Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Elland and the King James Bible

-An Article by Tony Murphy

As the English-speaking world celebrates the 400th anniversary of the first publication of the Authorized Version of the Bible, we in Elland can take some pride in that one of its leading translators was baptized and, in his youth, worshipped here at St. Mary’s. Henry Savile was one of three sons and five daughters born to Henry and Elizabeth Savile of Bradley Hall, situated between Greetland and Holywell Green (and now part of the clubhouse of the Bradley Hall Golf Club). He was baptized shortly after his birth on 30th November, 1549 in the church where his family had worshipped for generations and where they had provided benefactions over the years, including a chantry dedicated to St John the Baptist (where the present organ casing is situated) and the rebuilding of the chancel, with its very fine east window.

Henry, as with his elder brother John, was educated at home by private tutors, one of whom may have been the rector at Elland. He then followed in both his father’s and elder brother’s footsteps to Brasenose College, Oxford, which he entered at the remarkably early age of twelve. Here he made rapid progress in the liberal arts and his scholarship was recognized by Merton College who awarded him a Fellowship; he later astonished the university with his detailed knowledge of Ptolemy’s Almagest at his MA examination. He travelled widely in Europe for over four years, meeting leading scholars in France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Low Countries and copying or purchasing manuscripts wherever he went. Savile, both in his studies and in his own publications on Greek and Latin texts and also on astronomy, was undeniably at the cutting edge of Rennaissance humanism.

On returning to Oxford he very quickly procured the Wardenship of Merton College and later the Provostship of Eton College. These promotions were not without controversy. He had been engaged as tutor in Greek to Queen Elizabeth after his travels and spent much time cultivating influential friends at Court. Both Lord Burghley - the Queen’s chief minister - and Sir Francis Walsingham (her Secretary and chief “spy-master”) lobbied the monarch on his behalf. Nor was he universally popular with his fellow academics who felt over-looked. However, he certainly built up both Merton and Eton Colleges, furnishing their libraries with rare books and manuscripts and adding to their buildings. He was also a key figure in the establishment of the Bodleian Library with his personal friend Thomas Bodley and paid for new building works, in particular the famous Tower of Five Orders in the Schools Quad, for which he provided masons from Elland in its construction.

But it was his knowledge of the Greek language which led the new King, James 1, to include Savile among the 47 scholars appointed to provide the new Authorized Bible. What is most remarkable is that Savile alone of all these men was not in holy orders. Perhaps the knighthood bestowed by the king on him in 1604 was meant to lend further credibility. It seems that he was also appointed leader of his particular team at Oxford University which was assigned to work on the Four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the Book of Revelation. Savile’s team met in his Warden’s rooms at Merton College. Here, over the seven years from 1604 to 1611, they studied the original Greek text and earlier English versions by Tyndale, Coverdale and the so-called “Bishops’ Bible” which had been introduced in Elizabeth’s reign to counteract the perceived Puritan leanings of the Geneva Bible, written by English refugees from Queen Mary’s Catholic reign. Both James 1 and Archbishop Bancroft were hoping for a translation of the Bible which authenticated the ecclesiology of the Anglican church and its Episcopal structures. What they also got was a literary work of art, whose resonant phrases and poetic cadences would echo down the years.

Henry Savile lost his only son during his work on the Bible, and would devote the rest of his life mainly to a translation of the complete works of the early Christian Father of the church St John Chrysostom, which he published in eight folios privately at great expense. He also founded and generously funded two professorships at Oxford - in geometry and astronomy - which exist to this day and died at Eton College on 19th February, 1622. He was buried in a simple tomb in the chapel there but his widow constructed a fine mural monument to him in Merton College. He had come a long way from his roots in Elland.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Franciscanism for non- Franciscans

S.Francis and the Franciscan Tradition belong to the whole Church: Interesting reading here. Not for the first time, it is the Daily Prayer Book of the Society of St Francis that sows the seeds.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Mind the Gap

(This is a version of a paper written a few years ago as part of the Franciscan Third Order Study Initiative. More Information and papers here )


As the life of the Christian in the Church became common, humdrum, ordinary, people began to think of and look at the clergy and those living in vows as if they alone were the genuine, 100% believers.

Prompted by both a radical, exciting re-discovery of the theology of the ministry of all the baptized, and by the practical steps necessary in the face of the numerical decline of the stipendiary priesthood, new patterns of Collaborative Ministry are emerging within the Church of England. They aim to enable and encourage all the people of God in the life of Christian discipleship, whilst looking to develop new initiatives in ministry and mission within the Church. This essay is an attempt to ask if a Franciscan emphasis may shed light on this process. A brief overview of Francis’ model and how that subsequently developed will be followed by some reflection on the contemporary situation within SSF, and a consideration of pointers for the future.

Francis exploded upon a struggling and moribund Church, yet he seems to have understood the radicalism of his call as a re-call to the true roots of the tradition. Giovanna Casagrande, reflecting particularly on the stream of the early sources represented by Thomas of Celano, understands Francis, in taking the habit, making a statement as a lay penitent-hermit, surrounded by his little brothers who were principally laymen, in opposition to contemporary monastic developments placing the vowed life in institutional settings. He sums up Francis’ mission thus

From both versions of the Letter to the Faithful, we can deduce the essence of penance in terms of behaviour and attitudes: love of God, neighbour and enemies; mercy, charity and almsgiving; hatred of the body with its vices and sins; confession of sins, reception of the sacrament of the Eucharist, and respect for the priests who administer it; humility rather than ambition; not serving the world through the desires of the flesh, cares, ambitions; fasting, abstinence from vices and from an excess of food and drink.

Add to this the injunctions against oath taking and the bearing of arms in the (recreated) 1221 Rule of the Third Order, and a picture of equality before God in penance begins to emerge. Francis himself, however, struggled to keep his rights as ‘keeper of the vision,’ contributing to the administrative and spiritual tensions within the Orders both before and after his death.

The Kalendar of the Church of England, though interestingly not that of the Roman Catholic Church, preserves the tradition of regarding Francis as a deacon; he is described as ‘Friar, deacon and Founder of the Friars Minor,’ the evidence for this relying almost entirely on Thomas of Celano’s account, subsequently used by Bonaventure, of the gift of the Crib at Greccio, where Francis certainly acted as a deacon in proclaiming the Gospel. (There is also the tantalising evidence of the contemporary frescoes at S.Benedict’s Monastery at Subiaco.) Certainly Francis’ authority seems to have rested on charism rather than ordination, an unusual but not unique situation in the medieval church.

Laurentio C.Landini, in a marvellous ‘whodunnit’, traces the clericalization of the emergent Orders. The rule of 1223 states, ‘Let them be called Friars Minor’, a statement of equality testifying to the evangelical, lay basis of the first fraternity. He concludes however, that the Order had no alternative to such clericalization, if it was to survive in the atmosphere of a heresy hunting church under economic pressure, without a theology of lay discipleship. Francis placed his Orders at the feet of the Church to do with as they wished, and, notwithstanding the courage of Clare of Assisi, that is what the church did! The brothers contributed to a centralising Papal tradition, and as the Order of Penitents developed into the Third Order, it became an umbrella for some very odd communities.

The date of Landini’s work is crucial; in the wake of Vatican II, Roman Catholic communities looked to their roots for patterns of renewal. Within the Franciscan family in communion with the See of Rome is an astonishing diversity, and understandings of Francis and of Franciscanism of which, as Anglicans, we are sometimes only able to catch partial and potentially misleading echoes. Authority and access to decision making within the Catholic Franciscan family, still lies principally with those who are ordained. There seems to be a general feeling among many contemporary Franciscans that the various branches of OFM have missed an opportunity; even the constitution of the Secular Franciscan Order clearly implies that it can only function with priestly beneficence!

Within the Anglican Religious tradition, the Franciscan life is relatively young, meaning that only now is SSF beginning to face the challenges that many other communities faced in the 1960s. The communities that coalesced into SSF seem to have resisted the temptation to simply recreate an idealised medieval ‘age of faith’; the somewhat eccentric combination of the evangelical Brother Douglas, with Fr.Algy’s catholicism and the depth of spirituality of Fr.Andrew SDC represent a gift to the church for which many of us are grateful still. Peta Dunstan traces the story of the opening up to office without regard to Ordination; yet perhaps we should also consider words recorded in Brian Taylor’s conclusion to his work on the origins of English Anglican Religious, “there is still much of the atmosphere of an English public school in a lot of communities.”

Over the last 40 years, increasing numbers of First Order brothers and sisters within SSF and CSF have been ordained, a situation not without tension, while within TSSF, offices are of course open to all professed members. I am aware of a number of priests for whom the living out of the TSSF Rule became a significant and formative point in discerning a vocation to priesthood. The language of vocation now rightly belongs to all the baptized, and indeed, ought to remain central in our own formation as members of a religious order. The necessary tension but unfortunate confusion within TSSF of loyalty to the Rule balanced with our own personal opportunities and needs does seem to lead to a levelling out, an assumption that our needs in meeting together are the same. In the April 2003 Third Order Network, Dick Bird contributed some thoughts reflecting on the possibility of separate interest groups within TSSF; the article met a critical response in a subsequent issue, yet as a one time member of just such a ‘Franciscan clergy cell’, I can pay tribute to the value of such an arrangement.

In conclusion to this brief survey, it is worth asking, which Francis do we wish to model? Whichever one we choose will of course say as much about us as about Francis. In a recent work, Laurence S. Cunningham argues against ‘Francis-lite’, i.e. the Francis that comforts rather than challenges. Francis was neither evangelical protestant nor new age messiah, but an orthodox figure who loved the creation because he loved the incarnate Christ, who composed the Canticle of the Creatures in the face of intense suffering, who became at La Verna a living, stigmatized icon of the crucified in both the brutality of human pain and the reality of divine redemption. Yet we can only encounter lofty theological truths in our common life with our brothers and sisters. There is a genuine Franciscan tradition that sees ministry as an activity to which all brothers and sisters are called, though the pattern of that ministry will vary between individuals because of vocation, context and opportunity.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A Churchyard Oddity

While taking some pictures for yesterday's blog post, I came across this unusual stone, now forming a part of the path in the lower churchyard, but undoubtedly moved there from elsewhere.

It reads 'Ebenezer Clegg and John Crosland Church Wardens of Elland 1736'. The cutting, though uneven, seems to have had at least as much effort put into it as some contemporary Grave markers near by, suggesting it was not meant as a temporary sign. I presume it was a marker, or a Boundary post, especially as the extent of the Churchyard was once much greater, going over where Huddersfield Road is now.

Friday, 11 February 2011

The View from Here

A view that has not been seen as clearly for some years. Thanks to Calderdale Council's work over recent days, much of the undergrowth around the east end of S.Marys has been cleared away. The graveyard has technically been closed for well over 100 years, and its maintenance demands have gradually got too much for us in recent times, despite sterling work by some dedicated individuals.

These pictures were taken earlier today, in poor light. Though there is still work to do in restoring this area, we have been able to take a significant step forward. Over the other side of Huddersfield Road, behind the photographer's back, as it were, is the disputed site on which Morrisons have applied to build a new supermarket; an application not without controversy, but which does seem to be supported by most people in Elland. It will certainly go a long way towards regenerating a forgotten part of this Town.

Last night we held an Open Meeting within the Deanery, a consultation on the Draft Measure that has been sent from General Synod to the Dioceses, that will permit the Consecration of Women as Bishops in the Church of England. An excellent turn out heard two very different presentations, one in favour of the Measure, one not, but both speakers charitably and constructively wishing to engage with each other, not simply to win debating points. Wherever we begin from, conditions our view of things, even though we may be standing much nearer to each other than we think. Although we struggled a little to understand the Synod-Legalese in which the measure is cast, there was, on the whole, a commendable willingness to remember that we are fellow members one of another, and of the Body of Christ, and not rivals or opponents. A Vote was taken, the result clearly in favour of the Measure, though not by the necessary majority to pass were it any more than advisory. Clearly a number who are not necessarily against the principle, are not sure that this is the right way to go about it.

Its all kicking off very soon however. Tomorrow, finally, a new Super League season begins, 4 games
tomorrow, 3 on Sunday, all televised live from Cardiff, the Magic Weekend. As they say, Bring it on..

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Sometimes, its just about turning up, particularly when you don't want to, and especially rewarding if you are generally not feeling up to going out, or know there are 1001 things waiting on your desk...

We moved our Parish Celebration of The Feast of the Presentation, popularly known as Candlemass, to last Sunday.  That ought to make today, 2nd February, an Ordinary Day, a Feria, in the language of the Church's Kalendar, but it seemed more appropriate to use our Wednesday Morning Eucharist at S.Mary's, which follows the Prayer-Book Tradition, to bring out an often neglected aspect of that Feast: Mary's Thanksgiving after Childbirth, or, as the Prayer Book calls it, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

From S.Mary's East Window: the 19th Century Purification panel on the right, alongside a 15th Century panel depicting the Annunciation to St Anne

Following that there was an opportunity to catch up with Wendy, Head of our Church School. This is an uneasy time for many Calderdale Schools, not least with huge changes in Budgets, and with widespread job losses in Children and Young People's Services. Increasingly, Schools will need to come together to source and purchase the support and specialist skills that Local Authorities will be increasingly unable to provide.

An afternoon session in the Hospice, some time with Staff, some with the Day Hospice Guests, the Multi-Disciplinary Meeting, and pretty much by accident, as I wandered around aimlessly, a conversation where, for once, I was the right person in the right place.

Lord, now lettest thou thy Servant depart in Peace...

Tomorrow will bring an opportunity to meet Ben, a Mirfield Ordinand who will be undertaking a pastoral placement with us, followed by a Deanery Clergy Chapter Meeting, and the Parish Safeguarding Group undertaking our Annual Review.