Ship of Fools: St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, England

imageShip of Fools: St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, England

Churchwarden sings as preacher digs himself into a hole

Read the full Mystery Worshipper report here


  • I'm pretty sure that February 2 is the last day of "Christmas", even though the lectionary has us observing Jesus' baptism, calling some disciples, reading about the prophesy of being the Messiah fulfillment and so on. I don't see anything wrong with an item from the Nativity scene being there. It happened to fall on a Sunday this year, allowing my place to celebrate this festival.
  • If you're the kind of place that celebrates Candlemas as the end of the Christmas season, then leaving the crib until today is to be expected (Our church one was still out.)

    The Redcliffe band are very good bell ringers indeed: they're consistently mid-table finishers in the annual national 12-bell ringing contest.
  • I understand the reasoning about Christmas decorations. It is a personal prejudice to dislike seeing them in February, just as people complain about starting Christmas in October.
  • I once went in there in passing and remarked to a steward about slavery. The links go back a long way because it was a favoured church of local businessmen who paid for extensive beautification of the interior and who often made a lot of money from slavery one way or the other.

    Anyway, the steward was not happy to talk about it and at the time there were no notices informing visitors of this history. I have not been back in a long time, but I believe this has changed and the church is much more open about the history.

    Also, sorry to be picky but I believe the correct title is St Mary Redcliffe. At least that is how it is written on their website and how I have always heard it.
  • Yes. Titles are tricky when you are speaking two languages - English and American.
    Bristol, in general, is much more open about slavery.
  • Box PewBox Pew Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    As church seasons are an ecclesiastical construct not actual anniversaries, surely some evolution is permissable of secondary indicators like church decorations. In view of the ever earlier announcement of <Christmas> in secular life, in what is actually Advent, I welcome an earlier end to peak Christmas at Epiphany, at least as far as decorations are concerned.

    Pastorally, tighter framing of Christmas and Easter seems likely to have more impact among those visitors who are not well versed in liturgical seasons, who it is the church's duty—and most urgent need—to communicate with.

    Theologically, the season of Epiphany is about the recognition of Jesus as the Son of God, not the miraculous improbability of the Incarnation. If its appropriate to have a crib displayed during Epiphany as well as Christmas, why not therefore throughout the year?

    Aesthetically, cribs are typically a slightly embarassing arrangment of badly executed plaster figures, fairy lights and straw—the stationary version of primary school nativity plays. They may work as a important teaching aids for small children—and long may they do so—but I struggle to see their value to adults and a limited outing is enough for me.
  • How well you put it, Box Pew. Said badly executed plaster figures are particularly out of place in a sumptuous interior which must in its time have been slightly embarrassing. It has now mellowed into beauty compared with the crib beneath the altar. No need to rub it in.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    Well, yes. I certainly agree re the naff nature of many Crib scenes... :grimace:

    We have a simple, and quite small, Nativity/Epiphany scene, put up at the Crib Service on Christmas Eve, with much help from children (and others). It stayed in church until Epiphany, and was then put away, the Magi having duly arrived.

    However, we did celebrate Candlemas yesterday, as the last day of the Christmas/Epiphany season, 'looking from the Crib to the Cross'.
  • ContraTrombaContraTromba Shipmate Posts: 2
    Lovely comments - thank you! The introit by Eccard is from the 16th/17th century. The rest of the music Darke, Leighton and Gardner was all 20th century. On Ash Wednesday at 7.30pm we will be singing lots of William Byrd if you wish to return then!
  • I have it in the diary. Thank you.
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited February 2020
    We look forward to your Report, if, hopefully, you manage to get there.

    Keep up the Good Work!

    I'm not an expert on music (though I know what I like, IYSWIM), but William Byrd's austere compositions seem to be eminently suitable for Ash Wednesday.

    IIRC, my local Cathedral usually sings Byrd's Mass For Five Voices on Ash Wednesday, or at least at some point during Lent, though they haven't updated their online music list that far yet!

    Meanwhile, full marks to Redcliffe for maintaining the choral tradition, with what (for even a large parish church) was, for these days, a fair-sized congregation (70+) on a winter evening.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    I usually find the best time to put the nativity away is just after Epiphany, but I can understand those who leave it somewhere discrete until Presentation. Forty days of Christmas and all that, however, everything else needs to disappear after evensong on 6th January!

    In all honesty, I am none to fond of statues in Church, so when I find myself thinking of the old rubric in the Free Church of England BCP forbidding 'molten, graven, and painted images' it is time for it to go back in its box.
  • It definitely was not somewhere discreet.
  • No, but some churches do put the Crib scene to one side - perhaps in an aisle - between Epiphany and Candlemas. We've done that in the past.
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