God in the Quad ?

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Fidésien
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God in the Quad ?

Post by Fidésien » Sat Feb 04, 2017 1:04 pm

I'm venturing cautiously onto this site for the third time in half a dozen years. After reading various threads yesterday evening, I was staggered by the wealth of memories and investment of time that the Forum displays. So, walking round Chantilly racecourse on a wet Saturday morning (we are here to help out for a couple of months), I was asking myself the question: What (values) did I learn during 7 years at CH in the 1950s into the 1960s ? On one level is it quite simple. Geoffrey Cannon and Michael Scuffle and others have written movingly of the influence of men like Michael Cherniavsky and David Jesson-Dibley. So I certainly read more books, and certainly more difficult books, in my teens than in the succeeding decades.And I knew a lot more history when I went up to Oxford in 1964 than I did when it came to Finals there three years later.As my dream life never fails to remind me !

CH gave me, I think, a concern for intellectual rigour. And also an undeserved sense of academic snobbery ?
I would like to think it gave me too a concern for social justice. Which has translated down the years into some party political affiliation (Don't get side-tracked into the failure of the Labour party), but more into support for organisations like OXFAM, or CAP, or TEAR Fund. And I want to imagine that no-one who was at CH, at least at that sort of time, would ever have voted for Mrs Thatcher. Or for BREXIT come to that.

But, and this is the question which was nagging me this morning: Why did I have no sense,no inkling of the wonders of God's creation or of the values of God's kingdom during those years ? Why was Divinity under Pullen and Whitfield such a boring subject ? And why can I remember so little of 7 years of sermons in CH chapel ? Disgracefully I remember only Austen Williams coming from St Martin's in the Fields to talk about their international youth club. Which we travelled to occasionally from CH, as it provided opportunities to meet girls and to smoke cigarettes. George Seaman took us ever so slowly through John's Gospel, but it never connected with the outside world to which we aspired - the MJQ and Aldermaston and Gitanes and pubs. It was another 15 years before I was drawn into a church, into a faith community, and made a belated commitment. Was it my fault ? Am I just a slow learner ? Or was the 'religious, royal, and ancient foundation' insulating me (and others ?) against Christian beliefs ? I'd be interested to hear if it just me.

Avon
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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by Avon » Sat Feb 04, 2017 5:07 pm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-sussex-38868834

I'll just put this here. I don't remember God in The Quad but I remember this guy.

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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by dsmg » Sat Feb 04, 2017 6:54 pm

Not quite sure how CH could have been insulating you against religion when we had to go to chapel and pray so often. More likely, as you say, you were a young lad more interested in girls and smoking or the like than in sermons by boring old farts (like we are now) which didn't appeal to your teenage mind. Apart from what Avon refers to, the church seems to be very out of touch with youth and nearly always has been. I read that more people go to Ikea on Sundays than to church. The new Pope at least seems to be trying to drag the Catholic church into something more akin to this century.
Play up Pompey!

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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by michael scuffil » Mon Feb 06, 2017 2:45 pm

This was an interesting post from Chris Martin, as he is a priest now but showed no signs of any such vocation when I knew him at CH. Those OBs of my acquaintance who were or are active Christians in later life were otherwise all already fairly or very active Christians at CH, and in most cases had already been so when they arrived, which I think is just as important. I came from a family which was about as indifferent to religion as I think it is possible to be (though my father, from an Irish Catholic background, occasionally vented what I later discovered was a deeply felt hostility), and CH did not convert me. It did however provide me with a fair bit of religious knowledge. I had Pullen for four years of Divinity in a row, and as a result I know the Bible better than almost all Christians I know, and got some insights into theology. (Though I won't pretend his lessons were exciting.) For Grecians Divinity I had successively Pat Daunt, David Jesson-Dibley, and George Seaman. The first two treated it mainly as philosophy, and very good they were too. Seaman took us through the recently published 'Honest to God' by the bishop of Woolwich, partly I think so that he could come to grips with it himself. That was interesting.
In short, I think CH reinforced middle-class social churchiness and encouraged existing committed Christians, but neither deterred nor converted anyone else.
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sejintenej
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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by sejintenej » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:01 pm

michael scuffil wrote: In short, I think CH reinforced middle-class social churchiness and encouraged existing committed Christians, but neither deterred nor converted anyone else.
Outside CH my first contact with the church was my godfather being the vicar/rector at the White House (aka White Lodge) outside Windsor. (the first corpse I ever saw - some memory!).

From there it was to the house of the "big man" in the parish so I had to be altarboy; I was then and remain shy so that was hell. The rector was OK ( not ecumenical by any means but higher church than perhaps the Pope) - it was the doctor who was one of the 10%.

At CH I think I had Rev Pullen for two years divinity which I found a bore having heard the epistles and gospels umpteen times - I could have recited matins, evensong and Holy Communion from memory when I first went to CH. Chapel was nothing new - I remember little of it except the singing strike and my first year in the Prep, seated in the gallery and the organist opened the pipes beside my ears with the Trumpet Voluntary on full power - ouch!!!!

My memory of Pullen was when I returned to school and he came and offered a symphatic ear - he actually convinced me that he meant it. That said, like Kit Aitken, he had absolutely no idea of my circumstances so his offer was unnecessary. Corks, my junior housemaster, was fun and not religious.

I concur with Michael' summing up - it came too late for me.
“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love ...”

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Avon
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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by Avon » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:43 pm

Presently my generation have to be slightly opaque about the quality of ministry at CH. However, alongside the Chaplaincy I would add that I didn't find much inspirational about the religious experience at the school; the HM was renowned as a bookish and unconvincing orator, and no particularly edifying sermons crossed our path. We did have Enoch Powell and Leonard Cheshire amongst their number, the former a bad choice my opinion.

However, if I was to suggest a reason why the ministry didn't particularly resonate, it would be that in my view the Chaplaincy at the time had very much an in crowd - a core of pupils and staff that it devoted the majority of time to. For the rest, there was less outreach and so, less effect.

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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by Mid A 15 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 6:19 pm

An interesting thread topic. I'll pass on the 'political' bit in this response anyway.

'Rev Rob' (Reverend John Robson) was at the helm as Senior Chaplain during my time assisted by Rev John Hall-Matthews and, latterly, Rev Ian Atkinson.

John Robson and John Hall-Matthews (I didn't really know Ian Atkinson) were both nice enough guys and very approachable as chaplains should be. John Robson, from memory, was the more 'dynamic' of the two and we had various guest preachers at Sunday Evensong such as Canon Eric James amongst others. I also remember an occasion in Big School when Archbishop Trevor Huddleston spoke to us. This was around the time when Peter Hain and others were emptying drawing pins etc onto rugby pitches in an attempt to sabotage the 1970 South African Tour.

My dominant memory of Chapel is belting out traditional hymns observed by the characters within the Brangwyn cartoons whilst Paul Koronka or AN Other played the organ. I would describe the usual prevailing atmosphere within Chapel as 'christian' with a small c which I suggest is almost inevitable with a community of 800 boys, many of whom, myself included at times, simply did not want to be there and were only there because attendance was compulsory. I have to confess to spending much of the time 'people watching' rather than listening to the service!

Once I left CH I rarely went to Church, other than Midnight Mass, until I met my wife, a Roman Catholic, a few years later. I started attending Mass with her, initially to keep her company as much as anything, but became progressively more engaged to the extent that I eventually converted.

I am aware of at least 3 from my year at CH becoming ordained subsequently so CH presumably didn't hinder their Christian development but it is open to debate as to how much it helped.
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michael scuffil
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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by michael scuffil » Thu Feb 09, 2017 4:17 pm

I remember the arrival of John Robson. He was presumably appointed by Seaman after talking advice from the chapel committee, but he was a very un-Seaman-like appointee. He was an innovator from the word go, introducing things like communion in dayrooms, which I regarded as a form of populism. He was also not only very high church, but revelled in it. I imagine he was responsible, though it was after I left, for the appearance in chapel of vestments and other appurtenances which some may have considered Popish. All was forgiven, though, because of his matchmaking between CH and the Dean of Westminster, Eric Abbott. JR was also, later, chaplain to the Queen.
Th.B. 27 1955-63

Fidésien
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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by Fidésien » Thu Feb 09, 2017 8:28 pm

Returning five days later, I was interested to see some of this stuff.

The knee-jerk reaction 'Look at Bishop Peter Ball' (or more news-worthily John Smythe, see Channel 4 News) simply won't do. Sadly, as we all know, church ministry attracts some very unattractive people for all the wrong reasons. As do all forms of youth work, as do (single sex) boarding schools. As does the BBC apparently. But to write off the Christian religion, or investment in our young people, or boarding school education, or television, on these grounds is patently absurd. And intellectually lazy.

My original post, in spite of what may have been a misleading title, was not really intended as a critique of CH chapel. Nor as a kind of Christian apologetic. It is rather that I am aware that seven years at CH significantly shaped a good deal of my thinking. I was aware of this this afternoon when I found myself talking to a mixed group of senior citizens - French, British, Belgian, and German - about Great Britain and Europe. My instinctive bias towards Europe was as much influenced by doing medieval history with Michael Cherniavsky as it was by hitching around Europe in the 1960s. I am unable to understand the appeal of BREXIT. Or how anyone could vote for such an unattractive bunch !

So, it puzzles me that CH deeply affected some areas of my thinking, ideas, and attitudes. While leaving others untouched. It might have been different if I had been taught divinity by, say, Pat Daunt or David Jesson-Dibley or Olive Peto. All of whom I realise, with a great deal of hindsight, were thoughtful, practising Christians. But these kind of beliefs were absent from my CH years. As were, say, George Herbert and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Avon
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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by Avon » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:50 pm

Fidésien wrote:Returning five days later, I was interested to see some of this stuff.

The knee-jerk reaction 'Look at Bishop Peter Ball' (or more news-worthily John Smythe, see Channel 4 News) simply won't do. Sadly, as we all know, church ministry attracts some very unattractive people for all the wrong reasons. As do all forms of youth work, as do (single sex) boarding schools. As does the BBC apparently. But to write off the Christian religion, or investment in our young people, or boarding school education, or television, on these grounds is patently absurd. And intellectually lazy.
Well, in retort, your first post came across as neurotic and solipsistic, and I'm sorry that it lacked the required intellectual rigour - but as you admit you emerged from CH with a sense for intellectual snobbery. Where precisely am I writing off investing in young people dammit?

Ball is more relevant than Smythe because Ball was invited into the CH community by the Chaplaincy, and encouraged to stay in that community over several generations of chaplain without sufficient judgement or introspection to realise the damage he was doing. I'd like to say more but it's presently sub judice.

Confine your ramblings to your diary if you want them to go unchallenged.

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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by rockfreak » Fri Feb 10, 2017 8:00 pm

I'm sorry (insofar as I'm ever sorry) to introduce Nick Duffell into this discussion again, but his two books The Making of Them and Wounded Leaders have been a revelation to me, as someone who experienced Muscular Christianity at CH in the 1950s. Nick believes that the religion that developed in the public schools in the nineteenth century was descended originally from the chivalric age and was devised to excuse the upper class from the impossibly high bar of real Christianity and replace it with what he calls the cult of the English gentleman. This was less onerous and required one merely to be a modest, self-effacing, upstanding Christian gentleman, rescuing damsels in distress and coming to the aid of the underdog. This was useful in the days of Empire, because if you could convince yourself that you were such a person it made it easier to forget that you were actually out there to bash dusky foreigners around the head in order to steal their raw materials or keep a trade route open. Not for nothing did George Orwell observe that unthinking hypocrisy was the most obvious characteristic of the English and the one that foreigners commented on most often. I guess it goes with being a colonial nation.
Mind you, the foreigners often had some pretty funny habits. In India they had a vicious caste system and they burnt their unfortunate widows on the funeral pyres of the deceased husbands. Perhaps this is why, after due consideration, I turned against faith religion and decided that there was nothing quite like common decency, common law and natural justice. And common sense.

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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by jhopgood » Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:09 pm

rockfreak wrote: Perhaps this is why, after due consideration, I turned against faith religion and decided that there was nothing quite like common decency, common law and natural justice. And common sense.
RIP Common Sense
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michael scuffil
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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by michael scuffil » Sun Feb 12, 2017 4:21 pm

In India they ... burnt their unfortunate widows on the funeral pyres of the deceased husbands.

I read somewhere an opinion that the abolition of this practice was the one positive contribution the British made to India. (I can't think of another, either.)
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dsmg
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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by dsmg » Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:07 pm

What have the Romans ever done for us?
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Fidésien
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Re: God in the Quad ?

Post by Fidésien » Sun Feb 12, 2017 6:11 pm

What have the Romans ever done for us?

A book that came out last year, The Evolution of the West, by Nick Spencer (published in 2016 by SPCK) addresses very much this question. Although I found the opening chapters a bit turgid, Spencer's basic thesis is that when you look at the big ideas that characterise Western culture - such as human dignity, the rule of law, human rights, science, and even paradoxically atheism and secularism - many of these ideas and values have their origins in Christian beliefs and Christian thinking. Spencer has worked for 10 years for Theos, a Christian think tank in Westminster. He argues that a better awareness of our Christian inheritance would help us to face new cultural challenges. Unusually for a Christian book it attracted a favourable review in The Economist.

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