Saturday, 12 February 2011


At the meeting of General Synod, The Revd Professor Jean Twaddle introduced the debate on the proposed New Calendar, which, if approved by Synod. will come into force at the beginning of next year. Professor Twaddle wanted to impress upon Synod the great care she and other members of the Committee had taken in deciding the various changes they were making and she hoped Synod would give its approval even though she and the other members recognised the controversial nature of some of the changes.

She started by explaining why the Committee had decided to change the date of Christmas presently in December to the third Sunday in October. Research had shown that the Nativity could not possibly have been December and that October was probably more historically correct. Various experts had been consulted about this, before the Committee had made its decision. Another factor was Christmas had become so secularised that to bring it back to a religious, as opposed to a secular, occasion, a change of date would focus people’s minds.

Colonel Ivor Wright said that whilst he could understand that the change of date would necessitate the abolition of Advent which didn’t concern him unduly, he thought the abolition of Lent was another matter and he hoped that a way would be found to preserve this.

In reply Professor Twaddle said there was little point in having a period of Fasting and Abstinence in a season of Penitence which hardly anyone observed these days. Far better to abolish it altogether than have it supported half heartedly.

The Revd. Antony d’ Lovian proposed an amendment which would allow parishes to opt out of the new calendar and continue to observe the old one. He noted that the Church of England was the only Christian Body to want to change and many of the people in the pews didn’t like the idea. This was opposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, who in congratulating the Committee on the obvious time and work they had put into the new calendar, said it was important that the whole church kept the same festivals. If parishes were allowed to choose which calendar they would observe nobody would know where they were. She supported the changes and hoped Synod would reject the amendment. When the Amendment was put it failed in the House of Clergy.

The Revd Primrose Watts said that the Church of England should show courage and leadership in making these changes, regardless of what others were doing or what they thought. She observed that the Orthodox Church celebrated Christmas on the 6th January rather than the 25th December and nobody had a problem with that. People in the parishes would soon adjust and what was more they could have a holiday at Christmas like everybody else although she favoured renaming it, as the Committee had suggested to Winterfest to remove any religious context from it.

The Revd. William Quiral said he thought it would be very difficult to hold Carol Services in October. It would make nonsense of the Hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter” or “See amid the winter’s snow”. Also, one of the highlights of the Christmas season for many people in the UK and all over the world was the Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge. Replying Professor Twaddle said that it was perfectly possible to rewrite hymns; for example “in the Bleak Mid Autumn, Nasty winds do blow” or something similar and it would give poets and composers the opportunity to write new songs for this season. The King’s College Nine Lessons and Carols was a more difficult problem which she felt sure could be overcome with a little time and thought.

The other changes include Easter on the 2nd Sunday of April, Back to Church Sunday on the 2nd Sunday in September, and Harvest Festival on the 4th Sunday in September, and Mothering Sunday on the 3rd Sunday in March. Epiphany would now be kept on the 3rd Sunday in October, 7 days after the Nativity, as there was now no need to observe 12 days after Christmas as had been done previously.

The Archdeacon of Postlethwaite asked what date the Annuciation would be kept as the 25th March would no longer be possible. Professor Twaddle replied that this would now be the 2nd Sunday in January.

Roger Dismas, Lay Member of Buntingford, said he thought the whole scheme was a load of rubbish and he would be voting against it. He could see no need for any change. Christmas on the 25th December had worked perfectly well for many generations and which he intended to continue to observe, regardless of what Synod decided. Professor Twaddle asked him how he could do so when everybody else was observing October.

The Measure was passed in all three houses. Afterwards the Revd. Antony d’Lovian said it was typical of General Synod to pass such a measure with no consideration for the way people in the pews felt. He would continue to keep Christmas and all the other dates in accordance with the Western Calendar and, frankly, he didn’t give a fig what the rest of the Church of England did or did not do.

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