9 July 2017

We didn't do it because it was fun, but, when we did it, it WAS fun!The S Thomas's High Altar


The first generation of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England emphasised the continuity of the C of E with the medieval English Church. Taking the Prayer Book 'Ornaments Rubric' literally, it strove to make churches - and clergy - look as they would have done in 1548. But in the twentieth century, a new aestheticism led the way to a new self-understanding - and a new appetite for Unity. The baroque could express the assertion that the Church of England was not a survival of the second year of Edward VI but a living part of the Catholic Church of Italy, Spain, and France. Medievalism was left (as Ronald Knox explained) to the 'comparatively moderate party' who asserted 'loyalty' to the C of E by fulminating against 'Roman innovations'. (This was the period when Sir Ninian 'Patrimony' Comper grabbed the best of both those worlds with his motto of 'Unity by inclusion'.)

The Society of SS Peter and Paul was founded in 1911 to articulate this aesthetic and this programme. The mysterious and exotic Fr Maurice Child was its begetter, aided by Mr Samuel Gurney ... that name sounds familiar to you? ... yes ... Sir John Betjeman's verses about the hopes of the triumphalist Anglo-Catholicism of the inter-war years - and its anxieties - "And has Sam Gurney poped?" (He never did.)

Its provocative humour was that of the young curates who multiplied like rabbits in the clergy-houses of Anglo-Catholic England. So the SSPP announced itself as "Publishers to the Church of England". It sold "Lambeth Frankincense" and, never inclined to take prisoners, advertised "Latimer and Ridley Votive-candle stands". Child borrowed a church near Regent Street for High Mass on the Feast of SS Peter and Paul, and publicised it widely: "members of the Order need not wear their insignia". A large and inquisitive congregation turned up.

There was, and still is, a distinctive genre of Anglo-Catholic humour very different from the jocosity of RC presbyteries. One thinks of the cutting satiric wit of Blessed John Henry Newman; the comic verse of Betjeman, Farmer, Mascall, Stephenson. Nowadays, in this glorious time of the Ordinariate, the mind turns to the superb blog written by the Juvenal, the Swift, of our time, the brilliant, the admirable, Dr Geoffry Kirk (GKIRKUK)

Come to think of it, that humour, with its bite and irreverence, is what made us so disliked by other Anglicans. They wouldn't have cared what we said if we had been sad, grumpy and moribund; that would just have inclined them to condescend to us. What they found hard to take was that we laughed; and that we laughed at them, the high Protestants, the Lords of the Earth (as Blessed John Henry Newman's irony described them). One could almost hear them murmuring in their episcopal palaces, and in their London clubs "It's the tone that is so objectionable".

As I've written before, if anyone criticises your  tone, you  know you've got something right.

Ah, the tone of the Patrimony. The tone we still enjoy in the Ordinariate. In aeternum floreat.

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Any good bits above are plagiarised from Waugh's biography of Knox.

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