As Thomas a Becket said, “The Knights are drawing in”, so it’s time for some more personal Insight, Humour and Satire from the Church of St Pythagoras & All Angles. Or as Shakespeare wrote, “Now is the autumn of our Bake-off tent, made glorious summer by these buns and tortes.”
People might be wondering where St Pythagoras’ Church is (assuming it exists beyond my imagination). On a green hill far, far away, without the city walls of Pychester, betwixt its two mainline railway stations, across the Irony Bridge over the Satire Valley, turn left and straight on till Morning Prayer or Midnight Mass, there rises the massive Perpendicular Spire of St Pythag’s with crosses atop the isosceles triangles of its gable ends on Nave, Choir and Transepts. Or when the wind’s a north-wester just follow your nose to the source of the sweet smelling incense, or your ears to the sonorous diapasons of its loud organ.
So the God of Physics and Faithfulness has silenced the perennial prophets of doom for a while, and the recent eclipse of the Harvest Blood Supermoon was just glorious to behold floating like a red balloon over Mt Dinham. With hindsight, perhaps it was foretelling that the Red Dragon of Wales would cause the end of the Rugby World Cup for team England.
Its anticipation brought out the autumnal poet in me, throwing a few ideas at the poetry wheel and on it fashioning an informal seasonal sonnet:-
Ploughed fields like brown cord trousers.
Harvest moon will turn red, like the blood
Shed for us, with us, as us, on the other side of the Year.
Morning breath wets the beard like Asperges,
Then rises like the sweet-smelling Incense,
Awakening the Matins chime of your faithful, fallen, Autumn people.
This season of Remembrance of Easter vigilance,
Resurrection of All Souls’ faithfulness,
Requiem embrace of your welcoming outstretched arms,
Reliquary of loves sacrificed on the Altars of Duty.
Brick-coloured leaves lay and nourish the foundations,
Of my empirical faith in the Space-time physics of the Father,
The compassion, company, compulsion of the Begotten,
The decaying ripples of the Spirit’s disturbing, distributing breath.
Another fragment of joy glimpsed a week or so ago:-
Love on Sidwell Street is the unashamed devotion of the fit young man
Bending to re-tie the laces of his girlfriend’s shoes.
Smiles warm the hearts of we oldies on the passing bus,
Whose ardour has cooled, embarrassment grown,
Magnetism been dulled by hysteresis, the stress and strain of life.
Walk on, hand in hand; today you were her great tie priest.
The Last Sunday in September used to be called “Back to Church” Sunday, when you were encouraged to invite a friend, colleague or stranger to your church, by saying something like “Why don’t we do something exciting this Sunday – or failing that you could come to Church with me. It’s a bit like the Gym – Kneel, Stand, Sing, Sit – and a Concert – brilliant a cappella group – and window shopping – beautiful Stained Glass and Vestments – and the papers – Prayers, Sermon – and a drink – coffee or vino – all rolled into one.”
Bishop Rick’s endorsement of Church Plants had a remarkable effect on our local conservative evangelical church, St Corinthians 1 & 2, so successful they named it twice, and so popular there are 2 services every Sunday morning to hear their comfortable sermons about God’s wrath and displeasure at sinful Panama hats. With great humility they encouraged folk to reduce their “prayer-miles” and to “Church Local”, to mulch the church near where they live.
(Serious bit) World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10 October produced 2 contrasting blogs; the worthy but rather patronising official CofE one and a lived-in one, though the comment is also pertinent that it’s safer to be open about one’s mental health if well-known and working in the voluntary sector.
Since satire often says more about the author than the target, St Pythag’s is keeping Sunday 11 October, Trinity XIX both prime and palindromic, as Neurotypical Awareness Sunday, when we think of those who don’t check whether the hymn numbers are palindromic or prime or powers, don’t get confused in Sermons with multiple metaphors, don’t have difficulty with eye contact when exchanging the Peace, don’t have a year’s collection of the weekly notice sheets, don’t see words in car number plates, don’t remember the number of steps to the ringing chamber in the tower (92), and haven’t wondered whether Exeter Cathedral’s postcode ending in IHS is a holy coincidence or allocated deliberately.
The Installation of our first lady Suffragette Bishop, Rt Revd Sarah Malarkey, in the stall of St Aeldwulfa in Pychester Cathedral last month was a glorious occasion, and graciously avoided any feminism by using the previous Sunday’s BCP Collect about “the increase of faith, hope, and charity”, and not “Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy; and, because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation.”
(Another serious bit) Like all who’ve made it successfully to the hierarchy from Archbishops down, Bp Sarah in her otherwise great sermon seemed to assume that every other Christian must be self-confident, prosperous and healthy too. Well, we at St Py’s welcome all, wheresoever you shine on the spectrum of faith – quiet, confident, confused or questioning – but especially those who still want to walk with Jesus and do God despite what life has thrown at us, of disappointment, difficulty or illness. To me, that’s the real world and the real church too.
As St Paul once said, “when I was a child, I thought like a child.” Watching Saturday Grandstand L years ago I always wondered how that horse called “Bar” could run in so many races at different places in a single afternoon. It must get exhausted; no wonder it always had the longest odds.
When I became a man, I thought like a man, which is politically incorrect these days, unless you’re a comedian. But as I don’t have the gifts to be a Stand-up for Jesus, these St Pythagoras Blogs are my attempts at Write-down humour.
Funny how so many Saints had girlfriends called Eve. This year the Cathedral had Eve of St Peter in June and has Eve of Saints Simon & Jude in October! At St Pythag’s the Confronternity of the Lacy Cottas celebrated Eve of St Thomas in July. There was Eve of the Holy Cross. Even St Agnes apparently had an Eve. Poor old St Joseph, of course, husband of the Virgin Mary, had to be content with the thrill of the chaste.
So it’s time to preview my Autumn schedule of imaginary TV programmes. After the success of last year’s PyTV Falconry Competition, “Britain’s got Talons”, this year we’re at the Court of King James, VI of one and I of the other, following the Medieval Pentathlon Championships – that’s Falconry, Archery, Jousting, Lute-playing and Poetry-writing.
Pythag FM, the Fantasy Music station is offering “These are a few of my favourite Hymns” and for “Bach to Church Sunday” giving JSBach’s reduced B minor Mass its first liturgical performance. Just missing out the more difficult development section in the middle of each movement, I made a 40% shorter but perfectly performable Kyrie & Gloria a few years ago. Producing a recognisable and usable Missa Brevis in B minor lasting say just 20 minutes, instead of 2 hours, will require even more radical pruning. I issue a composition challenge.
For children of all ages, CPyTV presenter Ed Petrie-Dish goes up-market to see how the other half-a-percent live in “All over the Palace”. First stop is Justin’s House, Lambeth Palace. The big song number is a reworking of Horrible Histories’ classic Hieroglyphics Song – Everyone needs their ABC, it’s as easy as Alpha, Smile, Mitre.
Following his controversial BBC series on “Sex & the Church”, Professor Dairymaid Panama-Hat is producing a new docudrama for PyTV. It follows the lives and loves of reformed young hippy, Augustine, ageing song-writer Ambrose, and their fellow professional theologians through the doubts and temptations of late 4th century down-town Milano. Yes, it’s “Sex and the City of God”. Warning: may contain scenes of a theological nature.
The Trumpet Tune by Jeremiah Clarkson introduces PyTV’s new motoring magazine, Middle Lane. They test drive the new Citroen Picasso – it costs a fortune, only comes in blue, and the ride is rather bumpy owing to all 4 cubist wheels being on the same side. Then they search the archives for cars that never made it off the drawing-board – the Austin Andante, the Morris Moderato, the Renault Rallentando, the Fiat Mihi with its Secundum Verbum Tuum Sat Nav renowned for altering one’s destiny, the Ford Kanga with plenty of storage space but a bouncy ride, and for former boy racers the Vauxhall Viadana. Hot of the press now is the Volkswagen Thurifer – don’t worry about the smoke, there’s a catholic converter.
A few more words for the Oxford Movement English Dictionary:-
Consultant – someone who tells you what to do.
Inestimable – you may use a calculator.
Maccabees – Scottish Taxi firm.
Palindromedary – camel with a head at each end.
Professional – someone who has been trained never to admit they might have been wrong, and certainly never to apologise.
And finally, the Lord’s Prayer rewritten for the New Atheists:-
Our Forefathers, who aren’t in any Heaven, hallowed be thy memes, thy DNA come, thy genes be done in birth as they were in the Devonian; give us this rotational period our necessary resources, and forgive us nothing, as we know we have made no mistakes, and lead us not into religion, but deliver us from humility, for ours is the Reductionism, the Progress and the Hubris, now and until we decay. Ah, humanity!
Richard Barnes (writing personally)