[Richard] Morris is a man of extraordinary learning, who can’t help digressing from the story of, say, the re-organisation of a parish structure in the 1950s to tell us about a little-known Celtic saint born nearby (Morris shares his father’s romantic attachment to the Celtic roots of Anglicanism), or how recent archaeology has proved that a “dark cloud” mentioned in an Anglo-Saxon history was actually caused by two volcanic eruptions.
The result is something extraordinarily rich, which interweaves past and present and illuminates many aspects of post-war Britain, including shifting class relations, housing and industrial policy, and the cultural tensions between conservationists and gung-ho modernisers – the latter especially important for the Church, which was torn between the two. Instead of finding a principled way forward, it often resorted to intellectually dubious fudges, which arouse Morris’s anger – at one point he describes the Church of England as “pre-eminent in faith and fraud”.
But, though the recent reforms of the Church rarely win his admiration, he loves the wisdom of the institution over time, revealed in such symbolic details as burying the dead near or under the porch of churches, so that the living and the dead were joined together in worship. They bear out his deep conviction that cherishing traditions, and in particular medieval churches (of which there’s a greater abundance in Britain than in the rest of Europe put together), is “not devotion to ashes but the transfer of fire”. One feels the heat of that fire in this wonderful book.
Read it all (registration).
Evensong by Richard Morris, review: a moving study of Anglicanism's battle for postwar survival https://t.co/QAk76v23wN
— St Pauls Anglican Church Durban (@StPaulsDbn) December 20, 2021