The purl of inner peace.



 Photo by the owner.

I have a bachelor, clerical friend who will only drink tea made in a proper teapot. He believes that adding water to a teabag in a mug produces an inferior beverage. He also likes the tea to brew for a few minutes before pouring, by which time, he complains, it is no longer hot enough. So last year I knitted the above tea cosy for him, to fit his one cup teapot.

(When I blogged about knitting a few weeks ago he had the cheek to tell me I couldn’t spell “pearl”!)

When he complains that his breakfast egg gets cold and he needs an egg cosy I shall show him this headline from the Daily Telegraph of April 22nd.

“Come on men . . . knit one, purl one and find some inner peace”

Apparently mindfulness and yoga don’t work for men. Only women can meditate successfully. The affect on a man is the reverse of the tranquillity and calm those practices are supposed to induce.

“Since this is only making matters worse, there is no point making the poor sods sit cross-legged a minute longer,” the writer of the article explains and she goes on to make helpful suggestions for alternative activities, such as bubble baths, cleaning the toilet and knitting.

Knitting is an excellent suggestion. In fact, I would recommend it to all clergy and given the state of the Anglican Church in the UK at the moment it could well be the most constructive thing they could do. The results could well be astonishing.

Knitting and the church have a long history. Although the beginning of knitting is lost in the mists of time, possibly having its origin in Egypt, the church has always known a good thing when it saw one. Artists soon had the Madonna knitting.

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The Buxtehude Madonna by Master Bertram of Minden 1345-1415

Where artists went it didn’t take Bishops long to follow. Bishops were wearing liturgical gloves—Greek “chirotheca” handcases—made of white silk as early as the seventh century, by the ninth century they were the “in” thing and by the 12th century instructions for their use were given in the Service Books of the time.

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Devotional gloves found in the grave of Bishop Nicholaus Shimer 1510

Who knows whether Nicholaus knitted his own gloves. He could well have done if he were anything like Richard Rutt, one time Bishop of Leicester. Rutt was a formidable linguist, acting as a Japanese naval translator during the War, and becoming a noted Korean scholar as a result of his years in Korea where he also became a bishop. On becoming Bishop of St German’s, in the diocese of Truro, he not only learned Cornish but translated the ASB into that language. In 1987 he published “A History of Hand Knitting”, one of the all time great books on the subject.

He was also a memorably good bishop.

In his Times obituary we were told: Dr Ronald Williams, (Rutt’s predecessor as bishop) “was conscious of the status of a bishop of the Established Church; Rutt taught the diocese the function of a bishop….  he had a strong pastoral sense, a serene personality, cared greatly for his clergy and sought to devise a modern missionary strategy.”

As a fellow knitter, though with nowhere near his technical ability, I am quite sure he drew much of his strength from the time he spent quietly knitting. Using the hands with a fairly repetitive task is perfect for encouraging the mind to roam and, at the end, you have a decorative work of art or a useful object. In Rutt’s case both.

I couldn’t find a photo of this mitre in colour but I have been told, by the tea cosy friend, that Rutt had knitted it in gold thread and when the light shone on it it looked as though it had been made of beaten gold.

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I wonder if we would have better bishops if they all took up knitting—an art, a craft and an excellent meditation technique.







Easter Eggs? Cadburys Eggs? Curates Eggs?

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A new day dawns

I have been knitting. It’s what I do when I need to sit quietly and ponder on things.

There have been plenty of things that have plunged me into a period of despondency, puzzlement and confusion that required a lot of contemplation and hours of knit one, purl one.

Bishop Philip North is a traditional Anglo Catholic, who is not to be Bishop of Sheffield. The Revd Gavin Ashenden is a traditional Anglican and once a Chaplain to the Queen, who no longer recognises the Church of England as the church into which he was ordained. The Revd Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, is less traditional, is not to be the Bishop of Llandaff but nevertheless embroiled himself in the shenanigans despoiling that diocese.

Then there is the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, BA M.Ed PhD, 45th Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, professor of Theological Education at King’s College London, Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College London and an Honorary Canon of Salisbury Cathedral. (You’d be forgiven for thinking you can’t get much more traditional and establishment than that.) He wrote 5,000 words and then another 5,000 words from his privileged position telling us—sorry, I’ve forgotten what exactly he said—but it wasn’t entirely traditional.

Lastly, to come down from those lofty heights, there was the case of the misnamed eggs involving Cadburys and the National Trust.

All this in the run up to Holy Week and Easter. No wonder I found it too much.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

Obviously not. We were all far too busy getting our knickers in a twist. About sex, naturally—it’s what the church talks about these days—also lies, including the BBC’s wilful misinterpretation of the ComRes poll that claimed that 25% of Christians don’t believe in the Resurrection. There were arguments about who said what to whom and when, and the true meaning of contentious words like agreement, disagreement, discernment, discrimination. And always, of course, how to be a victim in three easy lessons. Nothing new there then. No let up for Lent.

I don’t remember it was ever this complicated when my children were growing up. Easter and eggs are a potent symbol—so simple a child can understand.

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New Life

An egg cracks open and a chick emerges. The tomb has been broken open and Jesus has risen from the dead.

Far from being a symbol of New Life a Cadbury’s Creme Egg is a dead egg.

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A Cadbury’s Creme Egg

The inside of a Creme egg is full of a sickly gloop. Not much chance of new life there.

I suppose the closest it gets to a Christian egg is as a Curate’s egg—good in parts. A bit like the Anglican church in the UK.

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The original Punch cartoon

A very happy and blessed Easter to everyone, especially my friends in Llandaft.