Mole, Anglicanism, and Rogationtide

It may be an odd literary source to invoke in order to help describe why I am an Anglican, but Mole's thoughts in The Wind in the Willows do it rather well, not least during Rogationtide:

As he hurried along, eagerly anticipating the moment when he would be at home again among the things he knew and liked, the Mole saw clearly that he was an animal of tilled field and hedgerow, linked to the ploughed furrow, the frequented pasture, the lane of evening lingerings, the cultivated garden-plot. For others the asperities, the stubborn endurance, or the clash of actual conflict, that went with Nature in the rough; he must be wise, must keep to the pleasant places in which his lines were laid and which held adventure enough, in their way, to last for a lifetime.

I am "an animal of tilled field and hedgerow": the ordered, decent, modest rites and ceremonies of the Book of the Common Prayer. 

... well accepted and approved by all sober, peaceable, and truly conscientious sons of the Church of England.

Of "the ploughed furrow": the ordinary, unglamorous work of Mattins, preparing the ground of the heart for the seed of the Word in Psalter, Lessons, and canticles.

... that they may bring forth in us the fruit of good living.

Of "the frequented pasture": the sustenance of Early Communion, the spiritual banquet at the Table, quietly but "verily and indeed" nourishing.

Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort.

Of "the lane of evening lingerings": the rhythms of Evensong, gathering up scripture, prayer, the day that is ending, before the One "from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed".

... may pass our time in rest and quietness.

Of "the cultivated garden plot": Bramhall said of the "moderation" of the Elizabethan Settlement, "we pluck up the weeds, but retaine all the plants of saving truth".  Prayer Book, Ordinal, Articles, this is "the cultivated garden plot". Modest, yes, but this very modesty - which has pruned back excessive foliage, while leaving that which delights and nourishes - brings us to behold, and draws us to, the One who is the Church's centre.

Other Christian traditions may appear - or, indeed, are - more heroic, stronger, more definitive in their claims and institutional life. And good Christians are, of course, there nourished and sustained in the life of faith.

But such is not for me.  I keep to what I know to be "the pleasant places", the Anglicanism which has sustained me in the faith for the five decades of my earthly life thus far.  There is "adventure enough" here.  Less dramatic, yes, than many other Christian traditions, but there is more than enough in the piety and divinity of Anglicanism to explore, ponder, and reflect upon over the course of a lifetime.

Is such Mole-like Anglicanism parochial? Perhaps, but it takes a rather dismissive view of smaller places and local loyalties to think that one cannot there know gratitude for other places, an openness to the wisdom of others, a recognition that "all they that do confess thy holy name may agree in the truth of holy Word, and live in unity and godly love". This calls us from an excessive, unhealthy parochialism, to a joyful, modest rootedness in this 'place', enjoying its gifts, rejoicing in its landscape, thankful for its patrimony.

When I am asked in conversation why I am an Anglican, I usually point to its Reformed Catholic nature, embodied in Prayer Book and Articles: a Church flowing from the Primitive Faith and heeding the Reformation witness. An episcopal, liturgical, sacramental Magisterial Protestantism, articulated by Jewel and Hooker, defended by Laud and Taylor, maintained by the Old High tradition.

There is, however, another aspect to why I am an Anglican, no less significant than the above.  Doctrine certainly matters. But alone it cannot satisfy.  For grace does not destroy nature, and by nature we desire that which is beautiful, that which is good, that which is peaceable.  Doctrinal truth without beauty, goodness, peaceableness would not be Truth.

Homely beauty that quietly delights but does not blind or overwhelm; solid goodness that invites and nourishes but does not impose; peaceableness that endures amidst, rather than raging against, "the sundry and manifold changes of the world".

This, for me, is the beauty, the goodness, the peaceableness of the Anglican tradition.

Rogationtide is a time of gratitude for place, knowing that place can be, should be an experience of grace and goodness: and so, "at all times, and in all places, [we] give thanks unto thee".  'Place' can also embrace ecclesial community, for this is embodied in locations, practices, and traditions. These too should be experiences of grace, richly nourishing and lifegiving. It is right, then, that they are caught up in Rogationtide gratitude.

Which brings me on this Rogation Monday back to Mole, and his gratitude as "an animal of tilled field and hedgerow, linked to the ploughed furrow, the frequented pasture, the lane of evening lingerings, the cultivated garden-plot". Such is my joy in, and gratitude for, the modest, decent, peaceable order of the Anglican tradition.

... to enjoy the peace, quietness, order and stability of religion - Hooker LEP VII.14.18.

God, as the author of Nature and of Grace, does agree perfectly with Himself - Benjamin Whichcote.


  1. Is this Old St Stephen’s ,Robin Hood’s Bay?

    1. It is indeed. A quite beautiful little church which rather embodies what I sought to celebrate in this post.


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