This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Sunday, 9 March 2014

An Anglican Service

For reasons I won't go into, I had to attend an Anglican Communion Service this morning, somewhere in deepest East Anglia. This is what I found.

Norfolk church

Not the actual church, but something like it.

The church itself was built in Catholic times, several hundred years before the Reformation. I'm told that when the Church of England was set up they planned to construct a whole new set of churches, but thanks to the generosity of the Catholic Church, which lent them its own buildings, they didn't need to.

The first hymn was Onward, Christian Soldiers. I am not sure whether this was chosen as being appropriate for Lent, or because we are soon expecting to fight a re-run of the Crimean war. The hymn has a stirring tune by Sir Arthur Sullivan, and this verse in particular stood out:

Like a mighty army
Moves the Church of God;
Brothers, we are treading
Where the Saints have trod.
We are not divided;
All one body we:
One in hope and doctrine,
One in charity.
This is where the Anglicans definitely have the edge - I don't think the Catholics could sing "One in hope and doctrine" with a straight face (see this blog, passim, for reasons why not). But then a dreadful thought struck me? Was S. Baring-Gould being satirical? Were Baring-Gould and Sullivan a comic partnership similar to Gilbert and Sullivan?


I don't think he was being satirical there.

I checked this with an Anglican after the service. "Don't you have dissenters too? Some Anglicans want women bishops, some don't believe in the authority of women priests. Some of you campaign for same-sex weddings, and others think they're an abomination?"

"No, Eccles, we all believe in the traditional Christian doctrine handed down by our ancestors. We may allow some women to call themselves bishops, but nobody really takes them seriously."

comedy bishop

The comic vestments are a hint that she is not to be taken seriously.

Then I thought of Giles Fraser, and realised that the Anglicans do have the official position of "comedy vicar" - a spiritual version of court jester - which does not exist in the Catholic Church, although some very well-qualified people are campaigning for its introduction.

The sermon was rather good. Part of the message was again relevant to the Catholic Church with which I am more familiar - the vicar was explaining the virtues of obedience, and he said in an exasperated tone that some people thought that obedience was only for dogs. Perhaps all is not well in the C of E? Do they have people like Hans Küng? Is there an Anglican ACTA trying to undermine Justin Welby? These are deep waters, Watson.


An obedient dog.

We had four hymns, all dating from the 19th century or earlier - in contrast with the last but one Catholic Mass I went to, where all four hymns were from the 1960s or later. We even had "Who would true valour see" by Bunyan, which would make a perfectly good Catholic hymn too. This was the traditional version with hobgoblins, foul fiends and lions to fight, rather than the weaker version one sometime sees; however, it was mildly modernised to "No goblin or foul fiend". I am not sure whether a goblin with a hob is better or worse than a hob-less one.

Hobgoblin Ale

This will not daunt his spirit.

Oh, there was one dreadful part of the service. The infamous "Sign of Peace". The little country church had about thirty worshippers, and approximately fifteen of them insisted on shaking hands with me - in a Catholic Mass it might be eight out of 150. I had the feeling that some people had got up that Sunday morning and said "I'll bet I can shake hands with thirty people today. My average over the last ten services is 28.4."


Practising for the "peace".

Still, apart from that, a good time was had by all.


  1. Great one on the CofE Eccles . Did you know about the "Right Anglicans", the "Obtuse Anglicans", the "Acute Anglicans and the "Straight Anglicans"? There is also a lesser known group the "Anglosaxlicans". A terribly divided sect, I'm sure you will agree.

  2. In the Hymns Old & New for Anglicans there is a strange tempo'd hymn "Tick Tock" which Kung liked as it gave him the idea for the post-conciliar time bombs that have exploded with deadly regularity since the liberal clowns took over liturgy and all from 1965-69.