28 September 2018

BETJEMAN: Anglo-Catholic Congresses

We, who remember the Faith, the grey-headed ones,
   Of those Anglo-Catholic Congresses swinging along,
Who heard the South Coast salvo of incense-guns
   And surged to the Albert Hall in our thousands strong
   With 'extreme' colonial bishops leading in song;

We, who remember, look back to the blossoming May-time
   On ghosts of servers and thurifers after Mass,
The slapping of backs, the flapping of cassocks, the play-time*,
   A game of Grandmother's steps on the vicarage grass -
   "Father, a little more sherry. I'll fill your glass."

We recall the triumph, that Sunday after Ascension,
  When our Protestant suffragan suffered himself to be coped -
The SYA* and the Scheme for Church Extension -
   The new diocesan's not as 'sound' as we'd hoped,
   And Kensit threatens and has Sam Gurney poped?

Yet, under the Travers baroque, in a limewashed whiteness,
   The fiddle-back vestments a-glitter with morning rays,
Our Lady's image, in multiple-candled brightness,
   The bells and banners - those were the waking days
   When Faith was taught and fanned to a golden blaze.
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* Dr Simon Cotton tells me that SYA means the Seven Years Association and refers me to Ivan Clutterbuck's Marginal Catholics. A junior branch of the Church Union, founded by Peter Winckworth  at the Anglo-Catholic Congress of 1933, and with its own chapel (of the Ascension) in the Shrine at Walsingham. Members undertook obedience to the precepts of the Church until the next ACC, scheduled for 1940. So the mis-en-scene of the poem is pinned down to 1933-1940.

3 comments:

umblepie said...

Thank you Father. One of my favourites from JB.

Joshua said...

The second Anglo-Catholic Congress, held in 1923, sent the following telegram to the Pope:

"16,000 Anglo-Catholics, in congress assembled, offer respectful greetings to the Holy Father, humbly praying that the day of peace may quickly break."

The Vatican replied – in 2009, with Anglicanorum cœtibus.

C M said...

This morning we celebrated a High Mass for Our Lady of Walsingham on the south coast at St Agatha’s Portsmouth. Surrounded by Travers baroque, a multiplicity of banners, becoped statues, fiddlebacks, Mozart with orchestra, and after Mass, plenty of back slapping and jolliness, oh and a full church!

The faith may not yet be a golden blaze but it’s certainly being fanned in some places