Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Trinity, The Latin Mass, And A Pint Of Bitter



A nice adventure today, the start of which was randomly picking out a postcard for my weekly postcard slot. The postcard was from the collection of my mothers' Uncle Fowler and dates back to the first decade of the twentieth century. It is a real photograph of the New Jerusalem Church, Devonshire Street which - like so many of the cards in Fowlers' collection - is in the West Yorkshire town of Keighley.

Intrigued by the origins of the New Jerusalem Church, I tried checking it out on Google but came up with very little other than a reference to the New Church movement and the religious beliefs of the eighteenth century scientist, philosopher and theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg. They were a rather strange sect who rejected the approach of mainstream Christianity in relation to the Holy Trinity : in their view Jesus Christ, God and the Holy Spirit were all the same thing. The sect seemed to attract some fairly heavyweight followers during the nineteenth century, and William Blake, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Ralph Waldo Emerson were - at one time or another - influenced by the writings of Swedenborg. In the 1780s small churches dedicated to the teachings of Swedenborg were established, first of all in England and later in America. The churches were known as New Churches or New Jerusalem Churches and one of the very first to be established was in the then village of Keighley. By the end of the nineteenth century the New Jerusalem Chapel in Keighley had become too small for its growing congregation and a new church was erected in fashionable Devonshire Street. It is this church - built in 1890 - that features in the photograph on the postcard. I was anxious to see if the church still existed and - the day being unseasonably pleasant - I drove over to Keighley to search for it. And much to my surprise I found it. The New Church movement declined in popularity during the twentieth century and it seems that the building was sold about fifteen years ago. It was bought by the Roman Catholic Society of St Pius X : a group that still conducts services in the original latin and believes in "uncompromising fidelity to Catholic Truth and Tradition".



Confused by all this doctrinal debate and argument I limited myself to trying to reproduce the original postcard photograph which was taken over 100 years ago. As you will see, there have been changes but not as many as you might have expected. With thoughts of the Trinity and the Latin Mass still intoxicating my soul, I walked down the hill into Keighley and had a pint at the Boltmakers' Arms. If only all religious conflicts could be solved this way.

15 comments:

  1. I love these comparisons between old photos and the current ones. I get the Western Front Association magazine and they have a feature in every issue showing an old IWM photo of some location or other and how it looks today. I see in your choice the wall to the street is unchanged, but the houses have taken on a new frontage; I have to say that I prefer the traditional stone to the slightly out of context 'mock Cotswold' colouring of today.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very cool... I love the old postcard and your postcard. Buildings like that have so much history- it feels like they are brimming with stories...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Pretty cool photo comparison. I'm intrigued by the lack of substantial alterations.

    Ah, Unitarianism... where hath thee gone? :D

    ReplyDelete
  4. My parents were fortunate to be attending the Catholic mass when it was in Latin. I have only heard it in full once. We do still have elements of the mass in Latin at Easter, but it would be nice to be exposed to it more often. It is truly beautiful.

    Thanks for this interesting post, Alan.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's amazing how the building has not changed, but what happens inside has.
    Curious to hear a service conducted in Latin, but would probably feel more at home in the pub..

    ReplyDelete
  6. How fascinating - I would have thought there'd be more changes but it looks much the same, apart from the telephone wires. And I guess it won't be long before they disappear again.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Like some other commenters, I find the lack of changes between "then" & "now" quite interesting. Really from the looks only the landscaping on the adjoining house. Good write-up on the Swedenborgians too!

    ReplyDelete
  8. John H : Weren't Robert Frost's parents Swedenborgians?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Alan,
    Thank you very much for signing up to follow Kigo of the Kat. I'm glad you're enjoying the haiku—I enjoy writing them. I'd be pleased if you'd check out Invisible Keepsakes some time if you get the chance.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'd raise a pint with ye any day!!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a great present day photo. I like the light from the sky and the clarity of the whole shot. Good job.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I just came across your post on the New Jerusalem Church in Keighley and I thought you might like to know that when the church in Devonshire Street was sold the congregation moved to Braithwaite Village where they took over another church building and restored it for their use. For an introduction to Swedenborgian teaching try Spiritual Wisdom

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anonymous9:32 PM

    Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anonymous10:21 PM

    What a great web log. I spend hours on the net reading blogs, about tons of various subjects. I have to first of all give praise to whoever created your theme and second of all to you for writing what i can only describe as an fabulous article. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only very few posses and honestly you got it. The combining of demonstrative and upper-class content is by all odds super rare with the astronomic amount of blogs on the cyberspace.

    ReplyDelete
  15. In 1963, our family moved to Keighely from Essex so that Dad could take on the Keighely New Church as his first 'parish'. We lived originally in Riddlesden then moved to the Manse (house on left of photo) a year later. My bedroom was the first floor windor on left - fantastic childhood memories. The Church at that time was laden with bushes and scrubs, which eventually were all cleared away so locals could see the Church was 'up and running' again. Dad was the Rev LP Russell-Lacy (referred to as Rev Peter Lacy). Other than landscaping, the building did not change at all except that the two lampstands on the Church steps were repaired. As Dad would say...'how can you expect people to go to Church if they can't find their way in'.

    ReplyDelete