Thinking allowed

Little Gidding Pilgrimage 2020

Each year the Friends of Little Gid­ding, of which I am the Chair, organ­izes a Pil­grim­age to Little Gid­ding. For the last few years this has taken the form of a walk from Leighton Broms­wold to Little Gid­ding, with stops (or ‘sta­tions’) for short reflec­tions along the way. The day begins with a cel­eb­ra­tion of the Euchar­ist at Leighton Broms­wold, and ends with Even­song at Little Gid­ding fol­lowed by Tea.

The events of 2020 made this format impossible, and instead we held an online event with a num­ber of pre-recor­ded seg­ments and some ‘live’ read­ings and pray­ers, as well as a little inter­ac­tion between those tak­ing part. Fol­low me as I walk from Leighton Broms­wold to Little Gid­ding, intro­du­cing the vari­ous stop­ping points, and talk­ing about the Fer­rars’ exper­i­ence of the dev­ast­at­ing plague that hit Lon­don in 1625, and that forced them to leave the City and move to Little Gid­ding, while Fiona Bramp­ton, Chap­lain at Little Gid­ding, reflects on the impact of COVID-19 on us today.

Foot­age of me and video edit­ing by Alex­an­der Ker­shaw. Foot­age of Fiona filmed on my iPhone, and edited into the video by me, along with ‘live’ read­ings and pray­ers recor­ded via Zoom.


2020-21 Almanac for Common Worship and BCP

Now avail­able for the year begin­ning Advent Sunday 2020: Alman­ac, the cal­en­dar, lec­tion­ary and col­lects accord­ing to the cal­en­dar of the Church of Eng­land, for Com­mon Wor­ship and for the Book of Com­mon Pray­er. Down­load to your cal­en­dar or use the web app.

Down­load is free, dona­tions are invited.

What’s new?

The Alman­ac web page has been com­pre­hens­ively updated since last year to make it easi­er and more use­ful. Updates include

  • the down­load page and the daily view have been integ­rated into a single tabbed page
  • the oremus Bible Browser (which includes the full NRSV, the AV, and the psal­ters from the pray­er book and Com­mon Wor­ship) is added on anoth­er tab
  • a resources tab provides dir­ect links to all the offi­cial Com­mon Wor­ship texts, hymn sug­ges­tions (with links through to Hym­nQuest) and some oth­er litur­gic­al resources
  • the Alman­ac daily view includes sun­rise and sun­set times, which can be cus­tom­ized to your location
  • on phones and tab­lets you can add an Alman­ac icon or tile to your screen so that it is access­ible like an app (details in the Help tab), and you can swipe for­wards and back­wards through the days, and through bible pas­sages in the Bible tab

As usu­al, the Alman­ac is avail­able in a num­ber of formats for adding to Microsoft Out­look, Apple Cal­en­dar, iPhone or iPad, Google Cal­en­dar and oth­er cal­en­dar applic­a­tions. It can be synced from a desktop cal­en­dar to a tab­let or smart­phone (includ­ing Apple iPads and iPhones, Android phones and tab­lets, and Win­dows Sur­face tab­lets). There is also a csv format, which can be opened in a spread­sheet for fur­ther manipulation.

Nat­ur­ally I hope that the Alman­ac is free of errors, but I dis­claim respons­ib­il­ity for the effects of any errors. My liab­il­ity is lim­ited to provid­ing a cor­rec­ted file for import, at my own con­veni­ence. Please help by noti­fy­ing me of pos­sible errors.


This Alman­ac is offered free of charge, and without war­ranty, but as you might ima­gine it takes some effort to com­pile. If you would like to make a con­tri­bu­tion to my costs then dona­tions may be made via PayP­al at Altern­at­ively, Amazon gift vouch­ers can be pur­chased online at Amazon ( for deliv­ery by email to .

The Alman­ac web page car­ries the date 8 Septem­ber 2000, so, as the Beatles sang, “it was twenty years ago” that I first provided a digit­al litur­gic­al cal­en­dar, which in a couple of years evolved into a fully worked-out lec­tion­ary. There is not and has nev­er been any charge for down­load­ing and using the Alman­ac — this is just an oppor­tun­ity to make a dona­tion, if you so wish. Many thanks to those of you who have donated in the past or will do so this year, par­tic­u­larly those who reg­u­larly make a dona­tion: your gen­er­os­ity is appre­ci­ated and makes the Alman­ac possible.


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Are individual cups legal for communion?

Since March, the Church of Eng­land guid­ance issued by the bish­ops has stip­u­lated that com­mu­nion should be received “in one kind” only, and that the chalice, the com­mon cup, should be with­held from all except the priest tak­ing the ser­vice. This has been backed by leg­al advice that a single cup must be used, and if it is impossible to share a com­mon cup, then the cup should be withheld.

Now a group of bar­ris­ters has chal­lenged this leg­al advice that it is unlaw­ful to use sep­ar­ate indi­vidu­al cups, issu­ing a con­trary leg­al opin­ion that the over­rid­ing pri­or­ity is that com­mu­nion should be admin­istered in both kinds, and that this should allow indi­vidu­al cups to be used.

The Church Times reports on this story here.


Heraldic Glass at Little Gidding

Little Gid­ding is a place with which I have a long asso­ci­ation. It gave its name to TS Eliot’s last great poem and before that in the early 17th cen­tury Nich­olas Fer­rar and his exten­ded fam­ily lived there in a house­hold of pray­er and work. Eli­ot fam­ously described the tiny church at Little Gid­ding as a place where pray­er has been val­id, and hun­dreds of vis­it­ors and pil­grims come each year to exper­i­ence the beauty and holi­ness of this quiet and peace­ful place. Kar­en and I first vis­ited Little Gid­ding when we moved to the area in 1986 and I’ve been Chair of the Friends of Little Gid­ding for the last dec­ade. Anoth­er of my long-term interests is her­aldry, which first drew my atten­tion as a child at the end of the 1960s, and I have belonged to the Her­aldry Soci­ety since 1974.

These two long-term interests come togeth­er in the win­dows of Little Gid­ding Church, which dis­play the her­aldry of Nich­olas Fer­rar, King Charles I, John Wil­li­ams Bish­op of Lin­coln, and Wil­li­am Hop­kin­son, the 19th cen­tury land­lord who restored the church. In an art­icle on the web­site of the Friends of Little Gid­ding I describe the four win­dows and also invest­ig­ate the coat of arms gran­ted to Nich­olas Ferrar’s fath­er, Nich­olas seni­or, and how this dif­fers from the arms depic­ted in the window.


What happens next?

At around 2pm on Tues­day 30 Janu­ary 1649, fol­low­ing a show tri­al and con­vic­tion, King Charles I was executed. It is said that a great moan “as I nev­er heard before and desire I may nev­er hear again” arose from the crowd assembled in White­hall, and the event sent shock­waves around the coun­try and across Europe. It was the most dis­rupt­ive event seen in the coun­try, cer­tainly since Henry Tudor had defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bos­worth to bring a final end to the Wars of the Roses. King Charles had not per­haps been a great king, and his record as ruler is not unblem­ished: his mis­for­tunes at least partly he had brought upon him­self by his stub­borness, and by his view of his role as king by divine right.

And today, 31 Janu­ary 2020, we see anoth­er dis­rupt­ive event. At 11pm this coun­try will form­ally leave the European Uni­on, bring­ing to an end the leg­al rela­tion­ship that began nearly 50 years ago on 1 Janu­ary 1973. It is an event that over the last few years has divided the coun­try, divided fam­il­ies and friends in a way rarely seen. It would have been hard to pre­dict, even five years ago, what would come to pass, and what a bit­ter turn our polit­ic­al sys­tem and polit­ic­al dia­logue would take. But whatever mis­giv­ings many of us will feel, the legis­la­tion is in place, and the deed will hap­pen later today. For many this is a sad and bit­ter day: the European pro­ject in which we have par­ti­cip­ated for half a cen­tury was forged in the after­math of the Second World War. It ori­gin­ated in treat­ies that tied the former war­ring coun­tries, led by France and Ger­many, into trade deals that made them more and more depend­ent on each oth­er, and there­fore so much less likely to go to war again. In the pre­vi­ous 100 years, France and Ger­many had been at war three times, Par­is had twice been occu­pied by Ger­many, and Alsace-Lor­raine had changed coun­try four times. Alsace-Lor­raine and its city of Stras­bourg were a key coal and steel pro­du­cing region, and the EU began as a “coal and steel com­munity”. For 60 years or more the EU and its pre­de­cessors have played an import­ant part in ensur­ing that there was not anoth­er war in west­ern Europe – whilst the trans-Atlantic NATO alli­ance helped pre­vent war with the Soviet Uni­on and its east­ern European satel­lite states. The EU has also played its part in ensur­ing that our ideals of demo­cracy and equal­ity before the law, of free­dom from state oppres­sion and so on have prospered with­in its mem­ber coun­tries. Greece, Por­tugal and Spain, all formerly under the rule of right-wing or mil­it­ary dic­tat­or­ships, were the first to bene­fit from this, their fledgling demo­cra­cies join­ing the Com­munity in the 1980s.  And after the fall of the Soviet Uni­on the coun­tries of east­ern Europe queued up to join the Uni­on, keen for both the eco­nom­ic bene­fits and the sup­port for demo­cracy and rule of law. These bene­fits have not come for free. The EU and its pre­de­cessors have fun­ded the devel­op­ment of poorer parts of Europe, help­ing to remove the social prob­lems that led to polit­ic­al prob­lems. That has meant that the rich­er, more stable coun­tries, such as our own, as well as France and Ger­many and the rich­er north-west­ern fringe have seen a net out­flow of money, of tax rev­en­ue. That is per­haps the price of peace, and is con­sid­er­ably cheap­er both fin­an­cially and in terms of human lives than war would have been. But over­all there has been a longer peri­od of peace between these coun­tries than at any time in the past, and a great­er and pro­longed peri­od of eco­nom­ic prosper­ity, des­pite vari­ous hic­cups along the way.

So what happens next?

We know what happened after the exe­cu­tion of Charles I.

In the imme­di­ate after­math, Par­lia­ment, led by Crom­well, refused to allow the pro­clam­a­tion of the Prince of Wales as King Charles II, and instead declared the abol­i­tion of the mon­archy. A repub­lic­an form of gov­ern­ment, the “Com­mon­wealth”, was put in place, the House of Lords abol­ished, and bish­ops removed. The rump of the Long Par­lia­ment (which had engin­eered the king’s tri­al and exe­cu­tion) con­tin­ued to sit. That Par­lia­ment had been elec­ted in 1640, before the Civil War, though at the end of 1648 the Army, led by Col­on­el Pride, had expelled those mem­bers that did not sup­port the Army. In 1653, Crom­well ejec­ted this Rump Par­lia­ment and the coun­try essen­tially became a kind of mil­it­ary dic­tat­or­ship, with Oliv­er Crom­well, the lead­er of the Army, as the strongman.

In 1659, after Oliv­er Crom­well had died, there was finally a reac­tion. The Long Par­lia­ment was restored, and it called for a return to mon­archy. After a peri­od of nego­ti­ation, in May 1660 the eld­est son of Charles I returned to Eng­land from exile in the Neth­er­lands, and was pro­claimed and crowned as King Charles II. The restored mon­archy was not quite the same as that which had been abol­ished in 1649, and Charles II under­stood the lim­its with­in which he ruled. It had taken 11 years from the exe­cu­tion of his fath­er until the Res­tor­a­tion, and many of those years must have been dark and dif­fi­cult for the exiled prince, and dark and dif­fi­cult for his sup­port­ers back in Bri­tain. But even­tu­ally they pre­vailed, and the repub­lic­an Com­mon­wealth was con­signed to his­tory, a mere foot­note in the list of Kings and Queens.

Will some­thing sim­il­ar hap­pen? Will there be a peri­od in which this coun­try gradu­ally comes to see that it has made an enorm­ous mis­take, lead­ing even­tu­ally to a reas­sess­ment of our pos­i­tion, and finally a sig­ni­fic­ant major­ity to want to rejoin the European Uni­on? That is my hope and expect­a­tion. Maybe it will take a dec­ade or more, just as it took a dec­ade or so for the mon­archy to be restored in 1660. It does take time to make such a major change in polit­ic­al dir­ec­tion, and right now we are mov­ing on the oppos­ite course.

But the dark day of 30 Janu­ary 1649 held the prom­ise of res­tor­a­tion. And this dark day too, 31 Janu­ary 2020, holds that prom­ise also.