BOOK REVIEWS

Children and churches, St Anthony and the Prayer Book

NARRATIVE ELEMENTS IN THE DOUBLE TRADITION

A study of their place within the framework of the gospel narrative

Stephen Hultgren

De Gruyter, 436pp, hbk

3 11 017525 8, [£65]

 

Many years ago I spent part of a long vacation laboriously colour-coding a fourth or fifth hand but otherwise unmarked copy of Puck’s Synopse. This was to verify for myself the two received conclusions of gospel scholarship, the priority of Mark who had given us the narrative framework, and the extent of (the hypothetical) Q, the sayings source used by Matthew and Luke to supplement the Marcan story. Things went smoothly until I became aware of trivial verbal agreements between Matthew and Luke in their supposed use of Marcan material. To my tutor’s credit I was advised not to ignore these phenomena, but neither did I lose too much sleep over them. After all, we are all form-critics now – or we were then!

Stephen Hultgren mounts a vigorous challenge to these ‘two pillars of scholarly orthodoxy’. The critical review, in the opening section of the book, of the ways in which the synoptic problem has been handled by scholars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries leaves one with feelings of deep unease. The ‘pillars of orthodoxy’ rest on very insecure foundations! Plainly there is more to Q than a simple ‘sayings source’. The ministry and preaching of John the Baptist, the temptations of Jesus, the healing of the centurion’s servant, are all narratives are they not? We should dismiss the idea of Q as some kind of document, now lost but able to be restored and reconstructed, even critically edited.

Instead we should use the term ‘double tradition’ ‘to designate material appearing only in Matthew and Luke’ (p60). It includes narrative and sayings alike and extends from the account of the Baptist up to and including the Passion Narrative. The episodes of Peter’s denial and Gethsemane indicate the presence of the double-tradition alongside Mark’s narrative. In effect there are not two sources behind the synoptic gospels but one only. It is not a written document but an oral tradition, on which Mark is as much dependent as are Matthew and Luke. All three have developed and interpreted the tradition in their own characteristic way. In the meantime we should no longer talk of ‘Q’, but only of ‘q’.

Summarizing his main conclusions before he embarks on a discussion of the Passion Narrative, Hultgren writes (p256) ‘These studies have led to the following conclusions, (1) The narrative elements (and even some sayings material) in the double tradition stand within a coherent and extensive framework. (2) It has been shown at several points that Mark and the double tradition are built on the same narrative framework.’ If these conclusions are anything like established, then the several recent attempts to construct a picture of Jesus on the basis of opposition between a ‘sayings’ and a ‘narrative’ source at the expense of the latter – always with the doubtful help of The Gospel of Thomas – are well and truly torpedoed.

Rather, behind our present written gospels, there lies a consistent, coherent and theologically nuanced story of the ministry of Jesus in deed and word from the River Jordan to the Cross. The prospect is also now opened that the double tradition was known and used by the writer of the Fourth Gospel. To quote GK Chesterton, ‘synoptists may no longer be obliged to sleep on a three-cornered bed’.

But do not let us get carried away. The devil is very much in the detail. Sooner or later, perhaps, a grand seminar will be gathered to review the evidence. But will it settle anything?

If eighty dons with eighty laptops

Struggled all the year.

‘Do you suppose’, the Walrus said

That they could make it clear?’

‘I doubt it’, said the Carpenter,

And shed a bitter tear.

 

Hugh Bates is a retired priest living in the Archdiocese of York.

 

The Sense of the Supernatural

Jean Borella

T&T Clark, 160pp, pbk

0 567 08662 3, £13.99

 

I had a friend who became a Christian but turned his back on Anglicanism, Protestantism or Catholicism for Orthodoxy. ‘Where was the sense of the supernatural in western liturgy?’ he asked. It is the very question this French theologian addresses and it struck me that, like my friend, he finds encouragement in the Orthodox perspective on Christianity as deification.

Jean Borella identifies the sense of the supernatural as an awareness of ‘a radical lack in the very substance of the natural human order … also to know that God always gives more than he promises … grace hollows out in us the place for God’. It is Jesus Christ who restores the created order to a contemplation ruptured by sin. ‘By the Incarnation not only human nature, but all the other creatures of the universe have been raised, in some way, to divine grandeur … ennobled and embellished and, as it were, divinised’ (Gonet). Christ in the eternal presentation of his wounds to the Father for our redemption ‘now appears in the presence of God on our behalf’ (Hebrews 9.24).

This is a passionate book calling for a recovery of the vision of both God and man, a fuller sense of their sacredness. It reacts against both radicals who substitutes the humanization of man for his divinization, and fundamentalists who would reduce the mystery of faith to verbal formulae. The Archbishop of York has written of the need for our worship to be ‘awesome yet accessible’. Borella has produced a resource that invites such a recapturing of the mystery of faith.

 

John Twisleton is Chichester Diocesan Mission & Renewal Adviser.

 

FRANCIS MURRAY OF CHISLEHURST

Jean Pailing

Private, 140pp, pbk

0 9452645 0 9, [£10]

 

The author lives in Chislehurst and has written this book to commemorate a very influential nineteenth-century rector of that parish, Canon Francis Henry Murray, 1820–1902. The second son of the Right Revd George Murray, Bishop of Man and later of Rochester, Francis Murray was educated at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford, where he came under the influence of John Henry Newman in his last years as the vicar of St Mary the Virgin, before his conversion to Roman Catholicism. After a brief spell as a tutor to the young Marquis of Chandos, Murray sought ordination at the hands of Bishop Bagot of Oxford in 1843, serving curacies at Kidderminster and Northfield before being appointed rector of St Nicholas’, Chislehurst, in 1846. He stayed in the same parish for the rest of his life.

Murray was one of the second generation of followers of the Oxford Movement who remained in the Church of England after Newman’s secession and sought to spread the Movement’s principles. He was never a very ritualistic high churchman and indeed Mattins was the main service in his church for many years with an early celebration of Holy Communion, but his theology and spirituality were profoundly Catholic. Murray was one of the earliest members of the Society of the Holy Cross, though he later resigned in 1877 after the controversy over the book The Priest in Absolution, and he remained a great friend of Charles Lowder who often came to Chislehurst to recuperate from his work in the East End. Lowder was buried in the churchyard there in 1880 after his death at Zell am Zee.

Murray was involved in the publication in 1861 of Hymns Ancient and Modern, which in its day was seen as a decidedly high church hymnal, though his role seems mostly to have been pouring oil on troubled waters. He rebuilt part of his church after a fire in the tower and built a second church in Chislehurst, that of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a suitably Tractarian dedication.

Murray’s life was not untroubled: he lost two wives and a son who drowned at sea. He was persecuted over many years by the Evangelical, Earl Sydney (after whose family Sydney in Australia is named), a parishioner ‘whose word was law’ under the previous rector and who resented being unable to dominate the new incumbent. Lord Sydney frequently complained about Murray to the Archbishop of Canterbury, opposed his projects in the parish, got up (fairly unsuccessful) petitions against him and in the end helped to establish a rival low church parish, Christchurch. Murray, however, received widespread support from his parishioners including several members of the aristocracy. He coped well with Lord Sydney’s machinations, though it must have been uncomfortable for him at a time when Anglo-Catholics were being persecuted and occasionally imprisoned under Disraeli’s infamous Public Worship Regulation Act of 1875. He was a hard working and exemplary parish priest who could move easily from the houses of the very grand to those of the very poor. He died suddenly on 11 October 1902 whilst praying in his study.

If I were to venture two criticisms of this book, the first would be that it tends a bit to ramble and might have benefited from a little pruning, as it deals with topics of local interest in Chislehurst and other aspects of history which are not essential to its tale. This at least has the partial benefit of setting Murray in his context. The second criticism is the author’s annoying habit of referring throughout to Murray by his initials, FHM, which conjurs up images of an magazine glimpsed on the table in the barber’s (and best left there). With these two caveats let me say that I enjoyed reading this work and I am sure that undergraduates and others looking at the development of the Oxford Movement will be pleased to read it.

 

Robert Beaken is Priest in Charge of Great and Little Bardfield.

 

THE TWENTY-FIVE CHURCHES OF THE DIOCESE OF SOUTHWARK:

an inter-war campaign of church-building.

Kenneth Richardson

The Ecclesiological Society, 454pp, pbk

0 85244 313 7, £20

 

In 1919 a former incumbent of the almost legendary parish St Mary’s, Portsea, Cyril Foster Garbett, became Bishop of Southwark. His arrival coincided with a vast expansion of housing, to re-accommodate over 300,000 people in the south east of the diocese. The ancient parish of Lewisham was changed beyond recognition by the vast estates of Downham, Bellingham and Eltham, followed by private developments further south.

Garbett responded to the challenge with a project which seemed to many at the time hopelessly over-ambitious. He aimed to raise £200,000 in five years and to build twenty-five new churches to serve the new residential districts. Garbett had the vision of large parochial units like Portsea operating across the vast new estates which were being created. He was successful. In January 1934 Garbett (by then translated to Winchester) preached at a thanksgiving service when representatives of the churches marched triumphantly into the cathedral bearing crosses inscribed with the insignia of their dedications. This handsomely produced book is the chronicle of that remarkable achievement.

The twenty-five churches differed in size, style and character, though, as photographs and drawings show, they represented a sort of confident Catholic churchmanship which must have antagonized Evangelicals. Among them ‘moderation’ is signalled by riddle posts, dossals and the cross-and-two-candlesticks ‘Englishness’ of St Augustine, Tooting; ‘extremism’ by the ‘Essoldo moderne Hispano-Italian Baroque’ of the Good Shepherd, Carshalton Beeches.

Garbett certainly embraced architectural variety. There is a conservative example of modernism (St Saviour’s, Eltham); a late flowering of Byzantine revival (Arthur Martin’s St Olave, Mitcham, which owes not a little to Bentley’s Christ Church, North Brixton); a reconstituted barn (St Philip, North Sheen); and Nicholson’s ambitious but uncompleted St John the Baptist, Southend.

The best of these churches – Temple Moore’s St Luke, Eltham and Nicholson’s tastefully understated St Barnabas, Downham – have stood the test of time. They are still useful and beautiful worship spaces. St Barnabas, indeed, deserves to be much better known and widely celebrated. Unlike some of the churches here (St Peter, St Helier for example, which suffered the unwelcome attentions of Donald Reeves and the self-taught muralist Peter Pelz, who ‘lodged in the vicarage’), St Barnabas has been in good hands throughout its short life and retains its dignity and integrity.

But this well-illustrated and carefully documented book not only records a great achievement; it is also, unwittingly, chronicles the tragic decline which has subsequently overtaken the Church of England. Of the twenty-five churches (most built to hold over four hundred worshippers) twenty now have congregational counts of eighty or less. St John Baptist, Southend, (with a projected seating capacity of 1,000) replaced a classical proprietary chapel seating 150. The Parochial Church Council (electoral roll 65) has recently decided that the original building is adequate for its foreseeable needs, and that Garbett’s St John’s should be abandoned or demolished.

We all know the consequence of oversized buildings and dwindling and ageing congregations: mildew, cobwebs and decay. Few PCCs among the twenty-five will now have the resources which allowed them, in the twenties and thirties, to employ the services of Messrs Wippell’s and Company and the Wareham Guild. As fabrics fade and fashions change, vestments and fittings will have been replaced by the gimcrack and the meretricious. ‘Nave altars’ will have been set up on unsuitably carpeted platforms, and defunct pipe organs replaced by digital machines which purport to reproduce the exact registrations of famous cathedrals. So the contemporary church camps out in the ruins of what the optimists of seventy years ago bequeathed.

Some of this Kenneth Richardson has quietly and tactfully indicated in his excellent book. But the Ecclesiological Society (to whom we owe not only this useful volume but so much else) would do us all a service by producing a second volume: ‘From Garbett to Butler: the Way Things are Now’. GK

 

Journey to the Inner Mountain

In the desert with St Antony

James Cowan

Hodder & Stoughton, 207pp, pbk

0 340 78659 0, £7.99

 

The average biography of Saint Antony tells us that he was born in Egypt, and that after the death of his parents he went into the desert to live a life of seclusion and penance, becoming known as the father of monasticism. So far, so good! James Cowan however wanted to know what lay behind these basic facts. Why did he go into hiding, and what did he achieve? In order to understand Saint Antony, Cowan went to his holy mount, Mt Colzim, where he met an Australian anchorite named Lazarus, who lives there now. He stayed here for some time, and he sought answers to his questions. Lazarus helped him to explore Antony’s spirituality.

He admits that he had many prejudices to overcome. The historian Edward Gibbon had been very critical of the early Christian ascetics, saying that they represented a cultural decline. But the more he imbibed the spirit of Antony, so much the more did our author come to appreciate that other dimension of life for which he stood. He quotes the words of his mentor Lazarus: ‘It’s the world of the spirit, where visible things become less substantial.’

The world of Antony and the desert fathers seems altogether remote from our own world of rush and bustle. Cowan explores its relevance to us in our own generation. Is it possible, he asks, to practise a form of asceticism of the mind while pursuing a life in the city? He found his answer to this dilemma as he studied in the monastery library at Mt Colzim, and as he pored over the writings of early monks and hermits, learning the way of ascent to God, assisted by silence, the purification of the soul, and by contemplation. He now shares these insights with us.

Cowan has written several books, including works of fiction. This book is profound, and it will profit the reader most if it is read slowly and reflectively. Then we too can come to understand more of the significance of the life of detachment in the world of our day.

 

Brother Martin SSF is Mission Secretary of the Society of St Francis.

 

THE BIBLIOGRAPHY OF THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER 1549–1999

David Griffiths

British Library, 624pp, hbk

0 7123 4772 0, [£65]

 

Many people like the idea of tradition; the whole idea of tradition is immensely popular. Sadly, it is (too often) merely another item to be chosen from the religious supermarket: you want Celtic; I choose Orthodox. This is tradition without the constraint: post-modern self-indulgence. If we (most readers of ND) wish to be traditionalist, then it has to be as Church of England, set within the wider tradition of the Western Church. This means, among other things, the Book of Common Prayer. That is our tradition; it is part of what has made us, what we have received. We may be (we are!) critical of it, but we cannot disown it, and it is disingenuous to ignore it.

This (highly specialized) book is a monumental work of reference, and should take its place in all the college and faculty libraries of our Communion. Do not get too excited, for this is a bibliographical catalogue of every single edition of the BCP, wheresoever printed in the world, in whatsoever language for its first 450 years. There will be little need for another edition, for in effect all revision and translation and modification of the BCP has now ceased.

Opening it at random, we find that there were 49 editions in 1845, the year it was first published in Maltese, followed by 56 editions in 1846; and so on. Each entry is necessarily brief, for Griffiths has recorded over 4,800 editions, of which 1,200 are in translation. There is a great deal of printing information, but still much that is of value to the historian of the text.

One of the interesting facts about the translations (the section I enjoyed most) is the manner in which they corrected Cranmer’s text, reinserting the word ‘holy’ into the Nicene Creed (‘I believe in one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’), and removing the extra petition from the Gloria (‘Thou that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us’). The French editions are a curious mix. The sixteenth-century editions were mainly for the churches of the Channel Islands and Calais, still English under Edward VI; the first edition of the seventeenth century was commissioned to promote a Stuart royal wedding, the eighteenth-century editions were for the Huguenot congregations in London and along the south coast; the early nineteenth century saw further copies printed expressly for the French speakers of Haiti and North America; the twentieth century concluding with the official translation of the Canadian revised text.

It was good to see that there was a Latin version of the First Prayer Book, published in 1551. Queen Elizabeth authorized a Latin version for use in the universities in 1560, the nearest we get to an official translated text, as well as an expanded version for use in Ireland the same year. Even in the nineteenth century, new Latin editions were being proposed ‘to put into the hands of Roman Catholic priests’.

In the late nineteenth century SPCK sent copies of the German text to a colony in southern Russia, Spanish to the seamen in the London Docks, Danish to Canada, Zulu to prisoners on St Helena, Spanish to the West Falklands, Italian to stonemasons working in Cornwall. The Duke of Wellington used the Spanish version to learn that language on his way to the Peninsular War. Fascinating. Relevant? This large and dense volume sets before us something of the extraordinary range of this single (if much revised) text that has defined the English character and become a core part of our national and ecclesiastical tradition. The author has done the Church a good service. I only hope he records more of his knowledge and experience before it is lost. SR

 

THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO EXPOSITORY PREACHING

Stephen McQuoid

Christian Focus, 170pp, pbk

1 85792 769 9, [£5.99]

 

Is this a good book or a bad one, to be warmly recommended or roundly condemned? It is not easy to decide. It is what its title claims, and the writing is clear and unpretentious. The chapters are short and laid out in a manner that makes them useful as teaching. But can one teach preaching from a single paperback?

Part II, ‘Ancient Text, Modern Setting’ summarizes the issues of hermeneutics from a smug Evangelical context. God’s grace is freely given, but if an ordinary layman can truly grasp in some 40 pages what an ordinand is expected to spend two years studying, then the CofE have missed the point. I said ‘smug’ because there is a sub-text of complacency and arrogance masquerading as faith and assurance, which is unattractive. If preaching were this easy, it would not be the vocation and ministry we suppose.

On the other hand, the rest of the book is concerned solely with the single responsibility of biblical preaching. It is clear, forthright and a valuable counterpoint to the sophisticated complexities of much contemporary, liberal teaching. So is this a worthwhile book? Under no circumstances give it as a textbook to any old enthusiastic Christian: preaching cannot be learned from so simple a source. But if you know someone training to be a lay preacher, someone already slotted into the diocesan framework, this may prove a valuable reminder of the core task. We need expository preaching, but we need properly trained preachers as well. NA

 

THE SOUL OF WIT

Compiled by Peter Watkins

Canterbury, 200pp, pbk

1 1 85311 496 0, £9.99

 

Four months after Raymond Chapman’s excellent hardback compilation, this one, from the same publisher, looks rather lightweight by comparison. But then that is part of its intention. It is a collection of generally amusing rather than outright funny extracts from writings about the clergy, by which we most often mean, in this country, Church of England parsons from an earlier and happier age.

As a sourcebook for preachers and speakers, one cannot perhaps expect editing that is serious or detailed. All the same the distinction between clear quotation and half-remembered, apocryphal attribution is not well made. Stories become facts simply by being repeated, which tends to reduce all the material to the same, parish magazine banality. Some lovely pieces, of course, but a lot of easily forgettable padding. NA

 

[Place this box, to cover two columns, somewhere near the review above.]

From The Soul of Wit. Francis Kilvert’s diary entry for April 1874

Then the Vicar of Fordington told us of the state of things in his parish when he first came to it nearly half a century ago. No man had ever been known to receive the Holy Communion except the parson, the clerk and the sexton. There were 16 women communicants and most of them went away when he refused to pay them for coming. They had been accustomed there at some place in the neighbourhood to pass the cup to each other with a nod of the head. At one church there were two male communicants. When the cup was given to the first he touched his forelock and said, ‘Here’s your good health, sir.’ The other said, ‘Here’s the good health of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

One day there was Christening and no water in the Font. ‘Water, Sir!’ said the clerk in astonishment, ‘The last parson never used no water. He spit into his hand.’

 

DOWNHILL CHANCE

Donna Morrissey

Sceptre, 410pp, hbk

0 340 82284 8, £16.99

 

Set in two of the tiny fishing hamlets on the Newfoundland coast, this dark, atmospheric novel follows the conflicts, secrets and moral struggles of two families living on the edge. On the edge of a wider world that impinges upon their own, through the demands of a distant world war and later, following the traumatic vote of 1949, the change of focus to the new Confederation of Canada.

Shame and moral superiority, anger and appeasement, loneliness and the longing for love, grand themes worked out with fierce intensity in a harsh but beautiful world. As a Newfoundlander herself, the author’s care for detail and lack of concern to explain to an outside world is attractive. So few people, in so vast a landscape, against such odds, and yet they are able to sustain such enmity: it is powerful stuff.

In the end, however, the resentments must be resolved; reconciliation and redemption must finally be sought; the novel must draw together its themes and offer a conclusion. The climax, as a lonely mother gives birth in an isolated ruin, lost in the enveloping fog, as the other protagonists struggle on foot and by sea to reach her, is pure Hollywood, but does it offer redemption? No. Like so much fiction in our post-Christian world, it has much drama but little insight. A bit of theology would have been no bad thing. The Christian Gospel offers profound themes, and modern fiction would do well not to forget them. AS

 

Hosanna

An Easter Musical for Children

Denis O’Gorman and Barry Hart

Mayhew, 72pp

pbk, 1 84003 966 3, £11.99

 

This is a musical telling the Easter story from Palm Sunday to the Ascension. It would be best performed by a school or church group. There are 29 speaking parts with plenty of extra parts for the choir and other children. The music is simple and easy to learn, but reminds me more of something by Andrew Lloyd Webber than anything I would buy for myself. There are serious, sad parts, but others children might enjoy singing because they are fun.

The spoken parts are fairly difficult, so I would give then to the older children. The scenes include the disciples fighting with the Roman soldiers and the crucifixion, so it needs some strong acting from some of the cast. On the whole the book is well laid out and includes a CD of the music. It has the written music inside with the lyrics as well as a clearly presented script.

I would not normally involve myself in musicals now, but when I was nine I would have enjoyed performing in this.

 

Eleanor Gall is aged 12 and worships at St John’s, Axbridge.

 

JESUS THE HEALER

JESUS THE TEACHER

Carine Mackenzie & Jeff Anderson

Christian Focus, 24pp, bklt

1 85792 751 6 etc, [£1.99 each]

I think these books are for an age group from three to eight. The younger children could be read to and the older children could read the books for themselves. The books would be useful for children or parents who are uncertain about the reading or the telling of stories about Jesus. If they did not know what happened in some of the Bible stories, these books could help.

These books teach us what kind of person Jesus was. They also tell us that he had the powers to heal, forgive and bless people. In my opinion a child would be attracted by the colourful illustrations and want to read the book or even just look at the pictures. I have not been able to find a way to improve these books. Yet! I’d give them ten out of ten.

 

Amy Church is aged 10 and worships at St Mary’s, Thornton.

 

FUN AT THE CLUB

Patrick Laurance

7 Childs Way, London NW11 6XU, 24pp, bklt

£4.50

Useful material for those who have an old people’s club (or something similar) attached to their church, and are on the lookout for material to use. Mainly collections of questions and answers for amusing and testing if not demanding quizzes. ‘At our type of club laughter is the first essential.’ Quite right too. Nice modest piece of self-publishing; a little over-priced. AS

 

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