Saturday, 11 October 2008

The Whitworth Doctors.

Whitworth Churchyard.

St Bartholomew's, Whitworth.

A genuine Anglican wandering!

The Red Lion, Whitworth.

Two hundred years ago members of the Taylor family, of Whitworth, a small hamlet near Rochdale were veterinary surgeons, or horse doctors, as the phrase was. Somehow, and this really is a mystery, they set their sights on humans and became the most celebrated Doctors in the country. They had many hundreds of clients , including the Archbishop of Canterbury, who would wait in queues around the Hamlet, sleeping in the cots provided or in the Red Lion if they had the money, to be seen. They took over much of the hamlet for recovery wards and the square was known as 'cripples walk' for the constant streams of the walking wounded taking the air. An extraordinary story and almost forgotten today, indeed as I had my (excellent, plain) lunch and pint of Black Sheep bitter in the Red Lion this afternoon after a hearty walk around a local lake, the only reminders seemed to be a few plaques here and there and, rather more substantially, the great Church of Saint Bartholomew's up the hill, the foundation stone of which one of the Taylor family laid. The many gargoyles mark it out as did the sheet on the door promising Solemn Mass on Sundays as well as the glimpse of the heads of statues and the rear of the reredos glimpsed through the East window. I went to the Vicarage but unfortunately nobody was in. Another day, I am determined to see in this unknown gem.

What will become of these places if the Church of England follows the path which is tempting some at the moment? What will be of places 'where prayer has been valid'? I am firmly convinced that after the squeeze which intends popping us out, will come the 'affirming Catholicism' squeeze, closely followed by the Prayer Book Society squeeze, leaving a bright, modern group of Parishes quite incorrectly calling themselves a Communion. It is for God and humanity which we hope to remain. As I trudged around the oddly Scottish landscape enjoying my walk today, I mused to myself that if we are allowed a third province, how long it will be before it overtakes the first and second. In these times, we are continually castigated for not knowing where 'we' stand, what 'we' believe. A third province would let the media and thus the country, know that there are those of us who worship in Godly ways, handed down from the Apostles, who hold a faith which Saint Paul would feel he was in communion with and who have a faith so strong that even the local Rabbi, rather than rolling his eyes at our moral dilemmas, would relate to. I have asked before, 'what can we be', and I still hold that the answer is that we can be a force for good in this country and we can be the answer to the question which has vexed the mainstream Church for years, 'what do we have to do to get our message across?' Trust in God and speak His word, uncompromisingly and consistently.