Last night we braved the increasingly icy B roads of East Oxfordshire to attend the service of 9 lessons and carols at the village church. Apart from starting slightly late, it all proceeded pretty quickly (the fastest rendition in recent history of Silent Night being a particular highlight...), but the church was full, and the singing enthusiastic, so perhaps there's hope for the dear old CofE after all.
Sometimes it can feel rather like the world is moving on without us out here in the countryside. Working so close to London I often hear colleagues talking about the latest restaurant that they have been to, and wonder for a moment if I'm missing out. I''m not sure we are all that badly off out here though, you just have to work harder to pass the time.
I think the key to it all is evolution, not revolution. In the same way that we've found ways to cope within the Hunting Act 2004, so too we have to cope with the changing needs of people for entertainment.
9 Lessons and Carols is actually an important symbol of this particularly English genius for evolution. The CofE has since Cranmer's adaptation of the Daily Offices found time for Evensong, but the whole idea of going to church at night is not so very Anglican. Neither is the presence of candles in church, now taken for granted, something that would have happened before the late 19th century. The service was designed by Edward White Benson OE (an interesting chap who I may return to) during his time as first Bishop of Truro, and would have been dismissed, rather like Midnight Mass, as overly Roman had it not spoken to a deep need of the English people. Today it seems as natural, timeless, and organically English as Cranmer's prose.