Thursday, 31 March 2016

Scent of The Roses

During Easter week, while I'm taking some holiday, I'm putting poems rather than regular blog postings. This is a piece of nostalgia, for no particular reason other than I heard a song of hers the other day.

Scent of The Roses

I remember Mary O’Hara at the Albert Hall
On my cassette tape, I never saw her there
Back in the days when Paul Hogan said Y’All
And Wogan was on TV, with fairly long hair

Her husband died young, she became a nun
And lost was her music, magic harp playing
Wrote Scent of the Roses, her life was done
And we mourned her, as she left to be praying

In summers so fine, the past was so bright
The beaches so full, the sea full of swimmers
And a heavenly harp, painting music of light
A last concert playing, a sunset that glimmers

But she came back again, a Harp on the Willow,
Yet it is past I remember, her music aglow.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016


During Easter week, while I'm taking some holiday, I'm putting poems rather than regular blog postings. This one is a different way of looking at a familiar parable.


Wild flowers, in the hedgerow growing
Spring born, seeds blown in the wind
The invisible sower, the spirit sowing
Scatters the seed widely and thinned

Hard rocky ground, hard to take root
Stones of pain here, on thin soil of earth
Sometimes so hard, the despair is acute
But seed can take hold, come as rebirth

Weeds choking, breathless, why is it so?
The question we ask, the answer to seek
Nature a mystery, that we do not know
Sometimes seed is so tired and weak

But never lose hope, and never despair
The seeds of hope will cast out all fear

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


During Easter week, while I'm taking some holiday, I'm putting poems rather than regular blog postings. The posting of today looks both at the recent storms, and at the Easter story, drawing out one as an echo of the other.


Three trees, bare bones, sway without leaf
Standing on the hillside, bending in wind
The darkness, the gale, the rain, the grief
Rocks gleam wet, like a skull that has grinned

A landslide, gaping bank, hollow torn apart
Storm ripping asunder, so tearing the land
Leaving devastation, and a weeping heart
High seas wiping away the castles in sand

We sit, tell tales on the shore of the sea
Of fishing, of full nets, of calm after storm
And high on the hillside, is one broken tree
Clean sand on the beach, washed to transform

Morning has broken, give thanks for the dawn
Time for new hope, in the sunlight reborn

Monday, 28 March 2016

The Oncoming Storm

This week, as a break from my regular blog, while I'm taking some holidays, I will be posting poems. This is a dark poem, occasioned both by the violent storm and the devastating bombing in Pakistan.

The Oncoming Storm

The wind is risen, clouds conquering the sun
Death comes like the storm, mighty Jove has won
Fury in his anger, tears rock and stone away
And across the world, in explosions bodies lay

Sorrow meets joy, children taken to the tomb
Playground turned to horror, all is fear and gloom
The storm is rising, strong, hymns of hate to sing
Broken bodies, wounded, death again to sting

Where is hope, where innocent lose their life
And murderers crow in victory at their strife
And the sound of those weeping for lost love
Are echoes of violence in the storm above

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter - Part 13

For the next weeks, my Sunday postings will be a transcript of the book "Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter" by the Jersey historian, the Reverend G.R. Bailleine (1873 – 1966).

Most of Balleine's books are either currently in print - as for example his History of Jersey - or online in the form of PDF versions. This book is not, so this is something different. As well as being a Jersey historian, Balleine was also a priest in the Church of England, and Ministre Deservant at St Brelade's Church for a time.

It is interesting to see how Balleine tries to make sense of the resurrection appearances. There is a known phenomena, probably psychological, which he describes of a dead person being seen by someone alive, although care has to be taken to sift this, as sometimes memories can be mistaken - we know much more about the way in which memory is not like a fixed tape recording, but malleable, and falsifiable - one case of a judge and reporter being a case when memory went seriously astray. But none of these experiences involve more than one individual, something which Balleine fails to mention.

But Balleine does mention the countless messianic movements which die with their messiahs, which itself shows something strange at work: we know the disciples scattered, and that fits the pattern. But the emergence of the Christian movement afterwards is unexpected. And he also shows - from an apocryphal gospel - how relatively subdued the resurrection stories are. He might also have mentioned the Gospel of Peter, which actually has a description of the resurrection, and what appears to be a walking cross!

There are two oddities in the resurrection narratives not mentioned in Balleine's attempt to understand the resurrection appearances, one of which was done very well in the BBC series "The Passion", and that is that most of the stories are not about seeing and recognising someone dead, which is what the psychic research anecdotes give us, but about seeing and not recognising someone well known to the disciples.

There is this strange veil of ignorance, and in fiction, perhaps the best analogy can be seen when Gandalf returns from the dead, and the companions see an old man in white, but do not recognise him until he uses causes Legolas arrow in flight to catch fire, and suddenly they see him for their old friend again. He has returned, but he has changed, and it is only when he does something recognisable from his past, that the veil is lifted, something also seen most strongly in the Emmaeus story with the breaking of bread.

The other peculiarity (noted by NT Wright) is that the gospels are littered with references to past prophecy fulfiled, allusions or quotations from the Hebrew scriptures, up until the crucifixion, but the resurrection narratives have none of these. It is as if there is something new taking place, and there are no conceptual tools for understanding it. It has gone beyond the prophecies.

While he discounts the idea of hallucination, Balleine comes down very strongly against the physicality of the resurrection stories and regards those aspects of them as later redactions caused by Jewish belief in a physical resurrection. And there may be something in that, especially in narratives which have holes in hands where nails are pierced. But that doesn't happen in all the stories - some of the stories - especially the lakeside cooking of fish in John - are simply naturalistic. I'm inclined to think that the stories are so strange that we still lack proper conceptual tools to understand them.

The Renaissance Of Hope
By G.R. Balleine

JESUS was dead, disgracefully dead. Apparently He had utterly failed. Like every other Messianic movement His seemed to have come to nothing. This always happened when a would-be Messiah died.

When Theudas was beheaded in A.D. 45, nothing more was heard of his four hundred disciples. In A.D. 54 an Egyptian Jew gathered several thousand followers, but, when Felix scattered them, they too left no trace behind. More successful, Bar-Cochba reigned for three years and struck coins as Prince of Israel; but, when he fell, his movement collapsed like a pricked bubble. The same seemed to be happening to the disciples of Jesus. We see two on Easter Sunday trudging home to Emmaus. `We hoped,' they said, `He would have redeemed Israel.' They implied, `We were wrong.'

Yet nothing in history is more certain than that the Movement suddenly took a new lease of life. In Jerusalem it made hundreds of converts. It spread from land to land. What was the explanation? The disciples answered that on Easter Day they had seen Jesus alive. `We were born anew,' wrote Peter, `to a living hope by the resurrection of Christ from the dead.' If the resurrection of Jesus is a myth, who can explain the amazing resurrection of the Church?

Again, no one doubts that Sunday observance began in New Testament days. `On the first day of the week,' wrote Luke, `the disciples met for the Breaking of Bread.' Why the first day? To Jew and Gentile Sunday was an ordinary working day. The disciples had been trained from childhood to keep Saturday holy, and a habit like that is not easily broken. Something very soul-stirring must have happened on a Sunday. Christians had no doubt what it was. `We meet on Sunday,' wrote Justin, `because on that day Jesus rose from the dead.' If the Resurrection is a myth, what started Sunday observance?

Belief in the Resurrection shaped all the rest of Peter's life. So we must try to decide what really happened. The documentary evidence is strong. Paul's first Letter to Corinth, written only twenty-five years after the crucifixion, claims to be repeating what he had learnt in Jerusalem only seven years after the event: `I passed on to you what I myself was taught, that Christ died, was buried, and rose on the third day. He was seen by Kephas, then by the Twelve, then by over five hundred Brethren at once, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Later He appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. Finally He appeared to me.'

When we reach the Gospels, Mark fails us, for his last page is missing. (The last twelve verses in our Authorized Version are by a later hand.) He was, however, evidently leading up to an appearance in Galilee. Luke reports three appearances, `Matthew' two, and `John' four. Then there is the testimony of Acts, `He showed Himself alive after He suffered by many infallible proofs, and appeared during forty days.' Clearly the whole Early Church believed in the Easter appearances.

Can we explain this by the word `hallucination'? Did it seem so impossible that Jesus could be dead, that some imagined that they saw Him, and talked about it till others thought they saw Him too? Our eyes do trick us sometimes; but visions are not so easily produced by suggestion.

Early in the nineteenth century disciples of Joanna Southcott eagerly expected the coming of Shiloh, whom Jacob had foretold.'. To Turner, her successor, it was revealed that Shiloh would descend to earth on a certain day. A large London chapel was hired. Coaches brought Believers from the country. From midnight to midnight the crowded congregation prayed and watched. Every moment they expected him. If expectation could create visions, someone would have seen him. Seldom have enthusiasts gathered with more ardent faith. But nothing happened. Midnight struck a second time; and they dispersed bewildered. Suggestion is not as powerful as some suppose.

A decisive argument against hallucination is the disciples' frame of mind. No one had any hope of seeing Jesus alive. The women brought spices for His burial. The empty tomb only suggested grave-robbery. When some declared they had seen Him, `their words seemed as idle tales' to the Apostles. For a week Thomas refused to believe the evidence of his friends. Instead of a group of credulous dreamers imagining hopes to be facts, we see stolid, matter-of-fact peasants desperately hard to convince. Hallucination is no answer to the Easter riddle.

One type of evidence, however, may perhaps help. There are stories, that seem well authenticated, of people appearing to their friends after death. Lord Brougham, for example, who became Lord Chancellor, was a man of sceptical mind, accustomed to weigh evidence. As a boy he signed a compact with a friend, that the one who died first would, if possible, appear to the other. The friend went abroad. `For years,' wrote Brougham, `I had no communication with him, nor did anything recall him to my memory.' But one night he saw him in the room. Yet, when he spoke, the figure vanished. He at once entered this in his diary. Later he learnt that his friend had died that night in India. He told the story at the time, wrote an account of it, and repeated it later in his Autobiography.

Similar stories critically tested are given in Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death by Frederick Myers, President of the Society for Psychical Research. For example, he tells how a choir-master saw his soloist coming up the stairs holding a sheet of music. He went to meet him, and he vanished. At once he told his household. Later he learnt that the singer had been killed that morning. Possibly his last thought was a wish to let his choirmaster know that he could not sing that night.

If in certain cases quite ordinary people can appear to their friends after death, is it unreasonable to think that Jesus may have done the same? Myers makes the sweeping statement, `I predict that in consequence of the new evidence all reasonable men a century hence will believe in the resurrection of Christ.'

But a different tradition was superimposed on these Easter appearances. To every Jew resurrection meant resurrection of flesh and bones. In 2 Maccabees a Jew boasts, as his bowels gush out through a wound, that God will give him back those bowels at the Resurrection. Paul contradicted this, `Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God'; `there is a physical body and a heavenly body'; `as we have borne the likeness of the earthy, we shall bear the likeness of the heavenly'. This teaching fits well with the Easter appearances, the passing through closed doors, the appearing and disappearing.

But into these stories crept the idea that the Risen Christ had a solid body, `Handle Me and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see I have.'

This belief in a corporal resurrection seemed endorsed by the empty tomb. The evidence for this is strong. All four Gospels record that on Sunday the women found the tomb that they visited empty. But two questions are possible: Did they go to the right tomb? They were Galileans in a strange city. They had watched the burial from a distance by fast fading light. Professor Macalister, Supervisor of the excavations of the Palestine Exploration Fund, says of the rock-hewn tombs round Jerusalem: `It is hardly an exaggeration to apply the adjective "honey-combed". The tombs are packed closely enough to make the identification of a particular one a matter of some difficulty.'

Or, if they went to the right tomb, had Joseph been there first? The Friday burial had been hurried, and the tomb chosen, `because it was close at hand'. The women did not arrive till Sunday. But on Saturday evening, when Sabbath ended, while the women were buying spices, Joseph and his servants may have moved the body to a more convenient resting-place. But, if either of these suggestions is true, when the Apostles proclaimed the Resurrection, why did not Annas confute them by opening the right tomb?

[If Joseph had removed the body, he may have re-dressed it more befittingly before reburial.]

The answer is simple. The Resurrection was not preached in Jerusalem till Pentecost. In Palestine fifty days after death a body would be unrecognizable. And Joseph may have shrunk from exposing his fellow-believers to ridicule, if on the main point he was convinced that they were right; the appearances proved that Jesus was alive.

But, if the bones of Jesus crumbled into dust in some unknown tomb, is the creed of Christendom a delusion? Not necessarily. To the disciples the empty tomb was a confirmation of their faith; but they did not base their belief on it. Paul did not even mention it, when recounting the proofs of the Resurrection.

It was the appearances that caused the Church to rise from the dead. Peter believed in the Resurrection, not because he had failed to find a dead Christ, but because he had seen a living one.

This long preamble has almost lost sight of Peter; but the evidence had to be tested. If the Resurrection was not real, Peter spent the rest of his life proclaiming a lie. But, if he did see Jesus alive after death, we can understand his eagerness to make this known.

What had he seen? Early on Easter morning he was roused by Mary of Magdala with the news, `They have taken the Master out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid Him.' She fetched the Beloved Disciple too, and he and Peter ran to investigate. The younger man outran Peter, but paused at the mouth of the tomb. Peter characteristically went right in, and found the body gone, but the sheet and head-band left behind.' This merely mystified him. `He went back wondering what had happened.'

Then, before any other Apostle, Peter saw Jesus. Paul wrote, `He was seen by Kephas, then by the Twelve.' The disciples from Emmaus were told, `The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon.' Paul merely says, `He was seen.' If any word was spoken, it is not recorded. Peter suddenly realized that Someone was in the room. To his amazement it was Jesus. His Master appeared, and then perhaps vanished.

That Sunday evening some of them met behind locked doors for supper. Peter was there and nine other Apostles, and `others who were with them'. Most of them had no hope of seeing Jesus. When some of the women declared they had seen Him, this seemed to most of them `mere nonsense'. But Peter convinced them that he had seen Him. Mary of Magdala said that He had spoken to her. Two, who had left for Emmaus, arrived, asserting that Jesus had joined them on the road. Then with a gasp they saw Him in the room. No door had opened, but He was there. They could see His scars. Their first reaction was terror; but `He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.' They remembered perhaps such texts as: `Thou wilt not leave My soul in Sheol.' `Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.'

The Apostles stayed in Jerusalem all that Passover week; but one remained incredulous. Thomas had been absent from the Sunday supper, and he asked for tangible proof. `Nothing will convince me, unless I touch with my hand the wounds in His hands and side.' Peter and he probably had many an argument together. On the following Sunday, however, Thomas was with them. Again Jesus appeared, though the door was barred. He showed His hands and drew aside His robe, inviting Thomas to apply his test. But Thomas's doubts vanished. He cast himself adoringly at Christ's feet.

The scene now shifts to Galilee. `On the last Day of Unleavened Bread,' says the Gospel of Peter, `we, the disciples, went each to his own home.' In the North the appearances continued.

An Appendix to `John' describes one by the Lake of Galilee. The fishermen had resumed their trade. If Judas had decamped with the common purse, funds were perhaps running low. One morning Peter and six others, as they returned from fishing, saw Someone on the shore. The Beloved Disciple exclaimed, `It is the Lord,' and Peter sprang overboard, and waded ashore to greet Him. The others followed in the boat. All through their breakfast, Jesus remained visible; but `no one dared ask, Who art Thou? for they knew it was the Lord'.

As He moved away, Peter followed; and the Report says that thrice Jesus asked, `Do you love Me?' Thrice Peter reaffirmed his love; and three commissions were given him. `Feed My lambs'; `Shepherd My sheep'; `Feed My flock.' He was to be no longer merely a fisher of men, a recruiting agent, but a shepherd, guarding, guiding, and feeding the flock. Then came a veiled prophecy, that Peter would be crucified: `When you were young, you buckled your belt, and went wherever you wished. When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will bind you, and take you where you do not wish.'

When he asked the fate of the Beloved Disciple, he received a gentle rebuff, `If I want him to stay till I return, is that your business?' This story shows what was remembered about Peter in the generation that followed his death, his many-sided pastoral work and his crucifixion.

`Matthew' records another Galilean appearance: `The Eleven went to the hill which Jesus had appointed. When they saw Him, they bowed to the ground; but some doubted.' The last words verify the story. No romancer would have pictured the Apostles as still in doubt. This may be the meeting of which Paul said, `He was seen by more than five hundred of the Brethren at once.' A lonely spot in the Galilean hills was the most likely place for so large a gathering. The resurrection rumours must have excited many Northern disciples. A word from the Eleven would collect them. They saw Him coming down the hill. If some doubted, it was but for a moment, for Paul implied that all were ready to declare they had seen Him.

There were possibly other Galilean appearances, for Acts says, `He showed Himself alive, being seen during forty days.' But Pentecost, the next Feast of Obligation, drew them back to Jerusalem. Ten days before the Feast Jesus appeared once more. He told them, `Wait in the city till you are clothed with power from on high.' Then He led them to the Mount of Olives. Here a wild hope seized them. Zechariah had foretold a dramatic coming of Messiah to that spot, `His feet shall stand on the Mount,' and then, after certain startling physical convulsions ('the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, and the land shall become a plain'), `the Lord shall be King over all the earth'. So they eagerly asked, `Is it today that You are going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?' He replied, `No one knows the dates which the Father has reserved for His own decision.'

Then He lifted His hands, and blessed them, and quietly disappeared; but, instead of fading away as on former occasions, He seemed to rise upwards, till a cloud hid Him from their sight. The quietness of this story helps to confirm its truth.

The Epistola Apostolorum (written about A.D. 150) shows how a myth-maker would have told it: `As He spoke, there came thunder and lightning and earthquake, and Heaven opened, and a glowing cloud appeared and carried Him up, and voices of many Angels sounded, exulting and singing His praise.'

As they walked back, Peter pondered on this new way of departure. He had a knack of recalling Old Testament texts, when faced with a puzzling problem. He remembered now a Psalmist's words, `Jehovah said to my lord, Sit at My Right Hand, till I make thy foes thy footstool.' To him this explained everything.

`God has taken Jesus,' he said, `to share His throne, till His hour of triumph arrives.' His friends accepted this theory, and `returned to Jerusalem with great joy'. And this is taken for granted in the rest of the New Testament, e.g. `He sat down at the Right Hand of the Majesty on High' (Heb. i. 3); `Seek those things that are above, where Christ sits at the Right Hand of God' (Col. iii. I). Hence they ceased to expect appearances, and they saw none.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter - Part 12

In place of my usual Saturday poem, a transcript of the book "Simon Whom He Surnamed Peter" by the Jersey historian, the Reverend G.R. Bailleine (1873 – 1966). This is mainly because I want to get in the crucificion story before Easter day.

Most of Balleine's books are either currently in print - as for example his History of Jersey - or online in the form of PDF versions. This book is not, so this is something different. As well as being a Jersey historian, Balleine was also a priest in the Church of England, and Ministre Deservant at St Brelade's Church for a time.

The Triumph of Annas
By G.R. Balleine

THE Upper Room was no longer safe. The traitor was at large.

Events would now move swiftly. But, before they left, Luke makes Jesus say, `If anyone has no sword, let him sell his cloak and buy one.' This is incomprehensible. Did He want them to cut their way out, if He was arrested? Meeting violence with violence would have contradicted all His teaching. Yet Luke cannot have invented a command that clashed so starkly with all that his contemporaries believed about Jesus. And Peter and one other produced swords from under their cloaks. Peter undoubtedly had a sword in Gethsemane.

Commentators have racked their brains in vain over this problem. Some, like Father Knox, suggest that Jesus spoke in irony. Others take refuge in the thought that `something in the story has been distorted beyond remedy' (Bamforth).

By midnight the little band were back in the shelter of the olives. Jesus knew He was facing death. `Where I am going,' He said, `you cannot come'; and again He quoted Zechariah, `Smite the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter.' Peter protested, `If everyone fails you, I never will.' `Simon,' said Jesus, `Satan will winnow you all tonight' (the Greek word for `you' is plural) `to see whether you are wheat or chaff; but I have prayed for thee' (singular), `that thy faith may not fail.' `I am ready,' Peter boasted, `to go with You to prison or death.' Jesus, however, knew him better than he knew himself. `Before cock-crow' (early dawn)' you will deny that you know Me.' But Peter `kept on protesting vehemently, I would rather die than do that.'

At Gethsemane Jesus left eight of them at the gate, and took Peter and James and John further among the olives. `I am sorely troubled,' He said, `My grief is enough to kill Me. Wait here, and keep awake.' Then, a stone's throw away, He flung Himself on the ground to pray; and Peter noticed in the moonlight that sweat was pouring down His face like great drops of blood. Why this agony?

Theologians have propounded dark and intricate reasons; but the circumstances of the hour were enough. He had failed! He had hoped that everyone would accept His message, turn to God with real repentance, and under His leadership establish a Kingdom in which God's Will would be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Now He faced love's labour lost, arrest, and a shameful death, `Father, if it be possible, let Me be spared this.'

Peter, shallow optimist, thought his Master exaggerated the danger. No one had yet surprised their hiding-place. Why should it happen tonight? He rolled his cloak round him, as he had done on the last two evenings, and fell asleep. An hour passed. Jesus prayed Himself into a calm acceptance of God's Will. Then Peter heard a reproachful voice: `Asleep, Simon? Could you not watch even for an hour? Keep awake, all of you, lest you fall into temptation. You mean well, but human nature is weak.'

Weak indeed! for when Jesus returned to His prayers, Peter again fell asleep. Once more Jesus woke him; but he could not keep awake. He did not see the flickering torches coming up the Mount. He did not give the alarm. It was Jesus Who had to wake him a third time: `Still asleep? The hour has come. Up! Let us go to meet them.' He led His friends outside the orchard, where it would be easier for them to escape.

Peter was bewildered. He saw his comrade Judas with a posse of armed men. Had he been recruiting a force to make Jesus King? Judas kissed Jesus on the hand, the usual greeting of a disciple to a Rabbi. Peter could not guess that this was a signal, lest the wrong person should be seized. But Jesus knew. He swept the traitor aside, and asked the Temple police, `Who are you looking for?' `Jesus of Nazareth.' `I am He. If you want Me, let these others go.'

Rough men have often been overawed by the dignity of their intended victim. Fox and Wesley passed unhurt through mobs that gathered to stone them. So now these Levite constables recoiled. Some stumbled backward and fell. The spell was broken by a scuffle. Peter, impetuous as ever, whipped out his sword and rushed to his Master's aid. He slashed at one of the High Priest's slaves, but only sliced an ear. Jesus said: `Sheathe that sword. Shall I not drink the cup My Father has given Me?' If Peter was forbidden to fight, what else could he do? The position seemed hopeless. Sauve qui pent. The Apostles fled through the olives, leaving Jesus a prisoner.

Peter did not fly far. Crouching behind bushes, he watched till Jesus was led away, then `followed afar off'. As he stole cautiously from tree to tree, he saw someone else doing the same. This was a Jerusalem disciple, who was `known to the High Priest', and had the entree to his palace, perhaps one of the `many among the Rulers', who believed on Jesus, but `did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue'. (The idea that he was the Beloved Disciple is only a guess.) He and Peter followed together.

Jesus was taken to the house of Annas, an ex-High Priest, who had been deposed by the Romans fifteen years before; but his influence was still so great that no one could hold the High Priesthood without his support. Four of his sons became High Priests, and at the moment the High Priest was his son-in-law Caiaphas. Annas apparently still lived in part of the High Priest's Palace, and he had been behind most of the intrigues against Jesus.

Peter's companion entered the Palace unchallenged, but Peter was turned back. His friend, however, spoke to the portress, and she let him in. Every large Jewish house was built round a paved courtyard, on to which the rooms opened. Here the servants had lighted a brazier, for the night was cold, and Peter went up to warm himself. He was `without', in the open air, and `beneath', slightly below the surrounding rooms; but he could see what was happening in the audience chamber.

This was no formal trial of Jesus, merely a preliminary inquiry by Annas and a few friends. They were in a fix. The Sanhedrin could not meet legally before sunrise; but the charge against the Prisoner had to be settled, and the chief witness for the prosecution was missing. Annas had relied on the evidence of Judas, and he had disappeared. The Sanhedrists were no murderers, but legalists, who would have to be convinced of a prisoner's guilt before they would vote for his death. So fresh evidence must be found.

Annas questioned Jesus about `His disciples and His doctrine.' `Why have You gathered followers? What have You been teaching?' Jesus replied, `I taught openly in synagogues and Temple. Ask those who heard Me.' A rough hand slapped His face, as one of the police barked, `Is that the way to answer the High Priest?' And Peter stood watching. In his Epistle he calls himself `a witness of the sufferings of Christ'.

As he watched, the firelight shone on his bronzed face. He was clearly no city-dweller. A saucy slave-girl asked, `Are you a Nazarene?' He replied, `I don't understand you," and drew back into the shadow of the porch. But his tormentress found him again and shouted, `Here's one of them.' This time he lied, `I am not'; and gained an hour's respite.

From the porch he could still see all that happened to Jesus. When Annas failed to trap Him into any dangerous admissions, he withdrew, leaving the Prisoner in the hands of the police and the slaves, who amused themselves by bullying. They jeered at Him. They spat in His face. They played Greek blind-man's-buff, blindfolding Him, striking Him and bidding Him name the striker.

Later Peter described the scene: `When He was reviled, He made no retort. When He suffered, He threatened not.' At last this horseplay stopped. Dawn was breaking. The Sanhedrin could meet. Jesus must be marched across the court-yard to Caiaphas's quarters, for the High Priest, not an ex-High-Priest, must preside at the legal trial. Meanwhile Peter was in trouble again. Some bystanders, hearing his north-country burr, said, `You are a Galilean,' and, according to `John', a kinsman of the slave he had wounded cried, `I saw you in the orchard with Him.' From evasion he had stooped to lying. Now he sank to perjury. `He began to curse and to swear,' calling on God to strike him dead, if he had ever known Jesus.

And just then Jesus crossed the courtyard on His way to Caiaphas. `And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.' Shame-stricken, Peter rushed away, weeping bitterly. In the east the sky was reddening over the mountains of Moab. Cocks were beginning to crow.

[All four Gospels record Peter's threefold denial; but details vary. In Mark his challengers are (1) a girl at the fire, (2) the same girl in the porch, (3) bystanders; in `Matthew', (1) a girl in the courtyard, (2) another girl in the porch, (3) bystanders; in Luke, (1) a girl at the fire, (2) a man, (3) another man; in `John' (1) the portress at the door, (2) bystanders round the fire, (3) Malchus's kinsman. In the story above, we have followed Mark, who gives probably Peter's own version. ]

From this moment Peter fades out of the story of that day. Where he went, we are not told. He dared not go to Bethany, for the sisters there were known to be friends of Jesus. His comrades were probably somewhere on the Mount; but he could not get in touch with them, and perhaps he felt ashamed to do so. He must have found a shelter somewhere.

One guess is possible. Two days later Mary of Magdala knew where he was. Possibly he asked her for help. She was one of a group of ladies who `ministered unto Jesus of their substance'. She may have found him a refuge.

For two days he lay low; but whoever was hiding him would have told him what happened. If it was Mary of Magdala, we know that towards the end she ventured to the foot of the cross. He heard how the Sanhedrin had condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy; but, when they took Him to Pilate (for only the Governor could order an execution), they substituted a political charge, forbidding the payment of tribute and claiming to be a King.

But Pilate was no fool. He must for months have been keeping an eye on Jesus. He realized that Caesar had nothing to fear from this Peasant Preacher. So he tried hard to liberate Him. But the rumour that Jesus had threatened to destroy the Temple roused the mob to such fury that Pilate found himself faced with the ugly possibility of a Passover riot. He chose the easy way out. Better let this unpopular Carpenter die than have to slay scores of pilgrims in furious street fighting.

Peter heard what had followed: the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the crucifixion between two brigands. The excruciating torture of this form of death has often been described; but perhaps for Peter there was something even more awful.

Folk-lore teemed with queer superstitions about death. One was that to die safely one must die on mother earth. If you hanged or crucified your foe, you lifted him up a defenceless victim to the fury of fiends and ghouls. This odd idea had found its way even into Deuteronomy, `He that is hanged is accursed'; and, since to a Jew anything in the Law was indisputable, the cross was always `to the Jews a stumbling-block'. Paul wrote with a shudder that Jesus was `made a curse for us'.

Peter heard, too, how Jesus had been buried by Joseph of Arimathea, a Sanhedrist who was a secret sympathizer. Burial of the dead was with the Jews an obligatory act of mercy. `Wherever thou findest the dead,' said Esdras, `commit them to the grave.' And this applied to criminals. `If a man commit sin worthy of death, and thou hang him,' said Deuteronomy, `his body shall not remain all night on the tree; thou shalt bury him the same day.'

The Sanhedrin had to see that all crucified bodies were buried before sunset. So Joseph offered to see to the burial of Jesus. It had to be done quickly. Soon six blasts of the Sabbath trumpet would make all work illegal. Joseph only had time to buy a sheet to wrap round the body (the soldiers had carried off the clothes), and to lay it in a tomb close at hand. `And Mary Magdalene beheld where He was laid.'

That Saturday-Sabbath was the darkest Peter ever spent. He had failed. His friends had failed. Jesus had failed. And God Himself had failed to intervene to prevent their failure. The loveliest life ever lived had come to a shameful end. The most hopeful effort ever made to save the world had been hideously defeated. Jesus had died the death of the damned; and Heaven had remained silent! In the age long duel between Priest and Prophet once more the Priest had won.

Friday, 25 March 2016

A Few Notes on Good Friday

The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood-
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.

-T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the adjective “good” traditionally "designates a day on (or sometimes a season in) which religious observance is held".

The OED states that "good" in this context refers to "a day or season observed as holy by the church", hence the greeting "good tide" at Christmas or on Shrove Tuesday. In addition to Good Friday, there is also a less well-known Good Wednesday, namely the Wednesday before Easter.

The earliest known use of "guode friday" is found in The South English Legendary, a text from around 1290

But in German-speaking countries, Good Friday is generally referred to as Karfreitag (Kar from Old High German kara‚ "bewail", "grieve"‚ "mourn", Freitag for "Friday"): Mourning Friday. The Kar prefix is an ancestor of the English word care in the sense of cares and woes; it meant mourning. The day is also known as Stiller Freitag ("Silent Friday") and Hoher Freitag ("High Friday, Holy Friday").

The Catholic Encyclopedia, first published in 1907, states that the term's origins are not clear. It says some sources see its origins in the term "God's Friday" or Gottes Freitag, while others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag. It notes that the day was called Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons.

At an earlier time it was designated by "Pascha of the crucifixion," in distinction from "Pascha of the resurrection," the Easter festival ( Augustine, De trinitate, in MPL, xlii. 894).

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Maundy Thursday: What was the Last Supper?

Maundy Thursday: What was the Last Supper?

Traditionally, the last supper is seen as a Passover meal, but was it? G.R. Balleine, in a piece cited below, comes down strongly in favour of John’s gospel being correct in setting it before the Passover.

The discrepancy is between the Synoptic chronology in which the Last Supper is a Passover banquet (see Mark 14:12-16 etc), and John's Gospel which has Jesus' death take place on the day before, when preparation for the feast was taking place. Here Jesus is arrested, and already before Pilate, before the banquet could have happened (John 19:14).

Different scholars weigh in on different sides, and there is no cast iron resolution to the problem. The earliest account, the epistle of Paul to the Corinthians gives no indication of whether it is a Passover meal or not.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Colin Humphreys notes that although tradition places the last supper on the Thursday, this is nowhere to be found in the Bible and he argues that it is far likelier that it happened on the Wednesday.

Along this line, Michael Cook argues that Mark’s gospel has had a paragraph inserted between Mark 14: 1-2 and Mark 14:17-20. He suggests that Mark tried to transform an ordinary meal into a Passover observance by fashioning and inserting a single paragraph between (what we identify as) 14:11 and 17. He notes that:

“All indications that Passover has arrived before Jesus’ arrest seem unnaturally compressed into the Second Paragraph (14:12-16), rather than naturally surfacing randomly also in the surrounding narrative (i.e., outside the Second Paragraph).”

And he suggests that the narrative flows quite smoothly if we excise that paragraph, without any indication that anything is missing. He argues that Mark himself crafted and inserted his Second Paragraph, 14:12-16, into an originally inherited but quite different time-line. Matthew and Luke then simply copied Mark.

This would also explain the apparent contradiction when Mark asserts that the chief priest and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him. for they said. “not during the feast lest there be a tumult of the people"  which runs counter to Mark's narrative in which Jesus is arrested during the feast.

The denial of Peter which comes with the trial narrative afterwards also has its own chronological discrepancies. Peter's denials in Mark (14:66-72) take place after the trial by the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53-65). Matthew agrees with Mark on this. But Luke places the denials by Peter (Luke 22:54-62) before the trial by the Sanhedrin (Luke 22:66-71). And then John’s narrative weaves his account of the denials by Peter in and out of the night-time interrogation by Annas.

Moreover when we look at what happens, there are other discrepancies. The words differ, as Goodacre points out – “Matthew alone has 'for the forgiveness of sins'. Luke and Paul alone have 'new covenant' and Paul alone here has 'in my memory'.”

And the order of actions takes place differently. Luke follows Paul with the breaking of the bread within the meal, and "after the meal" Jesus taking the cup; by omitting this, Matthew and Mark give the impression the wine immediately follows the bread (as of course it does in liturgical actions). The time gap - "after the meal" is missing from Matthew and Mark.

So we cannot be absolutely certain of what was history, and what is history overlaid by later liturgy. As Goodacre comments:

“Luke, in spite of the fact that we know him to have been literarily dependent on Mark, is nevertheless apparently influenced by something resembling the very early tradition also known to Paul. Luke, in other words, seems to be rewriting Mark in interaction with a version of the same story known to him from his oral tradition. It is possible that Matthew too is reworking Mark in line with a version of the Eucharistic words more familiar to him. While the words unique to Matthew, 'for the forgiveness of sins', may simply be the evangelist's own creative addition, it is equally possible that these are words Matthew has added from his own oral tradition”

For those who prefer to believe that John’s chronology is wrong, and that the Synoptics are correct in placing the Last Supper as a Passover meal, one argument from John Byron is that that “John has purposely altered the details in his gospel for theological rather than historical reasons. By having Jesus' execution take place on the "day of preparation" John is able to more fully portray him as the Lamb of God”.

Byron also suggests that this is why the more formal “Last Supper” is missing from John:

“In John, Jesus is the ultimate expression of what it means to be the slaughtered Lamb of God. This is probably also the reason why John does not have an institution of the "Lord's Supper" at the last supper. Jesus is not eating Passover with them, he is about to become Passover for them.”

What to me is more significant is that if it was a Passover - whenever dated - Jesus would have been left with the wine of Elijah and the bread of affliction put to one side, and fashioned his actions from those items left over at the end, within Jewish tradition, rather than if it was an ordinary meal, in which case it seems he is creating something with no roots in Judaism.

Attempting to harmonise the discrepancies, which fundamentalists like to do, actually does not favours in hiding the complexity of the traditions and the interplay with the liturgy. It is interesting that in a liturgical context, Maundy Thursday manages to combine features of all the gospels, with the foot washing from John’s gospel, and the close proximity of bread and wine in mark and Matthew, and all the words we have.

Have we seen this pattern before? Yes – the Christmas narratives also combine disparate elements and traditions together, so that the story brings in shepherds and magi into one narrative. Of course, we are more aware of how those traditions are combined and overlaid with later material, because there are only two birth narratives, and they are actually quite different. But as Tony Jordan showed in “The Nativity”, they can easily make a seamless whole that works as a narrative, removing those parts which highlight discrepancies.

Our historical antenna is not quite so attuned to the discrepancies in the New Testament accounts of the last supper, but that is not to say these problems have not been noticed. Balleine (as below) comes down heavily in favour of one dominant narrative.

However, another approach was taken by Origen of Alexandria, who noted and commented on the different chronology between John and the Synoptics:

“The student, staggered at the consideration of these things, will either renounce the attempt to find all the Gospels true, and not venturing to conclude that all our information about our Lord is untrustworthy, will choose at random one of them to be their guide; or will accept the four, and will consider that their truth is not to be sought for in the outward and material letter.”

Truth is found as much in story as in history, and by taking different elements and weaving them into a Maundy Thursday liturgy, we keep open the possibility that any narrative might touch on the events of that evening, rather than closing off the differences.

Was the Last Supper the Paschal Meal?
By G.R. Balleine

Jesus was crucified on a Friday; so the Last Supper was on a Thursday evening. But Passover, being fixed by the full moon, could fall on any day of the week. In the year in which Jesus died, did it fall on a Friday or a Saturday? If on a Friday, since Jewish days began at sunset on the previous night, a Thursday evening supper would be the Paschal meal.

The Synoptists say explicitly it was. The disciples ask, `Where do You want us to make ready the Passover?' He told Peter and John: `Go and prepare the Passover.' `They made ready the Passover.'

But the Fourth Gospel is just as positive that Jesus was in His grave before the Feast began. The Supper took place `before the Feast of the Passover'. The disciples thought Judas left the room to buy what was needed for the Feast. The Priests would not enter Pilate's Palace, `lest they should be unable to eat the Passover'. `It was the Day of Preparation for the Passover.' Christ's body was buried hurriedly `because of the Jews' Preparation Day'.

`John' is almost certainly right. Mark's date, which `Matthew' and Luke copied, raises many difficulties. He says nothing of the lamb, the chief feature of the Paschal Feast, the bitter herbs, the four cups, or the unleavened bread. 

- The Passover law said, `None shall go out of his house till morning'; yet first Judas, then the disciples, then `a great multitude with torches' were walking about that night. 

- The bearing of arms was forbidden; yet Peter and the Temple Police carried swords. 

- Passover was kept as a Sabbath. Travel was forbidden; yet Simon the Cyrenian was `coming in from the country'. 

- Selling was forbidden; yet Joseph bought linen for a shroud. 

- Burden-bearing was forbidden; yet three crosses were carried to Calvary and three corpses to their tombs. 

- On the Feast Day `all the Chief Priests' would have been too busy in the Temple to attend a Sanhedrin meeting; and public executions on so holy a day would have seemed a shocking desecration.

Marcus [i.e., St Mark] was probably misled by the fact that he had so often heard the Lord's Supper compared to the Passover-'Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us'-that he had come to believe that the Last Supper was the Paschal meal. `John', who knew Marcus's Gospel and sometimes quotes it verbatim, deliberately corrects his mistake. Passover fell that year on a Saturday. The Talmud agrees: `Yeshu' (i.e. Jesus) `was hanged on the eve of Passover.'

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Belgium Terror Attacks: A Comment

The events in Belgium have been deeply shocking, and it is initially hard to make much sense of them. The simplest narrative is that it is related to religious extremism, but that is also simplistic and doesn’t really provide any detailed explanation of how religious extremism can take such forms.

In a study in 2008 by Dr Clark McCauley, Professor of Psychology, Bryn Mawr College, the author reviews several books relating to suicide bombers.

In particular, a book entitled “Manufacturing Human Bombs: The Making of Palestinian Suicide Bombers, by Mohammed Hafez is instructive in breaking down the details behind such attacks. He notes that Hafez “argues persuasively for a distinction of levels of analysis:” The suicide attacks are Palestinian, but the same analysis can I think apply in Belgium:

- They are a strategic choice for the groups deploying suicide bombers,
- They are an act of personal and religious redemption for the bomber
- They are and an expression of Islamic revivalism and nationalist fervour in a culture that venerates martyrdom and martyrs.

It is notable that persistently those who glory in suicide missions either reframe them with theological argument or refer to them euphemistically as ‘holy martyrdoms,’ ‘martyrdom operations,’ (ishtishahd in Arabic) ‘voluntary deaths,’ ‘giving yourself,’ or ‘self-gift.’

Hafez points out that suicide bombing is a weapon deployed by any faction which would not obtain popular appeal for their particular political agenda:

“Suicide terrorism, Hafez suggests, is the weapon of the weakest factions of the insurgency - the jihadists and the Ba'thists. Neither of these groups can depend on any popular appeal; their only hope of influence is in destabilization and chaos”

That is very notable in the wave of attacks we have seen on Western democracies, and also on popular tourist destinations such as Egypt and Tunisia. Causing chaos destabilises societies, and in a climate of fear, and with modern media, the news of the atrocities spreads quickly.

As Stephen Pinker points out in “The Better Angels of Our Nature”, over the past 70 years, there has been a decline in all kinds of organized conflicts, including civil wars, genocides, repression and terrorism.”

The statistics show that violence is clearly down, but that the fear of violence is still way up. As Pinker notes, we base our fears irrationally on anecdotes instead of statistics, and in a world of 7 billion, the actual risk for any individual approaches zero. It is how we process information that creates the effects that ISIS want, and we do not process information rationally.

Moreover, the modus operandi of terror groups, at present, would appear to be linear and clustered. That is to say that they strike in multiple locations at one point in time. In that case, probably the safest place to be – although it certainly doesn’t feel like it – would be Belgium today.

Clearly the risk is not geographically distributed evenly, but none the less, even in Belgium, while the death of anyone, especially in conditions of fear and terror, is an abomination, the statistics give a population of 11,190,846 in 2015.

The statistics noted by Pinker were also noted by Stephen Jay Gould, who wrote in the aftermath of 9/11 that “one incident of violence can undo thousand acts of kindness, and we easily forget the predominance of kindness over aggression by confusing effect with frequency”

And he says that:

“For this reason, a documentation of the innumerable small acts of kindness, the good deeds that almost always pass beneath our notice for lack of ‘news value,’ becomes an imperative duty, a responsibility that might almost be called holy, when we must reaffirm the prevalence of human decency against our pre-eminent biases for hyping the cataclysmic and ignoring the quotidian." 

"Ordinary kindness trumps paroxysmal evil by at least a million events to one, and we will not grasp this inspiring ratio unless we record the Everest of decency built grain by grain into a mighty fortress taller than any breakable building of mere concrete and steel."

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Green and White Paper Misfeed

In the States, yesterday, there was this question by Jeremy Macon

Will the Minister outline the timetable for proposals for an additional waste charge to include –
- - Green paper stage
-- White paper stage
- Scrutiny review period
- Amendments post scrutiny review
- Lodging for debate
- Debate


"The MTFP has outlined the need for raising £3m in 2018 and £10m in 2019 on waste charges. To achieve the income the Department for Infrastructure have developed a range of options which are enclosed in a Strategic Outline Business Case Document which has just been produced. A summary of this Document has been presented to the Council of Ministers and has been shared with the Environment scrutiny panel."

"We are arranging a workshop with states members to discuss the report findings, possible funding options and timescales. This is to be organised as soon as practicable."

"The Council of Ministers will include their proposals for any additional charges within the MTFP Addition. In accordance with the Finance Law, this will be lodged on 30 June 2016, for a twelve week period before debate, giving States Members and Scrutiny sufficient time to consider the proposals in detail before they are debated at the end of September 2016. Provided proposals are approved, subsequent legislation will need to be brought to the Assembly, which will be subject to the normal process of review by Scrutiny."

My Comments:

It looks very much as if the matter is kept under wraps from the general public for as long as possible. Unlike other matters, there is no consultation going out for the public to comment upon. Instead, the document is shared with Scrutiny, there is no Green Paper or White Paper, and it is not even clear if a Scrutiny review will appear.

As usual, the changes mooted are put out in June, just before the States go into recess and it becomes very hard for the public to contact States members who have left for their summer holidays.,

Jeremy Macon asked a similar question of the health charge, and the reply was much in the same vein:

“In P.82/2012 Health and Social Services: A New Way Forward, the States Assembly approved the redesign of Jersey’s health and social care services and requested the Council of Ministers to bring forward proposals for a sustainable funding mechanism for health and social care. Accordingly, growth funding has been allocated in the MTFPs 2013-2105 and 2016-2019. The Council of Ministers will include their proposals for any additional charges within the MTFP Addition. In accordance with the Finance Law, this will be lodged on 30 June 2016, for a twelve week period before debate, giving States Members and Scrutiny sufficient time to consider the proposals in detail before they are debated at the end of September 2016. Provided proposals are approved, subsequent legislation will need to be brought to the Assembly, which will be subject to the normal process of review by Scrutiny”

Back in 2012, there was a consultation on Health Care, given by Anne Pryke, Minister of Health at the time, entitled “Caring for each other, Caring for ourselves”. There was a preliminary Green paper, then a White paper which said: “Welcome to the White Paper from Health and Social Services. We hope you enjoy reading it, and look forward to hearing your views. You can find out how to respond to the plans set out in the White Paper at the back of the document.”

The Green paper received almost 1,350 responses, and a White paper was produced, also open to public consultation, prior to legislative changes.

Clearly the new health charge and the new waste charge are deemed not to require any such consultation with the wider public, who in the meantime can supply their opinions on consultations on pheasants around Jersey or the country-by-country reporting under the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project.

When it comes to something which really matters, the Council of Ministers is clearly so afraid of public response that they are keeping everything hidden from view until the last possible minute, right at the end of the States sittings in June.

So why is a Green paper important? A Green Paper is a States publication that details specific issues, and then points out possible courses of action in terms of policy and legislation. Crucially, a Green Paper contains no commitment to action, it is more a tool of stimulating discussion, but it is often the first step towards changing the law.

White Papers which follow a Green paper are issued by the Government as statements of policy, and often set out proposals for legislative changes or the introduction of new laws. Proposals often emerge from a Green Paper process.

The changes which will bring in a health charge and a waste charge are going to affect every adult in Jersey so, right from the beginning, you might expect that the Government wanted people's opinions about the fundamental principles on how the charge will be designed, especially when we are told there is "a range of options".

Our legislative process is not being helped by a Government determined to limit public involvement. There seems to be an assumption that people do not have the right to participate in the details of what new laws say.

But if this does not happen, then the only public “consultation” will be through the accredited media, and social media. This is surely no way to obtain considered comment when introducing these important pieces of legislation.

Consultation should start at the early stages involving the public, and it would be helpful if the Council of Ministers avoided what increasingly looks like paranoid secrecy.

Monday, 21 March 2016

RIP Don Filleuil

RIP Don Filleuil

Back in 2011, I suggested a series of features for La Baguette, the St Brelade's Parish Magazine, called "Parishioners Remember".

Don Filleul was the first person I asked as he was living in the Parish and was enthusiastic about the idea. Here is the core of two articles, plus some other memories not specific to St Brelade, which he shared with me. The other memories have not seen publication, but I am sure Don would have been happy for them to be shared with a wider public.

The first piece of memories differs slightly from the printed versions, which can be seen online elsewhere on La Baguette website, and which was edited for reasons of space and to put in background context. I've kept one bit here, which is in square brackets. The La Baguette version was taken over by Mike Bisson for his Island Wiki, who had not corresponded with Don, so here, for the first time, is the raw original material from his email to me.

The articles in La Baguette can be read here:

As well as in my published collection of articles for La Baguette, Crumbs from the Table

We also corresponded about some of his early life, and I've added these memories after the main one. I also corresponded with Don over his submission to the Referendum on the States, but that's something for another day!

Don is probably best know for pressing ahead with turning Queen's Valley into a reservoir, despite considerable opposition. He lost his seat as a Senator, largely as a result of the ongoing saga, but returned as a Deputy and was back again as President of Public Works, still pushing ahead. If we had not the reservoir, we would have faced a serious water shortage ages ago - as it was, in the peak of Tourism, the Island would sometimes run out of water, and need rationing measures - usually if we had a dry September just after a sunny Summer.

It is an irony of history that Advocate Richard Falle, who led the campaign against that as a despoiling of the environment, was responsible for Le Pas Holdings dispute with the States, leading to the Waterfront being a built up ugly mess, and hence (in my opinion) despoiling that environment.

Don's own original conception of the Waterfront - along with the Steam Clock and Maritime Museum and Jardins de la Mare - was for a large swathe of green space - rather like you find at Southampton. But Advocate Falle's intervention derailed that ideal, and the bean-counters suddenly realised how valuable all that land was for building upon.

Unfortunately unlike the Waterfront Enterprise Board, which was given land at a peppercorn value of £1, the Maritime Museum rents its land from Port of Jersey, so the States currently has to pay out to its own Corporate Body for heritage. I suspect Don was not best pleased with that.

He was, of course, spealing on behalf of Jersey Heritage in favour of the Societe Jersiaise ceding sites which it could no longer maintain to Jersey Heritage - I remember the meeting when it was carried, and a majority of members (including myself) agreed with Don that was the best way forward.

Don was born in 1926, and a number of his memories encompass a Jersey that is long vanished. I imagine a lot of the official obituaries will concentrate more on his later political career, so it is nice to be able to supplement that with some memories of his earlier life. And what a life, encompassing the old pre-war world of trains and horses, the Occupation years, to corresponding with me by email!

Memories from Don Filleul

Some occasionally accurate ands very personal memories from Don Filleul of 35 Elizabeth Avenue - with apologies for the inclusion/incorrectness of various names,of whom sadly many are no longer with us and thus gave no permission. Those who do remain may respond and refute by their own contribution to the Newsletter.

I was born at Grêve d’Azette in 1926, very close of the to the station of the Jersey Eastern Railway. I can remember travelling to Gorey, and to the Snow Hill terminus. And thus began a lifetime devotion to railways.

Which is how I was introduced to St. Brelade. Taken frequently to Corbiere I reallly enjoyed everything about the journey and began to develop preferences for certain engines. Anyone remember the one painted light green ? I didn’t care for that.

[By the 1930s, the Jersey Railway was under pressure from the buses which could travel over a wider catchment area than trains. During the winter, all the rolling stock of the Jersey Railway was stored in the St Aubin station, and on the night of 16 October 1936, a fire broke out. This destroyed much of the station building, 15 of the carriages, and damaged the Terminus Hotel. Don's father took him to see the devastation.]

The horror of course was the fire at St.Aubin’s station, the destroyed coaches the awful stench of the place is almost still with me. Dad took me there - he was also a bit soft about trains, and we stared with sadness at the catastrophe.

My further memories are mostly happier. We moved to Beaumont in 1941, just before the Germans began the construction of their anti-tank wall.. In those days all there had been between our house and the sea were the remains of Beaumont Station platform and lovely great lumps of golden granite which were the current means of protection from the waves.

We watched the development of the concrete wall and the establishment of the Gunsite with its rather impressive old French artillery piece and some tank turrets sunk into concrete bunkers. (Tobruk )The garrison was housed in the wooden hut, still there, beside the Round Tower, at the top of which lolled a German soldier with his twin anti-aircraft machine-gun. I recall him ringing his alarm bell and shouting “Achtung Flugzeug” when a reconnaissance Spitfire flew over at about 30,000 feet.

As a resident of the district I began to make friends and became involved with what was known as the “Cecil Corbin Concert Party” - names to mind include Graeme Huelin and Roselle Mauger, Roy Pinel, Dorothy Brown, Molly Amy, Ethel Boniface and her sister Hilary, later to become my wife, Hazel Vincent, Rosemary Renouf, Tommy Barker, Barbara Berry at the piano I think. We sang and danced, the latter under the tutelagew of Miss Le Caudey of Beaumont.

The C C C P melded into St. Matthew’s Young People, based on the Glass Church’s congregaton in St. Lawrence. The Romeril family from Malorey Manor were very kind to we youngsters and hosted many parties with much appreciated grub.

There was a place on the right side to the road going up towards the school - the "Hamon Hall". |that's where most local shows took place, we could hire it for private parties too. It is now a private dwelling I believe.

We produced a number of shows at the Hamon Hall, the most memorable was “Streamline”, which we took to a lot of Parish Halls (by horse and van, of course) where, after the show, we were treated with refreshments which revealed the vast difference between farmers’ rations and our own !

I was reminded recently - when the bungalows at Ouaisné were being discussed for a possible development - that some of us, including some of the above but also Ivor Rive, Dorothy Bisson and her brother Roy, rented one called “The Angle”. It was owned by a lady who lived in St,. Aubin - can’t remember her name at the moment - who trusted us to pay every month. I was not allowed to stay there overnight but some did, I think.

In those days restaurants were virtually non-existent but I have a memory of Mrs. Priddy’s café at Portelet. We took our own vegetables, potatoes, salads etc. and handed them in for Mrs. Priddy to cook and present at table. We paid just a small amount for her services which were very well supported by the locals.

Railway Memories

If my memory is correct - I have in my library some data on this but as an instant recollection: The train stopped at West Park Halt, First Tower, Millbrook, Beaumont, those had stations, La Haule Halt.

There was a longer stop at St. Aubin for greater passenger transfer in both directions. It must have taken half an hour Town to St. Aubin but you'll have to look up the old timetables to be sure of that and the time to Corbiere. I can't remember all the stops to Corbiere, certainly Don Bridge and La Moye, I'll try to look these up.

I think an Aunt was my main companion on these journeys. I had no siblings. The coaches were as at the Steam Museum, no corridors of course.

Corbiere had little to offer but the view so I think we just came back ! Food? Sweets perhaps.

I can't help with the high tides, living at Greve d'Azette, their effect on the railway was not of pressing concern to me, especially at the age of nine or ten.

I was intensively interested in the engines - I mentioned the light green one. They all had names and I'll look these up too. But I don't think Auntie allowed me to make friends with the drivers. In those days such contact was out of order.

More Early Memories

I was born at "Ashbury", Plat Douet Road, two doors from "Garthlyn", which was built by Grandfather Hamon to accommodate my mother and father and of course him and Grandma. They died early in the Occupation from the shock of the low-flying Luftwaffe and the Wermacht marching past.

W.F.Filleul was my father, we moved not to Bryn-y-Mor but to Min-y-Don, Beaumont, in 1941.

The 1937 advertisement for our firm is interesting indeed fascinating as it was that business into which I arrived in 1945. It was essentially doing the same things but the emphasis slowly changed to a point where we became Filleul's Business Equipment Ltd with a branch in Guernsey. Much later of course. That's another story but of little interest to St. Brelade.

I remember West's Pictures. You entered via a long corridor with advertising window displays on both sides, we used one of these for a time. West's also had private "boxes" at the back of the stalls, these were useful for courting purposes.

Other cinemas were the Opera House, the Forum, where for 1 penny kids could go on Saturday mornings to see cartoons and a thriller. This always ended with a scene so dramatic, so frightening, that you had to go the following week to see what happened . I'm sure there was another cinema but the brain doesn't include it today. There were a couple of entertainment centres with slot machines, one in New Street had bumper cars. "Olympia" perhaps?

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Rosewindow on Islam and Christianity

Now that news on Islam dominates the news, often not in a positive way, it is worth looking back to 1976 when the modern situation in which we find so much fear did not exists. In this piece, John Taylor looks at a celebration of Islam, and asks how Christianity is to see itself in a wider pluralistic world of other faiths.

April. 1976 The Monthly Journal of the Diocese of Winchester No. 157

ROSEWINDOW-No. 16 by The Bishop of Winchester (Dr. John Taylor)

THIS MONTH, at the very time when we are once again preparing ourselves to enter the mystery and face the challenge of Holy Week and Easter, a series of cultural events will be launched in London which, when its significance is understood, may deeply exercise the mind of many Christians.

Throughout April, May and June the larger museums, galleries and concert halls of London will be combining to present the "World of Islam" Festival. Although financial support, amounting to over one million pounds, comes largely from the Arab countries, it was never intended that it should be an aggressive flaunting of another faith in the capital city of a traditionally Christian country. The planners and trustees of the Festival are mainly well-known British experts and art-lovers who have felt for a long time that the great intellectual achievements of thirteen centuries of Islamic civilization have been largely unknown and unappreciated in Western Europe for far too long. They are determined to emphasise the cultural rather than the religious aspects of the Festival, and have resisted the pressure of some Muslim groups to use the Festival for proselytising.

It is certainly going to be a splendid and ambitious presentation. The Queen will open an exhibition of the Arts of Islam at the Hayward Gallery on the South Bank. The British Museum will stage a comprehensive exhibition of the Qur'an throughout the centuries, and also a dazzling collection of Mughal paintings from India. In Kensington the Science Museum will demonstrate the brilliant achievements of Muslim mathematicians, surgeons, navigators, astronomers and technologists, while the Victoria and Albert Museum will display its treasures of metalwork.

Other smaller exhibitions will be shown at the Commonwealth Institute, the Horniman Museum and the Museum of Mankind. Musicians and orchestras from the Arab world and Asia will give concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room, and there will be a three-day festival of folklore and dancing at the Royal Albert Hall.

A series of twenty lectures on cultural, historical and religious subjects will be given during the Festival. The first, on the Qur'an, will be given by the Rector of the al-Azhar University of Cairo, the supreme academic figure of the Muslim world. The Archbishop of Canterbury has invited him to a private reception at Lambeth Palace. An important series of illustrated books is to be published, and there will be subsidiary exhibitions at the same time at Manchester, Sheffield and Kendal.

Never before has an opportunity on such a scale been provided for the people of Britain to open their minds and hearts in a new appreciation of a great cultural heritage which hitherto has been largely a closed book to them. But it is far more than a cultural opportunity. If only we can approach it aright it will offer us a chance of strengthening our own understanding of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who now share with Christians and others in a common British citizenship within the boundaries of the United Kingdom.

As the Bishop of Guildford has said in his pamphlet, A New Threshold (British Council of Churches, 50p), which I particularly want to commend to you this month, "They work together in the same factories, shops and offices, share together in the common life of the same towns and villages, send their children to the same schools, are treated by the same Health Service, elect the same representatives to Parliament and local authorities, owe the same loyalty to the Crown." But a little later he quotes from an article written by the Director General of the Islamic Foundation in Leicester, who wrote a year ago: "They want to live in Europe as Muslims, and not as a culturally uprooted people. They believe that modern society will have to be a multi-religious and multi-cultural society. Democracy in the West has primarily been a political concept. The idea of social and cultural democracy with all its implications is yet to be learned and practised."

But-and here arises the problem for us-"the blunt fact is that the Churches in Britain are ill-prepared to discuss the theological questions raised by the existence of other faiths, simply because they have hitherto paid little attention to them." So says the Bishop of Guildford. And he goes on: "Christian theology has been written by and large, and even within the Universities, as if other faiths had nothing to teach about the relationship of God with His world. It will take some years for the theologians and governing bodies of our Churches to adjust to the realities and perspectives of the pluralist society which Britain, in common with the rest of the world, is rapidly becoming."

There is so much religious truth and practice which Islam has in common with Christianity. We can sincerely thank God for Islam's heroic witness to the sovereignty of God and for the steadfast, modest, studious and devout lives of innumerable small communities of Muslims.

We can take to heart the main criticism which the Qur'an directs against Christians (apart from their inability to accept the claims of Muhammad), namely the excessive honour which they pay to their clergy in distinction from their laity, and their denominational divisions.

But the heart of the theological problem in our relations with Muslims, or with the adherents of other great faiths, is how to reconcile these two truths.

On the one hand, if we are honest with our personal knowledge of such people, we have to recognise that God is present to them in grace, and by His Spirit He breaks through into their lives to establish a living relationship with them to which they respond with repentance from sin, a trustful turning to Him, and a sense of His presence when they pray.

On the other hand, our equally undeniable relationship to the living Christ convinces us Christians that in His life, death and resurrection God acted once for all time and for all mankind by defeating evil, breaking through the alienation of sin and inaugurating a new creation.

The reconciliation of those two truths must come through the inclusion of one in the other; but at present Christian thinkers in the Western Churches are divided as to which of the two is the paramount.

Some say that what God did in Jesus Christ, though it has a unique significance to Christians, must be set within the wider context of other saving actions of God at different periods of history through the other religions. In other words, the uniqueness of Christ is relative - which is a contradiction in terms. The alternative is to say that what God did through Jesus Christ is the one act which it was necessary for Him to accomplish in time if He was to be the God who throughout time is accessible and present to human beings in judgment and mercy, grace and truth. In other words, wherever we see people experiencing a living relationship with God we are seeing the fruits of Calvary, though they may neither know nor acknowledge it.

Such a claim may be snidely condemned as "triumphalism". But we need to remember that it is not a claim which the earliest Christians invented out of arrogance, but one which, against all their religious convictions, they were compelled to make by the events of Good Friday and Easter. And that is the greater Festival which we celebrate this month. If we still believe in it, it lays on us the scandal of endorsing that claim. We can do so without offence to our Muslim neighbours if, and only if, we are ready to admit how much we on our side might learn from them.

To show what I mean let me quote from a small book, written forty-six years ago by Frank Laubach, the inventor of the famous system of spreading the skill of reading among the illiterates of the world. At that time, as a missionary among Muslim people on Mindanao, he wrote a series of letters of an intimate character later published under the title, Letters of a Modern Mystic.

"Living in the atmosphere of Islam," he wrote, "is proving thus far a tremendous spiritual stimulus. Muhammad is helping me. I have no more intention of giving up Christianity and becoming a Mohammedan than I had twenty years ago, but I find myself rich for the Islamic experience of God. Islam stresses the will of God. It is supreme.. Submission is the first and last duty of man. That is exactly what I have been needing in my Christian life. Although I have been a minister and a missionary for fifteen years, I have not lived the entire day of every day in minute by minute effort to follow the will of God... But this year I have started out trying to live all my waking moments in conscious listening to the inner voice, asking without ceasing, `What, Father, do you desire said? 'What, Father, do you desire done this minute?' "

Could it be that the infiltration of our British scene by believers in other faiths might be God's way of stimulating us Christians to a more rich and wholehearted discipleship?

Saturday, 19 March 2016

The Plight of the Condor

The Plight of the Condor

The Caesarea to Guernsey, fish and chips
The good old days, when ships set out
Whatever the weather, on long trips
High wind, they sailed on, no washout

The Condor hydrofoil, so small and sleek
Went to Alderney, St Malo, and even Sark
The days before hubris, modest and meek
Sailing on time, embark and disembark

And now, delays, breakdowns, it never ends
I feel so sad, so sorry that it comes to this
Always things going wrong, more to mends
It seems as if we are sailing towards an abyss

The condor flies high above tempestuous sea
And the ancient mariner struggles to flee

Friday, 18 March 2016

An Interview with Leonard Matchan

 In “Jersey Topic 1965” there is an interview with millionaire Len Matchan at his home in Jersey. But all that was to change. From 1966 until his death, Matchan became the tenant of Brecqhou.

After Matchan’s death there was legal wrangling between his company (Solaria Investments), which owned the island, and his son. In 1993 it was purchased for £2.33 million by the billionaire businessmen David and Frederick Barclay

Numismatically, there’s a One Brecqhou Knacker pertaining to the islet. The total mintage of 150 specimens were privately made for Leonard Matchan, at that time director of Bell Fruit and owner of the island, by the Franklin mint in the 1970's. These were distributed to friends and inhabitants of the island.

The obverse bears a coat-of-arms; the escutcheon (registered at the College of Arms) of Leonard Joseph Matchan (1966-87), who as owner would have been officially known as Seigneur de Brecqhou.

The reverse reads One Brecqhou Knacker and has a long vertical image which not only represents the numeral “1” but which simultaneously and unmistakably appears to depict an upright portion of the male anatomy, with a single knacker tenuously linked to its base. The stylistically graphic, phallic likeness is quite purposeful, considering just how aptly it complements the racy quality of the British slang term for “testicle”, employed here as a monetary denomination.

talks to Ted Vibert

IT WAS TEN O'CLOCK in the morning and the sun was spreading silver streaks across Bouley Bay. Mr. Leonard Matchan was looking out at the view from his beautiful penthouse above the Waters Edge Hotel, which he owns, and was being honest and frank.

"Yes, I came to Jersey six years ago originally to escape paying death duties. This was my prime reason for coming for having paid my taxes like everyone else I could see no reason why I should pay the British government such a high price for dying. Once here, of course, I discovered that Jersey was the perfect place for me to direct operations of my three major companies, which are now worldwide."

His penthouse is, in fact, his office. There he sits, with a breathtaking view in front of him, and takes a detached view of his multifarious businesses.

"I doubt if I could do what I do without Jersey" he said. "Here I can make important decisions without being bogged down with day-to-day detail. It is bad in business for the top man to be too close to it. I believe he should be detached, but with good lines of communication. If I was in London I would be dealing daily with a stream of executives all wanting to check that a decision they had made was the right one. Now they must stand or fall by their decisions-which is what I pay them for".

He controls his businesses by constant travel and the telephone. I had heard many times of the complex telephone system operating at the Waters Edge and he confirmed that daily he either calls or receives calls from almost every country in the world. Soon teleprinters will be installed to tighten up the channels of communication. "Telephone contact is all very well," he said, "but I am constantly being pulled out of bed to talk to someone on the other side of the world who has forgotten that ten o'clock in the morning there is not ten o'clock here."

Soon he will be bringing a team of super-salesmen for all of his groups to Jersey, from where they will operate. Their function will be to go out to all parts of the world and drum up business. "I expect us to treble our turnover in three years" he said enthusiastically."This will bring an awful lot of money to Jersey, for the island will be the nerve centre of operations".

There is no doubt of his love for Jersey-but he is also puzzled by the attitude of the Island Development Committee over his application to knock down the Bouley Bay Hotel, which he owns, and build a modern one in its place. "You cannot disagree with me that the Bouley Bay Hotel is a terrible eyesore. Yet I have been told that I can only build one the same as the existing one, if I knock it down. What they are doing is perpetrating an abomination. How can they possibly justify such a decision?"

Mr. Leonard Matchan is truly a local boy made good for he was born in Fulham and spent most of his young life in Croydon. His father was a sewing machine operator and he won a scholarship to a local grammar school. He describes himself as an "average" pupil. He qualified for accountancy at the age of 20 and joined an accountants firm in the City as a tax expert. "I wasn't one" he says, "but I think I got the job for saying so".

He then dallied around with making films and in 1933 at the age of 22 he went to America to continue this profession. Things went wrong and at the end of the year he was back at his old job of accountancy.

As a tax expert with a number of prominent men as clients he was soon to meet Mr. Davis Factor, head of the Max Factor cosmetics firm and it was this meeting that set him along the path to the Matchan empire. "Factors were about to open a factory in Britain and I became their first manager. This was in 1936. Within a year we had a staff of over 120 working".

After the war he was quick to notice that there was a world shortage of lipstick holders and he took over a Bournemouth engineering firm to produce them. Today, the company has 900 employees making nearly two million containers a week. They have factories in France, South Africa, America, Germany, Spain and Italy. 

And he has absorbed into his network companies producing aerosol valves to bicycles, contraceptives to aircraft components. He works a long day, even though he's boss. "I start at about 7.30 in the morning and go right through until midnight." Yes, he had thought about retiring - in fact had retired twice. "Once for three weeks, the other time for three days. To me, work is life. I don't do what I do just to make money. Of course, I could stop work immediately. But I am, in every sense, married to my work. I like it, enjoy it".

He has a tremendous get-up-and-go attitude to business that is refreshing in this day of flabby and complacent businessmen. His attitude on exports is one which Mr. Harold Wilson should write out and send as a guide to most British firms. "I hate most export managers like the plague" he says. "Nearly everyone I have met has a big office in London which he seldom moves out of. You don't get business that way. You get business by getting up off your backside and going out after it."

"If I meet difficulties in exporting to countries I go to that country and set up a factory on the spot. I operate on a basis that if I can't lick them I'll join them." It is a philosophy that has reaped immense rewards.

And so I left him. A happy, busy tycoon. A man who has made a million and is controlling a vast business empire, sitting in a penthouse overlooking Bouley Bay, with a lovely Alsatian dog called "Match" at his feet. It had been a refreshing morning.