CHURCH TIMES NOT
7, Portugal Street, Kingsway, London. WC
Tuesday, September 22, 1981
The plain truth
THERE can be no doubt that whereas two sparrows could be sold for one farthing, inflation and the current economic climate mean you would scarcely be able to find them at that price today, although widows might.
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It now seems that we should be shirking a duty not to tell our readers that the situation today is very different and only the intervention of the Archbishop's special envoy, Mr Terry Wogan, can ensure that this knowledge is made available during the Government's current review of its economic responsibilities. We believe that British history, which has in the distant and recent past included very many examples of the heroic service of God and man, cannot and will not end in just a whimper.
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It would be morally — and we trust politically — unacceptable for the Government to write off the impact of the Social and Democratic party. If Mr Baldwin were on the throne and able to seize the coin in the fish's mouth it would be reasonable — if not desirable — to hope that Britain's new industrial base would look far more lovely in this green and pleasant land.
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It is also a fact that the people to whom the Church of England ministers are passing through a very depressing time. We need to remember that the old prosperity of England rested first on the slave-trade and then on the import of cotton to those dark satanic mills to be turned into textile goods. To the radical right, absolute priority must be given to getting the money supply (and therefore inflation) down. Nevertheless we believe that any Bishop whose present wife has a former partner living must be gravely handicapped in his role as an example, symbol and pastor to the whole Church.
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So the lady is iron towards very strong pressures. The policy stands. There must be a lower standard. This world-wide problem which tempts most of us to feel utterly helpless is encapsulated in the ecumenical dilemma in England. How can anyone with a real or imagined grievance be denied a gun? The first is the well-jcnown danger of ihe proliferation of nuclear weapons and it is also possible to condemn the covenanting proposals. On the other hand, hundreds of formal and thousands of informal experiments are in local operation.
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Those who propose to lobby the House of Commons are essentially right - the central argument cannot be faulted by economists any more than
concern for world development can be faulted ethically. In a world full of horrors but also containing prayers and dreams is not the question best left to the Bishops concerned? Or not, as the case may be.
|TV & RADIO HARRY NORMAN |
EXIT raps seatbelt law
|A SPIRITED attack on the new law obliging front-seat passengers to wear
seat-belts was the main item in Sunday (Radio 4). The attack came from the motoring section of Exit. In a well-argued case the members claimed the right to die in pieces. They were undeterred by the claims made by a Jesuit chaplain at the casuistry department of a Northamptonshire hospital. Father Joseph Locke explained: "Some cars, on the one hand, have right-hand drive. Others, on the other hand, on the other hand. Nevertheless, the offside rule remains the same." |
The presenter of the programme, Clive Jacobs, generously offered both sides a lift home after the broadcast. In the same programme Bernard Jackson examined evidence for buying the latest book on the Turin Shroud. By careful analysis of carbon-paper dating it had been possible to trace the authorship to Emmanuel College, Cambridge. It was a pity we were not given the opportunity to hear a statement from the Dean.
In The Debate About God (Thames TV) we were given an interesting glimpse behind the scenes as the Rev. Michael Saward and the Rev. Richard Harries argued over the respective merits of their filing systems. A schoolmaster from Leeds claimed to have lost his entire collection of sermons by following Mr. Saward's system and a deaconess from London claimed that, although she had tried Fr. Harries'
|system, it was in the end simpler and probably cheaper to use a dictionary of quotations. |
Periods of inner agony and decision do not always make good television, yet every minute of last Sunday's Everyman (BBC TV) was compelling. The cameras followed a researcher in the BBC's own religious department as he debated whether to go to church or not. The pictures showed his anxiety as he tried to recall what a church looked like, his
determination as he set out on the streets of Sunday morning Kensington and his look of pleasure when after a few moments of panic he returned home with a pile of Sunday papers. Surely this programme was the answer to those who say that Everyman is only interested in South America. It showed what can be done when the budget firrially runs out.
Next Sunday, Morning Service (ATV) comes from St. Mary-le-Bow, London, where the preachers will be Cardinal O'Fiaich and Ian Paisley. Commentators, Harry Carpenter and Ken Walton. Everyman compares the work of the Salvation Army in Los Angeles, Sao, Paolo and Hong Kong and supports it with film shot in Kew Gardens. Sunday (Radio 4) comes live from the Motorway Service Station on the M4 at Heston. Choral Evensong comes from the Friends' Meeting House, Euston, and the speaker on Thought For The Day (Radio 4) is patronised by Brian Redhead. In Lighten Our Darkness (Saturday, Radio 4) Canon Colin Semper talks about silence.
THINKING IT OUT IAN GOODYEAR
Can Evangelicals go to heaven?
|HAVE you, I wonder, had a nasty experience with an evangelical? You must remember that at one time it was long a matter for debate as to whether Archdeacons could be saved. We no longer have any doubts about this. |
Faced with this question, one's first reaction is, of course, "Whyshould they?" It is true that, by and large (and many will be by and large) many are arrogant, self-centred, haughty, "puffed up, flushed and blown" (as Dr. Roget cogently puts it); others are quick to point out the error of your ways; to go all dreamy and repeat the Sacred Name ad nauscam; but then, so do the charismatics.
We must not ler prejudice impair our judgement in any way. We must get to the root of the matter. The Greek word for "evangelical" really means "apt to evaporate" and this must be very unsettling. Try to understand their predicament. No sooner have they cottoned on to something than they see it hazing off over the dome of the V. and A. No wonder they are so touchy.
Another point which may occur to you: is there any such place as heaven?
Well, if there's not it would certainly solve the difficulty at one fell swoop. I recently asked an "evangelical" — I could tell from the cut of his jib — what was his idea of heaven. The answer came back quick and without any beating about the bush, "It is a land of sunshine and smiles." This, however, is not entirely scriptural, for in the Old Testament we are only promised Sheol, which has been compared by David Watson to "life in a gravel pit or council tip — land flowing with dust and ashes". And that will certainly wipe the smile off their faces. A last happy thought is that, given the etymology of their name, they might technically be assumed.
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Canon Goodyear invites readers' questions for this feature, addressed to him c/o Not the Church Times, but regrets he is unable to answer any of them because he cannot do joined-up writing.
DEVOTIONAL DICK HARRIS
The clarity of ambiguity
|AN old friend called on me in the middle of the night. He wanted to discuss the problem of praying "in your own words". This was a problem he had first raised when some years ago we had been to the Bridget Riley exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. |
In that world of optical illusion I had found it difficult to help him. His dignity on that occasion had reminded me of Marvell's description of Charles I:
He nothing common did or mean
Upon that memorable scene
But with his keener eye
The Axe's edge did try.
And when I spoke to my friend again in the night, I remembered that William Empson had commented on those lines in Seven Types of Ambiguity. What did my friend mean when he wanted to pray "in his own words"? Would he have seen the pun on the word "axe"?
When she crossed the Atlantic in a Swedish freighter in the late autumn of 1942, Simone Weil had entertained her fellow-passengers by telling them folk-tales. On one clear night of the voyage she insisted on taking them out on the deck. So I took my friend out into the garden. We looked up at what the German philosopher Immanuel Kant called "the starry sky above" and we both wondered aloud if the memory of Kant could inspire us to consider the Moral Law within.
Out in the garden I felt ill at ease. I seemed to myself to have acquired the appearance of Razumikkin in Crime and Punishment. When he had opened the door to Raskolnikov, he too had been writing as I had. And he too had been in his old threadbare dressing-gown with slippers on his bare feet, unkempt, unshaven, unwashed..
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But my friend did not resemble Raskolnikov. I led him from the garden into my study. As we settled down to begin in earnest my examination of his need to communicate, I thought of
| Albert Camus' Outsider and his encounter with the examining magistrate. There was, of course, the difference that Camus' examination took place at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, while my search was nearer 2 o'clock at night. |
And yet there were similarities. Like the Outsider, my friend had the reputation for being a taciturn, rather self-centred person. Like the examining magistrate, I put the point to him. And he too replied that he rarely had anything much to say and so, naturally, he kept his mouth shut.
At least he could not be accused of following Claudius in Hamlet. Claudius complained: "My words rise up, my thoughts remain below; words without thoughts never to heaven go." Just as I was wondering whether Claudius had got it right, my friend produced a large cigar and lit it from a tattered book of matches. I had not seen my friend smoke before. I remembered how shocked Father Kolb of Huskirchen had been in Heinrich Boll's novel The End of a Mission, when he came upon Gruhl smoking his pipe in church. In that case the unusual act was the result of a promise made to a deceased wife. My friend explained that he only smoked when concealed from the observation of his wife. His wife, like Mrs Warrington in E.M. Forster's Howard's End, was just back from the Colonies. So arose the need for a nocturnal cigar.
My friend explained that he had originally intended to telephone me, but it was a long story. He couldn't tell it over the 'phone. I remembered the immortal words of Marx: "Oh! It's that kind of story! You ought to be ashamed of yourself. I'll be right over." He was as surprised as Margaret Dumont had been in the role of Mrs Teasdale, when these words had been addressed to her by Groucho as Rufus T. Firefly.
That was the last time I saw my friend. I think that at last he understood the importance of saying it "in your own words". As Dame Julian of Norwich wrote, "What will be, will be." Or was it, perhaps, Doris Day?