Saturday, 11 June 2011

Zwischen himmelfahrt und Pfingsten

by our Religion, Politics, Fashion, Celebrity, Cookery and International Tourism staff

As you will have noticed, we frequently gather in our reading circles to compare and contrast what we read, what we hear and how we cope with events as they unfold at home and abroad.  It may have slipped your notice, but forty days after Easter is Ascension Day, which is held on a Thursday, though some churches often shift the day to a Sunday.  Tomorrow is Pentecost, traditionally fifty days after Easter, and is a big church event with many sermons, ceremonies, ordinations and holidays. 

It was with some like-minded spirit that the following appeared in our regular inbox from The Local in Germany.  We often retweet some of The Local’s news, as they have a different view from some of the more traditional German media and we like their style. 

News from Germany often features local elections, nuclear energy, plagiarism and the recent outbreak of ecoli (Ehec).  The Local email round-up discussed the secularisation of the real Whitsun, holiday which had long been consigned to the end of May irrespective of Easter in England and Wales. We quote from part of the round-up and would recommend The Local as an interesting news source.

Will Germans finally be able to enjoy a fresh salad over the long holiday weekend?

As the nation prepared to take three days off for Pentecost - another public holiday that has largely shed its religious roots in Germany - health officials on Friday lifted their warning against eating raw cucumbers, tomatoes and salad.

Five weeks and over 30 deaths later, the authorities still aren't entirely certain what caused Germany's unprecedented E. coli outbreak. It would seem the virulent bacteria originated at a sprouts farm in Lower Saxony, but we may never know for sure.

But at least other much maligned vegetables have finally been rehabilitated.

Hurray I say! Maybe this means I'll get to enjoy some of Grandma Eva's famous cucumber salad on Whit Monday.

have a Pentecostal weekend.

Marc Young


It’s not only the three days of Pentecost, but it’s been virtually two weeks of secular celebrations of erstwhile religious holidays, and we have noted with great joy the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams giving his Ascension Day sermon from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London and which is always broadcast on Radio 4.  The sermon itself can be found on the website ( 

The service was held on Thursday 2 June 2011.  The Celebrant was The Revd Nicholas Holtam (new Bishop of Salisbury), the Readers were The Revd Rosemary Lain-Priestley and Dr Joe Aldred, and the Prayers were said by The Revd Sharon Grenham-Toze.*

The Archbishop always seems to come over rather oddly on the radio; we are convinced that the BBC has a special mike for Dr Williams (I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Mr Michael Gove must have his own resonant booming microphone when he broadcasts to the nation.  He certainly sounds very authoritative, though sadly very ‘strengulated’ – just like Fraser Nelson!) 

The Archbishop’s sermon is well-worth a read. There are one or two points in the broadcast of the sermon based on the ascent of Jesus into Heaven, leaving the disciples ‘on their own’.  It must be part of our theological and acculturation workshops, but this scene in the Bible must have been used by Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles when the Reverend Johnson of Rock Ridge tells the sherrif: “Son, you’re on your own!”

The more important part of the Archbishop’s sermon was to do about the role of churches, and to some extent Christians, in civil society.  ‘Compassion and service’ were the themes which resonated with our listening group. 

It was, therefore, with great shock that we found the nation had erupted into a fit of hysteria when the Archbishop was the guest editor of the New Statesman (13 June 2011, pp 4-5)  As usual there was a furore, synthetic arguments within and without the Church of England, the BBC and the British media in general.  There were a lot of experts proffering their opinions and apart from a few comments, we kept our council (Nicea) and sent out one of the interns to buy a copy of the New Statesman from WH Smith - who usually throw in a free copy of The Times, in case you don’t have one delivered to your iPad.

Our reading group comprised some German tourists enjoying the long holidays in the London area, visiting museums, galleries, nightclubs, cultural events and basically enjoying London.  Here are some of the views regarding the ‘dense’ language which the Archbishop tends to use and which the English seem to be unable to understand without the aid of some Church of England spin doctor or BBC Religious expert who can translate what Dr Williams actually said and what was printed:

“we are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted.”  (We agree with the Archbishop.)

“I don’t think that the government’s commitment to localism and devolved power is simply a cynical walking-away from the problem.  But I do think that there is confusion about the means that have to be willed in order to achieve the end.” 

“The old syndicalist and co-operative traditions cannot be reinvented overnight … This is not helped by a quiet resurgence of the seductive language of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor”.

Not surprisingly, the government disagreed with the Archbishop:

The Prime Minister said Dr Rowan Williams was free to express his concerns, but he 'profoundly disagreed' with many of the comments.” Read more:

A useful summary of opinion can be found on:

Newspaper review: Archbishop of Canterbury in headlines

Why Rowan Williams is wrong about the Conservatives by Tim Montgomerie in the 12 June 2011 edition of the Sunday Telegraph

Rather than sound like some traditional responses in an Anglican setting, we would again urge our readers to reflect on the ‘job done’ mentality which has infected much of the C of E debate whether in the virtual community, in the Church and in its gatherings.  Our circle has often found itself having to defend the Archbishop and some of the more intelligent and enlightened bishops, who are regarded with great scorn by some right-wing, sanctimonious creeps. 

The New Statesman has often provided us with many an enjoyable tweet, as has Tim Montgomerie from the Tory side.  We’ve enjoyed their take on world events and introducing other ideas, unlike some who seldom engage with reality and re-tweet within their own fallow and shallow ‘intellectual’ circle (no names). 

*notes taken from service booklet which was marked: “For copyright reasons, please do not take this booklet away.”

This piece of Material Culture has been added to the secret archives of the Obreption Library.  This can be visited by appointment.


  1. I liked your mention of tourists in London. Obviously, speaking in many tongues this is a nice approach to the acknowledgement of the stranger in society, and we have it mentioned in the Bible that:

    "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking ..." (Acts 2:9)

    Are you trying to suggest that London is a latter day Jerusalem?

  2. I know that in the post-modern period London has seen a revival of Pentecostalism in many parts of the community. Is there the equivalent of Azusa St in London? The Archbishop also mentioned the length of time it takes to build up co-operative structures. I don't know if you're old enough to recall that many mutual organisations, including building societies and some assurance societies, demutualised, lost their ethos and went bust.