Devon is exceptionally beautiful in the early Spring; so we were glad to use the Ordination of David Silk as the occasion for a short break. The village of Holne is set above the River Dart as it flows off Dartmoor towards the sea. The Church House Inn is reputed to date from the mid-fourteenth century. It provided a very pleasant two-night stay, with good food and roaring log fires. Devon is especially rich in these ancient pubs in the shadow of churches; if you have read Eamon Duffy's "Voices of Morebath" (and if you have not, you should) you will easily imagine the carousings of our Mediaeval forebears during Festivals of Mother Church. A former Vicar of Holne was Charles Kingsley, author of "The Water Babies". The present Team Vicar (they await the appointment of a Rector) is contending with six or more parishes across the south of Dartmoor. Good that her church was open yesterday.
The Ordination of former Anglican Bishop David Silk took place in the Abbey Church of Buckfast, just a few miles from Holne. It is a great surprise. You emerge from the wooded hillside to be faced with a great Monastic complex of buildings which look as though they must have been there for many centuries. In fact, they are relatively new, though standing on ancient foundations. The first Abbey was built in Saxon times, in the reign of Canute. In the twelfth century a great Cistercian Abbey replaced that original church. All was swept away during the wholesale destruction of the Monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII. At the end of the 19th Century a handful of French Benedictines came to Buckfast, and began to plan a new foundation. By 1937 the Monks themselves had built the Monastic Church, on the Cistercian plan but with the addition of a bell-tower — a frippery which Cistercians had usually denied themselves; though they gave in to temptation at Fountains Abbey.
It proved a lovely setting for David Silk's Ordination, and people came from great distances to join local clergy in the celebrations. Traditionally, the South West has always been a stronghold for Anglo-Catholicism. It suffered terribly in the purge of the 1990's, when the bishop of Truro, proclaiming himself a catholic, not only ordained women to the priesthood himself but encouraged his suffragan to do the same. There was a greater loss of Anglican Clergy in that diocese than any other, proportionate to its numbers; and the bishop seemed not to care. It was good to see Cornishmen in the congregation at Buckfast. The Catholic Diocese of Plymouth covers territory which has three Anglican diocesans (Truro, Exeter and Salisbury) and half a dozen Suffragans.
Devon, Exeter Diocese in Anglican terms, appeared to suffer less; and its present bishop no longer ordains women to the priesthood (though his suffragans do). Perhaps because of this clergy in the diocese seem peculiarly reluctant to consider the offer of the Ordinariate, and some well-known Anglo-Catholic clergy were notable for their absence at David's Ordination. They are possibly suffering from the peculiar delusion which leads some clergy into thinking their bishop is immortal. Within five years, though, they will discover that immortal or not, the enforced retirement age will hit Bishop Langrish as it does every other Church of England cleric.
There was a very merry lunch-party after the Ordination.
On the way home, for old time's sake, we called in at Exeter. I thought I would be able to get something from Wippell's; but their former shop in the close has been taken over by a cheap multiple store. They have moved into the outskirts of the City, and time was too short to find them.
The Cathedral though, looks much the same as it ever did — from the outside. I was not prepared to pay to enter. A lad came away from the porch saying to his friend "Not much good looking for sanctuary here; it would cost you a fiver". O tempora, O mores!
[From experience I have learned that our transatlantic friends sometimes miss allusions which are plain to us in England. The title of this piece is taken from a children's book by Enid Blyton. Some wag has applied it to the first five C of E Bishops to join the Ordinariate.]
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