Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Of Humeral Veils and Haggerston.

Haggerston, in North London, was home to a great Anglo Catholic Church and an order of Sisters. The Sisters over time dispersed and the Church, once the source of the charming Haggerston Cathechism (one of which volumes, concerning the Creed, I found in my Theological College library, being given away in the 'free books' shelf!) gradually changed it's mission. Some moves have been fruitful, however. The nuns of Rempstone Hall near Derby originally came from the London Docks Parish but moved to live a life of greater withdrawal and eventually adopted the rule of Saint Benedict. The canonical ordination of women priests by some parts of the Church of England made life more complicated for many female orders, with those of traditional integrity finding it hard to live their mission alongside those who sought ordination. Some communities split, notably the Sisters of St Margaret who have created a number of autonomous houses each with it's own ecclesial structure. For example the Hackney (London) house embraces a very fresh interpretation of conventual life whereas the Priory of Walsingham embraces the continual freshness of the traditional life in the Lord. All of which is most difficult for an ordinand in a Parish making enquiries on behalf of a Parishoner who is interested in spending some time in different female communities as it leaves me having to make all sorts of delicate enquiries which I would rather not have to make! There is an excellent book, the Anglican Religious Communities Yearbook, which lists all the communities with a bit of information about them all, but it is not as thorough as one might wish. However, on the bright side, it points to many traditional communities which are seemingly thriving, if numbers are any indication.
However, although this blog is in danger of looking too closely at vestments (and I will not be showing any more for some time) I had a couple of questions regarding what appeared to be a gold fall around the Epiphany House. It is, in fact, a humeral veil, made by the Sisters of Haggerston a long time ago, but we put it to many uses. It is a lovely thing and we have a cope to match but alas, it is too worn for further use. The veil is used for Solemn Benediction as well as shrine-dressing and on Maundy Thursday for decorating the altar rail at the Chapel of Repose, where it looks at it's most stunning in the glow of the many candles until we sing Compline at midnight and then it is used to cover the urn of repose leaving two candles burning throughout the night which are particularly moving as one enters the Church the next morning.