New review of Where’s Sailor Jack? : ‘‘…romantic, poignant, and extremely funny, exactly what I want from a family saga.’ – Stephen Carver, Blot the Skrip and Jar It

Archives: Liberal

The Church of England

“ A captivating story that draws you into the lives of Bob and Richard, where a working class, Church of England upbringing deeply influences their passage through the world of corporate business.”
These words come from one of the reviewers on Amazon of Where’s Sailor Jack? In late 1945, I was christened in St Chad’s Church in Poulton-le-Fylde. I was confirmed in Southport in the early sixties as a regular attendee of Christ Church in Lord Street. Janet and I married in 1987 in St Michael’s, the parish church of Blewbury in Oxfordshire. Unless lost at sea, I’ll be buried according to Anglican rites in Poulton Graveyard on the Garstang Road, along with my four grandparents and two parents.
Of the three churches, Christ Church was low and envangelical, with the other two middle of the road or a bit higher. Back in the sixties, evangelicals did not take a literal truth approach to the bible. A middle of the road church didn’t have to be wet. A high church didn’t have to camp it up with too much genuflection and incense, at least not in Lancashire.
Since the reformation, my family has always been Anglican, the dubious origins from Henry VIII proving no barrier to faith. I have a direct ancestor taking a moiety in a pew in Heptonstall in 1680, not long after the Book of Common Prayer’s adoption. None of the next generation down in the family has followed the path though. To them, either Christians are seen as born-again and thus gullible or God-bothering anachronisms. And not without reason. The evangelicals make the bible a rule book, leaving no room for the Holy Spirit to work. The liberals usually seem to fail to make their social concern translate into practical policy. If the high church reaches out to the world, the sniggers drown out its over-rich message. This next generation down of the family, who studied mainly in the Humanities, accuse me, a physicist, of irrational belief. They ignore the quantum of uncertainty; they ignore Godel demonstrating that the world cannot contain its own explanation. They categorically dismiss the beautiful world of allegory in the hope of salvation for all and in the profound idea that the human can become the divine.
But if Anglicanism fails and schisms into three tiny pieces, who then can keep alive this most insightful of faiths in England? The Free Church or the Catholics? I can’t see it. The former will be too intolerant and the latter’s preference for superstition over allegory too fanciful. And both start with public perceptions shaped from the personal failings of their members.
The world looks in no better shape. To add to the problems of the Reformed and Catholic churches, the orthodox world has links with unchristian nationalism. But then the dove was never free. Caged within these institutions, the Spirit can still do its work in the hearts of humans.


Seeing all the footage from the past shown on television since Corbyn’s accession, I’ve realised that I have a character trait which prevents me from ever being on the extremes of politics. I’d never be able to chant at a protest rally. Admittedly, it’s pretty unlikely that I’d ever be seen at such an event, disliking as I do the right’s greed and the left’s sanctimony. Before I had the luxury of my own web page and the consequent capacity to write blogs that no-one ever reads, I would have satisfied myself with describing the nature of my complaint to a bored wife and family over tea, or supper if I have to acknowledge how middle-class I’ve become. (Supper when I was a kid was a banana sandwich before I went to bed, tea was the cooked meal at about half past five and dinner was the revolting mess of lumpy mash, stringy beef and overcooked cabbage served at school every day for the thirteen years I went. The puds were terrific though. Before I went to school, lunch was the mid-morning snack also referred to as baggin.)
I consider myself the archetypical north Englishman, though maybe I’m not. I’ve been following Bolton Wanderers since late 1952, shouting advice and encouragement but the one time I joined in with “Bolton, Bolton, Bolton…” I felt acutely embarrassed. When the habitual and deafening “We’re the one and only Wanderers” is bellowed ad nauseam, particularly in the Wolves game, I want to stick my fingers in my ears. I could manage a round of “Oh Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lanky, Lancashire” at Lords back in the day when the other sixteen counties played each other to see who met Lancashire in the Gillette Final but then that had a semblance of a tune. I can say, or even sing if the organist pitches low enough, the responses in church without thinking that I’ve given up on my identity and free will, perhaps because they have the advantage of being in sixteenth century English. I’m less happy with modern English responses. I could never chant either “Marxist Morons” or “Tory scum”.
Delusionally, I like to think it’s because I’m in the yeoman tradition, deciding things for myself. So I’ll be available to defend the country if really needed but once it’s over, I’ll go back home to my family. People often wonder how to define what is liberal. My rule is simple. When you chant, you’re not being one.
It’s a while since I blogged. I’ve no idea if there’s anyone reading me. If you are, please use the link to Twitter or Facebook on my home page and let me know.