You are currently browsing churchmouse’s articles.

Le Monde has been running an excellent blog on the Tour de France this year.

It’s called En Danseuse. In English, this translates idiomatically as ‘standing on the pedals’.

As more than one English-speaker has said over the past three weeks, ‘Doesn’t everything sound better in French?’  You bet.

One of the En Danseuse bloggers, Lucie Soullier, interviewed two Belkin team riders, Maarten Wynants (Belgian) and Lars Boom (Dutch). As I write, they are 113th and 105th in the overall classification. Their team leader, Bauke Mollema, is in 7th place and another teammate Laurens Ten Dam is in 8th.

Soullier asked the two riders all the questions Tour de France fans would appreciate. Below is a summary with quotes for the answers to the big ones.

Boredom: There’s never a dull moment on the Tour, especially this one, which seems to have a higher number of treacherous roads and steep climbs than usual.

Scenery: There’s no time to enjoy the scenery; Wynants watched a replay of Stage 3 in London and saw the sights then.

Gastronomy: Local specialities are out of the question. Riders have to follow the team diet which revolve around rice and pasta with a smaller amount of protein — fish or meat. When cycling, it’s gels and high-energy snack bars.

Now on to the big subjects.

Hair removal

Soullier asked the riders if they remove body hair every day.

Wynants said he doesn’t; often, he’s too tired.

Boom said:

I think I’ll always shave. It just looks nicer. In fact, I’ve never had long hair on my legs.

Soullier asked if hair removal was for aesthetic or practical purposes. Boom explained:

It’s to avoid any infections if you fall.

Wynants added:

And for the massages. If they’re a bit rough, body hair makes them hurt that much more.

Soullier then asked whether they preferred shaving or waxing.

Boom said he preferred shaving:

We guys are softies.

Wynants agreed:

I tried waxing once and cried like a baby. I swore I’d never do it again. A razor is good.


Professional cyclists’ shorts are sleek and skin-tight. This leads to an obvious question. Boom explained:

Underwear wouldn’t be very comfortable. But we wear a chamois [a thick cushion underneath the shorts].

Wynants elaborated a bit more:

It’s impossible to wear underwear because of all the friction. We sometimes spend six hours sitting on a bike. The chamois makes it much more comfortable.

Calls from Nature

These days, television coverage sometimes shows a aerial shot of a group of cyclists pulling over to the side of the road, modestly spaced apart. One leads and others follow. There is no protocol.

They are taking a comfort break. This can be difficult when people line nearly all of the route, such as the first two stages this year in Yorkshire.

What happens when it’s difficult to pull over to the side of the road — especially considering riders are consuming five litres of water on each stage?

Boom said he had been able to train himself to go, as it were, whilst riding. He and his teammate actually used a cruder term.

Wynants hasn’t been able to do that:

It’s simple. You stop. There’s a tacit rule that says when the leader stops for a comfort break, there are no attacks. Besides, more often than not, everyone takes a break at the same time. Some can do it when riding, but it isn’t easy. I can’t do it — must be something psychological. And [the presence of the] television [cameras] makes it complicated. You don’t have the right to [go] in front of the spectators. Anyway, you can even be fined for it.

So, there you have it — another Tour de France scoop, thanks to a lady from Le Monde who asked all the right questions for those of us watching at home!

It has often been said over the past century that the Tour de France is more than a cycling race, it’s also everything else going on around it.

Along the route at every stage is the publicity caravan with participating Tour partners and sponsors. These companies have staffed, branded vehicles which go along the route 45 minutes prior to the cyclists’ arrival with inexpensive items or snacks. There are 200 of these vehicles in total.

Some partners, such as the sports newspaper L’Equipe, sell that day’s edition along with umbrellas.

Other companies give away branded pens, keychains or product samples.

Among the most popular companies are those distributing free food or beverages. The lunch meat company Cochonou gives away cotton sunhats and small packets of their dried sausage products, similar to salami.

The spectators, the caravan — and, of course, the riders — make the Tour France’s annual spectacle. It’s popular because it’s free; some lucky souls can walk out their front door and stand along the roadside for a day of fun with their families or friends.

Tour detractors call the three-week long spectacle panem et circences — bread and circuses. However, there is no question that the Tour generates excitement for its many fans.

Some camp out overnight. Others leave home early in the morning to get a prime place along that day’s stage route. The atmosphere builds in anticipation.

It’s worth knowing that July is one of France’s two big holiday months. Approximately half the country is on holiday then; the other half is off in August.

When the caravan of sponsors’ vehicles arrives, everyone knows the riders aren’t that far away. By then, the excitement is at fever pitch for some spectators. Drunk or sober, they want their goodies, especially if they’re free.

This 2013 video shows how the Cochonou caravan — a small truck leading a few 2CVs — goes along the stage routes to distribute sausages and sunhats:

This video shows the company’s stationary vehicles at a stage in Nice:

Cochonou — and other companies — consider the Tour caravan a good way of generating and maintaining customer goodwill.

To find out what exactly goes on in the 2CVs, Le Monde interviewed Elodie, a member of the Cochonou team, in 2011 and 2013. Last year marked her seventh Tour de France in the caravan. In 2011, she was studying physiotherapy. By 2013, she was working as a physio in Paris. Even so, she loved the Cochonou experience too much to miss it.

Many of those working Tour partner caravans are university students. The three-week race is a good way for them to see the country, meet new people and have a laugh.

In Elodie’s 2013 interview, she gave Le Monde the inside scoop on what it’s like to work as part of the caravan crew:

- Elodie got involved thanks to one of her cousins who raved about her time as part of a caravan crew;

- The Cochonou team is small. Everyone gets on well with each other, dawn to dusk;

- Most caravan workers return to the same sponsors year after year so they can spend part of their summer with old friends;

- Although most caravan teams go out at night, they may be subject to random alcohol tests the following morning;

- Workers must be outgoing and friendly towards the public;

- Lunch breaks are five minutes long; one comfort break per stage is allowed;

- The first few days take getting used to, as one’s arms ache from constantly waving at the crowd and distributing goods;

- Crews receive training on how to distribute goods; they lob food and caps out far into the crowds to keep people away from the middle of the road. Spectators making the most noise are top priority;

- One gets a lot of bruises from constantly moving around in a confined space;

- By the end of the Tour, everyone’s exhausted.

Elodie explained the hazards crew members encounter from the public. It’s better to be one of the crew standing up in the 2CV than sitting down. Some men verbally insult the women leaning out the windows or squirt water in their faces. A few spat at Elodie and her colleagues in 2011.

She thought that was bad until a subsequent Tour stage, when a few angry Basques urinated through the open windows. Elodie said one quickly learns to keep one’s eyes and mouth closed when those approaching the vehicles appear menacing.

And heaven forbid you run out of free stuff!

The Tour is more than a bike race. For those who work the caravans, it’s the ultimate three weeks out and about in France.

John F MacArthurOne of the more popular maxims of today’s Church is ‘let go and let God’.

This is a relatively recent saying. Its origin is unclear; regardless, John MacArthur says this equivalent of ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ is unbiblical.

In ‘The Person and Power of God in Your Spiritual Growth’ he explains why. A few excerpts follow, emphases mine below:

The first key to God’s work in our sanctification is His personhood

Most pagan deities are described as impersonal, remote, and indifferent. That is not surprising, because false gods are fabricated by men out of fear and superstition. Even those that have personal characteristics are not portrayed as desiring fellowship with their worshipers. And understandably, their worshipers have no desire to fellowship with them.

The God of Scripture has unimaginable love for fallen, sinful mankind, which has rebelled against Him, blasphemed Him, and vilified Him. He has such great love for them “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). It is not the Lord’s will “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

For those who belong to Him, the God of Scripture has even greater love and the closest of personal relationships. Throughout Scripture, God is referred to as His people’s Father—on a national level in the Old Testament (cf. Isaiah 63:16, 64:8), and individually in the New (cf. Matthew 5:16, 45, 48; 6:1, 9; 23:9). Adam and Eve, Moses, and many other Old Testament saints spoke with God directly. “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).

The second essential truth emphasized in Philippians 2:13 concerning God’s part in believers’ sanctification is His divine power. Above all else, it is God “who is at work” (Philippians 2:13) in the lives of His children. He calls them to obey, and then, through His sovereign power, energizes their obedience. He calls them to His service, and then empowers their service. He calls them to holiness, and then empowers them to pursue holiness.

God Himself is the believer’s supreme and indispensable resource and power. The wonder of all wonders is thatit is God who is at work” (Philippians 2:13) in them. Paul summed it up in Colossians 1:29 when he said, “I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.”

Note that our relationship with God is intensely personal. No other world faith can offer this one-on-one rapport.

Furthermore, the idea that God expects us to be passive or inactive individuals — the way ‘Let go and let God’ is often interpreted — has no foundation in Scripture.

John F MacArthurMany unbelievers and some lukewarm believers think that fearing God is unhealthy.

They also think that God is somehow ‘bad’ for encouraging this fear.

Yet, the fear of which the Bible speaks is an awe that we mere mortals, prone to sin, cannot comprehend.

To believers, ‘fear’ and ‘dread’ differ in meaning from the way we understand these familiar words in a secular context.

John MacArthur has a useful blog post on the subject called ‘The Gravity of Sin’, well worth reading in full.

The section called ‘The Fear of the Lord’ stood out for me and it might help us explain this holy fear to others (emphases mine):

Although God is loving, merciful, and forgiving, He nevertheless holds believers accountable for disobedience. Like John, Paul understood well that “if we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).

Knowing that he serves a holy and just God, the faithful believer will always live with “fear and trembling.”

An important Old Testament truth is “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10; cf. Proverbs 1:7, 9:10). It’s not the fear of being doomed to eternal torment, nor a hopeless dread of judgment that leads to despair. Instead, it’s a reverential fear, a holy concern to give God the honor He deserves and avoid the chastening of His displeasure. It protects against temptation and sin and gives motivation for obedient, righteous living.

Such fear involves self-distrust, a sensitive conscience, and being on guard against temptation. It necessitates opposing pride, and being constantly aware of the deceitfulness of one’s heart, as well as the subtlety and strength of one’s inner corruption. It is a dread that seeks to avoid anything that would offend and dishonor God.


Whilst many Western countries have long outlawed the practice of home burial, here in the UK it is still legal.

Television presenter Kirsty Allsop recently told the Independent how she and other family members buried her late mother in her parents’ back garden.

Home burial is illegal in many countries because amateurish digging and interring can contaminate the water table or interfere with utility cables or pipes.

In the UK families seeking to bury a loved one at home cannot act independently but must first contact the Environment Agency for formal permission, which consists of a permit and burial record as well as a procedure to follow for interment. The burial site cannot be close to a ditch or water source.

Furthermore, whereas landed gentry have the space to inter many deceased relatives, the average British homeowner will not be able to bury many, probably only one or two.

Whilst the Natural Death Centre fully support home funerals and burials, they also have a word of advice when it comes time to sell the property. The organisation’s Rosie Inman-Cook writes:

… if a vendor fails to declare the presence of a body or two, then the new home owner would have good justification to successfully obtain permission to exhume, maybe even suing the vendor for the cost of that gruesome process.  However, these properties do sell.  I often wonder, if we all called in the archaeologists, how many of us would discover we have Saxon or Roman remains under our homes? Would that then bother us?

One of the commenters on Kirsty Allsop’s article remembered his family funerals being handled largely at home, except for interment at the local cemetery, until 1950.

He wrote of a British experience, but it was also widespread in the United States.

My grandparents and their friends were accustomed to laying out the deceased at home for a day or two and receiving visitors during that time. A rota of family were on hand from morning until late evening to greet those wishing to pay their last respects.

A more recent scene of this practice is in the 1971 film Get Carter — the original, starring Michael Caine — which takes place in Newcastle. Early in the film, Jack (Caine) sees his brother’s body for the last time in his house before the undertakers arrive to put the lid on the coffin and remove it for burial.

Today, of course, most of us are accustomed to no viewing at all (Britain) or a period of open-casket visitation at a funeral home (the US). Whatever the custom, the undertaker generally takes care of everything.

It is surprising — even with cremation — how expensive funerals can be here and elsewhere. I know of a recent one in the US where cremation and related costs amounted to $3,500 versus $13,000 for body burial at a pre-purchased cemetery plot two hours away. (The plot had been purchased 60 years beforehand, so does not figure in the costs cited here.)

Therefore, it is no wonder that those who can are increasingly opting for home burial. It won’t be for everyone — either practically or emotionally — but many in Britain are glad they have the freedom to go ahead with a plan that makes them feel closer to their loved one. As the Natural Death Centre says, it can also help with the grieving and healing process.

Bible croppedContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 13:10-17

A Woman with a Disabling Spirit

 10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11And there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.


Luke 13 is a continuation of Jesus’s calls to repentance in Luke 12.

Last week’s Forbidden Bible Verses post looked at the conclusion to Luke 12, Jesus’s likening the Final Judgement to appearing before a magistrate. He advises ‘settling along the way’ — making amends with God via repentance whilst we are alive, rather than face condemnation in the life to come.

The first story in Luke 13 concerns those who are asking about the spiritual state of the Galilean victims of Pilate’s persecutions and those who perished when the tower of Siloam fell (near the healing pool of Bethesda/Bethsaida in John 5). Jesus tells the people that they had no greater spiritual afflictions than they, therefore, what happened was not a divine punishment. However, Jesus emphasises that those who are wondering about other’s spiritual state should spend that energy examining and improving their own, lest they face condemnation in the next life.

He then relates a parable about a fig tree which has not yet borne fruit. The gardener — vinedresser — advised his boss the landowner to allow him to give it special attention for a year to see if it would bear fruit. If it did not, then he would fell the tree. Jesus’s message here is that God gives us a certain time to repent; if not, we face the consequences of eternal condemnation. We can pray for sinners to be infused with grace and wisdom so to do. However, we cannot pray that God will pardon the unrepentant. Matthew Henry’s commentary says:

Reprieves may be obtained by the prayers of others for us, but not pardons[;] there must be our own faith, and repentance, and prayers, else no pardon.

Now we come to today’s passage, Jesus’s merciful healing of a disabled woman on the Sabbath. This, too, although a healing miracle, symbolises God’s acceptance of the repentant sinner who believes in Christ.

Jesus was teaching in an unnamed synagogue (verse 10). Among the congregation was a woman who was stooped over and could not stand upright; a demon caused her longstanding condition with which she suffered for 18 years (verse 11).

Keep in mind that in synagogues then — as is true in Orthodox synagogues today — women had to sit separately from women. John MacArthur surmises that, in Jesus’s day, the women sat at the back, so she would have been out of sight from the leaders at the front.

Jesus called the lady to come forward and told her she was healed (verse 12). As He laid His hands upon her, she was able to stand up for the first time in nearly 20 years and praised God (verse 13).

The leader of the synagogue then stood up and denounced our Lord’s healing by saying that He had six other days of the week to do it; work was not permitted on the Sabbath (verse 14).

Jesus expressed His righteous indignation at the synagogue leader’s denunciation by saying that hypocritical Sabbath observers were kinder to their livestock than to a human (verse 15). Furthermore, He added, this lady was a Jew — one of their own (verse 16). In other words, who would deny her this merciful healing miracle? Only a hypocritical legalist.

With that Jesus shamed the legalist synagogue leaders and the people rejoiced at His words (verse 17).

MacArthur unpacks this scene for us (emphases mine):

He endeavors to bring on the head of Jesus a violation of the law of God. But of course, there’s nothing in the law of God that says you can’t help somebody on the Sabbath. Any deed of mercy, any necessity was perfectly acceptable on the Sabbath and their Jewish law even said it. The Mishnah even said that you could do anything for a person or an animal that was necessary or merciful. And Jesus, Himself, in the 12th Chapter of Matthew had told them, you know, you’ve got the whole idea of the law of God wrong. Do you remember when David’s soldiers were hungry and they went into the temple and ate the show bread, because they were hungry. And feeding men who were hungry was more important than the symbolism of the show bread.

It really was the hatred they had for Jesus. He was going to make up a rule that you can’t heal on the Sabbath. There could never be such a rule in Judaism, because nobody could heal anyway. So how would that rule develop? So the Lord answers him in verse 15. The Lord answered him and said, “you hypocrites,” He was direct, as always, you spiritual fraud, “does not each of you on Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him?” Well, He got them, because they did that.

In fact, in the Mishnah, the codification of Jewish rabbinic law, it prescribes that you can do that. You can take your animal if you put no burden on his back and lead him to water or to eat. It even gives you a maximum of 200 cubits that you can go. And they even have some prescription about how wide the well is so you can see how they encumbered these things. But it was perfectly fine to do that. You phonies.

Of course, the crowds that lauded Jesus for His mercy and compassion turned against Him by the time it came for His trial and crucifixion.

That said, not only is this account of Luke’s one of merciful physical restoration but a pointer towards the compassion God has for us sinners. As Matthew Henry puts it:

This cure represents the work of Christ’s grace upon the souls of the people. (1.) In the conversion of sinners. Unsanctified hearts are under this spirit of infirmity they are distorted, the faculties of the soul are quite out of place and order they are bowed down towards things below. O curvæ in terram animæ ! They can in no wise lift up themselves to God and heaven the bent of the soul, in its natural state, is the quite contrary way. Such crooked souls seek not to Christ but he calls them to him, lays the hand of his power and grace upon them, speaks a healing word to them, by which he looses them from their infirmity, makes the soul straight, reduces it to order, raises it above worldly regards, and directs its affections and aims heavenward. Though man cannot make that straight which God has made crooked (Ecclesiastes 7:13), yet the grace of God can make that straight which the sin of man has made crooked. (2.) In the consolation of good people. Many of the children of God are long under a spirit of infirmity, a spirit of bondage through prevailing grief and fear, their souls are cast down and disquieted within them, they are troubled, they are bowed down greatly, they go mourning all the day long, Psalm 38:6. But Christ, by his Spirit of adoption, looses them from this infirmity in due time, and raises them up.

4. The present effect of this cure upon the soul of the patient as well as upon her body. She glorified God, gave him the praise of her cure to whom all praise is due. When crooked souls are made straight, they will show it by their glorifying God.

Therefore, as the psalmist said, let us rejoice and be glad.

Next time: Luke 13:18-21

j0289346Dr R Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary California and Heidelblog recently called his readers to explore the Reformed tradition of exclusive psalmody — psalms sung a cappella rather than hymns accompanied by musical instruments.

Clark points out that psalmody cuts across cultural and national lines. He cites a 1996 article from the Associated Press which puts this ancient biblical tradition into a modern perspective. The AP reporter visited the Selma Reformed Presbyterian Church in Alabama.

Although fewer Reformed congregations are sticking with traditional exclusive psalmody, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, congregations of which are found mainly in Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana and Kansas, still believes psalms are the best songs for worship.

The Reformed Presbyterians came to the US from Scotland in the 17th century and are known as Covenanters. They follow the Westminster Confession of Faith and attempt to make their worship as biblical as possible.

They point out that, unlike hymns, the Psalms are divinely inspired because they are part of the Bible. They add that the New Testament records Jesus as having worshipped in synagogues, therefore, He would have sung them, too.

The Covenanters believe that worship must be God-centred, giving Him glory. They say that hymns focus more on man’s condition and detract from focussing on the Almighty.

At one time, the AP article says, nearly every Protestant congregation sang hymns, an ancient Christian tradition revived during the Reformation.  Then, in the 18th century, Isaac Watts began penning hymns. No doubt the melodies were more pleasing to the ear than the ancient ones used with psalms, because, over the following century, hymns and instrumental accompaniment became more widespread in church. By the early 20th century, most denominations moved towards hymns almost exclusively.

John Delivuk, a librarian at Geneva College near Pittsburgh and an authority on Reformed Presbyterian history, points out that clergy and liturgists are asking the wrong question when they wonder how to attract new members. The issue is not what people want to hear but rather,  ‘How can a congregation best please God in worship?’

He, like his fellow Reformed Presbyterians (and other smaller Reformed denominations), believe that psalms sung a cappella allow a more focussed and spiritual worship of God.

The Selma Reformed Presbyterian Church’s Facebook page features several sung psalms, such as Psalm 100b:

O Shout for joy unto the LORD
Earth’s people far and near;
With gladness come and serve the LORD,
And bring Him songs of cheer.

Perhaps church music leaders might slip a few psalms — sung without music to ancient (not modern) melodies — in their worship. They might be surprised at the positive reaction from the congregation. They would also avoid the question of what to sing — always a contentious issue when planning the Sunday service.

The latest news on Mariam Ibrahim is that she, her husband Daniel Wani and their two children are being housed in the library of the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital.

Christian Today has a summary and the Daily Mail has more on the family’s plight since Mariam was freed from prison, where she gave birth to her daughter Maya in shackles.

Maya will undergo an ultrasound within the next few weeks to determine her state of health.

The family are now awaiting clearance from the Sudanese government to move to the United States. Diplomats are working with the government to expedite matters.

Christian Today adds:

Ibrahim was accused of trying to leave the country using false documents, and it is unclear whether she faces criminal charges for that case. Also, her brother, Al Samani Al Hadi, has filed new charges against her. He is one of the family members that caused Ibrahim to be arrested after she married Wani.

Let us pray that all goes well for the family so that they can begin a new life of hope in the US.

July 15 is St Swithun’s Day in England.

Although this great bishop died on July 2, 862 — the date of death normally determines the feast day — his burial place was changed a century later on July 15, after he was canonised.

It is this translation — change, movement — of burial place which is behind the legendary saying which predicts 40 further days of whatever weather occurred on July 15.

Britannia Biographies tells us that Swithun was one of the most learned men of his time. He spent his ministry in Winchester, first at the monastery attached to the cathedral, later becoming the prior there, then as bishop of the diocese.

However, Swithun was also well known for the churches he had built in areas where there had been none and for repairing existing churches which had become damaged.

Swithun also had a bridge built in the eastern part of Winchester. He used to sit nearby in an effort to encourage the workmen there. One day, malicious workmen on the site broke a basket of eggs belonging to an elderly woman. Swithun is said to have miraculously restored the eggs.

Swithun also mixed in royal circles, acting as tutor for King Aethelwulf of Wessex as well as his son, who later became King Alfred. Aethelwulf had to fight off invading Danes; despite this, he was known for his wise rule. He was also very religious and intent on spreading the Christian faith throughout Wessex. His youngest son, Alfred, was able to repel further Danish invasions by negotiating the Danelaw in 886, which partitioned England and gave Danes control over the eastern regions of Anglia and parts of Mercia. Alfred is also known as the Father of the English Navy. He codified law and translated Latin books into Anglo-Saxon. His rule was such that he is known as Albert the Great, and visitors to Winchester can see his statue there.

Therefore, evidence of Swithun’s influence can be seen through these kings’ lives. In the 10th century, Winchester Cathedral — previously dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul — was rededicated to their beloved, holy bishop.

Incidentally, Vic the Vicar! has the readings for Swithun’s feast day.

As for the weather legend, prior to his death, Bishop Swithun left instructions that he be buried in the cathedral grounds:

where ‘passers by might tread on his grave and the sweet rain from heaven might wet his grave’.

After his canonisation 100 years later, a golden shrine to Swithun’s memory was erected in Winchester Cathedral and his remains were translated — moved, transferred — there in 971. It had already been raining too frequently for the cathedral workers to transfer his remains near July 2, so this was done on July 15.

The ensuing legendary 40 days of rain caused the people of Winchester at the time to assume that Swithun’s spirit was most unhappy at being transferred from a humble resting place outdoors to a gilded one inside the cathedral.

Although this became a local legend initially, it spread throughout England and continues to be well known today. The ancient rhyme is as follows:

St. Swithun’s day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
St. Swithun’s day, if thou be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain na mair.

Britain’s Met Office told the Daily Mirror on St Swithun’s Day 2014 that there is no truth to this prediction:

“While the story is compelling, it’s not entirely backed up by historical records and, similarly, when it comes to the weather folklore it’s not backed up by weather statistics.

“Numerous studies have been carried out on past weather observations and none of them have proved the legend true. In fact, since the start of records in 1861, there have neither been 40 dry or 40 wet days following the corresponding weather on St Swithin’s Day.”

However, note that their data deal only with 1861 to the present. Who knows what happened before then?

In fact, several European countries have a similar saying relating to their own saints. In France, it is St Gervais Day (July 19). In Germany, Seven Sleepers Day (July 7), commemorating a group of young martyrs from 3rd century Ephesus, is said to determine the weather for the next seven weeks.

In what used to be Flanders — today’s northern Belgium — the month of July was known as Wedermaend, which means ‘month of storms’.

It would seem, therefore, that there is some truth to these sayings and legends.

WeatherOnline takes a different line to the Met Office. Perhaps the Met should read their informative article on the jet stream and European summer weather. Excerpts follow (emphases in the original, purple highlight mine):

Whoever told the story about the St. Swithun’s day saying was obviously well aware that summer weather patterns establishing by the beginning to the middle of July tend to be persistent throughout the coming few weeks. In fact this is statistically true in 7 to 8 out of 10 years.

The meteorological interpretation is quite straightforward. The position of the frontal zone around the end of June to early July, indicated by the position of the jet stream, determines the general weather patterns (hot, cold, dry, wet) for the rest of the summer. Like a little stream in its bed, the frontal zone tends to ‘dig in’ shortly after the summer solstice.

Try and prepare your own summer forecast with our expert maps. The 500mbar maps usually give a good idea about the position of the frontal zone. Have a look at them over the next two weeks and produce a DIY summer forecast valid until mid-August with a confidence of 70 to 80%.

No wonder the St. Swithun’s day rule is also know in other western European countries.

I shall try forecasting and report back at the end of August! Here’s WeatherOnline‘s map from July 16, 2014:

Height/Temp. 500 hPa GFS We 16.07.2014 12 GMT

A post I wrote for Orphans of Liberty today looks at the effect women bishops will have on the popularity and membership of the Church of England (CofE).

What follows is a summary of that post.

First, there is the matter of how the victory was engineered. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that he’d received pressure from the government for the Synod to approve women bishops. Welby was ready to dissolve the Synod and reconvene it for another vote on the matter had it been defeated on July 14, 2014. In other words, keep voting until you get the ‘right’ result.

Second, no scriptural arguments were used, or at least these were not made public. Persuasion revolved around cultural norms and bringing the CofE into line with the 21st century.

Third, a number of Synod members who had voted against women bishops in 2012 changed their minds this year because they feared being deselected from the next Synod or were tired of the grief they received from people in their diocese.

It is clear that the CofE is increasingly moving away from scriptural tenets. The co-founder of Orphans of Liberty — and one of my readers — James Higham has written an excellent essay exploring why and how England’s established (state) church is failing.

Women bishops won’t fix a thing. (Women priests didn’t.) Nor will allowing single-sex church wedding ceremonies, which may well be a topic at the next Synod. Nor will support of euthanasia.

The CofE has become merely another social club which goes along with popular culture — the world — at every turn.

Who wants to get out of bed on a Sunday when one can get the same talking points from the media?

As I said at Orphans of Liberty, a small number of people will continue to go to other denominations or to independent churches which are faithful to the Bible.

Sadly, many more will choose to leave the Church altogether.

The CofE’s USP is its frequent Communion services. However, it is difficult to receive the Sacrament from a priest who embraces the world so fully, as many of our clergy do.

Yet, even there, Article XXVI of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion states:

… Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the sacraments ministered unto them, which be effectual because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

That said, the Anglican Church is expected to depose such clergy. Article XXVI concludes:

Nevertheless it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church that inquiry be made of evil ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty by just judgement, be deposed.

It should come as no surprise that the CofE considers the Thirty-nine Articles as ancient history to be disregarded.

Much the same way they consider Holy Scripture: old-fashioned and out-of-date.

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post -- not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 -- resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 473 other followers


Calendar of posts

July 2014
« Jun    
2728293031 - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 663,656 hits

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 473 other followers