….AND THIS TIME LAST YEAR
11 December 2015 10:29 AM
Who Moved My Flowers? A Cathedral Mystery
Much of what follows featured in an earlier, longer post (‘The Joy of Cathedrals’).
It described the strange disappearance of some flowers I recently left next to the George Bell memorial in Chichester Cathedral. Here they are:
The visit was partly a sentimental journey to a place I knew well in my childhood, partly a purposeful visit to honour the memory of a great man whose reputation is currently under attack, and who is being presumed guilty of a dreadful crime without having undergone a fair and public trial.
‘……And finally to the strange old detached bell tower and golden-stoned west front of the Cathedral itself, with a glimpse into the gardens of the choir school where I was for a while a non-singing pupil, and where my day was measured by the solemn chimes of the Cathedral clock, and by what must have been our daily processions across to the Cathedral for Evensong, as the shadows gradually gathered in the high vaults and arches, and among the tombs (this, by the way is the site of the famous Arundel Tomb about which Philip Larkin wrote his lovely poem whose conclusion is (almost) ‘what will survive of us is love’. The effigies of the long dead nobleman and his lady do indeed hold hands, and have done, in stone, for centuries. It is not a later invention).
Here, I had a particular purpose, apart from attending Evensong again in this place after a break of nearly 60 years.
I had with me a small posy of flowers, and a note. The note read:
‘These flowers are placed here in memory of the many courageous and selfless Christian actions of the late Bishop of Chichester, George Kennedy Allen Bell, in the hope that these deeds are not forgotten or obscured, nor erased from the memory of those who come after.
And also in memory of the Presumption of Innocence, much missed and fondly remembered.’
I placed them next to the modest memorial to Bishop George Bell which is carved in the wall close to the south transept and to the Arundel Screen rebuilt in Bishop Bell’s memory in 1961 (currently there is a large notice next to this monument about ‘safeguarding’). Ten minutes later my flowers and the note were gone.
I have asked the Cathedral why, and also what they did with the flowers.
Their current response is as follows:
“Our concern is that the public display of flowers together with a note about the Rt Revd George Bell’s achievements – coming directly after the Bishop of Chichester issued a formal apology following the settling of a legal civil claim regarding sexual abuse – was provocative and had the potential to offend those who are sensitive to the issues raised by child abuse. Sensitivity in this area is a priority for Chichester Cathedral, especially given its difficult recent history in the area of safeguarding. Consequently they were removed.”
I have yet to discover, despite active enquiries, which words in particular had been judged to be provocative, of what or of whom, or in what way they had the potential to offend. Also nobody will tell me what they did with the flowers.