Little Malvern Priory
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LESS THAN half of British adults believe that the Church of England is there for everyone, according to a recent YouGov poll.

According to the poll, commissioned by Jayne Ozanne, only 47 per cent of British adults agree that the Church of England is there for everyone who wants to go to Church, while less than a third (30 per cent) believe that Christian Churches are welcoming towards the gay, lesbian and bisexual community.

The Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson, told CEN that the Church needs to be concerned: “What worries me about it is that we talk about the national church and if you look at some of what has come out for Renewal and Reform, it says we are the Church that’s there for everybody and that’s why it’s worth asking everybody whether they agree,” he said.

“If they don’t then we need to be concerned about that and do something about it otherwise we just become inward looking and concerned with ourselves, a holy huddle on a Sunday morning and that’s what it’s all about.”

A total of 1,669 adults took part in the online survey, of which 415 identified as Anglican and 120 identified as Catholic.

“It is worth knowing that many of the people who we seek to serve do not believe that we are there for them and particularly when you look at the age, it is quite worrying,” said the Bishop.

“One of the stories we tell ourselves in the Church of England is that we are the National church: it’s very important to us actually, we invest quite heavily in that and we speak as though we were the National church,” he said.

The Church also continually capitulates to reactionary conservative lobby-groups. The manifest injustice of this will continue to impede all efforts to evangelise future generations, and will consign the Church to an inevitable irrelevance.”

 

Suffer The Little Children To Come Onto Me

 

Christ’s teaching in Mathew 19 v. 14 (Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me) and in a similar vein in Mark 9 v.37 (Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name receiveth me.) is abundantly simple, clear and unambiguous. It was my understanding that the baptism of a child into the Anglican Church was freely and gratefully given, to welcome a precious new life into the family of faith. I was therefore saddened to hear, particularly at Christmas, from a friend and former neighbour, of this rather less joyful welcome for a newborn baby.  

It is not appropriate to identify individuals, but the tale relates to a small rural parish in a different diocese from ours. We lived some years ago in this sparsely populated upland area where earning a living from the land was very hard work and always on the edge of viability. Our immediate neighbours ran a very small (100acre) farm supporting three generations. Beryl (not her real name) was the matriarch of the family and had served unstintingly as churchwarden to the little tin mission church we attended. She had done so for many decades, until well into her 80s. Her granddaughter, a single mum, has now made Beryl a great grandmother and naturally she wished the child to be baptized in the church she has attended and served for some 60 years. She was therefore shocked, saddened and no doubt angered to be told that a £100 fee was now required for the baptism service – an almost unaffordable cost for a family in these circumstances. I have no doubt that the church concerned is less comfortably placed than LMP and needs to increase its revenue, but nonetheless this seems astoundingly uncharitable and contrary to the spirit of Christ’s teaching to exact an unaffordable entry fee before suffering a little child to come unto Christ.  

                         John Chatten  

Crucifixes

     I find crucifixes difficult, particularly if they are worn as jewelry. I don’t mind a crucifix in church as an aid to meditation, and I love the ones that show Christ in glory. My parents had one in their bedroom of a very much alive and well Christ, dressed in colourful, kingly robes. I was always puzzled that “church” ones weren’t like that, but never discussed it with my Dad (or Mum).

     For me, the central part of my Christian faith is about love and the power of love. Although you can say that being crucified was a loving thing to do, I find that quite hard to stomach, especially when represented by a corpse on a cross.

     When I was working at the Hospice, I felt it was important to have a visible emblem or sign to identify me as a Christian. I had one Jerusalem cross which I sometimes wear, but was really wanting an “Annie” one.

     When Hugh and I were in Ireland, we found a group of craft shops, just before they were closing for the day. We were looking around and found a delightful cross, which you may have seen me wearing. It has curved cross pieces and a spiral in the middle, which for me is a symbol of going through into another dimension. This felt much more in tune with my feelings about the crucifixion. Both Hugh and I fell in love with it, and he bought it for me. When the person in the little shop was wrapping it up, she said she was standing in for the owner of the shop, but was really pleased that we liked it, as she was the person who had crafted it. Wasn’t that special?

     I tried to describe it to my Yoga teacher, who, when she saw it said “Oh, it’s a dancing cross”! Somehow very appropriate, and reminded me of the hymn “Lord of the Dance”.

     I have had quite a number of people notice it and comment on it, both Christians and others. It seems to “hit the spot” and speak to people directly.

     I was recently in Brecon cathedral, which has a large, modern crucifix hanging above the altar in the crossing (a very appropriate place). Although it is cast in bronze, the original was obviously made from driftwood as picked up from the beach, having been “lost” or thrown away. A powerful image in itself. But what spoke to me was the way the figure seemed to be poised for flight, like the pictures you see of young eagles practicing before take off. Another positive symbol with movement from a static position on the cross to flying free in the air.

     I believe that symbols are very powerful and often affect us subliminally. I think they should be used with care and creativity and reverence.

Anne Burge

 

 The church should exist to help us build communities of belonging. 

We live amid a crisis of isolation.

The statistics will be familiar. The average Brit only has three real friends, one of whom is usually a family member. 43% admit that they find themselves opening up to work colleagues more to  compensate for the fact they are not seeing their friends as much as they’d like. Suicide levels are high, especially among men. Social capital and mobility are in decline. Social enterprises such as North London Cares are set up because of the deep sickness within our culture means that we no longer know how to look after old people who live next-door to us. 

A healthy congregation is at the centre of the community - every vicar knows this. But what happens where there is no community to be at the centre of? 

The church should be actively building relational power. Social justice work is one obvious example where this is already happening, but there is much more work to be done. If worship were designed to build friendships, what would it look like? If the sanctuary were primed for significant interaction, surely the cold wooden pews of a long-dead culture would be indefensible? how, rather than assuming it knows what people need, the church should ask and listen. Then, with courage and creativity, can the church strengthen once again - purposeful and alive.

Just imagine - if each parish priest and lay leader understood that her or his role was to suffuse meaning making and community building into every fibre of society, what might the church look like? What might it be able to let go of? It’s time for humility and courage. It’s time for the Church of England to find its purpose again.

 

Extract from “Has the Church of England lost its purpose?”

 

 

 OLIVE PICKING IN UMBRIA

Olives have played an important role both Christianity and Judaism since The Flood where an olive branch was the first item returned to the Ark as a signal that the waters were receding. Olive and olive oil were a sign of peace and prosperity and are often used in religious writings as a metaphor. In the Quran, the olive is praised as a precious fruit from a ’blessed tree’. 

The olive tree’s ability to survive the harshest of conditions and to spring back to life after fire and flood has contributed to its mystical status. The oldest olive tree is in Croatia and has been carbon dated at 1,600 years old and it seems that olive trees have coexisted with humans for about 5,000 to 6,000 years, going back to the Bronze Age.

It was a privilege, therefore, to be invited to a friend’s farm in Umbria to help with the harvest in October 2016. Across the valley, we could see many other smallholdings surrounded by lines of these often gnarled and ancient trees, covered in black and green jewels amidst the sharp, pale leaves. Each bright and cool morning, families and friends arrived in cars at different fields and, as we began to pick, a sense of being part of an ancient and time-honoured activity was most apparent. The noise of voices, both human and canine, carried across the rolling landscape and, although everywhere was a hive of activity, the overwhelming feeling was of peace and shared purpose – underlining the olive’s metaphorical meaning.            

There seems to be two methods of harvesting stripping and shaking, (which both seem interesting activities!) and we used the former. Nets were laid beneath the trees and we divided into ground workers, climbers and ladder users. Each branch was stripped by hand and the fruit fell onto the nets. At lunch time, we sat in the cool of the veranda and enjoyed huge bowls of delicious pasta, dressed with olive oil and pesto, and nutty Italian ciabatta, discussing how many trees we had dealt with and how many more were to be done. At the end of each day, the nets were emptied into boxes, ready to be transported to the olive presser in the nearby town of Marsciano. In the chill of the evening, we moved to the large farmhouse kitchen to enjoy the warmth of a log fire and engage in more calculations.

Although mechanised, the system of getting olives pressed also had a touch of the timeless and certainly the haphazard way in which the bins were marked so that you ended up with the oil from your olives seemed a somewhat unreliable procedure. There was a charming unsophisticated air about the whole building; tubby farmers with faces as old as the olive trees and their head-scarved wives sat on plastic picnic chairs and calmly watched their olives making their way through the system. Inevitably, the English pickers had to follow their precious harvest avidly, not quite believing that they had weighed our treasure correctly, that ‘bins number 17 and 32’ were really ours or that the ancient with a scrappy bit of paper had really labelled it all accurately!  Notwithstanding all the doubt, the six of us ended the week having picked over 1,000 kilos and with 200 litres of fresh green oil.         

   

Downsizing

I suppose it’s something that we all have to face at some time.  I don’t seem to have had much choice though.  One moment I was quite comfortable in my own establishment with a personal servant and unlimited hunting grounds.  I was free to come and go as I pleased.  I could roam at will.  I had my own chair, my own fireside.  I was fed whenever I decided I wanted some food and it was all good quality.  There was always drink available, you could say it was “on tap” then it was all changed.  I guess I should have seen it coming when I started to get sick.  I couldn’t get around quite as easily.  Food didn’t taste quite the same.  I needed the toilet more often.  I admit I didn’t feel very bright and spent more time sleeping.  My doctor, Mr Vet, was very good and a great help.

So here we are as I said before in a “home”.  I think that’s what they call it.  There are the royal connections of course with the cat, George and the dog, Edward.  A nice touch that.  I suppose I couldn’t expect anyone in the royal family to use the name given the elderly Australian dog, Megan, not with their republican tendencies.

They have tried to encourage me to use the room where they all meet together, but I don’t really feel ready for that yet.  I am used to my own space.  They want me to eat with everybody else but I think they now realise that I like to eat in my room.  I have explored the grounds.  They are quite limited in comparison but with my health I guess they are adequate.  I suppose I will get used to the changes but it will take me a little time, after all I was 15 years at my other residence and old habits die hard.  I will admit that it is nice to have a bit of life around me.  It does provide some interest and, on occasions, a little amusement.  Gosh, I feel tired.  I wonder what’s for supper.  Ah, good, it’s just coming.

J

 



   

A Speculative Ramble around the Building Stones of Little Malvern Priory

 

The study of building stone is a slightly arcane topic somewhere between geology, history, building conservation and the mason’s art, for which I claim no particular expertise. To trace a building stone back to its source, except in well documented cases such as the use of Portland Stone in the reconstruction of St Paul ’s Cathedral, requires detailed local knowledge or examination of the rock under the microscope.

Despite nestling on the eastern slopes of the Malvern Hills where Malvern Stone is widely used for building it is notable for its almost complete absence in the medieval fabric of LMP, with a few exceptions which I will come to later. This is probably because it is a hard, intractable rock, difficult to extract before the widespread use of high explosives in quarrying in the 19th century, and it is even harder to dress.  

 The nave and chancel are constructed largely from massive “freestone”, so called because it can be freely cut into smooth-faced regular blocks (ashlar). It consists of rather soft sandstone varying in colour from creamy white through pinkish-brown to dark red. As  LMP was always a modest foundation its building material would have been sourced from as nearby as possible – not for LMP the importation from Normandy of expensive “Caen stone”  used in the construction of more prestigious foundations such as Canterbury, Westminster Abbey and Dover Priory.

  To the east of the Malvern Hills there are no building stones of consequence until one reaches the Cotswolds. However, to the west a huge swathe of land from Shropshire, through Herefordshire and down into Monmouth is underlain by a sequence of rocks known as the Old Red Sandstone (ORS), a slightly misleading term as it includes shale, marl and limestone as well as sandstone. These rocks were laid down 400 million years ago when this part of the world languished in the tropics south of the Equator in an environment encompassing shallow sea, brackish coastal plains, meandering rivers and arid desert. Several different beds of sandstone within this 8,000 ft thick sequence of rocks have been exploited from the medieval period as a source of stone for ecclesiastical buildings including Hereford and Worcester Cathedrals. It seems likely therefore that they would have been available for the construction of LMP. More research would be needed to identify which if any of these beds are present at LMP, but possibdidates include the St Maughan’s Sandstone, the Brownstone Group and the Downton Castle Sandstone. The latter is of particular interest as it is known to have been extracted at Caplar Quarry near Fownhope and used in Hereford Cathedral, and more locally in St Anne’s Ledbury. Are we to imagine heavily laden ox-carts of this stone creaking eastwards over the pass between Herefordshire Beacon and Wynds Point to a building site at Little Malvern?

 The Highley Sandstone and Keele Beds from the succeeding Carboniferous Period are massive red sandstones which occur close to the River Severn near Kidderminster and the Abberley Hills. They have been used extensively in locations adjoining the Severn, including St Anne’s Bewdley, the Severn Bridge at Stourport and Worcester Cathedral, indicating the importance of the river as a transport link, although nearer home there are also small outcrops near Cradley and Colwall.

 Younger still, in the succeeding New Red Sandstone (250 million years ago) desert conditions prevailed once more, giving rise to a wide range of possible candidates. The Grinshill Sandstone from Shropshire has been widely used as a building stone in the Midlands and further afield, including Downing Street . It ranges in colour from white to reddish brown and is essentially a fossilized sand dune system. If one looks carefully inside the church (for example by the 3rd pew on the north side) where the creamy patina of the ashlar has broken away one can see tiny well rounded dark red sand grains (“millet seed grains”) diagnostic of wind-blown desert sand. Similar sandstones occurring nearer home include the Bromsgrove and Averley Sandstones. These also outcrop in the Abberley Hills northwest of Worcester and have been used in the construction of the Cathedral. Could we perhaps speculate, even more tentatively, that LMP might have received consignments of surplus stone from its mother church, barged down the River Severn to Upton before being hauled up through the Royal Hunting Forest of Malvern Chase to Little Malvern? – the sort of scene evoked by Tennyson’s Lady of Shallot -   By the margin willow- veil’d ,/  Slide the heavy barges trail’d,/ by slow horses and unhailed - -etc.

 

 

 Moving on to the era in which we have some documentary evidence we are on firmer ground. The Fabric Log Book states that in 1936 the four faces of the tower were “re-pointed and faced up with synthetic stone”.  How was a Faculty ever obtained for that? Fortunately, a decade later in 1947, and more thoroughly in 2003/4, the tower stonework was restored using Hollington Stone, a fine-grained sandstone of Carboniferous age quarried around the village of the same name in NE Staffordshire. This creamy coloured uniformly sized ashlar is visible on the west face of the tower as one enters the church and also behind the organ. In 1981 the mullions of two clestory windows and two nave windows were replaced under the terms of a grant from the Department of the Environment which stipulated the use of red and grey Forest of Dean Stone in lieu of York or Hollington Stone. This brings us back west of the Malverns to the area where this speculative journey began.

 A final word about Malvern Stone; as referred to earlier it has not been used to any significant extent at LMP. However, the infill of the transept arches, which must have been carried out during Bishop Alcock’s restoration contains occasional unshaped blocks of dark grey or red Malvern Stone. This probably came from the rubble of the transept ruins, and I suspect that it had never been actually quarried as building stone. It was simply loose, frost-shattered surface rock handy for infilling purposes. Similarly the porch, which was built in the 1960s, is faced with un-coursed rubble – predominantly sandstone with a few irregular Malvern Stone blocks.       

 

This great diversity of stone  used in construction, modifications, extensions and repair  over a period of nearly 900 years is probably typical of most ancient churches, as a result of the Dissolution, changing fortunes, original sources of stone drying up, new sources becoming  available etc. Barring the mercifully brief reign of synthetic stone on the tower, they all enhance the character and add to the narrative history of this precious church. Perhaps if you are sitting against the wall in the 3rd pew on the north side and notice the small patch of dark red sand near the bottom of the ashlar you might reflect (but not during the Sermon!) that you are probably being sheltered from the elements by sand deposited in a tropical desert hundreds of millions of years ago.

 

 

 

*photo 1-Saharan Dunes  -  sandstone in the making; *photo 2 – Downton Castle Sandstone, Beech Cottage Quarry, Herefordshire, showing cross-bedding; *photo 3 – cross-bedded sandstone inside LMP. Can you locate it?                                                                                

John Chatten  

 

Catastrophism, Uniformitarianism and Gullet Quarry

 

Here is a brief review of the beginnings of modern geology, with a little added local flavour. Until the latter half of the Eighteenth Century the prevailing view in Christendom accorded closely with the creation story in Genesis. Foremost amongst the proponents of this was the Irish Archbishop James Ussher, who in 1650 calculated from biblical genealogies that the world began on Sunday 23 October 4004 BC. Although some may have doubted his precision, that was the broadly accepted model or paradigm of the Earth’s history. It had been created in its present form within recorded history and, except for The Flood, had changed little since.

 

Thinkers had been intrigued by fossilized animal remains in the rocks since at least Aristotle’s day. They were thought by some to be the residue of earlier failed attempts at creation but the dominant theory amongst the theologians of the day was that they were the remains of the unfortunate creatures who could not be accommodated in Noah’s Ark. One of the most influential 18th Century thinkers in this field was the pre-eminent paleontologist Baron Georges Cuvier. He believed that the enormous thicknesses of sedimentary rocks – sandstone, shale, limestone etc, seen at the Earth’s surface had been deposited in series of cataclysmic events like The Flood. This view became known as Catastrophism, and it prevailed amongst most natural philosophers until challenged in 1785 by James Hutton (1726-97), an Edinburgh University trained doctor.

 

Hutton, who could perhaps be described as the Father of Modern Geology, was an observational scientist rather than a theoretician and realized that Catastrophism could not explain many features of the Earth’s surface, not least of which was that the thickness of sediment is greater than the depth of any possible flood water. Furthermore, he found evidence that the surface of the Earth could not have been created once and for all. It had been built up slowly by repeated cycles of sedimentation, uplift, erosion and re-submergence punctuated by periods of igneous activity, suggesting that the world must be very much older than previously imagined – perhaps even millions of years. He found a key piece of evidence for this on the North Sea coast at Siccar Point, now famously known as Hutton’s Unconformity. In the lower part of the cliff one can see layers of steeply inclined Silurian shale abruptly truncated above by virtually horizontal Devonian sandstone which is of similar age and lithology to many of the building stones of LMP. The erosion plane or discontinuity between rocks of different ages and inclination (ie degree and direction of tilt) is termed an unconformity. This evidence won over Hutton’s critics including John Playfair (1748-1819) and James Hall (1761-1832), both luminaries of the Scottish Enlightenment, but it was Playfair’s “Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory” published in 1802 that established the Principle of Uniformitarianism (not to be confused with Unitarianism!). This is often summarized by the phrase “the present is the key to the past”. The processes which have formed the Earth’s crust are continuing, they have been the same throughout geological history and can be observed operating today. This was the breakthrough on which modern geological thinking is based. It also provided the intellectual seed bed from which Darwin developed his ideas on evolution published in The Origin of Species in 1859.

 

Now, to bring this closer to home; less than 2 miles from LMP we have our own unconformity in Gullet Quarry. On the right of the quarry face are intensely metamorphosed Precambrian rocks consisting of schist and gneiss, intruded by veins of igneous pegmatite. To the left, stratigraphically overlying these very ancient rocks, along a steeply inclined erosion plane, are much younger un-metamorphosed, fossiliferous Silurian sediments. As this unconformity occurs at the base of the Silurian it is clearly very much older (about 40 million yrs) than Hutton’s Unconformity at the top of the Silurian, and it brings into juxtaposition much more dramatically disparate rock types. Here we can see, on our doorstep, an excellent example of the very principle which established modern geology. Without doubt - Uniformitarianism rocks!  

 

 

A Cornucopia of Cornish Celtic Saints, Betjeman and Hope at Christmas  

 

Cornwall, particularly in its far west, is blessed with scores of simple, rustic, granite-built churches dedicated to Celtic saints who are largely unheard of east of the River Tamar; St Perran, patron saint of the county and of tin miners, St Ia, whose church has a commanding presence on St Ives harbour, St Senara’s church with its mermaid legend  standing opposite the Tinners Arms (also notable for good sea-food!) in the tiny village of Zennor, deep in the heart of tin mining country and St Winwaloe’s “Church of the Storms” built among the sand dunes  near Poldhu and seemingly in constant peril from the Atlantic Ocean .

 

Most of these saints arrived from Ireland, but in some cases from Wales or Brittany around the 5th Century, often apparently by rather unconventional modes of marine travel. St Perran is said to have sailed across the Irish Sea on a millstone, St Ia did a similar journey on a leaf, whilst St Senara, who was the wife of a Breton king and accused of infidelity, was cast to sea nailed into a barrel   Others arrived more conventionally. St Germoe and his sister St Brecca were disciples of St Patrick and arrived by boat on the Hayle Estuary around 460 AD, and the churches in two adjoining villages named after them – Germoe and Breage -  are also dedicated to them.

 

In Cornwall this autumn we were invited by our hosts to a family communion service at St Germoe’s church. Typical of the area it is constructed from massive, undecorated local granite blocks, largely free from ornamentation as granite is a reluctant medium for carving. It has a stocky square battlemented tower, topped on each corner with pinnacles to deny the Devil a perch.  It dates, like LMP, from the 12th Century, with 14th century additions, although the adjacent holy well hints at a possible pre-Christian sacred site. For such a tiny community it has a surprisingly large and young congregation (well over 50 that Sunday), but unlike LMP there was much milling around, hand shaking and kissing during The Peace!  

 

Reflecting on these churches brings to mind John Betjeman’s love of Cornwall, which he described as his “sweet brown home of Celtic saints”. He is buried at St Endoc’s church, set amid sand dunes on the north coast. Despite being Poet Laureate his poetry is sometimes regarded with disdain, probably because it is accessible, nostalgic and, worst of all, has memorable rhyme and rhythm. Such characteristics make it  difficult for critics to secure a lifetime career demonstrating their scholarship by interpreting it for the uninitiated. He was a Christian who loved the Anglican Church but was often assailed by doubt. Here is an extract from his poem “Christmas”, perhaps demonstrating the triumph of hope over faltering conviction:-

  

And is it true? And is it true?
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on Earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in the family dwells
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this simple truth compare
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

 

John Chatten

 

 

`Floreat Cornubia;

A Message in the Flora

 

The spectacular rocky coastline of Cornwall provides tantalizing glimpses of over 600 million years of the Earth’s geological history which always inspires in me awe-struck wonder at the slowly evolving processes of Creation. However, I suspect that I may have exhausted the enthusiasm of others for that perhaps somewhat arcane aspect of the Lord’s handiwork. Instead I was inspired this year by a copy of the Rev. William Keble Martin’s “A Concise British Flora” which was on the shelves of the holiday property we were renting in the village of Perranuthnoe. Rev Martin was born in 1877, took a degree in Botany at Oxford and subsequently in Divinity before being ordained as a Clerk in Holy Orders, serving in many parishes eventually as vicar of Woodbury in Devon. Notwithstanding his ecclesiastical duties, and he was much in demand as a preacher, he retained a lifelong passion for botany. He saw the wonder of God’s Creation in the beauty and diversity of wild flowers. So much so that he devoted 60 years of his life traveling the country painting and describing them. The fruition of this passion was the publication of his Concise British Flora in 1965 at the age of 88. To his astonishment the book became an overnight best seller and has remained in print ever since. Its beautiful illustrations of over 1400 species prompted me to think how else one might express the Christian message through the medium of wild flowers.  

In Spring the hedgerows, cliffs, dunes and woodlands of Cornwall present a cornucopia of wild flowers which would put many a Chelsea Gold Medallist's display in the shade and illuminate Rev Martin’s vision of the glory of Creation. Whilst my knowledge of botany is rudimentary and my flower arranging ability non-existent, I can see that with a little selection the wild flowers blossoming in Cornwall in April and May reveal the joyful Easter message:-

 

Cowslip	
Herb Robert
Alexanders
Sea Campion
Hottentot Fig				

Ragged Robin
Ivy Leaved Toadflax
Sea Sand Wort

Thrift
Ramsons
Iris pseudo Corus (Yellow Flag Iris)
St John’s Wort
Endymion nonscriptus (Bluebell)
Navelwort

 Self-Supporting Ministry?

In the Diocese of Worcester, just over a quarter of our fully ordained priests are self-supporting.

As a recognised calling in the Church of England and under a variety of titles, a priestly ministry offered by those who receive no payment from the Church of England has been around for more than 50 years.

Self-supporting minsters may continue in their paid employment, may be retired on a pension or be

financially supported by their partner. 

Those who offer this ministry receive the same training and qualification as those who work in stipendiary (salaried) posts. Although some train full-time, the development of self-supporting ministry has been facilitated by the availability of ministerial training courses that are part-time.

As with all part-time professionals, the progression of responsibility towards increased authority is harder and access to more senior roles more difficult. There are some self-supporting ministers who are incumbent, some who are rural deans and some who are diocesan officers, and there is some flexibility in movement between paid and unpaid roles within the church in parish, in the Cathedral and in the Diocesan administration.

What do we do?

At the moment there are 30 of us around the Diocese of Worcester. Most of us work in parishes fulfilling a priestly ministry of leading worship and prayer, offering pastoral care, preaching and teaching in the same way as our stipendiary colleagues. focus of their  ministry is at work. As with any form of chaplaincy, the role is what you make it given the constraints of your workplace.

“You Do What?”

 

 Crystals – Nature’s Precision Engineering

 

We perhaps tend to think of nature as being rather wooly edged. We appreciate the beauty of nebulous cloud formations, sunsets, wooded glades, flower strewn meadows etc. Or perhaps we see it in terms of random, violent events like earthquakes or the battle for survival “red in tooth and claw”. Rarely do we think of geometric precision as part of the picture (although the example of the astronomer’s skill in predicting the arrival of the recent solar eclipse to within seconds tells a different tale). However, underlying the apparent randomness of many natural phenomena there is a mathematical order which has controlled the whole of nature since The Big Bang. I was reminded of this recently when Roger Johnson commented on the “astonishing geometric perfection” of a pyrite crystal (aka “fool’s gold”) which his daughter-in-law from Spain had showed him. The Rio Tinto area of Spain is renowned for its commercial sulphide mineralization, of which pyrite (FeS2) is a common example.

Pyrite forms perfect cubic crystals with faces precisely at 90 degrees to each other. They have no option as their external shape is the reflection of their internal atomic structure. This takes the form of a regular 3-dimensional scaffolding or lattice with atoms situated at each intersection of the lattice. The shape and dimensions of this lattice are in turn determined by the atomic radii and valency of the two constituent elements iron and sulphur (atomic radius is effectively the size of the atom with its nucleus and orbiting cloud of electrons and valency is essentially a measure of the “neighbourliness” of the atom –how many bonds or links it can form with other atoms). These factors limit the way in which the atoms can be stacked together to form crystals. We know this as X-ray crystallography enables us to see into the heart of these structures. True, one can find pyrite crystals which do not appear to be cubic but underneath the skin they are. For example, some take the form of an octahedron, an 8-sided figure rather like a pair of pyramids placed base to base. In reality this is merely another form of cube in which all the corners have been planed off. In every case, however, the angle between the faces reflects the internal geometry and remains constant. This is expressed as the Law of Constancy of Interfacial Angles. Time and reader interest would not permit consideration of the other five more complex crystal systems, but the same geometric principles are written into the “DNA” of them all.

Moreover, this underlying mathematical precision is not limited to minerals. It can be demonstrated in the animal world as well. For example, the spiral shells of nautilus and other gastropods, the curvature of a ram’s horn and even the arrangement of florets in the sunflower can be shown to conform to the mathematical formula for an equiangular or logarithmic curve.

Why should this be of any importance? To Richard Dawkins, author of The Blind Watch Maker, it simply confirms that the universe is a precise but meaningless clockwork slowly running down, devoid of, indeed without need of, any creator or spiritual dimension. To people of faith it should point in entirely the opposite direction. It is a spiritually enriching confirmation of order created from chaos. This was beautifully expressed in the lectionary reading in February from Proverbs 8 v 22-31 relating to Wisdom. The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old - - then I was beside him like a master workman; I was daily his delight. It is this Wisdom from the beginning of time which continues to create the mathematical precision in Roger’s pyrite crystal, the nautilus shell and the unique DNA in each of us.    

John Chatten

(with a little help from my friends, particularly Shirley Bellwood, who has valiantly attempted to restrain my tendency to overburden readers with excessive scientific jargon. Remaining failings in this respect are entirely mine).

 

 

I WILL LIFT UP MINE EYES UNTO THE HILLS, FROM WHENCE COMETH MY HELP. (Psalm 121)

 

The Old Testament is replete with references to the spiritual symbolism of hills and mountains. Psalm 121 is a beautiful example, but there are very many more.  After all, according to the Genesis story the world was repopulated from the top of Mount Ararat after the Flood; Abraham was told by God to make a burnt offering a upon a mountain in Moriah, which with God’s timely intervention, turned out to be the ram with its head caught in a thicket rather than Isaac (Gen 22) ; The angel of the Lord speaks to Moses from the burning bush on Horeb -  the mountain of the Lord -  saying  “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground”, when Moses is given the onerous task of bringing the Children of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus3)   Later, God charges Moses with the Ten Commandments from the top of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20) ;  Moses is ordered to go up to Mount Nebo and behold the land of Canaan, to which he is sadly denied entry, and to die in the mount (Deut 32. 49-52) .

 

There are also plentiful similar examples in the New Testament. Christ’s temptation in the wilderness was probably in the Judean Hills. A local Christian tradition has identified a prominent mountain near the ancient fortress of Dok as the “exceeding high mountain” where Satan showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4. 8); Although we cannot now know where Christ preached the Sermon on the Mount ( Matthew 5), local tradition places it on a prominent hill above the Sea of Galilee called the Mount of Beatitudes where there is a nunnery; It was upon a “high mountain apart”, possibly Mount Tabour, that Christ was transfigured in the presence of Peter, James and John “and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was as white as the light” ( Matthew 7. 1-5) ; It is upon The Mount of Olives that Christ tells his disciples the signs of the end of the world and of his Second Coming (Matthew 24.3 et seq)  and also where He communes with his Father following the Last Supper, on the night of his betrayal (Mark 14. 26); Finally it was on the Hill of Calvary, that “Green hill far away”, that He was crucified that we might have eternal life.

 

Small wonder then that I am always draw to the uplands rather than the plains, and that it is in such locations where I find great spiritual refreshment. No longer capable of tackling mountains I content myself now with modest hills and count myself fortunate that the topographically stunning and geologically intriguing  Malvern Hills are on our doorstep. They are not without their own spiritual significance having two priories nestling at their foot and being the probable inspiration for William Langland’s allegorical poem Piers Ploughman which some might claim provides a direct link with LMP.

 

 In the Venite we acknowledge that “In his hands are all the corners of the earth: and the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his and he made it ; and his hand prepared the dry land”. I was intending to digress here into how the geology of the Malvern Hills, over a period of more than 600 million years and a journey from 60 degrees south of the equator to their present position 52 degrees north, helps us to understand this astonishing and ongoing act of creation a little more fully. However, I don’t think that the Editor will allow me enough space on this occasion to pursue it further – but perhaps another time.

 John Chatten

  

Assisted Suicide alias ‘Patient Choice’

Assisted suicide, like abortion, produces very strong views on either side of the arguments. I will not rehearse the various standard arguments but rather I would like to share my own experiences both in life generally and while working in hospices.

Any such review must start with considering suicide in general. Firstly I acknowledge that I myself have had suicidal feelings at certain times in my life. During the in-depth courses which I ran on facing death, mainly for GPs and medical students, it emerged that around half of us have had similar feelings but rarely admit to them.

Secondly, many years ago I had a girlfriend who suffered from severe manic-depression (Bipolar Disorder in modern terms). When she was depressed her level of pain was truly terrible to witness, in spite of her receiving all manner of psychiatric support. Her eventual suicide was, I believe, inevitable. I deeply regret being unable to be with her as she was dying but she knew that my presence would be a crime.

Many of you know I have worked with Samaritans. Their aim is to reduce suicide levels BUT they accept an individual’s right to make a choice of suicide. Sometimes we simply stay on the phone to be ‘alongside’ someone who is slowly sinking into unconsciousness after, for example, taking an ‘overdose’. What we do offer is to listen to their distress without judging their feelings or the outcome of the conversation: that alone enables them to talk more freely about this taboo act. That role does not conflict with our joy when someone who has taken an overdose decides, after receiving our support, to call an ambulance for help. I suggest that ‘allowing’ anyone in distress to talk about suicide, whether they have terminal illness or not, is an opening to talk about deepest fears. Such a conversation is meaningless unless there is a genuine possibility of suicide (as with callers to Samaritans).

One of my earlier hospice experiences was to receive news that a patient had died when his condition a few days earlier had seemed very stable. I raised the question of whether he might have taken an overdose of his prescribed morphine. There was a brief nod followed by a gesture ‘we don’t talk about that’. We have no idea how often this happens. I suggest it DOES matter because such people are probably left to die on their own without being able to share (openly) their last hours/minutes. (Anyone not reporting such an event is open to the criminal charge of aiding and abetting suicide.) To me, it matters to be able to be alongside people nearing death – whether self-imposed or otherwise.

But the greatest argument, in my view, for changing the law is that euthanasia (without patient consent) does happen, and not infrequently. There have been several surveys (which have to be anonymous to prevent charges being brought) which all show that many doctors (particularly GPs) do expedite death when they consider it humane. It happened to a beloved aunt of mine. I think she would have welcomed it but, because it was illegal, I could not be informed and therefore missed being present with her in her last hours.

In the confidential surroundings of my Death and Dying workshops, I asked GPs about their responses if someone asked for help to die sooner. The response shocked me, namely that the doctors were less likely to ‘oblige’ because the matter had been raised openly and therefore they would be more likely to be investigated and struck off the register. I am sure their motivation is compassionate but, without asking the patient calmly and over a period of time, it is the doctor’s judgement and their own life experience which determines the outcome of death rather than the conscious and considered choice of the patient. So in my view there is a strong argument to put safeguards and controls on what now happens in a totally unregulated and paternalistic way.

Finally, how important is patient choice? Most of us have no problem with a patient’s right to decline treatment even if it has a high chance of extending their life. But there are less clear instances. People with brain tumours can often have extra time (for example a few weeks) if given large doses of steroids. I regularly offered this to such patients. But I had a man with such a tumour who had already said that if he could not be cured, he would want to die ASAP. Was I right to offer him this option realising that he would spot, by implication, that if he stopped his modest dose of steroids, he would die more quickly? I offered and he immediately stopped his steroids and died rapidly within three days. Was I, by indirectly informing him of a way to commit suicide, aiding and abetting it? Should we be limiting a person’s right to choose, especially at such a critical time as dying?                                                                            Hugh Mc Michael

 

Church attendance and visits

1.7 million people take part in a Church of England service each month, a level that has been maintained since the turn of the millennium. Approximately one million participate each Sunday.

Approaching 3 million people participate in a Church of England service on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. Thirty-five per cent of the population attend a Christmas service of some sort, rising to 42 per cent in London, nationally, and 22 per cent among those of non-Christian faiths.

The Church of England has the largest following of any denomination or faith in Britain today. More than 4 in 10 in England regard themselves as belonging to the Church of England, while 6 in 10 consider themselves Christian.

People support their local churches in many different ways at different points in their lives. Each year 3 in 10 attend regular Sunday worship and more than 4 in 10 attend a wedding in their local church, while still more attend a funeral there

In 2009, 43 per cent of adults attended a church or place of worship for a memorial service for someone who has died and 17 per cent were seeking a quiet space.  Both these proportions are increases on 22 per cent and 12 per cent respectively in 2001.

85 per cent of the population visit a church or place of worship in the course of a year, for reasons ranging from participating in worship to attending social events or simply wanting a quiet space.

Every year, around 12 million people visit Church of England cathedrals, including 300,000 pupils on school visits. Three of England's top five historic 'visitor attractions' are York Minster, Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

 

 

CHURCH BUILDINGS - OPEN FOR PEOPLE

The 2011 Archdeacons’ Articles of Enquiry revealed that only about 40% of the churches in the diocese are unlocked during the day.

Bishop John has asked every PCC to consider opening the church building:

"The first Christian places of worship were ‘martyria'. The word suggests that the place itself bears witness. Our churches can bear witness to the faith we profess but the message they convey if they are closed and locked is hardly a positive gospel one. I urge all PCCs to arrange to leave their churches open all day and every day to provide a welcome in the name of Christ to all comers and convey to them something of the love of God." 

Since then a number of PCCs have decided to unlock the church buildings for which they are responsible. This has resulted in some very positive and interesting responses from the wider parish community and the general public, which has encouraged a number of Churches to continue to be enthusiastic about keeping the doors open.

It is good to report that in some deaneries the percentage of open churches has increased to circa 75%. To all of you PCC members and Church communities who open the churches to

visitors, we must express our considerable thanks and ongoing commitment to support you in your efforts. You are the unsung heroes who need to be encouraged.

  

HOW MUCH IS THAT LADY IN THE WINDOW

Life today is better for so many of us  -  we revel in the progress which technology has made possible, enjoy good health care and lead fulfilling lives.  There are, however, darker aspects to the modern world which we are loath to acknowledge, one of which is that every year over two million human beings are bought and sold.

 

In countries where there is a high unemployment rate, young people (usually girls) are offered jobs abroad in the service industry, only to discover, when it is too late, that they have been recruited for a very different purpose.  Their passports are confiscated and they are forced to work as domestic slaves, unable to leave the house where they are living and often cruelly treated.  Many are made to work in the sex trade, or, increasingly and perhaps most shocking of all, they provide body parts for organ transplants.  Much of this is happening in our own country, but it is so well hidden that we are unaware of what is going on.

 

The organisation ‘Beginning of Life’ provides rehabilitation centres for girls who have been abused in this way to give the psychological physical, and spiritual care which they need to recover.  There is also a move to provide education for young people so that they are taught of the dangers of exploitation and learn how to avoid being tricked by traffickers.

 

For more information on this vital work contact Worldshare in Doncaster on 01302 775209 and find out how you could help.  

 

JAB

 

                                         

First Coming

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace
He came when the Heavens were unsteady
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He died with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
He came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!  

By Madeleine L’Engle

   

Extract from CHURCHES IN VISIT IN WORCESTERshire AND DUDLEY

 

 LITTLE MALVERN PRIORY

St Giles, St Mary & St John (the Evangelist)

 Church of England Grade 1  1125  LateNorman

Little Malvern, Worcestershire WR14 2XD

 

Once the site of a Benedictine Priory Little Malvern Priory Church is set on the east side of the Malvern Hills and looks out across the Severn Valley towards Bredon Hill and the Cotswolds. The peacefulness of its setting reflects the wisdom of the monks in choosing the site for a place of prayer and meditation.

The path through the churchyard leads you past a wide variety of wild flowers and towards an ancient building that speaks of the eternal nature of God.

Entering the church is to find yourself in what the Celtic Christians called a “thin place”: a place of stillness where there seems very little between you and the presence of God.

 

Look for:

· East Window Depicted are the family of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, including the future Edward V, on of the princes in the Tower. Together with the ‘Royal’ window in Canterbury Cathedral, the Little Malvern glass in the only surviving monumental representation of the key Yorkist personalities in English 15th century history.

· North Window There is an ancient tradition linking the church with William Langland. It is thought that this location was the inspiration of his poem “Piers Ploughman”. The glass that has recently been added to this window in memory of Marian Tosello reflects this association.

· Squints There are two squints that remind us of the time when those who were considered “unclean” were able to watch the celebration of Holy Communion without being in the main body of the church.

· Monk Stalls The remains of the misericords can still be seen although they show the impact of the Reformation in destroying imagery in the church. Interestingly, the carving of two pigs at a trough seem to have been able to survive the attack.

· Tiles. There are examples of 14th century tiles in Little Malvern Priory that were made in the Grounds of Great Malvern Priory.

 

King Richard III and Little Malvern Priory ?

The recent discovery of the remains of King Richard III under a car park in Leicester has sparked a renewed interest in that monarch. Was he the unscrupulous murderer of his two royal nephews (Edward the Prince of Wales and Richard the Duke of York) in order to secure the throne of England or is he the much maligned victim of subsequent Tudor propaganda? The Richard III Society certainly believes the latter to be the case and, for reasons which are not entirely clear, the American Branch of the Society makes a small annual donation to Little Malvern Priory. What then, if any, is the link between Richard III and LMP?

Our east window is the obvious starting point, and indeed it features in the Richard III Society’s website. As most of congregation will be aware it depicts, albeit in a now fragmented form, the Yorkist Royal Family at the time that the window was commissioned by Bishop Alcock in or around 1482. The reigning monarch, Edward IV, is now missing as is his younger son Richard Duke of York, but Edward Prince of Wales is clearly depicted, together with his mother Queen Elizabeth Woodville and his sisters, Princess Elizabeth of York, Cecily, Anne and Katherine. The window is of historical importance, not only because it is a particularly fine example of late Medieval English stained glass, but also because it is one of only two known contemporary depictions of  Edward Prince of Wales who nominally became King Edward V on the death of his father in 1483, only a year after the window was installed.

That is as far as the story in our window takes us. However, as Edward was only 13 years old when his father died he and his younger brother were placed under the guardianship of their paternal uncle, Richard of Gloucester, who in May 1483 was appointed Protector until Edward came of age. Only a month later the two boys were placed in the Tower of London and Parliament petitioned Richard to accede to the throne, which he did on 6 July 1483, around the time previously set for Edward’s coronation. If Shakespeare is to be believed the boys, The Princes in the Tower, are already doomed. (Richard III’s aside in Act 3  “So wise so young, they say, do never live long”). Whoever was responsible for their deaths, they were never seen alive in public again.

 However, Richard III’s reign was to be short lived as he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485 (A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!)  by the army of Henry Tudor. Richard’s body was taken to the nearby Greyfriars Priory, and for over 500 years the exact location of his burial was lost until it was rediscovered by a archaeologists last August beneath a council car park.

Another link in this chain is, of course, Bishop Alcock whose emblem of three cockerels  is  depicted in our window. He not only commissioned our east window, but was tutor to the “Princes in the Tower”, Lord Chancellor to Edward IV, confidant of Richard III, and subsequently Chancellor to Henry VII after his victory over Richard at Tewksbury. He is also believed to have been instrumental in encouraging the marriage of Henry VII to Princess Elizabeth of York, thus reconciling the Houses of York and Lancaster, which brought the Wars of the Roses to an end and ushered in the Tudor dynasty. Clearly he was a supreme statesman who managed to remain at the centre of national affairs through violent, changing, dynastic fortunes.

A rather more tenuous link relates to Margaret of Anjou, Queen of Henry VI and vigorous defender of the Lancastrian cause. Her army was defeated at the Battle of Tewksbury in 1471 by numerically superior Yorkist forces which included Richard, then Duke of Gloucester. It is just possible that Margaret, fleeing from the battle, sought refuge at Little Malvern Priory.

Is our link with Richard, slender as it is, worth pursuing?  Does it warrant putting something on our audio-history?  Perhaps we should invite a speaker from the Richard III Society to come and give us a talk to explore it further.

John Chatten

Enough Food for Everyone IF…

Nearly one billion people go to bed hungry every night and two million children die from malnutrition every year.  Hunger is still the great scandal of our age.  All around the world, even in the UK, people are struggling to feed their families.

The government has promised to provide 0.7% of national income for aid and to host a Hunger Summit in 2013.  We must make sure they keep these promises.  This June, the world’s most powerful leaders will meet in the UK at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland.

This is our best opportunity to tackle hunger.  We must make IF happen.

What’s happening in 2013?  Rallies have been organised by the IF Campaign on Saturday 8th June in London and on Saturday 15th June in Belfast.  Join with thousands of other people at these.  In London, it will be a day of meaningful worship and significant action.  There is an ecumenical service at the impressive Westminster Central Hall at 11.30, followed by a walk of witness through Central London to the main event in Hyde Park from 2.00 to 5.00.  If you can’t make it to London on the 8th, why not join in the big IFast – a national day of fasting on Thursday 6th June, fasting in solidarity with 900 million people who don’t have enough to eat.  You can also show visible support for the campaign by wearing an IF wristband.  Find out more about all these at www.enoughfoodif.org and/or www.christianaid.org.uk/if.

What do we want?  We want our leaders to act on the four big issues that mean so many people do not get enough food:

· Aid:  Enough Food for Everyone IF we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families feed themselves.

· Tax:  Enough Food for Everyone IF governments stop big companies dodging taxes in poor countries.

· Land:  Enough Food for Everyone IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and grow crops to feed people, not fuel cars.

Transparency:  Enough Food for Everyone IF governments and big companies are honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.

Together, we can make IF happen.  The more of us who get involved, then the greater pressure there will be on world leaders to tackle global hunger in 2013.

Who is involved?  You.  We want millions of people to share the message “Enough Food for Everyone IF…” so that, together, we’ll be too loud for our government to ignore.  Behind the scenes, the campaign has been joined by over 150 organisations.

For further details visit the enoughfoodif.org, christianaid.org.uk/if, oxfam.org.uk/land, and savethechildren.org.uk websites.

Taken from Christian Aid publicity material

 

 

  CHURCHYARD WILD FLOWERS

 

Peter Garner very kindly did a plant count for us and found 73 different wild flowers in the churchyard and a further 13 in the car park.  Using this information, Roger Smith has now prepared a magnificent folder with tables showing the flowering and fruiting season for each plant and providing a page for each (in monthly order) with a coloured illustration so that we know what to look out for as the year progresses.

The folder is in the church porch and is well worth studying.  We are most grateful to him.

                                                                                                      Jocelyn Bailey  

Monk’s path?

 

Britain is covered in the vestiges of these ancient roadways. Some are absorbed into our modern roads and others have disappeared completely. In wandering around our local footpaths, I question why these paths are where they are. The line of the old railway from Malvern to Upton via Malvern Wells is a more obvious route but what about the old track on Fruitlands that goes from Peachfield Road behind the houses in Walnut Crescent to emerge near Cherry Tree Drive? It links the bridleway that goes under the railway and across the golf course to the club house at what was Wood Farm. From here it crosses a field and you can pick up the route again near the Corner of Green Lane. You can follow this path southwards to join another path that comes out in Assarts Lane and with not too much imagination it would continue along the field boundary hedges on 19th century maps straight towards Little Malvern Priory.

Was this the route of an ancient Monk’s Path? There are parallel paths above and below this one along which travellers could vary the route according to the season. Trade and communication was by foot or horse-back with goods being carried by mules and pack-horses along these ancient routes.

If you trace the route back towards Great Malvern it goes across Malvern Wells Common into College Road and along modern day Abbey Road or Priory Road to Great Malvern Priory, built some 40 years after the building of Little Malvern Priory. Was it a Monk’s Path?

Returning to Little Malvern Priory, there are roads, paths and tracks radiating outwards leading to Deerhurst,Gloucester, Winchcombe, Tewkesbury Evesham, Pershore and Worcester. These places had something in common– they all had Benedictine Priories, sadly there are few remains. They were mainly founded in the 12th century and were dissolved by King Henry VIII in the 1530’s.

Great Malvern Priory was built for around thirty monks and the Church, Pool and Abbey Gateway are remnants of this bygone era.

Little Malvern Priory was built for a community of around a dozen monks in 1125 and was originally known as St Giles Priory. (is this how the Church at Hanley Swan got its name?) It was built as an annex to the Church Of Worcester with Worcester's Prior having the right to remove monks from Little Malvern and indeed being able to choose the Prior of Little Malvern.

There is a list of priors with their dates inside Little Malvern Priory. The earliest Priors are not recorded but there is a reference to one ‘William of Broadway being appointed in 1269. There was a ‘John of Dumbleton’ (appointed 1299) who resigned after one year.Henry Staunton took over in 1360 and died 9 years later. In 1378 Richard of Wenlock became Priory until 1392.

Henry Morton was the Prior in 1480 and it was during his time that the remaining monks were sent to Gloucester Abbey whilst Little Malvern Priory was refurbished. They were able to return two years later. It was at this time that a Refectory known as the ‘Prior’s Hall’ was built there . Thomas Colman came next (1484) then there is a gap until John Bristowe is recorded as the Prior in 1529. On August 31st 1534, Prior John Bristowe and his remaining six monks were required to surrender the buildings and their lands with the dissolution of Little Malvern Priory (probably the smallest Priory in the land) as part of King Henry’s programme. In 1536, John Bristowe was awarded a pension and the Monastery buildings were already beginning to fall into disrepair.

This land was purchased by the Berington family shortly after the dissolution of the monasteries. They had Little Malvern Court built around the ‘Prior’s Hall’ and also on the site of the Monastic Cloisters. The ten acres now surrounding the Court (the house and gardens are open to the public on certain days) used to be part of the monastic grounds. Over the next three centuries the Priory Church deteriorated to a point where the barrel vault roof caved in and the Berington family had this repaired in 1864. Since then there have been a number of refurbishments and the remaining Priory Church and nearby ruins are listed as an ancient monument.

In 1954, The Society of Friends of Little Malvern Priory was formed and since then nearly a quarter of a million pounds has been raised towards various projects to maintain the building for all those who call by to visit or to worship at the regular services ( at least once a week, often more) held in this very special Priory Church.

As for Little Malvern Priory itself, it is just beyond the Parish of Malvern Wells but those who live there cannot help but feel that it is a very special place. If you have never been inside it is definitely worth a peep. If you are interested in its detailed history there is an excellent little book for sale in the entrance to the Priory Church.

There are examples of 14th century tiles in Little Malvern Priory that were made in the Grounds of Great Malvern Priory. Were these transported by horse and cart through the Parish of Malvern Wells along the old Monk’s Path mentioned here? Malvern tiles can be found in many local Churches and Cathedrals and as far away a St. David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire. This is further evidence of how far goods were transported along these ancient trackways.

When you are out and about walking the local footpaths and country lanes, spare a thought for all those who have gone before you and wonder, as I have done, why these tracks are where they are.

Glynis Dray 

 

Listen!

On one of the seats in the churchyard is carved the word ‘Listen’. At least that’s what I thought it said when I first saw it. Then I wondered if it said ‘Lister’ and was the name of the man who had made it, but I prefer my first interpretation because it is exactly the right place to sit and take in all that is happening around —–- the call of a blackbird, the song of a robin, grass being mown, the cry of a buzzard overhead ........... all the sounds of country life.

Why don’t you try it? Who knows, you might even hear the voice of God.

Jocelyn Bailey

 

 

An American man suffered a serious heart attack while shopping in a store.

The store clerk called 911 when they saw him collapse to the floor.

The paramedics rushed the man to the nearest hospital where he had emergency open heart bypass surgery.

He awakened from the surgery to find himself in the care of nuns at the Catholic Hospital.

A nun was seated next to his bed holding a clipboard loaded with several forms, and a pen.

She asked him how he was going to pay for his treatment.

 "Do you have health insurance?" she asked.

He replied in a raspy voice, "No health insurance."

The nun asked, "Do you have money in the bank?"

He replied, "No money in the bank."

Do you have a relative who could help you with the payments?" asked the irritated nun.

He said, "I only have a spinster sister, and she is a nun."

The nun became agitated and announced loudly, "Nuns are not spinsters!

Nuns are married to God."

The patient replied, "Perfect. Send the bill to my brother-in-law."

 

 

 

 

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