Tag Archives: Church

Harvest Festival

Foodscape photograph by the wonderful Carl Warner

Aha!  I am back amongst you!

However, I am in such bad humour about so many things today, that it’s hard to know quite where to start.

I will begin with Harvest Festival because I attended the Harvest service at Boy the Younger’s school today.  As we went in, I said to my friend “what do you think the chances are of us singing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’ or ‘Come ye thankful people come’.? “Zero,” she said, laughing.

Well it was worse than zero.  I realise that in some aspects of life, I am an unspeakable old fuddy-duddy, but why does everything that involves children have to be turned into an entertainment?  In a moment of desperation, I fed my programme to the beaming baby in the pew in front so I am unable to delight you with the nauseating detail of the ‘service’.

The children sang several feeble pop songs with the word ‘Jesus’ in them, most of which had stupid actions with which the parents were encouraged to join in.  When we were asked to clap our hand to our heart, I’m sorry to tell you that I quietly intoned “I pledge allegiance to the United States of America…” followed by a hand-jive, which had the parents on the row behind dissolving into nervous giggles.

Then there was a really good bit where it all stopped and young and delightfully handsome young man from the nearby CARE village stood up and thanked us all for the donations of food which would be given to the residents.

After this, the Reverend Blodwyn stood up and began the ‘It’s behind you’ section of the service where all the children were encouraged to shout out stuff about vegetables, after which she delivered a lecture about the environment.  Just in case the children hadn’t worked out what rain was, she put up a handy Powerpoint presentation with a character from a ‘Peanuts’ cartoon in which the character gets rained on. Ha bloody ha.

There is absolutely no need for church to be boring.  A good minister can deliver a sermon which will not only uplift and encourage, but will leave the congregation with something to think about for the rest of the week.  Hymns can be joyful and spirit raising, a reading in the hands of a decent reader is a lovely thing to listen to.

But Church, among many other things, is one really good opportunity to teach your children that there are times in life when they have to be quiet and behave with decorum.  There is an unending stream of complaints about how children can never sit still, can’t concentrate, can’t keep quiet.

A large part of the problem is that children are not taught to be quiet and behave with decorum.  Everything they do has to be entertaining.  Well life isn’t always entertaining, in fact, quite large chunks of life can be a bit boring and require us to keep our gobs shut when we’d rather not.  Sometimes we have to be quiet for the comfort of others.

Children need to be taught that there are times to have fun and times to be quiet and still.  How can they learn to think and reason if their minds are being swamped with a constant and unrelenting cacophony of sounds and sights and ‘stimulation’?  How can they learn to appreciate the small and simple things with which they’re surrounded if they never have a moment’s peace in which to do it?

I love Harvest Festival; whatever one’s spiritual pathway, it is completely reasonable to be grateful that we have enough food and that we still have farmers out there producing it.  It is a gratifying experience to share some of that produce with those who have less than us. I personally thanked the farmers in the next pew for growing our milk.  They did the narrowed eyes thing and left.

When I was at school, the Harvest service was a beautiful thing.  The girls doing cookery baked fabulous loaves to look like sheaves of corn, flowers graced every windowsill and the joyful Harvest hymns rocked the rafters as the organ thundered and the choir sang descants that could have lifted the tiles off the roof.

The last ‘hymn’ was called ‘Harvest Hoe Down’ accompanied by a tinny recorded sound track and a bazooka solo from some invisible children – I don’t need to draw you a picture of how awful that was.  I left Boy the Younger’s service with my teeth ground down to powder.   I accosted a teacher in the playground and pleaded that, just once before I BTY leaves, could we sing ‘We plough the fields and scatter’? Just once. “Why?” she answered.

It all makes ‘Cauliflowers fluffy…’ seem positively Wesleyan.

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Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Children, Education, Life in general, Religion

Shire Books of the Month: ‘Royal Weddings’ and ‘Discovering the Folklore & Traditions of Marriage’

William & Kate - clearly in love

Weddings being all the rage at the moment, it seems fitting to review these fascinating books on Royal Weddings and the Traditions of Marriage  Whether one is a Royalist or not, there is something tremendously hopeful about a marriage, in the belief that no matter what else is happening, people fall in love and decide  to get married.  Months of preparation ensue as couples opt for the full blown ‘fairytale’ bash or a quiet ceremony in the Register Office

Henry V & Kate de Valois - clearly strangers

Marriage between the high born and the low born historically served different purposes.  Up until the last hundred years, marriage between royalty existed to consolidate the power of the monarch and stabilise the relationships between countries who might otherwise have posed a threat.  Love was not even considered and young aristocrats were often betrothed when they were little children and even underwent a ceremony to cement that commitment.  That is not to say, however, that love didn’t sometimes develop in spite of the business-like arrangements.

Nowadays, we expect our royal families to be in love with their chosen partners (let’s forget Charles and Diana who appear to have conformed to the ‘stability’ model) and we expect the wedding to be a spectacle in which the whole nation takes part.  But looking back through the centuries royal weddings have taken place at venues as different as York Minster to hurried late night ceremonies in locked rooms.

Henry I was the first Norman king to marry on British soil and married Edith of Scotland in 1100 at Westminster Abbey to both demonstrate his claim to the English throne and to endear himself to the downtrodden masses.

In 1464, the youthful Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville in a secret ceremony at her father’s manor.  Henry only mentioned it to his advisors when they announced plans to secure a more politically profitable match.

George V sweeping away German title & tradition. Cartoon from 'Punch' by L Raven-Hill, my great grandfather as it happens

Royal Weddings’ charts the social and political backdrop to a thousand years of matrimonial monarchs and gives a fascinating perspective on the changing ideals and interdependency of royalty and the people they ultimately serve.

“But what about we ordinary mortals?” I hear you cry.  In many ways our story is more rich and juicy than anything the royals can cook up because tradition and folklore varies so widely from region to region.

Many people have been absorbed by the recent TV series ‘My Big, Fat Gypsy Wedding’ and whatever one’s views about that community, their traditions and expression of their culture serve as a perfect example of the different roles marriage has to play in communities with different needs and expectations.

Discovering the Folklore and Traditions of Marriage’ takes us through love and courtship, preparation for the big day, the wedding day itself and the celebrations, as well as the social implications of being obliged to be together forever.  I wonder if the marriage ceremony would include the words “’ till death us do part” if they had known that future couples might live to be 90 or more?

After the Stag Night. Great bunch of lads...

Fleet Weddings, Gretna Green, Besom Weddings, Penny Weddings, Wife Selling – it’s all in here.  Throwing stockings was the forerunner of throwing bouquets and it was done when the newly married couple were actually in their marriage bed.  Who would consider having a ‘Rough Band’ banging saucepans to be a lucky thing and yet Chimney Sweeps still advertise their services to appear at weddings.

The Wartime Housewife never married (but lived ‘o’er t’brush’ with two bastard children), but after reading this book, she might just consider it.  But only if she can re-enact the scene from the Mayor of Castorbridge and, having got drunk on ‘furmity’, her husband promises to sell her and her children to a passing sailor.

If you want your wedding to stand out, you will find everything you need in here to make your day a truly historic occasion.

Seriously interesting - even if you're not the marrying kind

Royal Weddings is also available as an e-book

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Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Family and Friends, History, Life in general, Slider

Sunday Poem 1

Diary of a Church Mouse – by John Betjeman

Here among the long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the Vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun.  All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn’s Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle’s brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes … it’s rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher’s seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear the organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar’s sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn’t think it’s wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God’s own house,
But all the same it’s strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don’t see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.

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Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Uncategorized

Sunday Service

Shangton Church, Leicestershire

Shangton Church, Leicestershire

The Wartime Housewife

is at Evensong.

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Filed under Life in general