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Jarge's Jottings

An Advent to Remember

It was the end of the beginning; December 20th, 1952 the occasion of the end of my 3 year Theological training, at “Bishops’ College” noted for its discipline, but also for its teaching.

I was leaving to be ready for my Ordination to the Diaconate, at Wells Cathedral to be an Assistant Curate at St. Andrew’s, Taunton, busy and demanding.

I left the College under a cloud, because, whilst the Principal did not approve of married curates, he had consented that Hazel and I could be engaged, nevertheless, we ought to wait until I had completed my first 3 year curacy.

Bishop William Bradfield had other ideas; the Vicar of St. Andrew’s had an empty curate’s house for which he was anxious to find an occupant as soon as possible. I needed a job for without it, I couldn’t be ordained.

Ordaining Bishops could change the rules, which William promptly did; “Yes, there was no reason why we couldn’t marry. The Vicar needed a trainee priest and having met we had decided that was the right place for me,

Incidentally, the post had been organised by none other than Archdeacon “Ted” Roberts (previously Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight) who by chance knew my prospective Vicar since College days and incidentally had been a guide and encouragement to me. He examined me for a Reader’s License enabling me to conduct occasional services, at Newchurch and Yaverland from 1949-1952 during College vacations”.

So, I left College with reasonable exam results, Hazel and I were married on September 27th as the Bishop didn’t want us to be messing about with weddings after Ordination.

Incidentally, the Archdeacon suggested that particular College, for as he rightly remarked, ‘You need discipline, George’ and indeed I am sure he was right!

In those days, an Ordination Service was long, 2 hours at least, as Priests and Deacons were ordained in the one service instead of two.

It was at that first Ordination that I realised the enormity of what I was called to do and, more importantly, was reinforced by the Bishop’s Charge to the candidates; what we  should do and more importantly, what we clergy should be.

Having donned a clerical collar (for the first time) after the service, on entering the ‘Bus to take me to Wells, there was a happy lady ‘Bus Conductor who greeted us all cheerily, telling me to ‘Hurry along dear”. To my amusement, on the return journey, noting my collar, it was ‘Please hurry along Sir!

There was little time to settle in, for returning to Taunton on the Monday following the Ordination, I had to attend a Staff Meeting, in the afternoon the Vicar (“John”), Alfred the senior Assistant Curate, and me.  I was to be in charge of Choir and the Servers.

Particular care was taken at the College over the conduct of services, having our own Elocution Teacher (commonly referred to as "Fifi" for her many-bangled wrists and jewellery). She was good, remembering that in the 1950s even large churches like Ryde Parish Church had no microphones, meaning good diction was a “must”.

I realise this is a rather personal Jotting, but it may give some idea how Clergy were trained, and next week, “Becoming a priest”.

My first year (until I was priested) was a swift “learning curve”, finding fitting my devotional life difficult; it was a matter that far from being gently led into the pastoral ministry, I learned more from my mistakes than any “guided tours”, and believe me, there were many of those.

GCR,

to be continued

12 December 2021  

Blessed are the Poor

Working in Durham as a coal miner under the Bevin Scheme that tried to recruit your men into the coal industry, I had an opportunity to explore the area and one such outing took me through the town of Jarrow.

It was a depressing journey; everything looked drab and an air of hopelessness seemed to hang over the town, shops and all/

As I passed through depressing streets. it brought back memories of a newsreel film I had seen at the cinema in the mid-1940s that had moved me, (young as I was) that portrayed what was described as “The Jarrow March” where a party of unemployed workers marched through the streets of every town en route to Westminster, pleading for jobs.   As it happened, jobs did not come from a compassionate government, but from the sudden rush of work as the nation was drawn into the War in 1939.

My memory took me back and I thought as I travelled through the town (on my bike) of those drawn faces with their despairing eyes I had seen some 10 years previously.

Being an avid cinema-goer (free entrance as we displayed their posters at our pub), I compared that with the glossy “high life” living that I had seen in American films when it seemed that everyone was rich and well-fed, with never a sign of poverty.   Yet I hadn’t realised that the under-class had no such experience, neither in Jarrow or the USA.

As Jesus said, “the poor, you will always have them with you” and indeed so they are. I never thought that I would witness homeless people, destitute, begging in the streets, often dismissed as “lazy” or “feckless.

God, from the beginning of the Bible, through the prophets, bids us to “feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked, heal the sick, and . . . the poor have the Gospel proclaimed to them”.

The great increase of church-going from 1837-1939, was partly due to the fact that from a small, committed group of priests and the people they led, as the Church of England did their best to put Jesus’ command into action.

We have chosen to build HS2 costing billions, but, we are reducing our contribution to the poorer nations who will suffer much as a result of that action, as hunger disease, homelessness, unemployment take their toll.

Jesus preached, both by word and example that this agape, has to be central to the way we look on our fellow men and women.

One thing that cannot be missing, is to show that The Church cares, because God cares.

Isn’t this, the Good News for all people, regardless of colour or social status?

We return to Advent in the next “Jottings” .

GCR

5 December 2021 

All youneed is love?

So sang the Beatles, long ago, but what do you mean by “Love”? 

We English folk, have one word for it, so that you can say “I love ice cream”, but you may then say the same word in other contexts, such as “I love God”, or “I love my wife”.

Couples talk about “making Love”; the poor word is overused and under-valued.

The ancient Greeks had no less than three words that are defined as follows: “Philia” that is,”Friendship” (used by Americans for “Philadelphia”, the city of love).

There is “Eros”, from which our word “erotic” comes; in other words, our old friend “Sex” of which, more later.

Then there is the puzzling one, which figures mainly in the New Testament, “Agape” (pronounced “Ah-ga-pay”), and this is on a different level altogether; it is the word used by Jesus when He tells us to “Love one another” and that is defined as the ultimate for it is the “unconditional love” that God has for all His Creation.

So we English use “love” to describe the relationship with Ice Cream as we do with our Divine relationships, and our relationship with each other.

When Jesus commands us to “Love one another as I have loved you” this is no vague command, for it means that we are to love with a depth and intensity as that which our Father has for us.

This is the love that Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians 13, reminding us that “Love is the fulfilment of the Law”.

The early Christians drew the response from the pagans, “See how these Christians love one another.”  Something that attracted them when they observed how selfless their neighbours were in sharing.

We are challenged deeply by this kind of language, for it means that so much that has been seen during the past two millennia of Christian behaviour one to another has fallen short.

Looking back at seventy years of Ministry, I have been called to go into parishes to try and settle the most trivial encounters, which have grown to serious unhappiness.

Jesus calls us to be as generous towards our neighbours as we hope that God will be towards us in our failings.

If God is our Father, then it follows that we are all brothers and sisters in Him and the pettiness and selfishness that we often see around us has no part in the .life of a practicing Christian.

Delving into the Old Testament, it is clear that from the beginning, our relationship with our Father was beyond human belief.

Although so often, God seems less like a loving Father than a punishing tyrant, yet hidden beneath in books like Deuteronomy, we find an essentially practical guide, setting out how communities should learn to love one another.

Is it not significant that despite Adam and Eve disobeying God in the Garden of Eden, His response is to make clothes for the errant couple?

God figuring in that same primitive narrative, (probably oral tradition) shows the extent to which He protects the murderous Cain from those who would seek out and kill him.

Similarly, the traditional prophets’ messages make much of God’s practical concerns; feeding the hungry, welcoming “strangers” (immigrants), clothing the naked, housing the homeless, ensuring that justice is for all and not just a few.

The early chapters of St. Mark’s Gospel, where Jesus sits at a meal with all manner of undesirables, offensive to the orthodox and to the religious leaders, healing all that come, seemingly regardless of their place in Society and placing their needs before man-made religious laws.

Here is love in action, for the Good News is that God cares and doubtless sorrows over what could be so rich, generous and fulfilling, but is threatened by our loveless greed, destroying so much that could make life rich and beautiful for everyone.

GCR

28 November 2021

Half-Hearted Christianity

G. K. Chesterton was not only a writer of crime novels, but also a staunch Roman Catholic theologian, and when challenged about the failure of the Christian Church to make much growth in the 20th century, replied “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting, but it hasn’t really been tried!”

When he was writing, The Church of England was enjoying a remarkable revival, thanks to the sudden growth of congregations brought about by the pioneering work of priests, who gave The Church a great boost in congregations, despite the opposition of the Bishops and Parliament.

There had been great strides in the presentation of worship which was shaped by the reintroduction of ceremonies, which aroused opposition from many who were suspicious of anything that smacked of Roman Catholicism (such as robed servers, incense, candles, Eucharistic vestments, etc.).

The interesting fact is that this revived style of worship seemed to chime in with a population that had experienced the national Sunday worship to be dull, colourless, served often by clergy who were encouraged to seek ordination as a cosy occupation.

However this small group had such energy and were so concerned with Evangelism, that new churches were built in their thousands, with great effect on the poorer folk, who living in slum squalor found this revitalised Church attractive.

Pastoral care was concentrated on the poor, so much energy was directed towards the social and practical needs of a strata of Society that had woefully been neglected.

The period from 1837 onward until the advent of the Great War, where unemployment, poverty followed by the Great Depression, took their toll; was probably one where the practical effect of Christianity on the general population was experienced.

It was that period that saw the Church of England turning to dealing with these social problems, with Church Schools, theological colleges for clergy training and many charitable endeavours to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, etc.

In other words, the Gospel took hold, with The Church helping to give life to its social demands.

Yet, attempts are made to picture the Early Church as a devout body, where love and justice were to abide, but a short study of the Old Testament will show the recorded teaching of Moses and the great prophets were greatly concerned with the way Society should be shaped.

Deuteronomy (circa 500 BC) contains strictures on how caring for one another was enjoined upon the Jews as part of God’s plan for humanity. It is interesting and worthy of note that strict rules on how “strangers (i.e. refugees and immigrants) were to be welcomed and accepted. Hospitality is part of this “loving and acc-epting” Gospel.

If we study the New Testament, particularly Acts and the Epistles, we soon realise that the Early Church members found it just as difficult to live the Gospel as many of us do now. 

GCR

21 November 2021

Next week we need to consider to what extent, we ought to be seeking to live the “Life of Love and my apologies for the interruption of the Jottings over the past weeks.  G

What is "Remembering"

What do you do, whilst the 2 mins. Silence is observed? As we (my mother and brothers) and a large crowd stood silently in Lind Street in 1932, what was I, a 6 yr. old boy to think about?

Strangely, I knew a great deal about the sufferings and brutality that we were “remembering”, for my Aunt Rose had a collection of copies of the “Illustrated London News” that contained graphic illustrations of the cruelty, depicting the Germans as “inhuman” monsters.

Sometimes now, when taking part in this “remembering”, I am carried back in imagination to those days; the spectacle, the trumpet sounding, and breaking the silence, the sound of weeping for those who will never return.

“Poor old chap” you may say, “He’s going back”, but that’s not what remembering is. Namely as I stand there in the silence, by memory I am bringing those events of years past into the present and they are as real as when I first experienced them.

I am bringing the past into the present and I experience the same feelings in 2021 as I did in 1932 and are as real as when I first experienced them.

It may be that I am more sensitive whenever I “remember”; for life’s passing has left its mark. Some of them have left scars on my memory, but also the countless joys that life has offered me.

Jesus commanded “Do this in remembrance of me”, so what does that mean for us? Some 2,000 years have passed since that farewell Supper in the upper room home of St. Mark’s mother’s  home.

Is the Eucharist just a fleeting remembrance of something that is “in the past”, or as real as the present moment?

I must confess that when we are told “The Lord is here” and we reply that “His Spirit is with us” I believe we are bringing the Upper Room into the place wherever the  Eucharist is offered and Jesus is the Host to whose banquet we are privileged to be invited.

This must mean a tremendous difference in our weekly approach to the altar; we need to do so in humility, for Jesus is here.

Over the years I have witnessed a huge decline in our reverence, not only for the Eucharist, but in our approach to the building itself.

Time was that we obeyed Church Canon Law and entering and leaving the church, bowed to the altar, which represents the presence of Christ Himself, and the same Laws said that “at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bend” and use of that Name was to be always thoughtful, certainly not used casually.

John Newton in a hymn wrote: ”Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring; for His grace and power are such, none can ever ask too much” or  an ancient Communion hymn, “Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand, Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in His hand, Christ, our God descendeth, our full homage to demand”.

Perhaps the practise of our faith in worship might enable that worship to come alive, if we remember that “The Lord is here, His Spirit is with us”.

GCR

7 November 2011

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