More on the Methodist minister in Telford and poppies

Quiet Man posted an excellent insight into the poppy in light of the recent controversy around the Methodist clergywoman in Telford who refuses to wear one for the upcoming Remembrance Day service.

Instead of leaving a lengthy comment on his post, here are further thoughts on the story and the way in which it was reported.

First, journos really should crack open a style book and use the right terminology. The Telegraph and Shropshire Star are incorrect in saying that the Revd Patricia ‘PJ’ Jackson is a ‘vicar’.

She is not. She is a Methodist minister.

A vicar is a Church of England priest who is in charge not only of a parish church but is the head clergyman — ‘team leader’ in modern Anglican parlance — of the other C of E churches in that parish, even when each of those churches has its own priest-in-charge.

In the Lutheran Church, a vicar is an assistant minister, what Anglicans would call a curate.

Second, priorities are everything. Although a website does not seem to exist for Hadley Methodist Church, there is one for the nearby Leegomery Methodist Church, the minister for which is one Revd P J Jackson.

It is standard for pastors to fashion their websites to focus primarily on Christianity. Best practice in this area includes a statement of faith and mention of denominational affiliation.

This is what the Leegomery Methodist Church proclaims on its About page (emphases in the original).

The Mission of the Church is to be a “Hug for the Community” through Worship, Prayer, and being loving and caring.

Leegomery Methodist Church was built in 1878, with the Sunday School/Community Room being added in 1953.   The Community Room was refurbished in 2010 and work was completed on the refurbishment of the Church in 2012.   All facilities, which include fully fitted kitchen and toilets, comply with the Disability Act, Health & Safety, Fire Regulations and are Eco Friendly.

The Friends committee organise an Annual Community Family Fun Day, Bingo Evenings, Social Activities, Concerts, Religious Festivals and much more throughout the year. See Forthcoming Events for full details.

All Leaders of our Children and Young People’s Groups are CRB checked and the Church has a Safeguarding Policy for Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults.

Morning Worship is held every Sunday at 11am for which everyone is welcome.

A fun Sunday School for children & young people from 0 upwards also meets each week at 11am.  This is nothing like day school, those attending take part in games, crafts, listen to stories and have lots of fun.

Being a ‘Hug for the Community’ is not a doctrinal, or a particularly Christian, statement.

Even worse, we don’t even find out what time the Sunday church service is until we’ve got past a mention of the toilets, Bingo Evenings and CRB checks.

Heaven knows what a ‘fun’ Sunday School must be like. Yes, it should be engaging for children, but I remember having to learn catechism in my day. My friends attending other churches studied the Bible. I guess I’m showing our age.

One wonders what sort of Gospel is being preached in a church that places a primary focus on facilities, social gatherings and government certification.

Third, one wonders if Ms Jackson is new to England. It just seems odd that anyone who has been here for a time, especially a clergyperson, would be so obstinate in wearing a white poppy — or none at all — if (s)he were about to lead a Remembrance Day service.

Any visitor or newcomer to these shores cannot miss the red poppies that men and women wear at this time of year, including nearly everyone appearing on television news broadcasts. It’s abundantly clear that Remembrance Day is — quite rightly — an important day to the British.

Fourth, poppies are no longer a tradition in the United States. It used to be that, at this time of year, American veterans collected donations for the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) or the American Legion, giving the donor a poppy. Those who served in Europe handed out red poppies. Those who served in the Pacific Theater handed out light blue ones. I checked with my friends Stateside in the 1990s to find out if this collection was still done; according to them, it hasn’t been for some time. This means that poppies vanished from the American consciousness sometime during Ms Jackson’s youth.

Fifth, semiotics of colour relating to war are lost on Americans. I doubt many Americans under 50 understand what four white feathers mean anymore. For a start, the film is rarely shown on television, if at all. Also, Americans no longer look to the British traditions and history which informed their own heritage for over two centuries. Americans look inward for revisionism or to developing world countries for a new cultural history.

Sixth, American seminaries are hotbeds of feminism and leftist politics. They outdo The Guardian in their adoption of ‘peace and justice’ as well as identity politics. For them, Scripture is but a footnote and none of it is history but rather liberation allegory. I know someone relatively conservative who went through the system over 20 years ago, when female seminarians began holding church services with prayers addressed to ‘God, our Mother’. Even now, having served in churches for a few decades, she gets more radical by the year. It sounds as if Ms Jackson might have experienced something similar.

Finally, I agree with the old soldier quoted in the Shropshire Star:

David Moore, president of the Hadley and Leegomery Royal British Legion, said: “From the military members who attend the service, and there are a lot, we were very shocked.

“If someone decides they don’t want to wear a poppy, that is down to the individual, but if they are officiating a remembrance service, just for an hour, an hour and a half, it’s not going to cut anyone’s throat to wear one.”

If I were Ms Jackson, I would take the time to talk with Mr Moore, councillors and members of the congregation to find out what Remembrance Day and the red poppy mean to the British.

She still has time to change her mind. I hope she does.

13 comments for “More on the Methodist minister in Telford and poppies

  1. meltemian
    October 29, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    You’re right Churchmouse, she obviously doesn’t understand that wearing the red poppy is for the remembrance of the fallen not the glorifying of war.
    From the sound of her I’m glad she’s not my minister.
    Incidentally we also hold a Remembrance Day service here on Corfu.

    • October 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm

      Thanks, meltemian!

      ‘I’m glad she’s not my minister’. I share your relief.

      It’s good to know that Remembrance Day is commemorated on Corfu as well. Our devastating World Wars had an indelible effect on so many countries and islands in Europe.

  2. October 30, 2013 at 1:35 am

    The Vicar of Dibly seems to be Revd Patricia ‘PJ’ Jackson’s role model. Jesus just didn’t get the laughs. Feminism may well be the ideology for such womyn but stupidity, counter-empathy, and conflict counter-reformation seem to be the drivers.

    • October 30, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      Thanks, Amfortas. I don’t recall the Vicar of Dibley being particularly feminist, but then I saw only a few episodes.

      I remember only her infinite patience in dealing with congregants.

      But I take your point about ‘womyn’.

      If you do write a post about ‘stupidity, counter-empathy, and conflict counter-reformation’, please leave a comment on one of my posts here or on my blog. I wouldn’t want to miss it.

      Kudos on coining the expression ‘conflict counter-reformation’ — brilliant! 🙂

  3. mona
    October 30, 2013 at 8:02 am

    Seeing Bliar and and a collection of political leaders at the Cenotaph made me feel ill with disgust, I would never shame the war dead by wearing a symbol associated with political war criminals who gave this country away, how many would have fought if they had known what Britain was to become?.

  4. October 30, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Although I worship in a Methodist church, I do have difficulties with the denomination at times, and if you do not believe me then have a look at my own website. I really do wish that some church people would read their bibles more carefully, because while it frequently contains exhortations not to be hard-hearted, nowhere does it contain exhortations to be soft-headed.

    If a member of the clergy does not wish to wear a red poppy for a remembrance service, then they should allow someone else to take the service. In the Methodist church, there is always the opportunity for a local preacher to take such a service in the event that the minister does not wish to show any respect to the members of the local British Legion.

    • October 30, 2013 at 11:23 pm

      Thank you, UK Fred. I shall enjoy perusing your blog, especially as you may well be the last biblical, conservative Methodist left in Britain.

      I am fairly well acquainted with Methodism and knew our local lay preacher. His late wife was the church minister until her death a few years ago. She was a staunch feminist and so was he.

      You are so right to exhort us to read the Bible more carefully and, yes, nowhere therein are we told to be ‘soft-headed’.

      Agree that the right course of action would be for the Revd PJ to allow a lay preacher to take the service.

      I read your post on the topic and would like to borrow a paragraph or two from it, if I may, for one of my posts on my own site. The following quote in particular struck me:

      ‘We need to think about who causes wars. It is not the rank and file soldiers, sailors and airmen. It is the politicians. The rank and file servicemen are the ones who pay the price, in terms of lives and limbs, lost sight and lost mental faculties. Wearing a red poppy is a means of remembering and honouring those were killed and injured allowing politicians to make their quests for glory and a place in the history books. Serving one’s country in the armed services is an honourable profession and a dangerous one.’

      Thank you.

  5. Woman on a Raft
    October 31, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    wearing the red poppy is for the remembrance of the fallen

    This would be true if the poppy were not in fact a commercial item which piggy-backs on the salute. Does one remember or respect any less for standing without a bit of paper? Or if one selects a different charity, such as Help for Heroes or SSAFA? Or wears one’s own poppy or saves one from last year?

    The lady seems to be confused about what the poppy symbolizes but her ability – or anyone’s – to memorialize sacrifice does not depend on her shelling out a quid under duress for a dominant promotional geegaw any more than her ability to preach about care for children relies on her wearing a Pudsey Bear logo whilst sitting in a bath of baked beans for charidee.

    I suggest people re-read the Pardoner’s Prologue in the Canterbury Tales.

    • October 31, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      Well, to each his own.

      No one is forced or coerced to wear a red poppy — or to contribute.

      Since you mentioned it, I happen to save my better poppies to wear and contribute to the Poppy Appeal, anyway (no new poppy needed for a while).

      The point is this woman, who seems not to understand the tradition, is leading a Remembrance Day service and risks offending people, particularly those who have served this country.

  6. Old Codger
    November 1, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Posted my comment in response to Quiet Man as your site rejected it as spam.

    • November 3, 2013 at 11:26 pm

      Sorry to read that, Old Codger. You should be all right for future comments. (I haven’t been on here since early Friday.)

      I saw your response on Quiet_Man’s post and appreciate it.

      You might find a kindred Methodist spirit in UK Fred above. You and he are the sort of Methodists I knew in my childhood.

  7. q
    November 3, 2013 at 12:30 am

    Sorry i was under the impression christians are nice to each full of forgiveness , compassion and understanding. Reading this article and the comments I’ve realised how wrong I wad. No wonder paganism is so popular. At least they are nice to each ither even when they disagree. Jesus would have been ashamed.

    • November 3, 2013 at 7:14 am

      No, you had it right in the first sentence. They are all those things.

      The people referred to though are hardly Christian, as they would not act that way. Anyone can call himself anything he likes – doesn’t mean he is one. Hell, even Obama says he loves freedom.

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