not there-against].

Be not there against, indeed.

The picture is a random one from our Spanish holiday – Seville Cathedral, I think.

Monday 13 May 2013

Playing with the Ormulum

‘The earliest poet writing in English in Lincolnshire’ was how I branded an introduction to the Orumulum for a poetry group one evening earlier this month (introduced in this Blog here and here and here).

Mindful of a discussion about the advantages of poetry in translation taking not just the words of the original but also its the structure (in this Blog here), I wanted to give an idea of how its rhythm might fall on a modern ear, so I created something close to a word-for-word translation of a couple of dozen lines while also seeking to follow the eight and seven beats in lines of couplets going

De-dum, de-dum, de-dum, de-dum,
De-dum, de-dum, de-dum-dum.

There are inevitable compromises. For example, the original line ‘haeþene Goddess alle’ must have been pronounced as seven separate syllables (heath-en-e God-es all-e) but the word-for-word translation ‘all heathen Gods’ is only four syllables, so I had to pad the line with ‘whatever’.

Anyway, this is what I came up with; the italics admit each departure from word-for-word translation.

& ȝiff þu cnawesst rihht tin Godd
And if you know your God aright
& herrcnesst hise spelless,
and harken to his story,
& leȝȝesst all þin herrte onn himm
while setting all your heart on him
& follȝhesst himm & buȝhesst,
to follow and to praise him,
& forr þe lufe off himm forrsest
and for the love of him forsake
haeþene Goddess alle,
all heathen Gods whatever,
& arrt te sellf aȝȝ milde & meoc
and are yourself all mild and meek
& soffte, & stille, & liþe,
and soft and still and gentle,
wiþþ lamb þu lakesst tin Drihhtin
you offer to your Lord a lamb
gastlike i þine þaewess,
in spirit by your conduct,
swa þatt itt maȝȝ wel hellpenn þe
so that it may well help you much
to winnenn Godess are.
to win from God his graces.

For lamb iss soffte & stille deor
For lambs are soft and gentle beasts
& meoc, & milde, & liþe
and meek and mild and gentle,
& it cann cnaweenn swiþe wel
and each one knows so very well
hiss moderr þaer ȝho blateþþ
its mother there who’s bleating
bitwenenn an þusennde shep,
between a thousand other sheep
þohh þatt teȝȝ blaetenn alle.
though they all bleat together.
& all swa birrþ þe cnawenn wel
And so it suits you to know well
þin Godd & all his lare,
your God and all he teaches,
& all forrwerrpenn haeþenndom
to keep away from heathendom
& oþre Goddess alle,
from other Gods whatever
swa sum þe lamb fleþ aȝȝ oþre shep
just as the lamb flees other sheep
& follȝheþþ aȝȝ hiss moderr.
to follow just its mother.

What comes across to me, apart from the plodding, is a delicate introductionof the New Testament encouragement to offer spirtual rather than literal sacrifice along with a homely if forced illustration; it could almost be material for a Sunday School  in the 1950s.

The picture is another taken at Lincoln Cathedral a week ago.

Monday 6 May 2013

Sundays with the family

The use of Sunday morning has changed. People are quite likely to be playing in a football team, shopping, or exercising their right of access to their estranged children, all in a way they wouldn’t have been doing a generation or more ago. So trying to do Sunday morning family worship ‘better’ (while not a bad thing in itself) may miss one of the significant reasons such services are less well attended than they were a generation ago.

That is a well trodden line of reasoning, although obviously not a systematic one since there has been quite a change in attitudes to faith and attitudes to church practice in the same period which will also be major factors.

It is something we wanted to test out locally with the questionnaire which we got people such as those bringing children for Baptism to fill in during February and March, about which I began to report at the time.

So, the first question we asked was ‘As far as you can remember, exactly where were you at 11.00 a.m. last Sunday and what were you doing?’. I’ve just got round to the detailed analysis.

Over a quarter (29% - 20 out of 69) did indeed say they were doing something which most of them might well not have been able to do on a Sunday morning a generation of more ago: working (10) or sleeping after a night-shift (2), playing organised football (4), shopping (3) and attending a dance class (1).

But almost two thirds (45 out of 69) were simply at home doing everything from lying in (three more were in bed, one with a hangover) to engaging in DIY (two people – nobody actually said he or she was washing a car). More were engaged in housework (13) than out at work elsewhere, and more were looking after children at home (8) than out at football or the shops. Six were spending time with family in other ways , five were watching television, two were skyping members of their family at a distance, another two were walking dogs, and one was in the shower.

So, yes, the changing use of Sunday is the dominant factor for a quarter - on this particular Sunday it was what kept them away from church. But housework, having time to relax, or being involved with family were the things two thirds were quietly doing rather than thinking of joining us. Two were on car journeys and two were in church.

I took the picture in Lincoln Cathedral after a study day there on Saturday.

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Seville footnotes

This is the Inquisition’s seal on a certificate of cooperation which protects the family involved from being subject to investigation.

This is where Carmen would have worked.