IT HAD to happen sooner or later. A woman has celebrated the Anglican Eucharist in England.
This was Alison Palmer, who is an American. She was irregularly ordained in Washington last year. But her orders are going to be recognised soon by the decision of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States.
Since women may not celebrate in the Anglican Church in England, her Eucharistic celebration took place at the Golders Green Unitarian Church. (Unitarians arc doubtful about the Trinity, which makes it doubtful if they are technically Christians. Mr Neville Chamberlain was one when Prime Minister, and some good people got queasy about his appointing bishops.)
Anyway, the television cameras were there, pointing their fierce and selfish lights at the altar. They managed, as often happens, to fuse them and caused some dismay with their agitated, noisy and selfabsorbed efforts to repair them.
But since the Eucharist was at once a seriously intended religious act and a demonstration, there is no real cause for complaint.
If you want the world to see you, you must put up with the eyes of the world and, in practice, the eyes of the world are hot, intrusive and given to making sudden bangs. They also get in the way.
According to that excellent though separated newspaper, The Church Times. Miss
Palmer began rather nervously. The Church Times gave her no title, and so I cannot even guess at the right one.
Robed in modern manner
She was robed in the modern manner in a broad stole. She faced the congregation across a bare altar with the stubby candles which we have given the Christian world, or at least a large part of it. She was assisted by an Anglican deconess of long standing, Dr Una Kroll, and the altar server was a woman.
She was also assisted by the male Anglican curate from Primrose Hill who earns a living as an artist and was improperly vested in a dalmatic. (Well, if they are going to copy our new little ways, they might at least get them right.) But The Church Times, which is not a radical paper in any way except in so far as Christianity itself is radical, reported that she gained confidence and played her role with dignity and without histrionics.
I'll quote one paragraph from The Church Times: "Alison Palmer brought a personal some would say a feminine touch to the Communion itself.
"All present were invited to receive, regardless of their ecclesiastical credentials; there was a smile for every individual, and, as each person accepted their morsel of bread from her, she clasped their hands warmly.
"Moreover, Miss Palmer insisted that she and her
assistants, being the servants of the people, should receive their Communion after the rest of the congregation."
Looks handsome and intelligent
From her photographs, she looks a handsome and intelligent woman and in no way compatible with the irascible Dr Johnson's comparison of women preachers with dogs who walked on their hind legs. And clearly we have not heard the last of women priests. There really is no theological argument against their ordination. It is true that St Paul was firm about women in the synagogue. And there is that third source of doctrine which is tradition, But then it is only a negative tradition, and is that quite the same?
We have innovated so many things over the centuries crucifixes, any sort of organised liturgy at all, the use of Latin. The early Councils were not so much reforming as creative. Personally I don't look forward to women priests. But that could be my holy chauvinism.
I could not defend my opposition except in the terms and how right they were! used by the opponents of the definition of Papal Infallibility at the First Vatican Council. They did not say the definition was erroneous, they said it was inopportune. And prudence has always been one of the great Roman virtues.
Paying for the soul's repose
YOU may have noticed that the Catholic Herald now publishes a resume of wills. property and not an intrusion on privacy.
But I can never understand how so many people have so much money or how they keep it. Like the Red Queen in "Through the Looking Glass," most of us are running like mad to stay in the same place and losing.
But some of the wills leave money for Masses to be said for the repose of the dead person's soul. The usual payment for a Mass used to be live shillings, and it is now usually a pound.
It would be a bad priest who would not officiate unless paid. But the "offering" does allow a special sort of participation and sacrifice to the layman.
But there are some small problems. Henry VIII, who considered himself a Catholic, left money for a thousand Masses to be said for his soul. I notice that someone recently left £2,000 to the same end. And at a pound a Mass this is going to take some priest a very long time,
Probably no man in history was ever more prayed for than the late President Kennedy. Even an Ecumenical Council attended a Requiem in Rome for him.
Of course we do not know the result of this sort of activity. It is true that the rich and the powerful have a great deal more to answer for which may even things out.
It was the ancient custom that the great once set t'p chantry chapels in Britain so that they would have been prayed for in perpetuity if that pesky Reformation had not intervened. The Irish used to say the De Profundis at the foot of the altar after Mass to make up for all the ruined chantries.
It is the intention that counts.
The dying man makes formal admission of his sins with a be quest. The living are comforted by the act of giving. The rest is up to the mercy of God. And it is a decorous way of supporting the working clergy, whose formal salaries are less than the sum of a. dustman's Christmas boxes at the end of the year. And no-one any more, in this country at least, gets to be prayed for forever. Come to think of it, what looks at first sight like a typical Catholic excess is in fact sensible and practical and prudent.
Gifts unfit for
SEVERAL times as a journalist I have been on Royal tours, endured the quarterdeck irritability of Prince Philip and admired the hieratic qualities of the Queen. But wherever I went she got presents.
She got unwearable jewellery, huge opals, regimental brooches done in diamonds, rubies big enough for the boy David to use in his sling-shot against poor Goliath, dug-out canoes, horses, albums of local photographs, fearful pieces of china, native headdresses of the utmost cultural degeneracy, solid gold trays and I mean solid enough to bend an elderly butler at the knees assorted wild animals, unfashionable and anti-ecological furs, antiques, motor cars, fluffy toys for the kiddy-winks, swathes of priceless West African Kente cloths, major works of "primitive" art, shields and spears from Africa.
I must stop. Too much, I love making lists,
Now all these things which have gone on being given for generations ever since the British gave gold to the Danish invaders to keep them out of the better parts of Surrey must have gone somewhere.
They cannot all be at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for children otherwise there would not be room for the children. There must, under our palaces, be long dim-lit cellars, tainted with a sort of corruption as old State gifts moulder away.
The Pope gets them too
Similarly, the Pope gets loaded with presents, and the treasuries and storerooms and the sacristies of the Vatican are eloquent of the fact that there is no connection between piety and good taste.
The present Pope clearly has his own -persona] regalia, that striking modern crucifix which he carries in place of a crozier, and always the same mitre, But he still gets presents.
Mr Heath is said to have given him a signed photograph when he was Prime Minister. Each Easter at Mass he is given a beautifully shampooed lamb, and what happens to it afterwards? Who eats it, or is it allowed to grow ungracefully old and turn into a silly great sheep in some papal meadow?
Each time he canonises a saint, he is given presents which represent the products of the nation involved. I do not know what he got for St Oliver Plunkett. But for St John Ogilvie he was given two small casks of whisky "the best malt" according to Cardinal Gray of Edinburgh. He sent one to the Scots College, and I hope he kept the other, for a good malt Scotch whisky is the most noble drink in the world.
He was also given, by the diocese of Glasgow where Ogilvie was executed, a magnificent chalice and ciborium which cost £1,500. The ciborium is wide, low and open, and the chalice is eightsided.
Such gifts are usually passed on to some poor missionary parish. It isgood to think of some tin-roofed church having such splendid objects made by the best Scottish craftsmen and decorated with the name of a distant and probably unheard of saint. In fact they look so hand-. some that I. personally, would be tempted to keep them.
Advice to our
I HAVE come across a reprint of the little booklet which was issued to every American soldier who came to these islands during the war. It's called "A short guide to Great Britain." It is witty, wise, and elegantly written.
Of the British and their God it has little to say. "The British
make much of Sunday. All the shops are closed, and in the small towns there is not much to do. You had better follow the example of the British and try to spend Sunday afternoon in the country. . "British churches, particularly the little village churches, are often very beautiful inside and out. Most of them are always open, and if you feel like it, do not hesitate to walk in. But do not walk around if a service is on."
That is all. The rest of the booklet is full of sage advice about not boasting or stealing girl friends, about never criticising the King or having political arguments. The British appear in it to be an heroic, patient and somewhat bovine people with their hearts in the right place and a pound sterling that is worth four dollars.
I do not know if all this usdful information and excellent advice had any effect on the behaviour of our allies, Certainly they behaved no worse than other soldiers stationed overseas. But it does raise the question of the utility of advice, especially in the sermon.
Anglican intellectuals have a special distaste for the type of sermon they call a feverino. I believe they were popular among the upper classes in the time of Edward VII. They still occur, and in them you are exhorted to heroic virtue in richly emotional terms.
I think the booklet was wiser. It really did give a picture of England. It conveyed information upon which a person could base his own pattern of behaviour.
It gave reasons for things
such as why the British beer wag weak and their food faintly disgusting. I still think this is the proper pattern of a sermon.
You can tell when a congregation is interested, and it is almost always when they are learning something or being given a new idea. But tell them that they must be nice to blacks, especially if they do not know any, and you have lost them.
Tell them that if Christ came back tomorrow there are people who would think him a potential shop-lifter from the Middle East and they would be rivetted. If you see what I mean.
Customs in the throwing of bottles
I AM TOLD that while angry blacks in Soweto throw empty whisky bottles, angry Irishmen in the Six Counties throw milk-bottles.
Does this represent a fundamental cultural gulf, or are the blacks better off? The mind gently boggles.