Posted on January 30, 2021 by Julian Smith

Dear Friends

Please find herewith …


1. Your Zoom access for Sunday. Click the link below:

Join Zoom Service Sunday 31.01.21 at 11:3oam
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81588369795?pwd=SjhuZ01uVHcwZDBFL2NkSUdZdGJpdz09
Meeting ID: 815 8836 9795 
Passcode: 140231


2. Attached to the e-mail version of this:

(1) Our hymns, and music for Jason: 191,240, 245 and 204 (the hymn words will also appear on the screen during the service, so you can leave those ’till then);

(2) ‘Portait of The Week’, The Spectator, 20.01.21; and

(3) ‘The Main Stories’, The Week, 20.01.21, including the three stories from ‘It Wasn’t All Bad’ to be read in the order of Stephen, Sue and Andrew. 


3. The Week Ending & Black Shuck


I think Edwin spoke for us all last week when he said it was all getting a bit much. Like Edwin, however, I’ve had plenty to keep me busy this week and for all the nation turned a historic and sad milestone it’s been a week with many positives. Richard is all set to be a vaccine jab giver with the St John’s Ambulance Brigade and may already be doing his bit (which I hope he can update us on tomorrow),  and the vast roll-out of vaccines means that we have had  our first member in their 60’s inoculated. You’ll recall Sue’s GP bumping into her last week and saying he expected she’d be getting her jab soon, well she’s had it! So that’s another valued member of our community that better protected and I’m hopeful all or just about all of us will have received our second doses by early Summer. 


I’m doing an online course on English Folklore right now with course materials, basic reading texts and scholarly articles littering my desk. We’re currently looking at ghostly Black Dogs, and in particular the malevolent Black Shuck which is predatory and sighted mostly in East Anglia and the North West (think Hound of the Baskervilles, if that was fiction, in the South West on Dartmoor and not in fact a ghosty dog but a real one!). Is ithis due to Norse mythology introduced by North German (Angles) and Scandinavian (Viking) invaders and settlers or something even older, found in other countries, and connected with the lay of the land and the interface between this world and the next. We shall see. But for now I’m reminded that Churchill called his regular depressive bouts his ‘Black Dog’ and that in classical mythology the multi-headed dog Cerberus was associated with the entrance to Hades.


Our physical landscape of late has been bleakly reduced and depressive phantoms have affected many of us and left us somewhat scared and deadened. But what we do know like Winston and Sherlock Holmes, is that our Black Shuck’s are not real for all their hugeness, red eyes, gaping jaws, sharp claws and bad breath, and are in fact our fears writ large. That may sound somewhat blas√© and insensitive with all that’s going on and with so many ill and taken away and on the front line, but this isn’t WW2 for all we’ve not been so affected as communities and as a society since. So I prepare to leave you and back in my pleasantly dark, study lamp lit room, magnifying glass in hand and Sherlock like I look at a 17th century ¬†image of Black Shuck, who on closer examination is, to my eyes, less of an evil hound than a faithful dog. Hades is not hell as Christians tradition knows it, but the classical version of heaven. Our Black Shucks remind those of us who already have a toehold in heaven in this life, that we’re already in a place and amongst a people not haunted by the Hound of Hell, but fiercely protected by the Hound of Heaven. The Black Shuck is terrifying, but it is not us that should be afraid when he appears, but the forces of darkness that try to get near us and of which he makes us aware.

Until tomorrow …

Julian