Sunday, 19 August 2007

Busy weekend

There might appear to be some ingongruity in titling this post 'Busy weekend' and then adding two images of films which appeared on British television yesterday. Well, rest assured, it was a busy weekend labouring in the vineyard, and I'll get to my point in due course. Saturday morning I said Morning Prayer and offered a Low Mass of Our Lady, Type of the Church, which is a beautiful Mass from the collection of Masses available for the use of Priest Associates at the Shrine in Walsingham (Andrew, I trust you had a lovely Mass in the Shrine or at S. Mary's Parish Church this morning). The Mass propers are particularly well suited to Masses of Our Lady on Saturday. There are two choices for the Epistle and, in keeping with the theme of Assumptiontide, I opted for the second from the Book of Revelation: that most wonderful allegorical story of the woman with child, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a garland of twelve stars upon her head, taken up into heaven lest the dragon should devour her child. Wonderful. And then it was off home to spend hour upon hour at the computer and the printer making sure that each and every person who has any connection with the parish had a personal invitation to an event we are hsoting in October as part of our Parish Renewal campaign. And that's where Gandhi and Becket come in.

These films were, I believe in all seriousness, Heaven sent. There's really nothing quite as tedious as individually feeding 150 cards into a printer (and no, I could not have put them all in in one go because, I confess, I'm a terrible perfectionist and I needed to make sure that each and every one was just right. I know, it's a failing, not a virtue, but there you have it) and then turning the cards over to do the other sides and then the envelopes, checking all the time that nobody is overlooked (though I discovered this morning that the only person I forgot was one of our Churchwardens, which didn't really endear me any further to him). And so, in the midst of my boredom, I switched on the television and there, just beginning, was one of my favourite films. Gandhi is a tremendously moving film and I found myself experiencing just about every kind of emotion whilst watching. I've nothing terribly profound to say about the film because it says it all itself. It's a film to uplift the soul and makes one appreciate the tremendous amount of good that can come through one man's convictions about our God-given freedom and dignity. It certainly eased the tedium. . .

Well, hours later, and with the First Evening Prayer of Sunday over and today's sermon duly scribed, I returned to complete my laborious task and I again switched on the television to find Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole smoothly portraying, respectively, the goodly saint and the stupid king in Becket. Again, a smashing film, but on a different level. And it was here that a small, but no less insignificantly long-held, gripe (which had set in during Gandhi) resurfaced. And it was, and is, this. Why, I often ask myself, when the Church or things Christian are shown in film and television do the producers seem to get no proper advice about what is done and why. Who are these religious consultants? They obviously get somebody because they generally get things right, but there's always something they don't. As I've already noted, I'm a bit of perfectionist, and I'm also a big fan of liturgical minutiae and things vestment related (what a combination! Suffer my poor Parish Priest!), and so I'm always intrigued as to why film makers can't seem to be bothered in this department. The blogging world testifies to the fact that there is no shortage of good Christian people - ordained or lay - who would not willingly take up this sort of liturgical advice ministry to the film world, especially for the price I imagine they pay. I tell you, there's an apostolate there! I guess my basic point is that if you're going to show the Church and her Christians at prayer, etc., at least get it right because someone, some sad person like me, will notice! Gandhi, for example, showed an Anglican priest, The Revd. Charlie Andrews (later to become Vice Prinicpal of Wescott House, no less) preaching a sermon in cassock, scarf and hood, in an Anglican church in South Africa in the 1910s, but note, with your best Addleshaw & Etchells hat on, the arrangement of the church. There's an enormous crucifix on the east wall set high above, wait for it, an equally enormous Protestant pulpit which dominates the church's east end. The altar, or communion table, as I suspect it must be, is not really noticeable and if it is there (for there was no cross, candlesticks, frontal or even linen cloth to distinguish it as an altar) it is dwarfed by the preaching box. It's simply not right. Becket was riddled with such inconsistencies, even allowing for early medieval liturgical variance. At one point Becket refers to himself as the head of the Church of England. Hmmm. And anyone who has ever seen this film must wonder what on earth those thurifers are up to during Becket's consecration which was, strangely, conducted in English, despite the use of Latin (for 'authenticity's' sake?) at other points during the film. I just don't like the inconsistencies!

Now, you must understand that I'm not really too bothered by all this, because if something of the truth of God and of his Christ is communicated and if people enjoy the films and feel strengthened in body and spirit, I am the last to condemn and criticise, but I mention it because I wonder if I am alone in noticing such things. The Talented Mr. Ripley, set amid a stunning Italian backdrop, fell into the trap of showing maniple-less priests, pre-Vatican II, you understand, with stole, pendant-wise over Latin chasubles. The recent B.B.C. series Lilies did the same sort of thing, with Fr. Melia's biretta ever changing position on his head. It can be funny at times, though also perhaps a bit like trainspotting. Perhaps I need to watch less television and get out some more, but there you have it. Let me know if I'm going mad. And so I went to my bed at 2.00 a.m., tedium over and a Te Deum to greet me at Morning Prayer this morning.

And so, today. No television at all, save a D.V.D. (on a laptop!) of a Columbo episode with my wife over dinner. Two Low Masses to celebrate and preach. One Sung Mass to deacon and preach. And one Evensong with the glorious hymn to send me off into the night : God that madest earth and heaven, darkness and light. . .

Andrew will be back from Walsingham next week and this may be my last post on Anglican Wanderings as your guest blogger and, my, what fun it's been!

Fr. Lee Kenyon