Friday 17 September 2021

'To re-enchant the view'

I've been reading (on the recommendation of a blog follower) Roger Scruton's Our Church. Published in 2012, it expands on themes enunciated in the wonderful England: An Elegy, particularly the chapter on The English Religion.  Essentially a historical and philosophical study of the Church of England, it also includes a penetrative and necessary account of what religion in general is, and what it is not. Scruton is surely right to regard the hard-won Anglican Settlement, and the Church that emerged from it, as one of the greatest achievements of this or any nation. Could any other country have gone from the impassioned religious strife and slaughter of the Civil War to the social tranquility and religious indifference that settled on England barely half a century later? Surely no such peace would have been possible without the great creation that is (or was) the broad, tolerant, benign, ever compromising Church of England, with its Book of Common Prayer, its King James Bible, and its great body of hymns and sacred music.
  One of the themes of Scruton's short but dense book, as it is of England: An Elegy, is 'enchantment'. For a people with a reputation for prosaic common sense, the English, he argues, have been peculiarly prone to investing the most commonplace realities with an air of magic, mystique, enchantment. In An Elegy, Scruton speaks frequently of 'the enchantment that lay over England' (note past tense). In Our Church, he described how, for example, the burgeoning of neo-Gothic architecture in Victorian times performed 'one of the essential functions of the Anglican settlement, which is to re-enchant the view'. The Gothic revival spread 'an evangelism of enchantment' over the land – surely the best, and the most English, form of evangelism.  
   And when that enchantment fails, when the view is dis-enchanted, stripped of its magic – what happens then, to the Church and the country? That, I fear, is what we are finding out now, as the Church of England sets about destroying itself with ever increasing managerialism and an evangelism not of enchantment but of prosaic literalism. It is perhaps a mercy that Scruton did not live to see his beloved Church's pusillanimous response to the Covid panic, withdrawing entirely from the life of the nation as if to confirm that it no longer had any role to play, that its uniquely accommodating and accessible greatness was now firmly a thing of the past. 

1 comment:

  1. No sooner had I posted this than an ad for Ephesus Continental Vestments – available individually or as a Low Mass set, in Continental or Pugin cut – appeared on my Facebook feed.