I published this on Sunday March 6 2011, Quinquagesima Sunday, our last Sunday in the Church of England. I repeat it with one or two slight amplifications.
Glory be to Jesus, Who in bitter pains, Poured for us the life-blood From his sacred veins.
I really felt unusually affected at Mass this morning. Three hymns: Praise to the Holiest ..., which Pam and I had at our Wedding: suitable also because in 1828 Mr Newman contributed to raising the floor-level of S Thomas's above the flood-level of the Thames - and his scout John Hayworth was a life-long worshipper at S Thomas's. And Sweet Sacrament Divine. And, at the end, Glory be to Jesus (Viva! Viva! Gesu!), a hymn I particularly love. I had it at my Licensing to S Thomas's, unaware as I made the choice that it is painted on the roof-beams of the church ... probably during the incumbency of Fr Roger Wodehouse, who very much loved it (he was also the priest who put in place the baroque High Altar). Lift ye then your voices; Swell the mighty flood: Louder still and louder Praise the precious Blood.
After the Angelus, we polished off, as Canon Law required, a quick Vestry Meeting before the Churchwardens, staves of office in their hands, led us to the Shrine of S Thomas; for the last time we did the devotions traditional here on festivals of S Thomas, this time in thanks to our Patron for his gifts of grace in bringing us to where we now are. These devotions end with the Antiphon ad Magnificat in the Sarum Breviary: Salve, Thoma, virga justitiae, mundi jubar, robur Ecclesiae, plebis amor, cleri deliciae: Salve, gregis tutor egregie; salva tuae gaudentes gloriae. Then, in what I found a most moving gesture, the Churchwardens laid down their staves and left them at the feet of S Thomas. Vale, beate Thoma.
In my view, Churchwardens are a crucial element in the Anglican Patrimony, inherited from a medieval Church in which each of the innumerable guilds had its own Wardens, all under the ultimate control of the "High Wardens". As an indication of lay dignity and of the intricate corporate communal life of a medieval parish, they should be one of our most important contributions to the Wider Church.
Grace and life eternal In that Blood I find; Blest be His compassion, Infinitely kind. Deo gratias.