Remembrance and Last Rights by Stephen Pittman

It is the season of Remembrance: All Saints, All Souls, those who fell in armed conflict. All of this coincides with a time when the garden is dying – but there are also signs of new life. In the garden, poking through the dead leaves, are green shoots from a tree trunk cut down on a warmer day. As the hymn writer, John Foley, wrote in the 1970s, “Wood hath hope. When it’s cut, it grows green again, and its boughs sprout clean again. Wood hath hope.”

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Good news that Cardinal Nichols has met with Dame Cressida Dick to discuss how priests might be able to access murder scenes to administer the last rites. And, while we welcome the conversation, just how necessary is it for a priest to attend a crime scene? Surely prayer can’t be blocked by the presence of a wall or police tape.

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It’s wonderful to see yet another community food pantry opening, this time in Hitchen. Recent economic hardship has inspired so many of our communities to act. But that’s always been the sort of thing which churches – of all denominations – do so well. And it is, indeed, something to celebrate. But how very sad that we now live in a world where community food pantries and food banks are more than a neighbourly good turn. Without these initiatives, many would struggle to feed their children. Something has gone wrong somewhere.

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You have to admire Harvington Hall’s manager, Phil Downing, who is planning to spend 36 hours in a priest hole to raise money for this Grade 1 listed building. Many of these hides are small and cramped, built so the priest hunters wouldn’t even look for them. The stories of the brave men whose lives were (sometimes) saved by the hides are the stuff of a Boys’ Own adventure tale. At school, we bought a small yellow monthly magazine, The Crusader, for 4p. Once we’d read the jokes, it was straight into the adventures of the many priests who had  risked their lives for their vocation. And if the tale came to a grisly end, then all the better – at least for this little boy.

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We’ve tried not to appeal too openly. But The Grapevine can only survive with your support. We are determined not to create a paywall, although donations are always useful. The favour we’re really after is that you spread the word. Do tell your friends about us. We’d love more readers – and we’d also love to hear what is going on in their parishes.

Stephen P