Wells Cathedral


The ceiling of the nave shows the Tree of Life design. You can see right through, past the altar now generally used- the priest stands behind the table, in full view of the congregation, as is fashionable, rather than far away, celebrating a secret mystery. Those arches, looking so modern, are internal buttresses put up when the tower began to lean.

nave 2

This shows Christ, and the ubiquitous fan vaulting.

I particularly like the heads, carved everywhere on the walls.

head 1

head 2

head 3

This is my favourite. He owns everything he beholds. It is new to him, and he is excited.

Tombs, now:

tomb 1

He has his feet on a snow-leopard, and an angel whispers in his right ear.

tomb 2

The Bishop had this carved before he died, and saw every time he came here what he would end up looking like.

tomb 3

Not a problem for the Jacobean.


altar frontal

Chester certainly has the advantage of Wells on modern art. Their millennium addition was this set of altar frontals.


clock 3

clock 2

But who needs modern art, when you have possibly the oldest clock in the world still telling the time with its original movement? The guide did not say that movement is now in the Science Museum in London, so I thought it was here. Wikipedia says I was completely under the wrong impression: that jouster has been knocked off his horse since the 14th century, said the guide. Hm.



The whole, including the West front, would originally have been brightly painted. Edward VI ordered all churches be whitewashed inside, and this is all the colour that survives. However I was surprised that the statues outside remain intact.


So now I don’t know whether to believe that guide, that the font is Saxon, and its wooden cover Jacobean.

fan vaulting



“What moved you most?” asked Susan. I was intrigued, or fascinated; I was impressed; but what moved me most was the birds flocking on that stone cliff, and descending as one before rising again in a circular motion, back to their roosts.

West wall

Chester Cathedral

Jayne is at the garage, so I clothes-shopped, then touristed in Chester for a bit. The Cathedral, so close to the walls, is surrounded by trees, which prevent a clear picture; only now I think the strong sunshine was perfect for the building through the trees. I went in for choral Evensong, then looked round.

Here is the West window, dating back to 2001.

West window

And here, click to enlarge.

West window

There are icons in the chapels behind the main altar. Odd to have a lady chapel when prayers to the Mother are not supposed to do any good: Hooray for Anglicans!

icon annunciation

icon descent

I had to cross the rope to get a clear picture, with the light from the windows reflected on the surface. When I went back, I set off the alarm, which twittered and rasped at once. A man came to switch it off. “Oh dear, was that me?” I said, passing him.

Here is the fountain in the courtyard.

fountain 2


North of the choir stalls there is a monument for a 17th century bishop, a 19th century pastiche like the Victorian imitation of Elizabethan architecture outside.


Trilobite 1

trilobite 2When I was on holiday, my mother had the dog put down. Arthritis in her back leg made it difficult for her to stand up, though I would still like to have been told beforehand. But it might have affected me even more that when I was at University, my parents moved, and without telling me my mother took all the books I had left at home to a second-hand bookshop. I told Gregor, and he was shocked: “Sixty Doctor Who books! Sixty!” Gregor had got cable TV because it was showing old Doctor Who each night, had a notebook with the names of the actors writers and directors of each serial, and was busking to pay off his overdraft at £5 a time, never knowing where his next Doctor Who book was coming from.

One needs to practise with small losses.

What do your possessions say about you? I was proud of my hi-fi, a Mission amplifier and speakers, and Marantz CD player, and my TV, small and black-and-white, which all proclaimed that I am a cultured and educated person, at least in my own mind. That might be why I keep so many books. I am pleased to have read On Becoming a Person, it was life-changing, but I won’t read it through again, and I have not even dipped into it for years. On the other hand, a friend recognised its distinctive spine and we discussed it.

Through and through th’ inspir’d leaves,
Ye maggots, make your windings;
But O respect his lordship’s taste,
And spare his golden bindings!

But books do not need golden bindings to show off taste.

You might think this net-book my most treasured possession, the time I spend with it, but eventually I will replace it, and chuck it away happily. It is a tool. I value it for what it lets me do, rather than for the thing itself. Only a few books are tools. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is more reliable than the Internet, and the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary-

There’s something I can prize in a possession, I who thought myself too practical, Roundhead, rational to relate emotionally to things, and at the same time too Spiritual to idolise them.

At £70 in the Nineties, it involved some sacrifice to get it. It is not beautiful exactly, but imposing on the bookshelf, two volumes 11¼x5¼”. It has had practical use at least monthly, hundreds of times since I bought it. And it does say something about me, to anyone who might find out something about me from looking at my bookshelves.

I am proud of my quirks, and have an 18th century edition of Barclay’s Apology for the True Christian Divinity, still the pre-eminent work of Quaker theology. I could not afford a 17th century edition. Rufus Jones’ histories, and my 19th century Books of Discipline, alongside recent Swarthmore Lectures, give a definite message to other Quakers. But generally, books are disposable. I value the experience of reading them, but afterwards there are others to read; the message a visitor gets from one s/he might get from another, and after, they are so much dead weight, to carry around if I move. Better to have an e-file.

There is the piano. I would not be without it, but do not play it much. However, what I value is the experience, not the object- if I look with pleasure on my bicycle in the hall it is because I imagine riding it.

I have mementoes. That picture of a camelSphinx by the Sphinx-

-will it scan? Yes. There it is. The colour is not right, and I did not take it out of its frame-

I remember where it hung, in my grandparent’s house, but it is not, usually, a madeleine for me. I do not find myself back, there, looking at it. Keeping it may be a way of honouring them, but perhaps it is more that throwing it away or selling it would dishonour them, or something. It is the same with my mother’s silver teapots. I have found out what EPNS stands for, but they were created to be valued. They have the look of something designed to be looked at, but I don’t quite get it, and I don’t keep them polished, they tarnish too quickly.

These family bonds are something to free myself of, at the same time as something to venerate. Something which matures in my mind as I mature, part of me which does not limit or define me. Those things, the symbols, relate to them somehow, and I need not know precisely how. The photograph from my parents’ wedding reception, though- as I journeyed from dependency to loathing and resentment of them, then back to Love, it was a tool for me, to see them at their brightest and happiest, and it touches me when I look at it.

There are other things, which have meant so much to me at one time, and after, not. The full-fed beast shall kick the empty pail. I went to see the psychiatrist in London, and bought a silver bangle. I was moving forward towards transition. This was something I wanted to symbolise and celebrate. That bangle became invested with all the meaning of my coming liberation. Then it got a bit battered, and vanished in a burglary. The symbol loses meaning when reality comes; it was a cup of water in a desert, and now I have high-pressure taps in a temperate land. I can invest a thing with meaning, then it has that meaning for me. Then I need that meaning less, and the echo of it dwindles, and I think Oh! Yes, that. But I could not throw away this old battered plastic key-fob, the first gift from my greatest friend.

Rublev Trinity: Angels at MamreI have things which I bought for their beauty. Those crystal wineglasses which I got in my first home make a wonderful rich sound if I flick them. I still get pleasure from them, though it has changed as I have changed. Beauty varies. I have a trilobite embedded in slate, 450m years old. I love the detail of its segments, but it symbolises for me three centuries of effort to wrest meaning from such perplexing stone, and 450m years of coincidence, that it still exists.

And I have a copy of Andrei Rublev’s Angels at Mamre. It is hand made with gold leaf on aged wood on Mount Athos, so it is a record of centuries of self-sacrifice and reverence. So I must treat it with respect. In a sense, though, it is just a thing, and if I no longer owned it for some reason it would be no great loss for me. That practice in loss has freed me from some pain. The icon is never of greater value to me than when someone notices it and comments on its beauty. Like the net-book, it is a tool, to make a connection, to another person or to God. The connection matters. The tools are replaceable.

What of The Rake’s Progress? There it was on the wall of The Foundling Hospital in London, and people came up close to it to examine it, for it is an art-work to hold in your hands and appreciate each tiny detail, ideally over a period of months. But if I owned it myself, and showed it only to visiting friends it would be wasted. It is too great for me. It deserves to be seen, by all the people who can gain from seeing it. I felt excitement in the gallery which I might not feel, if it were on my wall. There is no need to possess a thing to treasure it and take delight from it.

I treasure, too, the Quaker meeting house; but it would be almost nothing but for the people who meet there. And if I moved, there would be another meeting house, and even another community of people. This is a world of abundance, beauty and wonder, none of which needs be possessed.


Nine_order_of_angels 1What is incense for?Nine_order_of_angels

-It smells nice.
-I heard that they buried bodies in the floor of churches, and it covered up the smell of the bodies.
-Yes, there was that church in Bath where the floor was subsiding, and they had to remove a lot of bodies.
-It might need to cover the smell of the living!
-In the 1960s, it covered up the smell of pot.

-I thought it was prayer, an aroma ascending before God, said the Retreatant. Brother Herbert just smiled.

It smells nice and it gives you something to do. I used to serve at the altar: we used to walk perpendicular to the walls of the church, North-South or East-West, never diagonally. It makes the sanctuary special, other-worldly, different from outside; it is a way of showing respect, in that I do not walk the obvious way but a different way; it lets me do a 90° turn, and make my cassock-alb swing, which is theatrical for the watchers: it makes it special for me, but also for them, and deepens the experience of approaching the sanctuary from the nave.

It is the same with the thurifer, priest, and boat-boy who carries the Navicula, a metal container which holds incense. Preparing the thurible beforehand, with charcoal, then opening it, putting on the incense, swinging it correctly so it neither burns too quickly nor goes out, all the ritual around that, then censing the altar, priest, servers and congregation, is great theatre-business. Where I worshipped, we rarely or never used such things, but one of my earliest memories is being in a different Episcopal church with the procession going in, the colours and the robes. I might have been around four.

Brother Herbert’s reading was on faith coming from worship, and not the other way around. My summary, through my biases- opening up to God/the Other/ Reality by performing ritual and saying ritual words; and thereafter comes theology. It is like writing a poem, and then along come the dogmatists, to make a system or Understanding of it which can be taught and learned by rote; and then, some worship the dogma rather than the Reality.

-I heard “you have to take your dogma out for a walk”, show it round to a community, test it out with them.

A paradox! In the Eucharist, we recite the Creed: the Nicene Creed, which unites the churches, and standardises the dogma. (Again, Brother Herbert just smiles.)

We shall not cease from exploration. Relationship to The Other/ Infinite/ Whatever may grow, along with reading about it, as long as the words are a spring-board rather than a box, curtailing us. I said something like that, and the Retreatant nodded and smiled enthusiastically.

I was struck when sprinkled with holy water, on the top of my head: I did not feel it, and this brought on regret that I wear a wig, stronger than I have felt for some time. Then I reflected on the oddness of that: sometimes I regret, when I see the beauty of another’s hair, sometimes I think well it’s not all that bad, really, when I hear them complain about it, because few are entirely satisfied with their hair; perhaps this is a new reason to regret my need to wear a wig, and so the regret becomes acute again. I had thought I had come to terms with it.

We also discussed the Tao Te Ching. We love the Tao. It is a cosy little spiritual club we have here, quite delightful.

Catholic Truth

Here is Catholic Truth on the scandal of sex abuse at Fort Augustus Abbey, a Benedictine-run school. It is all down to those pesky homosexuals, apparently. If no-one with homosexual tendencies was in the priesthood, there would be no abuse of boys. The problem could not possibly be the requirement of celibacy, which it appears few priests manage to obey.

I love her approach to editing comments. She deleted the entire text of one, and at first put in an explanation of how offensive it was, and how the commenter had deleted her comment on his site. She deleted the comment about her driving people away from the Catholic church. She is monarch of all she surveys, or at least of her own little site. The commenter had a fair point: denied outlet for their sexual urges, the monks took the option which gave them the least chance of discovery or penalty, that is, to abuse boys. Celibacy is the problem. Or the church’s refusal to report abusers to the government authorities is the problem: Thank God for the Reformation.

Gay men disproportionately have the gifts of empathy which make an excellent pastor. I accused her of denying vocations. There are 2566 Romish parish churches in England and Wales, and the ordination of 31 priests in 2012 was a ten year high. This is clearly not enough to maintain ministry to those churches. I went to the house of the rector of the Roman Catholic cathedral in Cardiff (while chairing the local Churches Together) and he noted that while it was built in the ’60s for several priests, now he was the only one.

“Margaret Mary” denies that they have a vocation. Gay men are just too dangerous for male children in their congregations. The answer, it appears, is to ordain saints, who follow the Apostles. “Editor” then says, There ARE no other “Christian churches”. Christ founded only one. And “we” have thousands of saints, dating back 2000 years. To my challenge, she confirmed that the Orthodox = schismatic. Only her lot are proper Christian. Christ founded The Church, and I’m not in it. Margaret Mary: “outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation”…Anyone who is not a member of the visible Church on earth might not end up in Hell but if they don’t end up in Hell it’s because of the graces coming to them through the Catholic Church. So that’s me told.

She has the Answer. The first thing to do about the decades of child abuse scandals in the RC church throughout the World is to kick out all the gays. Then, we can have saints as priests, to renew the Faith.

Petrus comments, I can’t accept that God creates men or women “homosexual”. He makes us to know Him, love Him and serve Him. Homosexuality is a moral disorder. It would be impossible for God to create a human being with an inclination that could possibly lead to eternal damnation. Impossible.

Homosexuality must, therefore be either a lifestyle choice or an acquired disorder. There’s no other explanation. Except that God, and homosexuality, are not as he supposes. I wondered if he were a satirist, but it appears not.

These are people perfectly divorced from reality. You can win every argument, if you are prepared to deny anything that contradicts your position. The trouble with that is that it makes you incapable of dealing either with the child abuse scandal or the lack of vocations.

Jesus and Law

File:Bloch-SermonOnTheMount.jpg“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” said Jesus. That is, everyone.

The Book of Daniel, which has some resemblance to Revelation, at 7.13 states “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.” There, the Son of Man may seem like a semi-divine Messiah. But at 8.17 the angel Gabriel explaining the vision addresses the prophet as “Son of Man”. And “Son of Man” is God’s preferred mode of address for Ezekiel, whose prophecies use the term 93 times. (Search engines are wonderful).

There is also Psalm 80:17, then the term appears 78 times in the Biblical Gospels.

In the Gospels, Jesus is clearly referring to himself, including in prophecies of his Coming in power. The use of the phrase is seen as a claim to God-head: we believe Jesus is the Christ because he said he was. Yet looking at the phrase itself, child of humanity, it means human being. I, too, am a human being. If Jesus or the Gospel-writers had meant “Me, but not you”, he could have used the phrase “Son of God”, or even “I”.

“The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath”- people are more important than rules, and people can decide whether or not to obey rules.

“The Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins.” (Mt. 9:6.) That’s us, too.

“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him.” (Mt 17:22-23.)

File:SaintSophia0.jpg“The Father has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.” (Jn 5:27.)

How is Jesus with rules? He kicks the crutch away, because we do not need it, and because it is not strong enough to support us. Matthew 5:17-20:

17 ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’

I can feel righteous, if I obey the rules- or even if I don’t, since I have a fertile mind to find the excuses. Jesus wants not legalism, but Love in Relationship:

21 ‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.’


I do not believe in the Crucifixion as a sacrifice to appease the wrath of God, and pay the price of human sin. I see Jesus’ death as our example, not our get-out-of-jail-free card. This is not original: when I heard Richard Holloway say something similar, I challenged him, as it chucks out most of the Epistle to the Hebrews; and now I have come round to it.

In Hebrews, Jesus is Melchizedek, the deathless priest who enters the Holy of Holies and sacrifices himself for our sins. But Christians’ understanding of the meaning of that sacrifice has changed over the years.

In the mediæval period, it was believed that man had withdrawn his allegiance from God, and given it voluntarily to the devil, as in the act of diffidatio under feudal law. This gave the devil rights, which God could not override. In becoming man, God in Jesus was the man who had not bowed to the devil, over whom the devil had no rights. When the devil subjected Jesus to death, he took authority over a man who had made no diffidatio, and thus lost his rights over all mankind. This doctrine lasted five hundred years.

St Anselm and St Bernard changed the view of the crucifixion. The invisible God wished to be seen in the flesh and to converse with men, that he might draw all the affections of carnal men, who were unable to love except after the flesh, to the saving love of His flesh, and so step by step lead them to spiritual love. God was of Love, not of Law.

Jesus went to his destiny with open eyes. He did not run or hide, but taught in the temple. He did not resist. When Peter struck the ear of the priest’s servant with his sword, Jesus healed him. Jesus spoke the truth as he saw it. He spoke it in his trial.

Jesus was our example, not to resist evil but to respond to it with love, so that the fear of the other, always opposing the other in self-defence, would melt away.

Mine is not a biblical view. I am emphasising certain parts, ignoring others (especially Hebrews). And yet mine makes God more than a violent abusive and manipulative parent. When God is in one of his more Old Testament moods- eg Exodus 20:5:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me

it helps to see this as descriptive, not prescriptive. God is not being cruel for the fun of it, that is just the way the World is. In the same way, the wrath of God, through which we suffer, is truly the wrath of Man: as we resist each other, seeking to defend what we hold dear, we inflict suffering on others and prolong and ensure our own. It is in Proverbs 15:1:

A gentle answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger.

This is the answer to my post Certainty.

Agree to disagree?

Here is a blog which “deals with same-sex attractions (SSA) from a Christian [ie, hate-filled oppressor] perspective”. He writes,

To my readers who are happy, satisfied and fulfilled in their self-identity and sexual identity: Please respect the rights, needs and viewpoints of my other guests. Let us agree to disagree.


Why not? I could complain about the phrase “Same-sex attraction (SSA)” which makes it sound like a disease, but we do need a noun for homosexuality, simply to refer to it. Gay is a word I can take pleasure in, it is Our word, but it is an adjective. So- Gayness? Queerness? Being gay? Any suggestions? SSA is the term coined by the ex-gay movement, can we do better?

Then I could object from a Christian perspective- here is this man telling untruths about God, humanity and the Bible- but then, he could say the same about me, and so his “Agree to disagree” becomes the best way to coexist.

My objection is that his position is used by the oppressors. Perhaps he has lived in a completely tolerant environment all his life, and converted to Christianity as an adult, and made a completely free choice of a hating church rather than an accepting church, and is gay himself, and so has some right to his opinion. However other gay people do not have such a free choice. They are forced, wrongfully, into self-abnegation. What he says gives aid and comfort to the Oppressors, and hurts and confuses their victims. So. Agree to disagree? Hell, no.

Let my people Go!

I would have left it at that, but then I had a look at the rest of his site.

Embracing a homosexual identity (or the gay culture) can be extremely dangerous and damaging to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and development.

What? Here, he is deliberately increasing self-hatred and doubt. This sort of lie has the potential to destroy a person’s confidence. It is evil. He goes on to say that it may be an illusion, and the person will realise in his twenties that he is not really gay. Well, no. He could be bi, and labels are reductive and inaccurate; dividing everyone into Gay/ Not gay is impossible and untruthful; but that does not mean that a gay attraction is worth any less than a heterosexual attraction. Worth spelling out: if in this moment I am attracted to a person, that has equal value whatever the gender of the person, and may be noticed and accepted. Though saying I am lesbian is a useful generalisation.

What are the risks? Suicide, depression, drug abuse- he blames gayness for the problems he himself causes. Then he goes on to say how angry he is with “gay-affirmative education” because it isolates those children who are defined as gay but do not want to affirm that. Total mindfuck.

Look at the site, to see how he steals the language of concern and freedom, and with half-truths and outright lies makes it Oppressive.

A significant percentage of people with SSA as adults had symptoms of Gender Identity Disorder in childhood that was not properly addressed.

How does he think gender dysphoria should be addressed? I am not Disordered or Deviant, I am Different and Diverse. But I have spent too long on this evil rubbish. I need a shower.

The Nature of God

File:Christ Pantocrator ca 1500.jpg“They sell the New Testament within the same cover as the Old Testament because they go together. So to say that refuting the story of creation in Genesis has NO IMPACT on Christianity doesn’t seem entirely correct to me. Upon what notion of God is Christianity built, if not the one who created the universe and Adam in seven days?”

Robert Moore’s comment angered me, as did his post, which I perceived as ignorant, arrogant and missing the most important matters. Why do people believe New-Earth Creationism? is an interesting question, but you will not find the answer in the Bible.

Christianity is not built on a single notion of God. It is extremely wide, with many different sects, and many would deny the Christianity of others who claim to be Christian. It has included Deism, the forerunner of rationalist atheism, a belief in a Creator who does not intervene in the Created world, and Theism, a belief in a personal God who answers prayer. It includes knowledge of God through reading the Bible, personal experience, and the Traditions of the Church. The Sea of Faith movement are Christians who see God purely as a metaphor. As a Quaker I would say “Christ has come to teach his people himself”- God is in the Leadings of people, now, who speak as moved by the Spirit- or our Higher Selves: the experience is more important than the words used to describe it.

I think the Bible shows growth in the understanding of God- the tale of Abraham and Isaac shows a movement from the idea of a God who demands human sacrifice to a God who does not- and the New Testament gives a new emphasis to God as loving Parent. Of course the New Testament God is a new understanding: God in a human being, God as Spirit speaking through human beings, God as Victim, crucified by man and unresisting. And God is the same God, and the perceptions in the New Testament have their roots in the Old.


If we believe in God or value the Bible, must we believe God created the World in six days? No, because it is not true, and never intended as a scientific theory of creation. But it is a beautiful story, containing truth: God saw what God had made, and behold, it was very good. What about Jesus walking on the water, or changing water into wine? I don’t know. I do not think I need to form a view on whether these things happened, and (as the Gospels were written decades after the crucifixion) that some stories might be untrue does not refute all of them.


I get it, Robert, I really do. I told a blogger that the Earth was 4.5bn years old. He said he had considered the evidence, and he tended to that view,  but for him “the jury was still out”. Evidence for: the science of geology. Evidence against: the Book of Genesis, read in an ignorant way. I told another the “narrow way” meant being yourself and self-actualising as against the “broad way”, trying to conform and be “normal” and he said, no, Jesus got to self-actualise, but we have to die to self and become Christ-like. The opposing views, “be your true self” and “surrendering self and following Christ”, are closer together than the words indicate (I think- he would disagree) but still.

These are damaging views, and I understand the sense of disconnect when you criticise them and people withdraw from you because you are Bad; and the need to assert the Truth against them. But Christianity is so much more than that.