Thursday, April 28, 2011

Seeking high and low – when life imitates Art

As a woman who’s fond of her Trollope’s (and even fonder of poor puns based on the Trollope family name) Oliphant’s, and Pym’s (and Pimm’s - there’s no stopping me tonight) I had an idea of what low and high church means. I like Trollope’s little joke about the high and dry church, everything I know about dissenting churches comes from reading Oliphant’s ‘Salem Chapel’ (which isn’t very much or very reliable because apparently she got little details wrong – but if it didn’t worry Mrs Oliphant it doesn’t worry me) and it’s Pym who made me wonder if the church was still a happy hunting ground for romantic complications.

My own church going has been confined to midnight mass at Christmas and tourism but personal preference leans towards smells and bells – I like decoration, colour, and a bit of theatre – none of which featured much in the Methodist and Presbyterian churches of my childhood, but all of which are findable in Leicester. I’m within a few minutes of three cracking churches – Leicester Cathedral (last visited to see Nosferatu) St Nicholas’s (built from the remains of the Roman city) and just across the street St Mary de Castro where it’s just possible that Chaucer got married.

I really like St Mary’s – it has a very friendly looking steeple (sounds silly but it’s true) and it means I’m almost home whenever I see it. Tonight the bells were all ringing as I came back, presumably in preparation for the royal wedding tomorrow, which always makes me want to learn how to bell ring but until recently it’s been a hard church to get into. It now opens for a couple of hours each day and mum and I went to have a look a couple of weeks ago which was quite an illuminating experience.

St Mary’s is high – they have leaflets explaining why use incense, why genuflect, why pray to saints so I think they mean it. Leicester’s Bishop (Bishop Tim) however is low and it seems there are issues. Who knew this kind of thing still went on? Not a heathen such as myself at any rate, but fresh out of Oliphant’s ‘The Perpetual Curate’ and it could be a scene from the book. St Mary’s lacks a priest at present – they have the occasional use of a retired priest from not so very nearby Uppingham but it’s not much of an answer. Meanwhile the bishop (according to the man in St Mary’s) is stalling with the result that the Church is throwing itself into the community in a way I haven’t seen before in my almost 7 years as its neighbour.

I want all the gossip to the point that I might have to join the congregation and see if it really is like being in a Pym or an Oliphant novel but meanwhile they have book and plant sales and do cups of tea, so I imagine I’ll be in there a lot more.

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