Man of God
- Michael Ramsey: A Life by Owen Chadwick
Oxford, 422 pp, £17.50, March 1990, ISBN 0 19 826189 6
- Michael Ramsey: A Portrait by Michael De-la-Noy
Collins, 268 pp, £12.99, February 1990, ISBN 0 00 215332 7
It cannot be easy to be Archbishop of Canterbury. The holder is open to all the confusions of public life, yet has to follow threads which are invisible to many of those who do business with him or question him as to the meaning of his pronouncements. As the successor of St Augustine, he has to look back on two thousand years and more of history; as the butt of politicians and journalists, he has to justify himself to a world in which the language of Christianity has become merely vestigial. The complexities of the situation are endless.
Vol. 12 No. 8 · 19 April 1990
In his review entitled ‘Man of God’ in the issue of 22 March, Charles Sisson describes Dean Milner-White as ‘the inventor of the service of carols and nine lessons’. The facts are somewhat different. The service was originated by Edward White Benson, then Bishop of Truro (later Archbishop of Canterbury). On Christmas Eve 1880 Benson presided over a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in a wooden shed (the temporary cathedral). The service was designed on Medieval precedents but intended to get men out of the pub.
A.C. Benson in his biography of E.W. Benson writes: ‘My father arranged from ancient sources a little service for Christmas Eve – nine carols and nine tiny lessons, which were read by various officers of the Church, beginning with a chorister and ending through different grades with the Bishop.’ The service became famous when it was adapted by Milner-White at King’s College, Cambridge in 1918 and first broadcast in 1928.