Wednesday 28 March 2018

The Lamb and Flag

I've noted before the Lamb and Flag as a badge of Jesus' death and resurrection, one of a number of religious symbols which came to badge medieval hostelries and thus become a pub sign of today.  This example is at the top of the Jonah window in St James', Cross Roads.  There is another at the very top of the East Window in St Michael's, Haworth which I've failed to capture. 

'Christ our passover lamb has been sacrificed for us' (1 Corinthians 5.7) we shall sing on Easter Day, but Matins this morning brought us to Jeremiah's non-passover awareness that he himself 'was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter not knowing it was against me they devised schemes' (Jeremiah 11.19) which pre-echoes our Good Friday service's 'like a lamb led to the slaughter, and like a sheep before its shearers, is silent, so he did not open his mouth' (Isaiah 53.7).

I think I'd negligently always thought the 'servant songs' of this part of Isaiah were a unique development, so I'm weighing up what I should never have missed which is that this similar concept is in his contemporary Jeremiah.  Jeremiah's human predicament is universalised by Isaiah before it feeds Jesus' self-identity (Maundy Thursday is in the mix now) and is taken by the first Christians to reveal things to us about Christ?

Sunday 18 March 2018

Our three churches

A new boiler is being installed in the vestry at St James', Cross Roads so a new flue was needed; we look forward to the additional work to improve and add to the radiators in due course.  We are grateful to those who fund-raised and permission-raised for all this.

The plaster (damaged by water ingress before the recent roof renewal) has been stripped away from two walls in St Gabriel's, Stanbury; we don't know when the stonework was last exposed and look forward to the replastering and repainting in the next few weeks.  We are grateful for those who have steered this project thus far and those who cleaned the dust-laden church which resulted from this stage of the work.

And this is what it looked like when we opened up for the service at St Michael's, Haworth this morning.  We have water coming through the (newly restored) north aisle roof here at the moment as well, so all three churches are having building-work attention at the moment.

Tuesday 13 March 2018

The same indulgent grace

I talked at St James’ on Sunday about the bronze serpent raised up on a pole by Moses to be (exactly how it is difficult to fathom from this distance) the source of healing for God’s rebellious people (Numbers 21.4-9).

One member of the congregation said she’d never heard the story before.  She was surprised – she had been sure that her long ago Sunday School days had equipped her with the key Old Testament stories, but here now was one mentioned by Jesus (John 3.14) which was new to her.

Perhaps it never gets read aloud in church.  It isn’t set for Communion, Matins or Evensong on a Sunday in the Book of Common Prayer.  It wasn’t set for Communion on a Sunday in the Alternative Service Book 1980.  And, although it could have come up seven times as a reading set for the Principal Service on the Fourth Sunday in Lent in the cycle of  Sunday readings we’ve mainly used since the late 1990s, each time it may well have been replaced by alternative readings for Mothering Sunday.

Anyway, having recently delved briefly into a verse of a long forgotten early Issac Watts hymn, I did find another totally eclipsed eighteenth century hymn (which appears to be an expansion of a Watts hymn) which seemed to do the job for the Sunday quite thoroughly, so, to everyone’s greater surprise, we sang it.

With fiery serpents greatly pained,
when Israel's mourning tribes complained
and sighed to be relieved;
a serpent straight the prophet made
of molten brass, to view displayed:
the patient looked and lived.

But O what healing to the heart
doth Jesu's greater cross impart
to those that seek a cure?
Israel of old, and we no less,
the same indulgent grace confess,
while life and breath endure.

To reason's view this strange effect
self righteous souls will still reject,
and perish in their pride,
but those who sin and break the law
do all their rich salvation draw
from Jesu's bleeding side.

May we then view the matchless cross,
all other objects count but loss;
no other gain desire:
here still be fixed our feasting eyes,
weeping with tears of glad surprise;
and thankfully admire.

Hail, great Emmanuel (balmy name!),
thy praise the ransomed will proclaim;
thee we “Physician” call:
we own no other cure but thine,
thou, the deliverer divine,
our health, our life, our all.

Meanwhile, I love the patterns made by the windblown snow in this recent picture taken from near St Gabriel’s, Stanbury looking across the valley to Oldfield Primary School.

Thursday 8 March 2018

Brontë grave

We have frequent requests to identify the exact position of the Brontë grave(s) in St Michael’s, Haworth.  Indeed, we are often pressed for access to what enquiries incorrectly assume (and often state definitively that they know) is a crypt.

The answer isn’t fundamentally difficult to work out – and may well have been worked out by others in the past – because the application for formal permission to build the present church in 1880 includes a plan which clearly shows the footprints of the old existing church and the proposed new church imposed upon one another, a plan which outlines a number of graves which might be disturbed during the building work including a neighbouring pair in the part of the church where we know the Brontë graves to be.

We are certain these graves are not a ‘vault’ in the sense of a large space under the floor but only in the sense of standard eighteenth century and early nineteenth century burials of this sort: single grave cuts often deep and often brick lined.

There is in fact some detail of the manner intended for Patrick Bronte’s burial.  It is contained in the 1857 legal document which ended general burial rights at the church

reserving, however, to the Reverend Patrick Brontè [sic] the right of interment for himself in his family vault in the Chancel, on condition that the coffin be imbedded in a layer of powdered charcoal four inches thick, and be separately entombed in brick or stone work, cemented in an airtight manner, and that no other interment shall take place within the church.

There is also a record (from the son of Patrick Brontë’s successor) that in the building of the new church

the Brontë grave was in no way interfered with, and the remains were left where they were placed at their funerals. . . . . Over their grave, as over the others, was laid a thick layer of concrete (how necessary those who knew the old church will remember!), upon which the present edifice stands ..... I will repeat as emphatically as I can, on the authority of my father spoken scores of times in my hearing, that undisturbed in their original burial place that gifted family were left.

This suggests two separate layers of concrete – that which was required at the time of Patrick Brontë’s burial and that which was added at the rebuilding of the church – both apparently intended to prevent the smell of decomposition filtering upwards.

Anyway, this morning it was local historian Steven Wood who took the initiative to bring in a friend who is the Diocesan Archaeologist and who knows the building well, and their careful measuring from the plan resulted in the suggestion marked out by tape in the picture.  The inscription on the neighbouring pillar correctly points to this area, and there is photographic evidence that the marble memorial now in the neighbouring chapel originally stood over it - but the more modern brass memorial to Emily and Charlotte in the floor nearby is slightly misdirecting.

Patrick Brontë’s wife Maria was buried here in 1821, and, in due course, two infant children of theirs, three of their remaining four adult children (including Emily and Charlotte, but not Anne who is buried in Scarborough), Maria’s sister (who helped bring the children up after Maria’s death) and then Patrick himself.

And, not untypically, while we were at work on this project this morning, among the flow of Japanese visitors there was one in tears at the emotion of finally being on the spot ('I never thought I would be, and now I am').

Friday 2 March 2018

Elizabethan chalice

In nearly 1000 posts I’ve taken care not to appeared in a picture myself, but, for a second post running, Steven Wood has provided me with the top picture here.  When he sent me the picture I posted last time, it was not the flagons which grabbed my attention but the chalice (150 years older than the flagons – the hallmark is 1593).

I wondered whether it might be a piece of ‘exchanged silver’, and, after inspecting it, I’m not sure it isn’t, but it is certainly a very fine piece with exquisite engravings and hardly any signs of wear.  Steven provided me with a 1914 survey of church plate which also admires it highly but which suggests it may have originally been intended as a beaker for secular use.

I’d love to know if it was made for the church in Elizabeth I’s time, and still suspect it might be a remodelling then from items of the church’s pre-Reformation plate, but it may have come into the church’s possession later, and may indeed be of secular origin.  I have no idea what the H ND (with *) on its base signifies.