Talks in St Martin's
I took my two teenage sons around the Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, near Tragalgar Square, last Sunday, and found that they were surprisingly moved by and interested in the church. Its signs of life and vitality seemed, to them, to contrast strikingly with the deadness of so many other supposedly famous "central" places of worship. It is true of course that St Martin's, under the dynamic vicariate of the Rev Austen Williams, has become possibly the most talked about and popular church in the middle of London. Even the somewhat Hogarthian figures of crumpled forms who sit hunched in the shadows on either side of the church attest to the attraction of this particular house of God for those "least" of His brethren whose only "home" is here.
The spirit of this remarkable church and its history has been skilfully captured in a booklet called "Twixt Heaven and Charing Cross" by Carolyn Scott. I was pleased to find copies of it still available in the porch shop, fearing that it might be out of print.
The signs of life are visible, moreover not only inside the building. Numerous notices give information about the large range of activities associated with the church, and the youth and other groups who meet regularly in the crypt.
One notice listed the. speakers in the current series of lunch-time talks on Fridays under the general title of "Sins of the Times." Next Friday it will be the very interesting leader of the South London Industrial Mission, the Rev Peter Challen. And this week, today in fact, it is none other than Dr Jack Dominian, who is also, on Sunday, March 2, sharing the giving of the fifth Cardinal Bea Memorial Lecture.
The other lecturer at this latter event will be Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs, and the occasion, which should be a particularly worthwhile one, will be chaired by Fr Herbert Richards. It will take place at 4.30 pm at the Sisters of Sion Convent, 34-36 Chepstow Villas, London, W11. (All, I gather, are welcome.) TWO new publications come to mind as we teeter on the brink of March. One is The Sunday Missal, recently published b,y Collins. It is a volume handsome in appearance but light in weight (leather bound, £3; vinyl, £1.90).
Its appearance is timely despite (hence the reference to the imminence of March) the coming into official use next month of varied forms for the Gloria and the Creed. Such changes will not militate against the great utility of this new Missal, the best of its kind now available, brilliantly edited with true liturgical scholarship (by Fr Harold Winstone) with a true eye for typographical delight. The Sunday Masses for the entire three-year cycle are contained in this one volume.
As for the further changes just mentioned, and about to become effective, I will say little, being no expert. But a thoughtful and provocative article on the subject will be appearing in "The Clergy Review" next month by its editor, Fr Michael Richards. It will be worth reading.
THE other book brought to mind on the eve of St David's day is Wales: An Archaeological Guide, by Christopher Houlder (published next Monday by Faber, £4.50.) It is, in its own way, no less handsome than the Sunday Missal, being printed on art paper in convenient size and with numerous photographs, maps and diagrams. It fills a definite gap in giving highly practical advice on how to reach the first hand sources for Welsh history from over forty centres, and is a virtual gazetteer of all the places listed and described.
PERHAPS the most obvious place to visit this week end — if one happens to be within range — would be St David's Peninsula, the site of the original "Menevia" community founded in the sixth century. Hard by is the fabulous Pembrokeshire National Park, an excellent area through which to wander while meditating on Wales's incurable spirit of independence.
In fact, in the tradition of "1066 and all that" we naturally tend to think of the coming of the Normans as the most important date in the making of modern Britain. But the pretensions of these upstart newcomers were given a cool reception in the most western parts of our island.
But it was not till after the Norman "conquest" that men got to know how important was this community of Menevia. Its spiritual riches were inherited by the biographer, Rhygyfarch, of the man who had built it up but also travelled far and wide to bring holiness and eloquence to a world beset by notions that God's grace was inferior to man's will.
This man, Of course, was St David, and by the time his spiritual heirs were looking askance at the Norman innovators, his community had become known as the See of St David's. Was it partly for such reasons that Wales has never been subject to "conquest"? And will it be for somewhat similar reasons that certain political presuppositions about Britain and the Common Market may get a rude shock in June?
Let us pray for guidance to Wales's patron saint.
* * * * * * TALKING of politicians, it would seem that the technically "premature" publication of the Dick Crossman diaries is likely to make their actual publication in book form the dampest squib to fail to ignite for a long time. Though the subject matter is undoubtedly of top interest, the endless subjectivity tends to produce some boring reading. The general credibility rate is low, almost as bad as with that most incredible commentator of them all, Cecil Harmsworth King.
Dick, God rest him, really gives himself away on the trivia rather than the great moments. His worry, for example, that solitary occupation of a whole compartment on a crowded Monday morning train almost constituted a social problem (because of the rule compelling him not to study Cabinet papers with strangers present) ill accords with his normal way of going about his "homework," It may be remembered that, on one occasion, he left behind him some highly confidential documents he had been working on during a visit to a fashionable restaurant in St James's Street. They were returned to his Ministry by the next occupant of the table he had been sitting at, who only made capital out of the occasion to the extent of tipping off the papers. But Dick Crossman did not react to such gaffes on his part with any exaggerated show of graciousness.
Always being right must have been tiring work.