Saturday, March 21, 2009


My dad's gone back to the church. Which is to say that he never actually turned his back on it, he's just not been very often in the past forty years. When we moved up here in the sixties the two churches within half an hour's walking distance were a tad clique-y and unfriendly and not really warranting the walk.

He's found himself a nice church and the only problem now is getting a lift to it, happily provided by one or other of the in-laws. And he likes it just fine as the church has a pleasant congregation and a congenial vicar.

But he is having problems with the religion.

"They don't say the kyrie eleison," he tells me. "And it's all in English!"

My father, you see, was brought up High Church. And the High Church Anglicans of the thirties and forties make the Vatican look like a particularly Spartan offshoot of the Wee Frees. This was in the old Manchester before they knocked down the old terraces to build new slums, decanting the broken-up communities to diffused estates in the care of community centres and the occasional bus back to the homeland. Back then each street corner had a church, a pub, a tobacconists and a chip shop; all man's daily needs within reach of a harsh word. The churches were bought and paid for by Eminent Victorians. Each was magnificent and, frankly, vainglorious, straining spires poking their way through the yellow smog that paid for them. And, for reasons I no longer recollect, they were all High Church. (Back then you were either High Church or Chapel, anything in between was too wishy-washy for anyone to have any truck with). Even in those days of depression when Sunday best spent the rest of the week in the pop shop the priest's vestments were elaborate and splendid with very nearly a stole a week in complications of the liturgical colours. When I was little we'd be taken in Saint Gabriel's on the Saturday afternoon shopping trip down Alex Road. We'd have a look around the church, to be sure to bow to the lady as directed and then back to the shopping.

Well, they're all knocked down now. Or else turned into bijoux city apartments. So all we've got left now are nice little churches filled with pleasant people who don't do the Latin. But if that fills the need then that's all that really matters.


scarlet-blue said...

Even country churches are going the same way.
I don't go to church, but I did as a kid. I liked the singing.

Gadjo Dilo said...

I never thought of Manchester as being a high-church, Latin-speaking sort of a place, but it should at least add a counterweight to the scally mentality. I hope your father gets the spiritual nourishment he's looking for.

Madame DeFarge said...

I have some sympathy with your father. Having wandered in the groves of Episcopalianism for some time in Edinburgh, where it was very Hugh Church, I felt vaguely disquieted to realise that some people actually said all this in English. Make better tea too.