Saturday, 27 April 2019

The C'S: Canterbury Cathedral, Clifton Down, and Christ Church, Clifton.

The  C'SCanterbury Cathedral, Clifton Down, and Christ Church, Clifton.

I've told you a bit about my transition into Anglicanism at Canterbury Cathedral, and about the way that the very building spoke to me - saying "come home".

I've also told you about the Bristol Downs (Durdham and Clifton) and  the 441 acres of lovely open space in what is a fair sized City.

Matters came together when on a Good Friday in about 1970,  I attended an evening service at Christ ChurchClifton (which stands on Clifton Down) .

I cannot remember what the preacher said, but I do remember that I left that service knowing without a doubt that G-d, The Holy One, loved me unconditionally.

That tipped the scales.  I began to attend Christ Church just after Whit Sunday  (Pentecost Sunday) in that year.

It was at Christ ChurchClifton that I was Confirmed, and it was from Christ ChurchClifton that I was commended for Ordination.

My Dad and Mum came to the confirmation service. They had been raised as Methodists and they later affiliated with the Plymouth Brethren, so the Confirmation service was a mystery to them.

They did not know what to make of  the  folderol of the Liturgy, but one thing stuck in their minds:  A faithful and lovely Christ Church parishioner, one Mr. John Collins (long since deceased I am sure, but I can still "see" his face), welcomed them warmly, greeted them with Christly love, and made them feel right at home.

Christ Church Clifton, Bristol, on the edge of Clifton Down.

Church Building 1843/44 in a replica of the "Early English" style.

Tower and Spire (212 feet high) added in 1859.

                 So now you C.

Friday, 26 April 2019

"We are going Up the Downs" Really?

Bristol, U.K.  children are likely to have heard a parent or other adult say "We are going Up the Downs". 

'Tis poor English, but it's designed to bring a smile to a child's face.

"Up" is in the sense that Sarasotans might say "up to Bradenton"  (or "down to Naples"), but also in the sense that one has to drive, or walk or cycle up one hill or other to get to the Downs.

But what are the Downs?,  (more accurately Clifton Down and Durdham Down).  

Originally public pasture lands,  they are 431 acres of open land on the north west of Bristol,  land which is designated for the recreational use of citizens and visitors in perpetuity.  

From the 1830's onwards the Bristol districts of Westbury Park, Henleaze,  and Redland were being developed as fashionable districts for the growing middle classes, (merchants, doctors, lawyers etc).

 Clifton and Sneyd Park were being developed  for the very wealthy who desired their mansions.

With imaginative  foresight the City Burghers came to understand that the great open spaces of the pasture lands were "ripe for despoiling (development)".  So in 1861, in order  to preserve this open space  the City Council bought Durdham Down and the **Society of Merchant Venturers bought Clifton Down, thus ensuring a grand open space for the people of Bristol.  

Clifton and Durdham Downs are jointly administered by the City and the Society.


431 acres of open space for walking, for sports (mainly football), and for the enjoyment of beauty.

The Downs were  (and maybe still are) a grand place for the pleasure of working people.  Back in the days when car ownership was rare the workers would take a tram, and later a 'bus  "up the Downs".  

My family was lucky -  we lived on 'bus route which took us directly there.

When I was little there was a small area at the Downs known as "the Dumps". It had been a (surface) lead mine in the 18th C, and the little hillocks and slopes were a great place to run up and down.  

They have more recently been leveled. Rats!

The Downs have a natural western boundary -  the Bristol Avon River Gorge, with the magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge, allegedly designed alone by the great Isambard Kingdom Brunel, but in truth dependent on Sarah Guppy.

 The original plans for the bridge were drawn up by Bristol mother-of-six Sarah Guppy.
Guppy first patented the design for a suspension bridge across the Avon Gorge in 1811 and gave her plans to Brunel for free because she was a modest woman who wanted to see them used for the public good.
Bristolians love their bridge.  Mary Tudor is alleged to have said that when she died, Calais would be written on her heart.  

Bristolians will die thinking about the Downs, and especially about their Suspension Bridge.

At the Downs.  Observatory with Camera Obscura.

At the Downs.  Viewing platform in the Cave below Clifton Down,  and with views of the Avon Gorge.

The Avon Gorge and the Bridge.  The Clifton Downs are to the left.

A general view of The Downs 

There is a Railway Tunnel (Bristol - Severn Beach line)  deep beneath the Downs.  Here is a Ventilation tower on the Downs -  essential in the steam train days.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Not all Muslims are the same. Not all Christians are the same. Not all Jews are the same.


Do not, upon pain of bearing false witness, speak of "The Jews", "The Muslims", or "The Christians" as if  all Jews were the same; all Muslims the same, all Christians the same.

To do so would reveal our intellectual laziness.

To do so would reveal that we are trapped by our own small minded prejudice.

Many Sri Lankan Christians were recently murdered in a series of ghastly suicide bombings.  It is widely believed that the murderers were Muslims.

But I remind you that not all Muslims are the same.

Here is a "healing" and gracious response to the horror from some Sri Lankan Muslims.

Oh the sadness of five tragic deaths in Berkshire County, MA

Below you will see three obituaries as published in the Berkshire Eagle today (April 25th).

One is is for three Karpinski children, one for their mother Justine Wilbur, one for their father Luke Karpinski.

Each died under totally tragic circumstances.

I knew Mum and Dad, Justine and Luke, many years ago when they were High School sweethearts and Luke was receiving treatment in a Boston Hospital for leukemia. Justine was his constant bedside companion.

In 2002 I officiated at their wedding.

Please pray for their extended families.

There is no need to reply to me about this  - I shed my tears when I heard about their deaths during my March trip to Texas

If this link does not work you can search for the obits in today's (April 25th)  Berkshire Eagle.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019


I was with my good friend Michael Vono  (then Rector at St. Paul's within the Walls Episcopal Church, Rome, Italy -  later Episcopal Bishop of the Rio Grande)

We were on a tour of classical Greece.

On the morning of 23rd April we were at Delphi, that home of the ancient and intriguing gods.

Our splendid tour guide told us that we were very near to a small town named St. George's  (in English), maybe Agios Georgios (in Greek).

Would we like to go there to observe the locals on their feast day? Would we?  We jumped at the chance.

We saw the row of Greek widows dressed all in black as they watched the goings on and doubtless made funny or sarcastic comments to each other.

We saw the old men, dressed in street clothes (with flat working men's caps) as they, already well oiled, danced in the street and fired their rifles into the air. (Food for the widows' chatter!)

We saw the young women and men, all beautifully and handsomely decked out in (Greek) National Dress.  (In truth there are regional variations on what non-Greeks call Greek National Dress). They wandered the streets and greeted we tourists with warm smiles.

We saw the lambs as they were being roasted whole on spits.

I (not we) enjoyed  the proffered "nibbles" of meat from the inner organs:  heart, liver, kidney, ready to eat before the lamb itself was completely roasted.  YUM  

So, twenty years on, I am celebrating St. George's Day with this feast of memories.

(N.B.  St George, the Patron Saint of England is also recognised as a Saint by some Muslim groups).

My photo's from that day are long since lost, so what you see below has been lifted from the web.

The widows

Older Greek man  (this one is sober!)

Oh shoot!

Lamb, my favourite meat.

More widows

Young Women

Young(ish) Men

From Arachora in Central Greece (1)

From Arachora in Central Greece (2).

Monday, 22 April 2019

Of Simple Meeting Houses and Grand Cathedrals

Chelsea Gospel Hall, Bristol, U.K.

I grew up in a denomination known as the "Plymouth Brethren".

The Brethren denied that they were a denomination. That was true inasmuch as there was no central governing body, no constitution and no hierarchy.  Each local Church was autonomous and was governed by (un-ordained and unpaid ) male Elders.

It was not true inasmuch as there were norms and practices which were common to each of the "Assemblies".

The Brethren were the spawning pool for one of the two great heresies which afflict much of  the modern day Evangelical Churches viz: "Dispensationalism" (you'll have to look that up for yourself!)  the other heresy being the noxious and dangerous "Prosperity Gospel"

I could go on at length about the Brethren, and have done so in other blogs. N.B. a "Google" search is most likely to direct you to a parallel denomination (arising from an early division) which has some resemblances to a cult.

My focus today is on the utter simplicity of their meeting houses.  No art work, no stained glass (Chelsea Gospel Hall, above, where I grew up had I think frosted plain glass - frosted that we would not be disturbed by the world outside), and certainly no cross or crucifix. 

There were biblical texts from Revelation painted on the east and west walls, before you "Behold I come quickly", behind you "Even so, come Lord Jesus". (The Brethren were almost obsessed with their teachings about the second coming of the Lord Jesus).

At the front of the Hall there was a large podium, in front of which was a plain and lovely table, on which, every Sunday morning would be placed a Silver Chalice filled with wine, and a Silver Paten on which was a whole loaf. Unlike most Protestant groups which shared the bread and the cup every Sunday  "in remembrance of Him".

There was and there is a great beauty in simplicity.   I treasure the memory of simple beauty in a Gospel Hall. There was also an aural beauty in the long silences we "heard" in our Sunday Morning Meeting.

In due course I needed and wanted more.  I began to flirt with the Church of England.  I didn't get it all but there was a new beauty in the simple 1662 Book of Common Prayer liturgy, a beauty which was seducing me.

Came the day, (I think that I was twenty three years old), when I had my first car.  On vacation from the Bank where I worked I threw a simple tent into the car and drove to Kent.  Of course I wanted to stand above the White Cliffs of Dover. More than that I was inexorably drawn to Canterbury and its great Cathedral.

I entered and was overwhelmed by a different kind of beauty.  Then I "heard" something else in this new beauty.  The building spoke to me.  "Come home" it said, "come home to your heritage".

Thus the beauty of Canterbury Cathedral was utterly consequential for my journey into the Church of England. I would weep were Canterbury Cathedral to be destroyed by fire.

Thus I am able to square my sadness about the Notre Dame, Paris fire with my "equal and more" sadness about the arson at those three Baptist Churches in Louisiana.  

"Equal and more" because the Notre Dame fire was accidental, but the Louisiana fires were a result of human evil.  I hope that I would weep were Chelsea Gospel Hall to be burned to the ground.

The Cathedral whose beauty spoke to my soul in my journey into the Church of England.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Easter Fare 2019

Breakfast: Smoked Trout, Hard Boiled Eggs, Crispy buttered bread roll. Scandinavian inspired maybe?

Easter Basket from my friend Ashley L. - candies, chocolate easter bunny, hard boiled eggs (coloured),  and treats for Zion.

Home made rice pudding.  Not a traditional Easter dish, but I had deep desire for some, so I made my own.

Easter lunch with good friends at Sarasota's "Rosemary and Thyme" restaurant on North Orange Ave (see below).

 I chose a Sea Food salad, by no means a traditional Easter Dish,  because  my stomach demanded it.  'Twas delicious.