Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: Sermon at the Funeral of Andrew Hartley

Monday 14 September 2020

We meet today to say our goodbyes to Andrew Hartley

Beloved Husband of Anna

Father of Guy, Daisy, Georgina, Gus and Angus

And grandfather of so many grandchildren that I dare not try and list them lest I leave anyone out

Andrew was seventy five years old when he died and has had the most wonderful and fulfilling life

Not surprisingly, we have heard to most wonderful and loving eulogies about him

It is always difficult for a relatively new parish priest to speak of members of his congregation whom he has known for only a short space of time

I have however got to know Andrew and Anna very well (I feel)

As well as the family who have been around them during that time

It has been a great privilege and wonderful to share the joy and laughter in the house which has been far from absent in these difficult last few months

However, last year I took part in a walk from Embsy to Bolton Priory on Rogation Sunday

I walked part of the way with Andrew and it was the first time we had been able to have a meaningful conversation together

Even though Andrew had lost a toe, he was walking well and he opened up about his cancer and the fact that he was living with this terminal sentence

Despite being a clergyman, this was a relatively unusual conversation

I was struck however by Andrew’s honest and open approach to his cancer and the fact that he had his mortality clearly in front of his eyes

It is something we should all be doing as Christian people but which is so rarely the case

Understandably, we choose to push it to the recess of our minds

Jesuit priests by contrast have a skull on their desks to daily remind them of their mortality

This reminds them of the frailty and fragility of life and the fact that man may only have a short time to live

Such levels of self-awareness are rare but spoke of a deep seated faith grown, matured and cultivated over a lifetime in the Church

Andrew was steeped in the in the life and history of the Anglican Church and it showed 

And his choice of Church and liturgy today speak multitudes about his Churchmanship

It is only the second time in my ten years of ministry that I have used the Book of Common Prayer for a funeral service

Which combines the language of the 1662 Prayer Book and the King James Bible

Bolton Priory stands alone in the Craven District

It is not a parish church in the traditional sense because it has a gathered congregation

It is unique and has survived the ravages of English history which is written into the very fabric of the building

In Simon Jenkin’s “Thousand Best Churches” he gives a wonderful description of the Church

What we see today is an archaeological curiosity, half ruin, half unfinished tower, set amidst lawns, trees and the slopes of distant hills

The Tower has been transformed into “a glorious antechamber to the house of God”

The door “a masterpiece of Early Gothic design”

“Six Early Gothic twinned lancets, embellished with dogtooth and filled with Pugin glass”

“Deep-set but spacious clerestory windows”

A Victorian sanctuary dominated by a stone panelled reredos forming a wonderful climax to the interior”

As he put it “Bolton Abbey, like Milton Abbey in Dorset, was a grandiose monastic project cut short by the Reformation”

“Sweat peace and tender decay of Bolton Priory”

What is it that makes individuals drawn to such places?

The philosopher and commentator Roger Scruton said this about the Church of England

“The Anglican Church is a place of light and shade, of tombs and recesses, of leaf mouldings and windows decked with Gothic tracery and leaded glass…..Choir stalls, rood screen, altar font and pulpit are as dusted through with holiness from the hands that carved them, and the light that falls upon them is strangely intimate, seeming to come from another source than the light that fills the nave. The scent of damp stone and plaster, of altar flowers and dusty kneelers, mingle to form a kind of restrained incense of their own…People travel up and down England visiting these places, and there is one simple explanation as to why: namely, because they are sacred”

Andrew was drawn to this place because it is sacred but he is drawn to this sacred place because of his deep seated spirituality

How appropriate that he is to be buried here so that his body will be intermingled with its sacredness.

Book of Common Prayer

Andrew and Anna his wife are great lovers of the Book of Common Prayer

Like the fabric of Bolton Priory is born out of conflict and bears the scars of our Nation’s turbulent Church history

Born out of the Sarum and Hereford liturgies that pre-dates the Reformation

It was revised in 1549 and then in 1552

Abolished under the reign of Mary and then during the English Civil War and Protectorate, it was finally established during the Restoration of the Monarch in 1662

Hence the reason that it is called 1662

You might have expected a prayer book of such antiquity to have gently faded away

But the opposite has happened

Not only has it endured the passage of time but it has also grown in popularity

As we say in our Welcome to those who visit Bolton Priory

“The Reformation is a daily backdrop to our lives and, fittingly, worship is centred around the Book of Common Prayer 1662 which, in the Spirit of Pentecost, is used and understood across the world wide Anglican communion”

Again, the choice and use of the Prayer Book speaks of the spirituality of those who use it

Its language remains apart from the common tongue, discreetly hallowed

The Prayer Book made our language into one fit to be spoken by God,

It gave us words that could be used in the presence of the Almighty and endows us with a mysterious key to God’s presence

It is as if the words bow down to touch the things they refer to

The real achievement of the Prayer Book is the consecration of the ordinary life

Christianity offers another life but it also sanctifies the present one

More than that, they gave us words that could be used to each other, when solemnity and sacrifice require us to look each other not only in the eyes but in the soul

They help us to confess our faults, to ask forgiveness, to seek God’s blessing and to know that, when we do these things, we are in touch with what is deepest in us

The alchemy of the Prayer Book is to turn leaden sentiments into a nugget of gold, a gift offered to us at the graveside, uniting us with the one who is being buried and consecrating his loss

King James Bible

The King James Bible is an integral part of the Book of Common Prayer and therefore the worship at Bolton Priory

It has been described as the greatest work of prose ever written in English

This great Jacobean text has enriched the English language

All things to all men
At their wit’s end
Be fruitful and multiply
Let there be light
Love thy neighbour as thyself
The skin of my teeth
Double-edged sword
Vengeance is mine
Woe is me

In the preface to the King James Bible, Miles Smith, the Bishop of Gloucester wrote

 “It is not only an armour but a whole armourie of weapons. Both offensive and defensive, whereby we might save ourselves and put our enemy to flight

In a word, it is a fountain of most pure water springing up into everlasting light”

Those who prefer this particular Bible also access this “fountain of most pure water”

The Bible was designed to be read in Church

TS Eliot described this as appealing to the “auditory imagination”,

That “feeling for syllable and rhythm, penetrating far below the conscious levels of thought and feeling, invigorating every word”.

The marvels of this passage consist above all in one combination of qualities: an absolute simplicity of vocabulary set in a rhythm of utmost stateliness and majesty

The characteristic sound of the King James Bible is like the ideal of majesty itself, indescribably vast and yet perfectly accessible, reaching up to the sublime and down to the immediate and concrete without any apparent effort.

As the author remarked of the inscription

“That is not consolation, nor the muffling of experience by religion: it is the heightening and realising of experience through language, a statement of the cruelty of things and the unknowable purpose of the universe”

As Miles Smith wrote in the preface

“Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light, that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the Holy Place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by water”

The author Adam Nicholson who wrote a history of the King James Bible told a story of a young boy who drowned off the Outer Hebrides

When the author visited the grave there was a passage from psalm 77 on the gravestone

“Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in great waters: and thy footsteps are not known”