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©2002 The Society of
Archbishop Justus, Ltd


A gaiterHallo again to all.

Nearly two years ago now, the Very Reverend Henry Thorold died at age 78. Now there is no particular reason why, unless you are a collector of clergymen, you should know his name. But here is a bit of a sketch from his Times obituary:

'Never an incumbent himself, he would tour the county holding services in remote churches. His declamatory style of preaching, often involving long pauses which kept the congregation on the edge of their pews, was famous. He was a great believer in the dignity of worship and was firmly of the 1662 persuasion.

He became a prolific author, writing the Shell guides to five counties: Lincolnshire, Durham, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire. His was a 'longhand life'—his books written with a pad resting on his knee, with not a television or radio in the house ...

At Marston [his family home] he entertained a constant stream of visitors, young and old, taking them on long church crawls (as many as 17 in a day). Marston rated high among the many English houses which claim to be the coldest in Europe, but Thorold was not amused when a guest published a magazine article drawing attention to the chill.'

As personally admirable as was Henry Thorold, we regret here the loss of his type: the eccentric, the charmingly odd, and, occasionally, the irritating. What is it about the church—or indeed society—now that seems to encourage dull conformity? Past ages had more tolerance for an unusual personality. Take any 18th to early-20th century clerical or episcopal biography from a shelf and you'll encounter figures more colourful than, say, your current archdeacon. (See Worth Noting for a few of them.)Peter C Moore, late Dean of St Albans

We wonder: is it committees that ruthlessly eliminate the unusual and the different in the church today? Worry that the colourful may be the potentially criminal? The mildly eccentric foreshadow the mentally unstable? Even if such institutional nail-biting in this litigious world is understandable, we would argue that the church, of all places, should be the encourager and caretaker of character in its deacons, priests, and bishops. Balancing that desire with the obvious need for a degree of standardisation isn't easy. But surely we can try. We must try. Otherwise the church will be filled with the uninspiring and the undistinguished, the cleric in the grey flannel surplice. There is a difference between colourful and being daft or apostate, and, though we aren't sure just how to describe that difference, we all know it when we see it.

We recall with amusement a bishop listing his hobby, in a 1960s edition of Who's Who, as 'boot blacking'. Coming at the end of a cumulatively impressive biography, the effect was droll: there was a person who came alive in the solemn column of justified type. And this isn't mere frivolity. Often the ability to be different, to not care, from time to time, what others think, to be able to stand apart: these qualities can signal a person of compelling moral force, able to speak without fear on issues of substance in the church.

No doubt many of the bishops who are possible nominees for the next Archbishop of Canterbury are charming and distinguished prelates. But are any of them, well, colourful? We certainly hope so.

Whether colourful or sad, you'll find all the latest Anglican-related articles in the News Centre. And in New This Week, our newest collection of web sites.

This week we remember in our prayers AO's good friend in Australia, Katherine Bowyer, who will be ordained to the diaconate in the Diocese of Newcastle on Saturday.

See you next week.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 27 January 2002
URL: http://anglica