Climb Every Mountain

view from langbar over bolton abbeyThis was the view from the third big climb in my ride last Sunday. It is the now familiar route taking in the Moor above Fewston Reservoir, Blubberhouses Moor (Côte de Blubberhouses since the Tour de France), Langbar Moor above Ilkley, then Ilkley Moor. Delightful, and must be about 50 miles or so long since I start at Menston and end at Bingley (commuter pass means I don’t need to endlessly cycle the dull corridor out of Bradford). Google maps amazes me by saying that the route includes 4000′ of climbing, well I guess that’s probably true.

The route is mostly quiet roads, though there’s a little bit of the A59 downhill, mostly, from the top of Blubberhouses. The ride ended up at the Welsh Society Evening Service at the Methodist Chapel in Bingley. What better language to sing lustily in than Welsh? Even if you don’t have any Welsh…

The bergamot has bloomed and the bees have expressed their preference. Bee balm it is. Though the Bishop of Llandaff comes in second, so a single dahlia is evidently a pleasure not just to the gardener but to the bee.

The Bishop of Llandaff may be gorgeous, but my reading is about the wonderful Bishop of Oxford (and other Sees), Charles Gore. Prestige’s book on Gore is a great traverse across a large chunk of nineteenth century history. It has at least one good effect, that of making the reader aware that if you thought the contemporary church was unique in its divided, struggling character, then you would be very wrong. Gore had little sense of success as a bishop, having failed quite to bring about the turn to the credal and gospel roots of faith that he had hoped for. Nevertheless, he gives a model of belief that is as valuable today as then. Charitable for the most part, thoughtful, faithful, free of the materialism of his age, free of being posbish of llandaffsessed by comfort and wealth, committed to living a gospel that was for the poor at least as much for the rich (‘The Christian Social Union’), escaping from narrow church party  politics so he could work with anyone who shared his practical and theological aims, he exemplifies much that is the best amongst Anglican bishops. He reached a point of despair over discipline though. How do you tell a clergyman (it was men in those days) not to use forms of liturgy that are theologically, very likely legally, wrong for the Anglican Church? A united front amongst bishops failed to materialise and Gore was enraged by clergy who knowingly flouted the rules he tried to impose on Oxford diocese, particularly over the reservation of the sacrament. There is some evidence, reading Prestige, that Gore wasn’t the best person for diplomatic handling of difficult situations. Gore failed to keep the monks of Caldey Island within the Anglican church, Gore publically requiring as a minimum a list of things that the monks of Caldey regarded as well beyond their maximum! Yet Gore had been in dialogue with them, had visited them; did he think they would accept episcopal weight? It may be, though, that no-one was likely to succeed with that particular situation and Gore was moved by exasperation! Although a liberal catholic, and therefore willing to make faith understandable in modern terms while remaining faithful to the creeds and councils, Gore campaigned against contraception. His reasons were the familiar ones to do with the point of procreation, written in nature by God. He also had an uneasy awareness of how sex and marriage might come apart further if contraception was easily available. His campaign looks, with the benefits of hindsight, utterly without hope of success. This was, of course, before the pill. His understanding of nature was, writing in the 1920s, innocent of the complexities of Darwinian theory or a sense of just how incredibly varied and complex nature is. The wider problem of holding a very disparate communion together remains, perhaps particularly within England, except now we’ve all got used to it. Preaching by untrained laity (though the worst sermon I ever heard was from a Dean!), poorly structured and with a highly questionable content, services that don’t quite make sense liturgically, and so on, are quite familiar situations. The book borders on some big questions – liberty and discipline in the church, faith and politics (in the early days of socialism), how far do you have to believe the creeds to belong / represent, at what point does identity dissolve in anarchy? At least he left a legacy – foremost amongst which, the Community of the Resurrection, as found in West Yorkshire….

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