Tuesday 5 July 2016

Rowing to Heaven

I was brought up at the Low end of the Church of England, but in those days the Low Church did not mean rock bands and light shows but a rejection of finery, bells, incense and anything that even faintly smelled of Popery. Services were strictly Book of Common Prayer and lessons were read from the King James Bible. The singing was from Hymns A&M, lead by a first-rate all-male choir accompanied by a real three-manual pipe organ.
The rot was beginning to set in, however. Just before I moved away, a new vicar had taken to conducting services in a lounge suit of a deplorable lilac shade.
Nowadays it is impossible to find prayer book services at all. Morning Prayer and Evensong, two of the loveliest poems in the English language, are fading sunlit memories. The only thing on offer in most churches is the modern Eucharist involving that toe-curling embarrassment, 'The Peace', featuring physical contact abhorrent to all Englishmen. One of my few hopes for a good outcome for Brexit is the abolition of this vile Continental practice.
But I digress.
Wandering round Hotwells, that beautiful suburb of Bristol, I took a peek in the Hope Chapel, a lovely Gothick confection dating from the late 18th century. It is used by an evangelical church these days, and the altar has been covered over by this hanging.
I suppose I should disapprove, but its vigour and gaiety are completely disarming. And, of course, the subject, which is a row to heaven. Everyone has piled into a fleet of lovely traditional wooden boats, realistically drawn so the artist must have been a boatie, and have gathered on the beach for food, music and dancing with the angels. Utterly beguiling.
Pity about the projection screen. I do hope it can be removed.