Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Other XII Articles of the Church of England

The number of Articles of the Church of England was a variable number during the first hundred years or so of this nation's brief flirtation with not being Roman Catholic. Originally there were ten, then six, at one stage as high as forty-two, before eventually settling at thirty-nine back in 1563, and formalised in 1571.

But our discovery this morning has put a whole new complexion on the matter. I was chatting to Drayton Parslow about the remarkable effects of the incense on members of our respective flocks, when he told me that he'd found a Book of Common Prayer in a cupboard while clearing out, and he'd had a flick through the Articles. He said he approved of the first 39, apart from the Baptism business, but he wasn't so sure about the latter ones - especially the one involving gin.

"Gin?" I said. "Gin?"

"Sho' nuff, honey charl," he said to me (he likes to practice a Southern drawl in the belief it makes him more godly) and he showed me his 1568 BCP.

"1568?" I said. "1568?"

And there it was. A rough draft, to be sure. But it would appear that, rather like Mark's Gospel, a few pages may have fallen off the end between 1568 and the final article - leaving that rather odd situation that exists today, where the BCP goes straight from Oaths to Consanguinity. So I'm happy to publish the Lost Articles of the Church of England. Hopefully they'll get put back in.

XL. Of the Coat of Arms in the Churches of the Land

Meet and right it is that there should be a Coat of Arms of the Royal Family of England, Ereckted on the wall of every Church in the Commonwealth. For while God may be in His Heaven, thou shalt be Quite Clear who ruleth on Earth.

XLI. Of the Laws of the Game of Cricket

These codifying the way whereof One mayest play the most Gentle and Courteous of Games, we shall keep quiet about them until the Mayflower has set sail. We would not like those denizens of the Colonies of Her Most Royal Majesty to get involved in our most Civilised pass-time, with their Baseball Caps and their cries of "Well, whaddya think of that?" when they shouldst cry out, in civil and peaceable tones, "Howzat?"

XLII. Of Swearing

It is forbiden for any Man to swear in front of the vicar. For they have had their ears most gently attuned to Heavenly speech at Vicar Schoole, and cannot abide to hear Profane Tongues. In the field, or within the walls of the Citie, thou mayst swear from Monday to Saturday. But the Sabbath day, or else when receiving a visit from the Minister to be Catechised, thou shalt merely offer more Tea. Whatever Tea is.

XLIII. Of the Rest Days of Clergy

Forasmuch as Ministers do only really work on one day of the week, all Christian Men in the Commonwealth shall make this joke whenever meeting the Minister. The Minister, spurred by this to industry and the busyness of the body which is to the eternal good of the Soul, shall therefore take just one Rest Day each week - in which no work is to be done. Except for Emergency Pastoral Visits, committee meetings, sermon preparation or writing Minutes.

XLIV. Of Church Schools

All schools are Church Schools. Albeit we closed most of them during the Reformation, as they were attached to those Godless Monasteries, whose most reverent Dissolution brought much money unto the Father of our most Blessed Gloriana. But when some schools are Church Schools, and others are State schools (even though I can't see how there could be such a difference) it is meet and Right that all Christian Souls shouldst swear blind that they live near the Church Schools - even if it requires them to live in their second-cousin's Box Room for a few weeks.

XLV. Of Living in Merrie England

One day this Booke shall be read by Modern People, whoever they are. So it is important that we make a good impression. Wherefore all the Services that you have read up to this point in this Book tell the tale of an England that never Trulie Existed. One where all Christian Folk go to Church, hold as self-evident the Truths in the Athaniasian Creed, go to Morning Prayer on their way to the fields and Evening Prayer on the way home to their supper of gruel and biscuits. And at other times, when far away across the fields the tolling of the iron bell calls the faithful to their knees to hear the softly-spoken magic spell, we shall make out that we all bowed down unto the ground in true Affecktion. But it is a lie. Many People in this State know not St Thomas Aquinas from a Tree. The Creed is known by few and understood by fewer. But we shall pretend to live in this non-Existent England, because frankly it's nicer than the truth of a world pestered by Plague, where starvation is round the corner, the best a man can hope from life is to leave it no Poorer than he arrived, and all a woman can hope for is that she dieth not in Childbirth.

XLVI. On the Meeting of George Herbert on the Road

I hope thou needest not that I draw thee a woodcut.

XLVII. Of Committees 

Committees appertain to all that strengtheneth the Church and State. Forasmuch as they last forever, they let Mortal Men understand the nature of Eternity. And inasmuch as they are Tediously Painful, they take away the Feare of the Plague.

XLVIII.  Of the Adulteration of Coffee

The late efforts of the East India Company having brought the new Herbe that is called "Coffee" into these Islands, we observe that it is of two sorts. The coffee that is called "beans", which being ground and filtered maketh a brew suitable for Angels - both the Espresso and the Latte. But there is another type which is ground to graules, mixed with earth and ashes and tasteth like the Dust of the Earth unto which we all return. This Coffee, which we call "Instant", is suitable for consumption in the Churches of Dissenters and Puritans as it bringeth forth no enjoyment and maketh the drinker wish for a hastening to be with the Lord. Being also dirt cheap, it seemeth we are stuck with it.


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L. Of the Consumption of Gin

Gin is a most stimulating beverage, and most welcome to a Minister of the Word after a long preach, after dealing with a most naughtie parishioner, after forbidding the mercies of the Church to an impenitent sinner or on any other account. It is best not drunk until the Sun is over the yardarm, wherefore we have graciously been granted a Sun and yardarms.

LI. Of The Building of Yardarms

Best not. It will only delay the consumption of Gin.


  1. Is coffee a herb? Tea is, because it comes from the leaves of the tea shrub (I have one), or, more commonly in CofE, the twigy bits that used to hold the leaf and bear some distant relation to tea.

    But coffee comes from the fruit of the coffee bush and should surely be described as a spice and, as such, should be regarded by the more puritanical amongst us with grave suspicion, instant or otherwise.

    Actually, forget homosexuality and women bishops, I think the church in general should be taking a much firmer line on instant coffee which is a true parasite on our society and should be condemned to a firey pit. Or Hull. One of the two.

  2. "XLVI. On the Meeting of George Herbert on the Road"

    Yay! I have become an allusion! I can die happy (or, at least, no poorer)

  3. I've often wondered how such an odd number of 39 Articles came about. Having read the remainder I'm not surprised that the pages from the draft were accidentally dropped into a fire.

    It's time that we modernised the 39 Articles into statutes or measures. Thereby making them changeable at a whim of General Synod and post-modern in nature.

    In particular they need to be upgrades to prohibit the drinking Gin by Clerks in Holy Orders as it generally relieves the God given stress that makes their life unbearable. Such suffering is good for their souls and most appropriate that they share it with the great unwashed.

  4. Gin makes me depressed and tearful. That's pretty depressing in itself.


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