Showing posts from November, 2014

Selective remembrance

(With thanks to Neil MacGregor for inspiring this sermon) "Stay awake." As we remember particularly the war dead of the First World War one hundred years on, there's a certain irony to Jesus' command to us today, since our country used to shoot dead its own soldiers if they fell asleep on their watch. But then, our remembrance tends to be rather selective.
Remembering and memorialising victory is nothing new. Pagan Rome was particularly good at it, and many of her monuments to wars won still stand. The most enduring symbol of national victory is surely the triumphal arch, copied by the Romans from the Etruscans, and ever after in cities where the legions never marched, from Washington to Pyongyang.
Men have always been keen to set in stone their triumphs; even Christian men of Christian nations. Curious that they had to delve into pagan history to find a suitable form for immortalising their victories in war, that nothing from the Christian tradition leapt out as be…

Frankenstein's Worship: Against Liturgical Relativism

A Sermon for the St Albans Branch of the Prayer Book Society given by the Rev'd Dr Thomas Plant at the parish church of St Peter, Great Berkhamsted, on the Feast of All Saints of England, 8 November 2014.
"This morning's worship didn't do much for me, Father," says the parishioner; to which the grumpy priest replies, "that's OK. We weren't worshipping you."

A hundred years ago, if anyone was suspected of disloyalty to our Anglican inheritance, of tampering with our liturgy and threatening our uniformity of worship, it was the Anglo-Catholics. Many of their number argued that the eucharistic liturgy of the Prayer Book was at best disordered, and at worst deficient. Among the proponents of the latter view were the Anglo-Papalists, for whom nothing less than an Englished Roman Canon would suffice; while the former was the position of the 'English' or 'Prayer Book' Catholics of Pusey and Dearmer's ilk, who wanted nothing more th…

All Souls 2014

From the glorious gold of All Saints we have moved to the sombre black of All Souls, and unusually, we have done it all in one day. All Saints really falls of the first of November, so if we were being traditional, we would have kept it yesterday, and just All Souls today, but as you can see from tonight's liturgy, here at St Peter's we're very modern and progressive; so, we moved All Saints to this morning for the whole parish to enjoy. But there is something surprisingly fitting about marking both on the same day. All Saints are, after all, pretty much the same thing: the difference is that while All Saints glories in the memory of the saints known and celebrated throughout the worldwide Church, All Souls marks the more recently and more locally departed, the dead we know and love in person. It's essentially a more local and familiar version of All Saints. 
So why, you might ask, the difference in tone - why the gold for All Saints and the black for All Souls? Well, I…

All Saints: Is relativism a fiction worth maintaining?

It used to be quite a brave thing not to baptise your children. You'd incur the wrath of many a maiden aunt. But now, almost the opposite is true. The respectable position is that children should be free to make their own minds up about these things in their own time and develop their own sets of values. To force your views on your children, to make promises for them, is borderline barbaric. I recently found out that a priest who baptises a baby without the consent of both parents could find himself in the dock for common assault. Maybe one day infant baptism will be an infringement of a child's human rights. Watch this space.

It's easy to see where we get this wariness of imparting our beliefs. We have seen the violence that comes when totalising ideologies brainwash people into belief in absolute truths. We've seen the results of twentieth century imperialism, colonialism, Fascism, Communism, and we have become allergic to 'isms' as a result, so much so that …