Meek and Mild
On Xmas night Vivien’s cold meant we didn’t go to the midnight service. On Xmas day we were driving to Sussex for lunch when we should have gone to church. So to fill the gap we went on the Sunday . To the historic St Mary’s Battersea ,a pleasant 25 minute cycle ride away now along the mainly smarty pants developments that line the Thames.
Through the avenue of Wandsworth Park, through the developments either side of the Wandle, past the Ship ,under ugly Wandsworth Bridge, along Battersea Riverside,past the heliport and there by the river, it is.
There has been a church there since Saxon times but the present church is pure Protestant, rebuilt in 1771 in a style that many New Englanders would recognise. Although dwarfed by towering residential investments ,it has a historic integrity.
It was here that William Blake married his illiterate and so accommodating wife. She put up with his visionary nonsense and he taught her to read and write. They would sit naked in the garden of their Lambeth home pretending it was the Garden of Eden. Catherine turned out to be an artist in her own right and a loving companion to one of England’s greatest.
Another window commemorates that fact that Turner would cross the river from his then Chelsea home to paint the bend in the river. And for our American cousins there is the wonderful oddity that it was in this church yard that the Loyalist/traitor Benedict Arnold was buried. All have their painted windows.
The church also has an extremely rare first edition of the 1611 Bible. The so called “he” bible after the misprint in Ruth iii 15. As it happens to be a book I have ever read.
And as for the service , attended by around 60 which the priest felt was pretty good after the amount of church going in previous days. There was a core of excellent singers who kept the hymns pushing along. The sermon got a bit bogged down in advanced bible studies about the three way relationship between Peter, the most loved disciple(John) and Jesus.
For me this relationship was best illustrated when many courtiers complained of James 1’s close friendship with his favourite George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. Our bisexual Scottish king exclaimed “If Jesus can have his John why cant I have my George?”.