The Service In The Shadows

I called up to our local church tonight, a church for which I’m undertaking an oral history project. I’m recording the memories of the older members of the congregation, those who hark right back to the beginnings of the church and its parish in which I live.

Of equal interest are the personal stories, how all of these different people, of different denominations and from different parts of the country, ended up belonging to this new Anglican Church serving this new housing estate.

I know this idea had been broached before, but for whatever reason it hadn’t got off the ground, and several stalwarts of the congregation had since departed. I volunteered because I hated the thought of these stories being forever lost, and sadly a few people passed away before I could speak with them, while others have succumbed to dementia. As a result I’ve targeted the older ones first. Sometimes it feels like I’m racing against the clock, there’s this line of people marching towards a cliff edge and I’m running to try and keep up.

Anyway, I digress a little. Tonight should have been an evening Eucharist service in the chapel, except when I got there it was in darkness. The priest was in the main church building, however, where the candles on the altar were lit.

Apparently, in the ongoing battle against this spreading Coronavirus, all Church of England services, like most other mass meetings, (no pun intended), throughout the UK, have been cancelled. Cancelled, that is, in relation to members of the congregation, for in every church the priests are still performing these services alone.

Allowed to sit in on tonight’s service, the echoing litany was recited in the shadows, accompanied only by the cars passing by on the main road. I’ve always said that a church has a whole different feel about it in the evening, and tonight was no different, especially so in this intimate setting.

I think it’s profoundly moving that, no matter what your faith is, or even if you’re religious or not, these priests, throughout the country, are conducting all services in solitude and faithfulness, mostly unseen and unknown, praying for their beleaguered and beset communities that are continuing the fight against this virus just beyond those liminal church doors.

The Fields And The Feels

The other night, waiting to meet friends of ours, I took this photo of a part of my hometown that will soon be transformed. For better or worse is a matter of perspective. Greed v Need, or the wont of a bartered balance? I suppose it depends what side of the fence you are on. So to speak.

Bowlee is a part of our ever-shrinking green belt, a portion of which is destined to vanish for housing. I think the neighbouring fields that my son played football on are safe.

For now.

The affects of this change, though, away from the obvious, objective changes, are emotive.

The following night I took this next photograph. The emotions felt this time were, for once, not mine (self-avowed creature of nostalgia that I am), but for my wife. This path to my daughter’s high school, which we were walking down for Parents’ Evening, is also a trip down memory lane for her. This school, now styled as an Academy, no less, is built on the site of a previous school that she attended decades before.

A different name, a different building, but there is a part of it that feeds into a surviving portion of the school that went before it. Imperceptible to my ignorant eye, it was there that she got the feels, know what I mean?

It was like the Christians among us, a few years back, when we were escorted deep below St.Peter’s in Rome, burrowing into the Scavi, a 1st Century cemetery housing tombs that held, as well as pagan remains, some of the very first adherents of their faith. And also, reputedly, the body of their first Bishop, better known by the name of Saint Peter.

Though the school holds no bones, and goes back mere decades rather than millennia, it demonstrates, for my wife at least, history is more deeply experienced when it is personal.

School’s Out

I love this old photograph, showing children in their ageless cliques. Looking at the girls’ bonnets and the sign on the side of the building I think they are fresh out of Sunday School

Fast forward a hundred years and those lads would be getting thrown out of McDonald’s.

So, Tonight’s Conversation . . . 

 . . . between my wife and I.

Me:”I’ve just picked up a book about Julian of Norwich.” 

Jen:”Why?” 

Me:”You know who Julian was?” 

Jen:”Of course I do.” 

Me:”Who?”

 Jen:”A bloke from years ago. See-I surprise you don’t I? I might not know what he did, but I know he lived years ago. So there!”

 Me:”Julian of Norwich was a woman.” 

Jen:”Whatever.” 

Suffer The Children

I love these old photographs of these children here, but feel kinda sad for them too. Can’t help but look at them and contrast them with the lives of my own children.

City Jackdaw

I recently read about a local retired clergyman, Canon Jim Burns, who has written a book about the history of the whit walks in Manchester. He says that the first procession of Church of England members took place in 1801, between St.Ann’s Church and Manchester Cathedral.

In those days children worked for six days a week between 4.00am and 8.00pm. The local Sunday schools did not want the children, on their one day off, to become involved in cockfighting, gambling, or the drinking of gin.

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The idea they came up with was for the Sunday schools from around Manchester to have a big assembly for the children to attend, but the place to hold it could not be decided upon. Some argued for St.Ann’s church, which was more fashionable, while others argued in favour of the Cathedral.

In the end a compromise was reached in that the children would all…

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