Friday, 24 September 2010

Fun, But Fringe

This weekend, Thaxted is marking the centenary of the appointment of Conrad Noel. Well, fair enough, up to a point.

But Noel, Stewart Headlam, Henry Scott Holland and all that lot were, and are, interesting for their personal, liturgical, theological and political eccentricity, rather than for their influence, which was mostly negligible even on the sectarian fringes (although association with Noel was one of the reasons given by the Communist Party for the expulsion of the Trotskyists), and which was less than that on the Labour Movement of trade unionists and co-operators, Radical Liberals and Tory populists, Social Catholics and Distributists. The displacement of that mass popular Movement by the sectarian fringe is a story with which regular readers will be more than familiar.

In that Movement's urgently necessary reconstitution, the Christian Socialist tradition will again be vital. Inseparably bound up with the unions and with mutual enterprises, its two main sources and expressions were in the Radical Liberal chapels, and among those to whom catholicity was not necessarily the length of lace on one's cotta, or the wearing of a rustic Sarum cassock with a leather belt and a Canterbury cap, but full and visible communion, uncompromised and uncompromising, with the Petrine See of Rome.

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