Bishops and their pets

Detail from the Hugh of Lincoln window at St Chrysostom’s

A magnificent swan stands next to Bishop (St) Hugh of Lincoln (feast day 17th November). You can see it in the lovely Burlison and Grylls stained glass window of him in St Chrysostom’s Church. The swan was Hugh’s favourite pet. We may not relish the idea of having a swan wander round our house, but Hugh was clearly content to allow it in the bishop’s house at Lincoln. At meal times the swan used to feed from crumbs he put on his sleeve. It would run to greet him when he returned from travelling.

Hugh wasn’t alone among the saints in having a pet. St Godric of Finchale had a pet cow, St Kentigern (Mungo) had a pet wolf.

More recently, Archbishop Robert Runcie was well known for keeping Berkshire pigs. His enthusiasm for them seemed to be matched only by the Ninth Earl of Emsworth’s joy at the his prize pig Empress of Blandings in P G Wodehouse’s splendid Blandings Castle books.

Archbishop Runcie once remarked, at a time of stress in Lambeth Palace; “I wish I could turn my attention to such things as tranquil as my Berkshires.”

The remains of Archbishop Laud’s tortoise

He wasn’t alone as an Archbishop in having a pet. Archbishop Laud loved his pet tortoise. He brought it to Lambeth Palace in 1633. The unfortunate Archbishop was executed in 1645 but his tortoise survived him and indeed several later Archbishops, finally dying in a flood in Lambeth Palace gardens in 1753. So much part of Lambeth Palace was this Archiepiscopal pet that it still features in an exhibit case in the Guard Room of the Archbishops’ official residence.

There is a lovely article about Archbishop Laud’s tortoise in The Guardian – click here.

So can we look for leadership by example from the modern episcopacy in the area of looking after animals? Do pets feature in the households of the modern bishop?

A Berkshire sow and piglets – the rare breed favoured by the late Archbishop Runcie.

No bishop seems to be inspired by Anatole France’s fictional Bishop of Arezzo who had a pet monkey. There are some examples though. Bishop Ho of Ghana has a pet goat. Archbishop Habgood spoke several times of his delight at the ducks on the lake at Bishopsthorpe, York.  Those visiting Bishop Alec Graham at Newcastle were sometimes warned that he may sit on the floor while his pet labrador occupied the episcopal seat.

Perhaps some bishops could be encouraged to consider having a pet.

Apparently, says, the Daily Telegraph, there are at least five benefits to having one.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Catholic or Protestant … biscuits?

Two Irishmen were sitting in St Chrysostom’s church having a cup of tea (no – it’s not a joke coming – it’s a true story!). One of the men, from County Down, had the Protestant Ascendancy in his background. The other from Derry (the name gives it away…) had a very Catholic upbringing.

A third person walked up with a cup of tea, and the Irishman of protestant descent drily said, ‘If you look hard enough you may find a non-Protestant biscuit in the biscuit tin.’ His words reflected his wistful looking to the other side of the religious divide in his homeland – where for him non Protestant meant richness, variety, colour and fun. Or in this case a biscuit that wasn’t plain and bland.

The man from Derry looked bemused. A Catholic biscuit – what could that be? The County Down man explained it was a chocolate or cream biscuit, not simply a boring rich tea. Ah! – the Derry man reflected, now I see – like a chocolate biscuit that you eat, enjoy, and then eat more, and then feel so guilty for eating that you have to go to confession. For the man of Catholic background the plain protestant  biscuit was preferable – it didn’t come with guilt.

Light heartedly, the men longed for the other’s tradition – even if it was just over biscuits.

How others see our faith background may be quite different from how we see it ourselves!

Now, the dilemma is which type of biscuit should we serve at St Chrysostom’s? Perhaps the answer is the Anglican compromise – both types.

A splendid cartoon by Dave Walker of

Posted in Anglican, Catholic | Tagged | 1 Comment

An emoji in 1662

While celebrating the Holy Eucharist on the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity this year our friend Fr Michael Burgess made a fascinating discovery in the text of the Gospel. The text used was in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

Fr Michael asked the members of the congregation following the reading, and he asks us – Can the Church of England claim the first use of the emoji?

An emoji is defined as “a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication.” However, do we now need to change the definition to allow for the discovery of a use in the seventeenth century?

Have a look at the image from the Book of Common Prayer, and there at the top of the image you will see what Fr Michael spotted – the emoji. It’s there in the Gospel set for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity (Matthew 6.24f). You may like to check if it is there in your copy of the Book of Common Prayer.

Wishing to share this discovery Fr Michael wrote to The Times, but unfortunately the editor couldn’t see the emoji and so his letter is yet to be printed.

We congratulate the good Father on his sharp eye sight and his further discovery that this emoji is also in the Authorised (King James) Bible (Matthew 6.32).

Perhaps the Book of Common Prayer was an even more visionary work than previously thought.

PS Thank you to our correspondent Antonia who promptly replied to this blog post to show an example of a superabundance of  emojis in the music of the liturgy, reminding us that God’s mercy comes with a smile.

Now we are hoping for other liturgical emoji sightings… 🙂  

Posted in Anglican | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to show care to someone you know in prison

You have heard that someone you know is in prison. What can you do?

England has the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe. Most  prisoners (over 70%) have committed a non-violent offence, almost half of those in prison are serving six months or less. It is not at all unusual to find out that someone you know has gone to prison.

What can you do to show you care? Christians have always had a concern for those in prison. All of us fall short of God’s standards. Jesus said ‘let the one who is without guilt cast the first stone.’ (John 8.1-7) We are called to remember, and pray for, those in prison. (Hebrews 13.3)

What can we do practically? This depends on how well you know the person. Going into prison is a frightening and extremely isolating experience. Find out where the prisoner is being held and, if you can, try to send a short note or card saying you are thinking of them. A colourful postcard with an attractive view is a good idea. Prisons can be very drab, a card is often welcome as attractive decoration.

If you get a reply, try to keep in touch –  at a level that is comfortable for you. Once a month say, or at key events such as a birthday or Christmas, and a card from a holiday.

Don’t worry about what to write. Write as a friend. A few items of ‘chatty’ news and enquiry after the prisoner’s well being are good. On the whole don’t enter into the details of the case or legal issues – that will be for others to help with.

You can ‘e mail’ a prisoner. This helpful website allows you to type a short letter. It is printed out and handed to the prisoner, in many cases they can receive a reply sheet to write back to you. This is a straightforward way of contact.

Prisoners are paid a small amount of money each week. It is sufficient for their daily needs. There are spending limits. Sometimes prisoners ask friends to send money. On the whole avoid doing this, and if you do be very clear what the limit is – say £10 a few weeks before Christmas. You can transfer money electronically to a prisoner.

You may decide to visit. If you do plan well in advance. Look at information on visiting the prison. Visits can be booked online, and there are helpful websites (for example here) with useful tips about visiting.

Small gestures can mean a lot to prisoners, but also be alert as they run the risk of being misinterpreted. Your care will be welcome, but be clear too about the boundaries. Be reliable. If you say you are going to write, do so – even if it is just once every four months or whatever.

Remember that you are not alone in caring. The prisoner may have several people visiting among their families and friends. If you have a particular concern for a prisoner speak with someone about it.  You could phone the prison and mention your concern, perhaps speaking to a chaplain. The prison has a duty of care for prisoners and will take your concern seriously.

It is a strange but true fact that many people who write to or visit prisoners say how much they receive themselves from doing so.

“When I was in prison you visited me” (Matthew 25.37)

Fr Ian

Several years ago Fr Ian established a group of volunteers to visit isolated prisoners in a maximum security prison.

Posted in Anglican, Christian | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Physical Chemistry and my faith

An example of equipment used in NMR Spectroscopy

My research as a physical chemist involves the analysis of new and advanced materials using a technique called NMR spectroscopy. NMR stands for nuclear magnetic resonance, and is very closely related to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which has become a valuable part of diagnostic medicine. In both techniques, the sample/subject is placed into a strong magnetic field and radio waves are applied. The response of particular atoms can then be measured and analysed to provide useful chemical information. NMR spectroscopy allows a researcher to focus in on specific elements such as hydrogen, carbon, phosphorus and silicon, providing detailed insights into the atomic structures of many different materials.

NMR and MRI have been the subject of several Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry and Medicine over the last ~70 years. The second Prize in Physics was awarded in 1952, not long after the end of the Second World War, to two scientists working in the United States. In his acceptance speech, one of the recipients, Edward Purcell, remarked that

An NMR spectrum of the amino acid glycine. In this example each carbon atom produces a distinct signal, reflecting the fact that each one is in a different chemical environment.

“Commonplace as such experiments have become in our laboratories, I have not yet lost a feeling of wonder, and of delight, that this delicate motion should reside in all the ordinary things around us, revealing itself only to him who looks for it.”

I feel that this description captures the essence of what makes physical chemistry so rewarding. Molecules and materials have a wealth of information to impart to us, if we know how and where to look for it. The same can be said for scripture – as Christ says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Being a physical chemist has, I think, taught me that the wisdom of biblical texts often lies beneath the first reading. My faith also reminds me of the beauty of our universe, which I think helps me to retain a sense of enthusiasm and wonder about my results and discoveries.

Physical chemist Michael Faraday, c.1861.

During my PhD, I was often faced with results that were odd or puzzling. Being able to step back and reflect has been very valuable, and is something I feel I owe to my relationship with God. As pioneering physical chemist and devout Christian Michael Faraday said

The important thing is to know how to take all things quietly.

Andrew Rankin

Andrew has recently studied for a PhD in Physical Chemistry at St Andrews’ University, and has been appointed a post doctoral researcher at the University of Lille. He is a ‘friend of a friend’ of Father Ian.

This is the fifth in our series of how our studies influence our faith. Previous posts have looked at Metallurgy and my faithMathematics and my faithEntomology and my faith. and Family History and my faith.

Posted in Christianity, Faith | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Family History and my faith

Looking at our family history can enrich and challenge our faith outlook and our understanding of why we believe what we do. Graham Naylor, a keen family historian, continues our series of how our studies influence our faith.

I was very close to my Grandparents. I look back with great fondness on their telling of familiar stories about family members. Grandad and his maternal family were Wesleyan Methodists from Cornwall. Grandad’s parents had married at Truro Wesleyan Church. His Grandfather was a Methodist preacher who in Truro circuit. This didn’t mean too much to me as a child. I wish I could ask more questions now! At a young age with my Grandfather I discovered my love of books. Grandad had inherited some ‘old’ books from his mother including, works about John Wesley and works of John Bunyan. These books, from the mid-late 19th century are some of my most precious belongings.

 One of my most ‘famous’ relatives from Cornwall was William Murrish, colloquially known as ‘The Miner of Perranzabuloe’, near Perranporth. He was a Wesleyan through-and-through and after his early death in 1861 a biography was produced by his friend and Methodist minister, William Davis Tyack.  

The Grave of William Murrish

Grandad’s Wesleyan upbringing ensured he had a superb singing voice which passed in the genes, we like to think, to my Mother, and although I do not profess to be an excellent singer, I do enjoy singing!

In the paternal branches of my family tree, the Naylor’s and intermarried families hail from Lancashire and Yorkshire. These two counties are well famed for non-conformity and my ancestors span many Christian denominations there – ranging from 17th century Recusants in and around Preston, early Quakers in 17th century Clitheroe and Irish Roman Catholics in mid-19th century Liverpool. The struggles and constraints within which these forebears lived are a testament to their religious integrity and are a marvel considering the persecutions they suffered in those days.

My upbringing and study of family history has certainly broadened my own faith outlook and my profound love of beauty in the diversity of the Church. To have an appreciation of this diversity and the role that church has played in the lives of my ancestors enables me to see the richness of the many denominations of the Church.

I began by recalling some of my childhood memories of Emmanuel Church in Plymouth – and here I shall finish. Why? This is where I now find myself ‘at home’ in church. I find I am no different to my ancestors, in wanting to worship the one true God in a way which feels relevant to my life today. As Emmanuel is also integrally linked with my family history, it enables me on a personal, and private level, to feel closer to my Grandparents and that is a very special thing indeed. 

Graham was a committed member of St Chrysostom’s while a student at MMU, he now works as a librarian in Plymouth and has a keen interest in local and family history – and likes to keep in touch with St Chrysostom’s!

This is the fourth in our series of how our studies influence our faith. Previous posts have looked at Metallurgy and my faithMathematics and my faith, and Entomology and my faith.

Posted in Anglican, Christian, Faith | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

LGBT+ people and human rights

LGBT+ issues and human rights was the topic of an inspiring gathering at Church recently. Fr Chris and Prossy Kakooza lead the discussion. Fr Chris opened with an interesting whistle stop tour of the legal position of LGBT + people through the centuries in the UK. It was a great reminder to me of how far we have come in a matter of a few generations, but, in our discussion, another member of the group shared his own story of the rejection he had experienced coming out as a gay man later in life only a few years ago.

Prossy shared her story with us and I do not wish to paraphrase any of it because to do so would do her a great disservice. In summary, she told us of her struggle as a lesbian in Uganda and then her further struggle to secure asylum here in the UK.

 Prossy’s story was a harrowing personal account of the fate of many LGBT+ people in a number of countries across the world. Above all though was the remarkable strength and tenacity of Prossy not only to escape and fight for the right to stay in the UK, on the basis of the risks posed to her in the country of her birth because of her God given nature, but she has gone on to work seemingly relentlessly to help others in similar situations.

I asked Prossy, leaving the law to one side, what she thought ‎was the key reason people in Uganda were generally anti LGBT+ and she said she thought it was driven by fear and obsession with sex; so on the one hand the problem is just the same as all prejudice but on the other hand there is something unique about homophobia which is distaste/fear/obsession of what gay people do in bed!

So what might help? Prossy told us she had experienced rejection here in Manchester by some LGBT+ people because they had their own fears and prejudice about immigrants so she asked LGBT+ people particularly to be kinder and befriend other LGBT+ people seeking asylum.

Prossy told us that she and God had fallen out a number of times but they had fallen back in with each other and she and her partner, who also came to the UK for the same reasons‎, found strength in prayer. Prossy told us she thought the Bishops in the UK could do more to help by speaking out against homophobia in our world and there were lots of nods and affirming comments.

I hope and pray that the positive and inclusive ‎folk within the church will give strength to gathering momentum for change that starts with us.

We must make an effort to understand what is going on elsewhere in the world and indeed closer to home, take part in the debate whenever we can, extend friendship and welcome to brothers and sisters seeking asylum and hopefully too  the Bishops will be strengthened and inspired to do more.

Paul Pritchard

Posted in LGBT, St Chrysostoms Church, Uncategorized, Various Voices | Tagged , , | Leave a comment