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POSTMODERNISM

Style and Subversion 1970–90

Victoria and Albert Museum

24 September 2011-15 January 2012 Admission £11, concessions available

WHEN IT comes to vacuum cleaners, would you rather have a Henry or a Dyson? How you answer that will be a good guide as to what you make of Postmodernism and of this show. The show, incidentally, is well presented and curated. It claims to be the first retrospective of this particular design movement and it is worth going to see to try to understand or just jog the memory of what PoMo was all about.

The most successful artefact on show, and a key to the whole movement, is the opening titles from the 1982 film, Blade Runner. Blade Runner is one of the great science fiction films. Director Ridley Scott set out to oppose the earlier, clean-lined utopianism of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis which had for so long dominated our vision of the future, with a gigantic dystopia which became the main element in the film’s success. If you ever doubted the impact of Postmodernism, compare the aseptic sleek lines of the interior of Dr Who’s Tardis in the Seventies to the extravagant bricolage of the latest version. Blade Runner and Postmodernism made that difference.

The film was set in a future Los Angeles, in fact based on Shanghai, and the celebration ofmetropolitan sprawl is another key feature of Postmodernism. But this is not the urban alienation of the earlier Miles Davis generation. Scott’s oddly heartless film is as much about androids as human beings and Postmodernism is not a humane movement. Human scale and human values are largely absent from it.

Scott’s vision is not just about the messiness of our future but it is a direct confrontation with Modernism in architecture. Postmodernism is rooted in architecture and buildings provide a good way into understanding this movement. The most successful example of PoMo building is usually said to be the Stuttgart Neue Staatsgalerie. In this country the Turner extension at Tate Britain and the Sainsbury extension at the National Gallery are some of the most accessible examples. Drawings of the Stuttgart gallery are in the exhibition, as are copies of Hans Hollein’s columns from the 1980 Venice Biennale whose ruined mix of classical styles segues directly into Scott’s film.

One of the most frequent objections to this style of architecture – other than its ugliness – is that it takes motifs from different ages and simply slaps them on a building with a bit of ludic distressing on the way. The Postmodernists argue that in doing this they are reflecting on the complexity and contradictions of living in a world after Modernism; that theirs is a creative energy which expands the possibilities of what architects can do through different (usually classical and Fascistic) styles and ideas; and that this ludic self-awareness with its fragmented reflections allows a thrilling and unstable mix of the colourful and the theatrical.

Certainly Postmodernism in its clubland persona of drag queens, popstars and poseurs (to quote the exhibition guide) is instantly consumable, unlike Postmodernist Theology. Ironically, to use a word beloved of Postmodernists, the most celebrated drag queen in the UK arts, at least until recently, has been Grayson Perry who has used his PoMo persona not to grab at the glory of the golden days of Berlin decadence but as a means to promote small-scale, handcrafted work. This is the antithesis of the machine produced design works of Philippe Starck whose matt, bright colours and ludic (again) kitchenware sums up so much of PoMo’s highly commercial second decade.

The most iconic Starck artefact was the juice squeezer which looked like a spider. Notoriously buyers of this expensive piece of kit thought it could be used to squeeze fruit, whereas Starck reckoned it was a piece of ludic kitchen sculpture. It still sells, though not to people who want freshly squeezed juice. Here, as the exhibition shows very clearly, is where Postmodernism has so succeeded. A movement with deep Italian roots, plus an admixture of the Japanese, has popularized design as a status symbol. The very word ‘designer’ has become a sort of Emperor’s new clothes to be thrown over the dull and the ugly, or in the case of the Dyson vacuum cleaner, the not very efficient. Designer is a word beyond criticism in a world where rules only exist to be transgressed. The theorists of Postmodernism say they accurately reflect a world that is boring and shallow. Samuel Beckett did it better and earlier.

Next month, Leonardo da Vinci.

Owen Higgs

 

YOUNG NUNS

Tuesday 25 October, BBC1

REV

Thursdays from 10 November, BBC

 

On the day that I sat down to write this review, the evening schedule for BBC3 included the following classics: Hotter than My Daughter, Marry, Avoid) (who isn't asking that question these days?); The World's Strictest Parents; and Hot Like Us. Who says that the Reithian spirit is dead?

Just occasionally though, the BBC comes up with a gem that makes the vast swathes of drivel seem somehow less disturbing. One such programme was Young Nuns, a 45-minute documentary which followed two young women exploring their vocation to the religious life. Clara was 23 and hoping to join the very enclosed Benedictine Community at St Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wight. Catherine was 25 and pursuing a calling to join the more open Dominican Sisters of St Joseph at their Priory in the New Forest. The programme was admirable for the adult, matter-of-fact way in which it presented its unusual subject matter, with only the repeated use of the dramatic and breathy phrase ‘become a nun’ leaning towards anything like tabloid journalism. It managed to include a lot of basic information about the religious life for those (perhaps the great majority of the audience) who would know nothing about it, while never patronizing its subjects or those viewers who did understand something of the religious life.

I would count myself in the latter category, but I had never for a moment considered the sense of impending grief and bereavement caused to family and friends by a young adult seeking to join a religious community – especially one as enclosed as St Cecilia’s Abbey. Indeed, the most moving parts of the programme were those which showed Clara and her family and friends preparing for her departure.

Catherine’s mind was less fully made up than Clara’s: she acknowledged that while she felt her call to the religious life to be genuine, she also had longings to marry and start a family.

In the end, the documentary finished with both Catherine and Clara back at home: the Dominicans had concluded that Catherine should consider things for another year before joining them, and Clara left the Isle of Wight for an indefinite break (but with the door left open for her return) after five months in the community. ‘I love it ... but can I live it?’ she asked.

This made for something of a down-beat end to the programme, which was perhaps why it also featured the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, who live and work in Leeds with an average age among the sisters of 30. Theirs is an active ministry, and another of the show’s highlights was the clash of cultures as they visited a school to teach the pupils something of their life. ‘How can a girl live without make-up?’ asked one incredulous teenager. Indeed, one of the programme’s strengths was that it did not shy away from the extraordinary act of faith and sacrifice which joining a religious order today entails. But it somehow managed to convey the fact that what would otherwise be an act of incomprehensible foolishness is  sanctified and made holy when it is the living-out of a God-given vocation. After all, Christ Crucified is a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles ... but to us it is the power and wisdom of God.

By strange coincidence, the new series of Rev began in a convent, where the Revd Adam Smallbone was making a retreat. The first series of this acclaimed sitcom passed me by, but impressed by reports of acutely and accurately rendered comic observations on the clerical life, I determined to give the second series a go. Sure enough, it started off well, with a series of fast-flowing observations which no doubt rang bells with many CofE viewers: the battle to convince people that a retreat is not a holiday; the juxtaposition of pious prayers with more prosaic thoughts such as what is for lunch (the dread of ‘that strange cauliflower cheese’ suggests that the writers have visited Mirfield); the gin in the drawer; and later on, the obsession with CRB forms, and the reminder that a priest’s vocation is not necessarily shared by his family. All of these were cleverly and wittily presented: it was only when the actual plot began to develop that problems emerged. In a nutshell, our hero became, well, a hero, after his collision with a mugger was mistaken for an act of heroism. At the same time, he was busy trying to take a group of uninterested school children on a trip to Dover. The episode ended with him driving off in a minibus with two children, a collection of strange adults, and a convicted sex offender. Hardly the stuff by which vocations are inspired.

Rev was funny in places, and had some telling points to make. Why then did I not enjoy it? Fundamentally because the central character is at best naive and at worst utterly useless, with a dash of dishonesty thrown in. Despite Adam being a painfully ‘nice guy’ (in an early-era Tony Blair sort of way), this is not the image of the Church of England that I would wish to have portrayed on our TV screens. I have no doubt that some of the Church’s best clergy are flawed individuals: but they are of such worth precisely because they rise above their flaws to achieve great things. Adam seemed incapable of rising above a befuddled mediocrity, and the audience was invited simply to laugh at his expense. Given a choice between that and the genuine self-sacrifice and faith of the Young Nuns, I know which I find more attractive – and which points most faithfully towards the sacrificial journey into God.

Richard Mahoney

 

 

SUNDAY WORSHIP

BBC Radio 4

from Lancing College Chapel

Sunday 6 November

IT IS of course almost impossible to review a religious service, and in a sense that is not the purpose of this article. However, as I struggled through the preparations of the lunch for 30 I was struck by just how good Sunday Worship on Radio 4 can be. Here we had young people singing beautifully the praises of God in a setting that was both clearly Anglican and clearly Catholic – indeed in the broadcast you could clearly hear the sound of the thurible chains and the ringing of the sanctuary bell. The service was led by Fr Richard Harrison, the Chaplain at Lancing College, and the homily was given by the Revd Wendy Dalrymple, the Chaplain of Sir Robert Woodard Academy.

The Woodard Corporation is celebrating this year the 200th anniversary of the birth of Nathaniel Woodard, a true educational pioneer. The Woodard Corporation continues to pioneer academic excellence for all through its independent schools and academies, each with a clearly Christian ethos. In bringing together pupils from the oldest Woodard School and from one of the newest the service was a true celebration of the work of the Corporation and of the place of Christianity in schools.

The Mass setting, composed by Neil Cox, the Director of Music at Lancing College, was simply stunning and brightened up a dull Sunday morning. It fitted beautifully the voices of the choir and featured some excellent solo performances. Lancing continues to uphold the Catholic faith within the Church of England. It has a weekly service of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and must surely have one of the youngest wards of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament anywhere in the world. The pupils serve and sing and read in the Chapel which is very much at the centre of the school. What was clear from listening to the broadcast is that it was no ‘set-piece’ service that had been invented for the occasion but actually what the pupils are used to. They are used to worshipping in this way, used to being part of the Eucharistic community.

As with all broadcasts this one was only available for a week on the internet. This always seems such a shame as it was worth listening to a few times, and certainly for sharing with other people. I don’t always listen to Sunday Worship but services like the Eucharist from Lancing make me think that when I don’t turn on the radio on Sunday mornings I am missing out. Missing out not on something that entertains necessarily but something that helps me to understand what it is to be part of the Universal Church. The service at

Lancing brought together young people from different backgrounds to share in the worship of God; it was wonderful to be able to be part of it, even from a distance and whilst peeling potatoes.

It is perhaps best to leave the final word to the Chaplain, Fr Harrison, who writes: ‘At Lancing, we hope our lives together reflect something of Woodard’s original vision: our care and love for one another take place within the context of a worshipping and eucharistic community, where love of God is translated into love of others. Not for nothing is one version of our motto ‘Qui diligit Deum diligat et fratrem suum’ or, in translation, ‘Those who love God, should love each other also.

Petra Robinson

 

FINDING FATIMA

Seek and You Will Find ... Blue Dolphin

Ian and Dominic Higgins, £14.99

FINDING FATIMA: Seek and You Will Find is the latest DVD that speaks forcefully about the message of Fatima. There are a variety of films and DVDs that tell the story of Fatima, many of them somewhat dated and tinged with a sentiment that can detract from the message of hope that comes from that extraordinary event of 1917 when Our Lady appeared to three children in Portugal asking them to pray the Rosary, do Penance, make Sacrifices for the sake of others, and love God and each other.

This DVD directed by Ian and Dominic Higgins records the events in the Cova de Iria from May until October that led to the miracle of the Dancing Sun witnessed by many thousands of people. There is nothing new in the DVD but it demonstrates how the strange events of 1917 that spoke then of world events are equally relevant to us today. The directors seek to make alive today that past event of 1917 because the message of prayer, penance, and sacrifice is of equal importance to us in our day as it was to the three children, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia.

Finding Fatima begins with the explosion of the atom bomb over Hiroshima in 1945. Eight Jesuit priests miraculously survived the explosion. Fr Schiffer, one of the survivors, said thattheir survivalwasbecause theylived the Fatima message. The writer Charlie Hegarty compared the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, bringing death and destruction to so many, and the miraculous survival of the eight

Jesuits, with the Miracle of  the Dancing Sun bringing with it a radiant and enthralling expression of the supernatural power of God, manifested through his gracious Mother, our Lady of Fatima. John Paul II attributed his survival of the attempted assassination to Our Lady of Fatima, and the fall of Communism is believed to be the result of prayer for the conversion of Russia. The sceptic might venture to say that such things are just coincidence whilst others would say divine providence was at work.

This film also uses the testimonies of people of today. Mgr Luciano Guerra, who was Rector of the Shrine 1973–2008 and a descendent of a family who witnessed the Apparitions and the miracle of the Dancing Sun, speaks in a very natural way as he commends to our world today the importance of the Fatima message, as does his successor Fr Virgilo Antunes (now Bishop of Coimbra). Timothy Tindal-Robertson, author of numerous books on Fatima including Fatima, Russia & Pope John Paul II, is an international lecturer on Fatima and speaks with equal eloquence and conviction of the importance of Fatima in our day.

So suffice to say here that the DVD Finding Fatima and also The 13th Day (also directed by Ian and Dominic Higgins – see ND May 2011 for review) are to be commended to anyone who has yet to experience all that Fatima stands for. The two DVDs complement each other and both present Fatima in a way that I believe will convince you to make pilgrimage there.

Pope John Paul II said Fatima was the altar of the world. To be in Fatima on the 13th of any month between May and October is to experience not only a fervent pilgrimage but also to understand better what the message and witness of Fatima is all about.

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet will be leading the ‘Ecumenical Friends of Fatima Association’ (EFFA) 9–16 May 2012. Why not join us and experience it at first hand? I often say ‘if you haven’t been to Fatima you have never lived’: so why not join us and live?

Malcolm Gray

 

 

GREAT BRITISH CHORAL WORKS

The Sixteen / Harry Christophers

CORO, COR16092, £12

IT IS always rather difficult to know what to expect from a CD which professes to be a collection of Great British Choral Works. Many might expect the usual procession of tired musical clichés, with appearances from worn-out pieces which seem to have survived the test of time for no other reason than nostalgia and ease of performance. Liturgists take note: neither durability nor familiarity necessarily imply quality. However, anyone expecting this kind of approach from The Sixteen will be disappointed, and readers will be delighted to find that Harry Christophers has presented us with a selection of pieces which make this disc a rather more original stocking-filler than many similar titles.

I say ‘stocking-filler’, because this is not, strictly speaking, a new album, but rather a new compilation of music from the sundry recordings with which The Sixteen have delighted us down the years. That they represent some of the British choral composers whom one may truly call ‘great’, as opposed to merely ‘prodigious’, is clear.

From Handel, we have the great Coronation Anthem, ‘My heart is inditing’, and the better-known choruses of ‘Worthy is the Lamb’ and ‘Amen’ from Messiah. ‘Tune your harps to cheerful strains’ gives Mark Padmore a welcome chance to remind us of his glorious tenor voice.

A numinous rendition of the polyphony of ‘Laudibus in sanctis’ represents William Byrd’s work, in company with Thomas Tallis’ ‘Spem in Alium’, William Cornysh’s ‘Ave Maria Mater De’, and a beautifully balanced ‘Benedictus’ from Robert Carver. An excerpt from John Sheppard’s ‘Media vita in more sumus’ is glorious and leaves the listener wanting much, much more.

Purcell’s ‘One charming night’ and ‘Hush, no more’ from The Fairy Queen give the stage to countertenor Michael Chance and bass Michael George respectively, and they do not disappoint. Sopranos Kirsty Hopkins and Grace Davidson have their moment in James MacMillan’s haunting ‘A child’s prayer’; and MacMillan’s ‘A new song’, with Christopher Glynn at the organ, is possibly this compilation’s star turn. Britten’s ‘Ode to Saint Cecilia’ and Michael Tippett’s ‘Nobody knows’ from A Child of Our Time make up this superb programme.

If there is a criticism to be made of this disc, it is that because it is so full, there is perhaps not as much time as one might like between tracks to let a piece really sink in before the next one begins. But otherwise, it’s a corker: if you aren’t hooked on The Sixteen already, then this might be the perfect way in to the wide range of periods which they have opened up to us down the years. If you are an old hand, then it will be a glorious trip down memory lane. Either way, it is money well spent.

Serenhedd James

 

 

CHRISTMAS

Philosophy for Everyone Edited by Scott Lowe Wiley-Blackwell, 252pp, pbk

978 1444330908, £11.99

‘PHILOSOPHY’ HERE means not the serious study of logic, metaphysics, and so on, but something closer to ‘a collection of interesting ideas and arguments’, an eclectic amalgam of popular psychology, sociology and morality.

Everyone (pagans and atheists even more than Christians) has strong opinions on the social setting and customs of Christmas. The book is full of ideas for sermons, school assemblies, pub evangelism or dinner party conversation. Sharing Christian history, wisdom and even faith may be more appreciated at this ‘Christmas season’ (Advent to you and me) than at any other, so this readable source of ideas has much to recommend it.

Most of the contributors are clever and witty, and some have a greater store of puns than a cracker factory; but they are all from an American perspective. This gives them an energy and enthusiasm English essays would probably have lacked, but also a number of concerns that at least in the detail seem very foreign.

It will certainly be able to provoke as well as amuse. Take Steven Hales’ ‘Putting the Claus back into Christmas’. Working from a standard summary of what one might call a Victorian perspective on religion, he shows how partisan and limited is this teacher called Jesus. Santa Claus by contrast (and here he turns to an idealizing vision of selfless generosity) offers ‘the spirit of giving and the true meaning of Christmas’.

Other essays are more serious. Mark Mercer tackles the question of multiculturalism. This is what we know as the Winterval Problem; but whereas in this country we focus on Nativity Plays, for him it is a matter of Christmas trees in shopping malls, an important difference that is surely crucial to his argument. He offers first a savage critique of communitarian multiculturalism (the Tony Blair brand), before commending the merits of liberal multiculturalism, based on the individual. In this context, the true Christmas, with its ‘sectarian’ elements removed, becomes the ideal, shared celebration for everyone.

OK, so it comes from an urbane and liberal perspective, with no love of the Church. It could not be otherwise if it were to provide stimulus and inspiration in polite or secular contexts. But why did the Christian writers concede the highest trump card without a fight? The central foundation on which the rest of the arguments are based is, for traditionalists, the central historical fact of greatest importance.

Let us agree that no one on earth now knows the exact date of Christ’s birth, and that therefore his birthday is something of a human construction. So why was December 25th chosen? Because the first and most important date in the Christian calendar, in the early years of the Church in the Mediterranean world, was the Annunciation. March 25th, the Conception of Our Lord, is the moment of the Incarnation, and early in the life of the Church became associated with his crucifixion and with the creation of the world. It is, if you like, the key Christian date. So, why is December 25th kept as the Birthday of Our Lord? Because it is exactly nine months after the Annunciation. It may be a human construct, but it remains a Christian date.

By contrast, Anglo-Saxon parochialism has always presumed that customs found in northern Europe were (for reasons that are never explained) of sufficient authority to dominate the older Mediterranean cultural norms; in other words that a possible midwinter festival on the extreme northern edge of the Roman Empire influenced the dating of Christmas throughout a civilization based in a more temperate zone, where the darkness of winter has never played the part it does in lands nearer the Arctic.

Of course, we can and do accept that Christmas, even in Christian circles, has been heavily shaped, especially in these northern countries, by midwinter customs. But to accept the common presumption that Christmas is just a midwinter festival’ dressed up is to sell the Christian heritage too cheaply. Be irenic by all means, but to allow your opponent to win before you have even begun is to eviscerate the arguments and discussion that are the very reason for this book.

Anthony Saville

SEA WITHOUT A SHORE

The Life and Ministry of Michael Houghton Bishop of Ebbsfleet Simon Ellis

Church Union, 66pp, pbk

9780851913414

IN HIS introduction to this excellent and timely book Monsignor Andrew Burnham reminds readers that in his all too short time as Bishop of Ebbsfleet Michael Houghton set about creating what we now know as the ‘See of Ebbsfleet’. Bishop Michael sought to unify the clergy and his Episcopal Area so that it might be a ‘diocese in the waiting’. What the final result of his work and that of his successors is remains to be seen, but what is clear is that Bishop Michael’s quiet pastoral style has become the benchmark of what the whole ‘flying bishop’ system is all about.

It was Bishop Michael’s range of experience that formed his episcopal ministry, from teaching in Lesotho, to his time at Chichester, a fruitful ministry on St Helena, his courage at St Peter’s Folkestone and the rebuilding of the church after the arson attack; all of these shaped him as a bishop, as a pastor who understood what people were going through in their own lives and could relate to them. This is a book that needs to be read and reflected upon as we consider what it is to be a Christian, a priest and a bishop. I would encourage anyone considering a priestly vocation to read it and to learn from it.

Bishop Michael was in all things supported by his family and most closely by his wife Diana who worked closely with Simon Ellis on this book. One of the more moving passages in the book comes towards the end in the account of Bishop Michael’s Requiem. The account of 400 concelebrating priests, of the Gospel sung in Romanian and of the homily given by Bishop Michael’s brother David sums up fully both the sadness of death but also the overriding confidence in the Resurrection. Bishop Michael lived life to the full.

What is clear from this book is that he wasn’t afraid to take risks, to jump in and get on with things and that at the centre of his life was faith in God. One of Bishop Michael’s heroes in the faith was Fr Vivian Redlich, one of the Martyrs of Papua New Guinea. Despite the threat of danger to himself on his final Sunday Fr Redlich gathered the community he served around him and offered Mass. At the end of it he would go to his own Calvary as a martyr. His devotion to his people and his desire to spread the Gospel inspired Bishop Michael and are an inspiration for us today. Fr Redlich’s final words, hastily scribbled on a piece of paper, encapsulate Bishop Michael’s own ministry: ‘I’m just trying to stick whatever happens. If I don’t come out of it, just rest content that I have tried to do my job faithfully.’

John Foster

ON GUARD

Defending your Faith with Reason and Precision William Lane Craig 286pp, pbk

978 1434764881, £9.99

THOUSANDS HEARD American William Craig engage with atheism on his autumn 2011 UK tour. New atheist Sam Harris has described him as ‘the one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into my fellow atheists’. I picked up On Guard at a mind stretching evening with Craig and Stephen Law in a packed Westminster Methodist Central Hall as it was commended there as Craig’s most recent and accessible work.

The Californian Professor of Philosophy sets forth in it cosmological, design and moral arguments for God’s existence, defends the historicity of Jesus’ personal claims and resurrection and addresses the problem of suffering and religious relativism whilst telling multiculturalism (the Tony Blair brand), before commending the merits of liberal multiculturalism, based on the individual. In this context, the true Christmas, with its ‘sectarian’ elements removed, becomes the ideal, shared celebration for everyone.

OK, so it comes from an urbane and liberal perspective, with no love of the Church. It could not be otherwise if it were to provide stimulus and inspiration in polite or secular contexts. But why did the Christian writers concede the highest trump card without a fight? The central foundation on which the rest of the arguments are based is, for traditionalists, the central historical fact of greatest importance.

Let us agree that no one on earth now knows the exact date of Christ’s birth, and that therefore his birthday is something of a human construction. So why was December 25th chosen? Because the first and most important date in the Christian calendar, in the early years of the Church in the Mediterranean world, was the Annunciation. March 25th, the Conception of Our Lord, is the moment of the Incarnation, and early in the life of the Church became associated with his crucifixion and with the creation of the world. It is, if you like, the key Christian date. So, why is December 25th kept as the Birthday of Our Lord? Because it is exactly nine months after the Annunciation. It may be a human construct, but it remains a Christian date.

By contrast, Anglo-Saxon parochialism has always presumed that customs found in northern Europe were (for reasons that are never explained) of sufficient authority to dominate the older Mediterranean cultural norms; in other words that a possible midwinter festival on the extreme northern edge of the Roman Empire influenced the dating of Christmas throughout a civilization based in a more temperate zone, where the darkness of winter has never played the part it does in lands nearer the Arctic.

Of course, we can and do accept that Christmas, even in Christian circles, has been heavily shaped, especially in these northern countries, by midwinter customs. But to accept the common presumption that Christmas is just a midwinter festival’ dressed up is to sell the Christian heritage too cheaply. Be irenic by all means, but to allow your opponent to win before you have even begun is to eviscerate the arguments and discussion that are the very reason for this book.

Anthony Saville

 

A COMPLETE PARISH PRIEST

Peter Green (1871–1961)

Frank P. Sargeant

Anglo-Catholic History Society, 156pp, pbk Available from ACHS, 24 Cloudesley Sq, London N1 0HN - £15 + £3 postage 978-0956056511

THIS BOOK is not a biography. An excellent one was published by H.E. Sheen in 1965. It is rather, as Frank Sargeant says, ‘An attempt to discover what Peter Green thought and taught and the depth of his spirituality in his thirty eight books published over 60 years, indicating his integrated system of faith, life and service.’ Bishop Frank had a varied and distinguished ministry in the Church of England, before retiring as Bishop at Lambeth (Chief of Staff to the Archbishop of Canterbury) and returning to his first love, as an assistant priest, in the parishes which Peter Green served so faithfully for sixty years.

A writer, theologian, evangelist, lover of the arts, social activist, politician and above all else a parish priest, this book explores in seventeen concise chapters how Peter Green spent his long life holding together these diverse threads of his personality.

The bedrock on which Peter Green built his extraordinary ministry was the belief that the best and most enduring form of evangelism had to be based on sold catholic teaching and practice. For him, the Church, her Teaching and her Sacraments, were the structure out of which good ethics, both personal and

corporate, and godly living sprang. The fact that his father was a staunch evangelical and his mother was strongly influenced by the Oxford Movement meant that he learnt to integrate the best of the two into his life from very early on!

Reading this book, I can imagine that Peter Green was not an easy man to work with. However, his intense care for individuals shines through. An example of this was the way in which he diligently kept in touch with his ‘Lads and Men’ when they were at the Front during the two World Wars. He also took great care of their families back home and used their letters as part of his intercessions and sermons at Mass.

Another remarkable feature of his life was the way in which he combined a very liberal social awareness (he was an early advocate of giving women the vote) with a conservative theological outlook. Looking at his considerable and learned theological output, the strong influence of Lux Mundi can clearly be seen. Perhaps not a tradition that sits easily with the way we tend to approach the teaching of theology now, but it reveals a depth of study and prayer that many of us ‘modern day’ priests could do with emulating.

This book ends by asking why Peter Green is so unknown outside of Manchester. He was considered ‘The greatest parish priest in the 20th century – a saint of God’ (David Edwards), and a number of distinguished writers and theologians are quoted as extolling his combination of extraordinary stamina, highly disciplined spirituality and unusual gifts as a communicator.

Sargeant asks if, perhaps, Green’s theology is now thought to be out of date and so no longer relevant to today’s Church and if that is why he is no longer remembered. It is also suggested in the book that although he saw the increasing secularization of English society, his methods of ministering to his people and his theological method failed to take sufficient account of it. That is for the readers of this excellent book to decide.

George Nairn-Briggs ND

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