Sunday, June 29, 2008

It’s about Time

I began my last post, Bartholomew Fair, four days before I finally felt it was in condition to post. In part that’s because I am quite particular in my editing of my own writing and in part because I was also doing several other things. In fact, I do a lot of multitasking. But for a number of reasons, I have not been reading blogs with my usual assiduity in the past few weeks.

The tag at the head of this blog says these are the “thoughts of a progressive Episcopalian,” And indeed that is a good description of where I am coming from, and I write fairly often on churchy topics. By the time I turned back to this blog today, it was Sunday again – LGBT Pride Sunday in New York. A few weeks ago, I thought I would march in the parade, but then Liz and I came to the conclusion that it would really be too much. A few people from St. Mary’s went – we were hit by heavy rains a couple of times this afternoon and I hope they didn’t get drenched, but I suspect they did.

The primary reason I didn’t march today is that Liz and I are going to leave for Heart Lake tomorrow morning – in fact, we would have left today, but we couldn’t get ready in time.

This past week there was something called GAFCON going on in Jerusalem. GAFCON was a meeting of a peculiar group including neo-puritans who want to refight some of the battles that took place within the Church of England after the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558 and culminated with the restoration of Charles II in 1660, but mostly characterized by syncretism - they want to raise their cultural aversion to same-sex sex to the level of Christian doctrine.
Tobias has the best comment on them that I have seen. (Well, actually Jim Naughton’s comment at Jake's place quoted from The Lead at Episcopal Cafe -- is a winner.)

I have to stop now, because I’m going to watch Inspector Lewis.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Bartholomew Fair

Alexander Pope’s 1728 Dunciad begins:

Books and the man I sing, the first who brings
The Smithfield muses to the ears of kings.

In his notes to these lines in the Dunciad Variorum, 1729, the learned Scriblerus tells us that

“Smithfield is the place where Bartholomew Fair was kept, whose Shews, Machines, and Dramatical Entertainments, formerly agreeable only to the taste of the Rabble, were, by the Hero of this Poem and others of equal Genius, brought to the Theatres of Covent-Garden, Lincolns-Inn-Fields, and the Hay-Market, to be the reigning Pleasures of the Court and Town.”

There’s quite a bit of information about Bartholomew Fair available on the internet – I don’t particularly like to do research for blog entries anywhere else. A 1614 play by Ben Jonson called Bartholomew Fair takes place at the fair and gives us a glimpse of what the fair was like about a century before Pope’s reference to it. By Jonson’s time, the fair was already centuries old. It started (according to Wikipedia) in 1133 and continued until it was suppressed in 1855, at which time the Smithfield Market was built on the site of the fair. The fair took place annually for three or more days beginning on August 24th, the Feast of St. Bartholomew, in an area adjacent to the Priory of St. Bartholomew and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. The hospital, the priory, and the fair are all said to have been founded by Rahere, a courtier of Henry I who is reported to have had a religious conversion after the disastrous shipwreck of the White Ship in November. 1120. (The loss of the White Ship and it’s aftermath provide the historical background for Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth – a book, by the way, that I do not find compelling enough to finish.)

At the dissolution of the monasteries, much of the priory was pulled down and the hospital lost its funding. Henry VIII therefore provided the hospital with its own foundation – and it continues to this day. We know that the hospital was referred to as “Bart’s” in the nineteenth century because the noted Dr. Watson tells us that he was connected with Bart’s before his service in Afghanistan and that after he was invalided back to England, Stamford, a younger associate from his hospital days, took him back to Bart’s to meet a man who was looking for someone to share lodgings. That man was Sherlock Holmes.

Along with the hospital, two churches called St. Bartholomew’s remain from the days of the priory. St. Bartholomew the Less is located within the hospital grounds and is called “the less” to distinguish it from its larger neighbor, the Priory Church of St. Bartholomew the Great (often called Great St. Bart's) which contains the tomb of the founder, Rahere.

Recently an event involving two men less well known than Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but this time real persons, put Great St. Bart’s in the news. That event was the blessing of a civil union of two Anglican priests (both male) that closely resembled a wedding. The news broke two weeks after the ceremony itself – here’s a link to the first mention at Thinking Anglicans and another to The Lead at Episcopal CafĂ©. Both of those sites have posted followup stories. There has also been quite a bit of comment elsewhere in the blogosphere and in the press.

In the Dunciad, Pope lamented what he saw as a decline of taste, as popular entertainment, the taste of “the rabble,” spread from Smithfield to London's West End and to Westminster. He called it “the Progress of Dulness.” These days something else is emanating from Smithfield. I am hopeful that the emblematic ceremony at Great St. Bart’s on the Feast of the Visitation will prove to be another step in the right direction for the Anglican churches – and, of course, for the Church of England.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Political Compass

The Political Compass

Economic Left/Right: -8.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.72

Thanks to Tobias (and ultimately to Mimi) I discovered The Political Compass.
I took the test and found myself way down towards the corner in the third quadrant.

Over at Mimi's, I found that I was in the company of johnnieb and pj, both of whom were at the MadPriest gathering last fall. Most of the folks were in the same quadrant, but rather closer to the origin (center.)

This was my introduction to the two-dimensional Cartesian approach to political analysis, and I am impressed by the approach. Unlike most of the tests found on websites, this one is non-trivial.

There's darn little information on the website to identify the originators -- which I think is a shame -- and also nothing to clearly identify how the center is defined. The website has a reading list of writers in each of the four quadrants -- I would like to know where each of the writers falls on the graph.

In my local situation (Morningside Gardens, my housing coop,) I am involved in governance, and thus in a political situation. I am keenly aware of the distinction between the desirable and the achievable -- and probably few of my acquaintances know just how far to the bottom left I am.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Jerusalem, dearest

Fifty years ago, I graduated from Hamilton College. Hamilton was a small school then – our class totaled about 130 men at graduation. I certainly didn’t know everybody, but I knew who everybody was – and not just for my class – we all knew who most of the other students were.

This past weekend I attended my first reunion – the fiftieth. I had given some thought to attending other reunions – and now I regret that I never did. One reason I stayed away was that I was not in a fraternity – and not by choice – nobody wanted me. I was in a select group – 10% of my class – who were so-called “independents.” It was not until I had been out of college for ten or more years that I articulated to myself the anger at Hamilton that I felt because I had not received a bid to a fraternity. I hope to reflect more on that topic later – for now I’ll turn the page.

During my fifteen years with Rex, the occasion never arose to return to College Hill -- from 1961 to 1973 I used up all of my vacation time in annual trips to Europe. Shortly after Liz and I were married in 1975 we visited upstate New York and as part of the trip we drove through the Hamilton campus. Liz tells me she doesn’t remember that quasi-visit and I have no clear memory of it myself, so that flyby visit doesn’t really count. On June 5, 2008, I returned to College Hill for the first time in fifty years. As we pulled into the parking lot beside Emerson Hall for registration, I teared up. It really was a homecoming – I’ve not finished processing the emotions I felt and still feel about the visit.

On occasion I have observed that talking about experiences and feelings is like peeling an onion all the way down to the center. In this case, I’ll start with the most recent impressions – the end of reunion weekend –and then I expect to work backwards.

Before the class dinner Saturday evening, Liz and I went to the rehearsal of the mixed voice reunion choir – the choir sang two anthems during the Service of Remembrance on Sunday morning. I never sang while I was at Hamilton – I’m really sorry, because I might have been a better singer if I had. Sunday morning after breakfast we rehearsed again, and then came the service. My uncle Chuck, class of ‘46, came up from Binghamton for a special breakfast and the memorial service, and he and Nancy came into the chapel while we were rehearsing. Liz and I went downstairs from the gallery to greet them in the brief interval between the rehearsal and the service, spoke to them again after the service, and then joined them and two of Chuck’s contemporaries for the closing lunch. We got our money’s worth at that lunch – we both ate enough for both lunch and dinner. We did not need to eat again after we got to Heart Lake.

It was fun connecting with Chuck and Nance on the campus and at the reunion. Chuck is only 12 years older than I and I have memories of him from about the time I was 5 and he was 17 – he of course remembers me from even earlier – I was his first nephew and we have always had a special tie – which has become stronger in recent years.

When we got to the chapel for our rehearsal, the Baldwin choir – named for John Baldwin, the choir director of my time – was finishing their rehearsal of music for the choral prelude to the service. Suddenly they sang Parry’s Jerusalem (the original, with Blake’s words.) My first post on this blog in November 2006 included a story about Jerusalem at St. Mary's. That song gets to me – both the tune and the hokey Blake words – replete with English nationalism and Glastonbury legend.

The Service of Remembrance was structured like a generic Protestant worship service – complete with scripture readings – the New Testament reading was from Matthew, the beatitudes (5:1 - 12) and the light of the world (5:14 - 16.) There were psalms, prayers, and a sermon by one of my classmates. The service managed to be both worshipful and almost completely devoid of explicit Christian content. The main part of the service was the reading of the names of members of the reunion classes who had died in the past five years.

After the blessing and dismissal we all sang Carissima, Hamilton’s alma mater, written by Melancthon Woolsey Stryker, class of 1872, who was a Presbyterian Minister and President of Hamilton College from 1892 to 1917. Carissima is sung to a tune by the Italian composer Fabio Campana. (Using only internet resources, I have not found any information about the tune – Campana was a composer of operas and songs and lived from 1819 to 1882.)

As we were driving to the college, I sang Carissima to Liz, then on the Hill we sang it twice – the first time was at the Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association on Saturday. Both times I was briefly moved to tears. I cry easily, but I was surprised at my reaction to Carissima. I did notice Chuck with a handkerchief at the same point I cried.

That was the first layer of the onion of feelings and impressions about my return to Hamilton.