Julian 650 follow up 1: Parallel Shewings



Jo, Julian

Neale, Joni


There is an obvious segue between the coronation and Julian (her words on the screen of annointing)

Ire and irony of presitigious academics taking over the unlettered simple woman

I reject the notion that Julian is lady in the peerage sense

Julian’s commandeered by certain Christians, but her loving Mother God speak more widely

Her book originally had no ‘divine’ in the title

Some corrections from my sermon of 7th: she wrote in middle, not old English

Did visitors and servants touch her through her windows?

Was her cell so severe?

Which St Julian was the church named after?

Comment on the statue on Norwich cathedral (in above picture)

Reprise of my 2014 lecture

Julian and Modern Mystics: Jo Dunning, Joni Eareckson Tada and Neale Donald Walsch

600 years and 1000 miles apart

What three living American writer and/or speakers have in common with Julian

Can Julian be overlaid with the law of attraction? Julian speaks of can, willing and doing as parts of the trinity: isn’t that thought, word and action?

For each, suffering started their spiritual journey and ministry

Jo and Julian specifically asked for an experience; Joni certainly did not

Some of Julian’s ideas, about oneness and God’s will for example, sound like Jo and Neale

Suffering is not punishment nor about humbling (as Joni thought) but growth

God does not blame us

Discrepancy between the church’s teaching and God’sin all but Joni


Did they add to the Good Book with their revealed writing?

Julian has a great deal of autonomy, but Neale is dictated didactic dialectics

Why Julian now…or at all?

More thoughts coming

What does Julian mean to you? Do tell me

[Sorry for the snuffly voice and delay in the follow up]

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A New King and A Visionary Crone

Welcome to Between The Stools 7th May 2023. Today’s service is a split topic, based on two anniversaries either side.

Yesterday was the coronation of Britain’s King Charles III; and tomorrow is the 650th anniversary of Julian of Norwich’s visions.


VIDEO at https://www.brighteon.com/channels/elspethr

Me on a Westminster-like chair behind my Julian painting: She Is Our Clothing

I’ve shared some thoughts on monarchy and our royal family less than a year ago – how they have changed since I began this blog...my thoughts, that is. I had planned to take the first Sunday of June to look at coronation, since that date was Charles’ mum’s – the late Queen – and that of Anne Boleyn, 490 years ago. I’m going to look at that topic as a whole here and then move into very different celebrations and invite you on a week long journey with me.

PRAYER acknowledging that this weekend is hard for some

As with last year’s Jubilee service, the part on coronation will be a bunting-free presentation.

We’re thinking about historic monarchs this year at Between The Stools, and spent two services on the current royal family last year: the new king’s mother and ex-wife. They were contrasting appraisals. Diana had been dead for 24 years; Elizabeth was yet alive – but only for two months.

I covered my thoughts on the biblical principles of kingship and the present royals and asked the question: when the Queen passes, do we want something different?

I hoped that we might get something different.


It may be significant that the Three Colours film trilogy just got a digital re-release. This first weekend of May, we in Britain and beyond are very much aware of red, white and blue – the colours also of the American flag, as the Wonder Woman TV theme reminds us: the colours of [so-called] democracy (I made a satirical painting on that – scroll to the bottom to see it). The values behind France’s flag – liberty, equality, and fraternity – which underpin a French funded classic by a Polish filmmaker are noble and significant – but were they present in the coronation, and in actuality?

I realise that I have more interest in telling you about the mid 90s movies, but I will state this link before moving on: in the first film, Blue, starring Juliette Binoche, is a commissioned magnum opus, not unlike coronation music. But here, no person is being crowned: the country of France is being crowned, or more accurately, a group of countries is being crowned: the Unification of Europe. Massive music is composed to celebrate an amalgamation which had begun twenty years earlier. Charles was crowned a little after his country left that controversial conglomeration – the European Union; but at a time where a globalised new world order is being pushed…which he is part of driving.

Having heard three other national anthems recently, I’m struck that whereas other lands sing an ode to the country, Britain’s anthem is directly to the monarch. I understand why it’s felt that Blake’s poem Jerusalem, set to Parry’s stirring music, would suit us better – it is more in line with Nordic patriotic paeans. I’m struck by our pomp and circumstance music being just that, and that Zadok the Priest made for George III by Handel (which worsens when the singing starts) is no longer sublime to my ear, nor about touching the divine but in making its human recipient divinely untouchable by likening this worldly ruler to some mythic great (in this case, Old Testament King Solomon, in the line of David and Jesus). Caesar is another favourite.

I didn’t really want to participate in this show but did so because I wanted to have information for this service and because it is a significant event. It’s the first opportunity for anyone under 70 to have witnessed a coronation in Britain; and I wonder – and wish – that this might be one of the last, at least of this kind.

I’ve been surveying celebrations. Backpackers with Union Jack wellies queued ahead of me at the station loos, clearly planning to queue for even longer to get a place among London’s crowds. Bunting and flags and window displays appeared in many homes and businesses – but not all. Some of us donned our national colours, but this outfit was bought because I like it some years ago, between royal occasions; I also wore it to see Superman recently – another national figure. I noted that supermarkets stayed open as usual throughout the morning’s events and cinemas continued their usual programme – we seem less affected than by the Queen’s death. I know some regular events were suspended in favour of royal ones. Bonfires and fireworks (I abhor the latter, being so distressing for animals and others). Picnics and tea parties. Free public screenings in selected community centres, cinemas and churches. One parish church had a concert by “The Illuminati” – isn’t that illuminating?

The alternative media point out that Charles explicitly spoke of the Great Reset soon into the coronavirus period. We might note that ‘corona’ means crown. I share their alarm about that, and some of his values and friends…and whether this is a new era or the next stage of a game plan.

I support Charles’s architectural views but not how he treated Diana; and having explored their relationship from both sides, I still conclude in her favour. I have compassion on him for the cool upbringing and schooling he endured, but the apparent lack of emotional connection isn’t excused. At least we are in a world where we can air views, and I’ve been shocked by some of the daring intimacies revealed and assessments made, and the celluloid portrayals.

I’d like to make a few brief observations before moving on…that the cost is covert until after the ceremony, but met by the public purse. Elizabeth II and George VI’s cost about £20-50m today, depending on who you ask. Even £20,000,000 is 1/3 of a million for each person in Britain – or the price, quite shockingly now, of the average house….for a day, a morning…. of ridiculous costumes, pomp…. Yes, an attempt to nod to multiculturalism, but no Pagans and no Dissenters.

This near two hour communion service (followed by much marching) was as much about the Anglican church receiving a new figurehead as the Untied Kingdom and Commonwealth.

However, Charles did make a change to his oath regarding being ‘defender of the faith’ – so ironic considering that the first monarch to receive that title, who we’ll think of in January, was Catholic.

The archbishop said “the church established by law, whose settlement you will swear to maintain …will seek to foster an environment in which people of all faiths and beliefs may live freely”.

I’m interested in the ‘may live freely’. It didn’t say ‘can freely and openly express those beliefs and practice their faith’. Charles will seek to foster such an environment…but he doesn’t guarantee it. Perhaps as constitutional monarch he can’t.

I am glad that Charles pledged that we may all live freely, for there’s been concern about how free we are and how free the establishment plans for us to be. But there’s its plans, and God’s, and ours. One can only rule by consent [the people’s and God’s].

Meanwhile – and I do wonder what this event is meant to get us to look away from – many interesting changes are occurring, especially on a financial front. I watch with interest.

I was going to discuss being crowned, linking it to the anointing by oil that’s behind the title Messiah; the servant King…. and the other Charleses, bookending Britain’s only period without a monarch, who abused the people in different ways, and what this meant for religious freedom. I think there’s much to learn from the C17 and I’d like to spend some time in it with you another year. I feel that much of the above has been or is being said elsewhere, or will come up later in our History Year. This is the one piece of planned history in the making that we’re witnessing and participating in, rather than looking back.

——————A little break… [maybe listen to Jerusalem…still no music access to play it to you]—————–

On the eve of the coronation, when concerts and vigils were taking place, in Norwich there was an eve of another event, also celebrated internationally. It was heralded by a half day of silent prayer. This was a date that could long be predicted – unlike the placing of Charles’ new headgear (or had that been planned like the first Elizabeth’s, with astrologers?). There was a solemn ceremony performed for a lifelong vocation, but it was in a small church in Norwich, and unlike a monarch, there could be several of these in one nation at a time. I know of two others in Norwich.

I’d like to introduce her to any who don’t know her – yes, Julian’s a girl – and then I invite you to spend a week with me, perhaps two. This is definitely a staycation – of a spiritual kind.

I note certain changes in the canon of knowledge since I’ve known Julian. I was originally told that she was probably a nun at nearby Carrow Abbey and that she changed her name to the church in which she lived, so that we don’t actually know her identity. Now I hear that Julian was a woman’s name – like Juliette Binoche, or as one manuscript renders her, Juliana. She might not have been a nun – she might have been a wife and mother.

All I can tell you is that the church is still called St Julian and that Lady or Mother Julian has an official saints’ day tomorrow, 8th May. And that churches dedicated to Julian are rare: there is one in Shrewsbury, and St Botolph’s priory in Colchester was jointly dedicated to Julian.

We have little biographical detail: her visions were received in this week in 1373, when she was 30; she was an anchoress, which I’ll explain, in this little church of King St, in the south of the walled city of Norwich; and a scribe tells us she was yet living in 1413…I have read she may have lived into the next decade, but her dates are unknown.

We do know that she entered the church after these visions and spent many years contemplating them, and wrote a book: The Revelations of Divine Love. It is the first to be authored by a woman in English.

She was visited by fellow Norfolk mystic and author Margery Kempe of Lynn.

There is a long and short version of Julian’s work: the short exists in a single manuscript, I’m told; the long has three texts. They are in old English, roughly contemporary with Chaucer, and so are usually translated; but there are these different versions to choose from or work in, and decisions to make about altering Julian’s words for a modern ear. I can’t find the one version which had the actual words next to modern ones, so I am always reading someone else’s choices.

Julian and I met exactly 25 years ago. I encountered her five years before in a Religious Studies seminar by the excellent Linda Woodhead and Andrew Shanks. I hadn’t come across a mystic before, but I was interested in this one because she came from my region.

Newly moved into Norwich, the city of my dreams, I was invited to an event to mark the 625th year since this famous daughter received her visions. It was a script in hand reading of the play by Shelia Upjohn, A Time Out Of Mind. Eleven years on, I’m laying on the hill overlooking the city with Shelia’s Why Julian Now, hoping to move back. Both of those are relevant sentiments…

This is the journey I’d like you to take with me is to think on and better yet read Julian this week – and if you can join a Julian event (including online), even better.

I’m going to come back to you and share my thoughts on this woman and her sixteen shewings.

I may also reprise the lecture I gave nine years on her comparing her to modern mystics – Neale Donald Walsch, Jo Dunning and Joni Eareckson… Not the names you were expecting to hear ofr modern mystics? Listen to my definition of mystic…you’ll probably qualify.

Not expecting to hear those names above in the same sentence? I love to make unexpected connections…and this began reading Shelia’s book that Easter of 2009.

For now, I wish to share my thoughts on modern and medieval nuns.

The mediaeval one is Julian and what they did to her.

The modern one is me.

I wish to speak against this horrific idea of anchorism, giving someone the last rites, walling them into a small room, and in some cases, making them dig their own grave and then live around it until they need it. They had unpaid servants (I call that slavery) under the guise of spiritual service. (It recalls that line in Austen’s Lady Susan about being vulgar to pay [your underling] when there’s an element of friendship involved. Substitute friendship with holy work and asceticism.) Of course, anchorites still needed to pay the church for their upkeep. I’ve heard of anchorism described as getting away from the control of patriarchy and remaining independent by AN Wilson in the introduction to my version (based on Grace Warrack’s translation published by SPCK) but I think he’s misunderstood this practice. I’m also cross at Deepak Chopra’s take on Julian in his book God where he lazily misread ‘wool’ for ‘wood’ trade, and then riffs on Norfolk’s great forests which created Norwich England’s then second city. It’s sheep coats, Deepak!

I note that the usual monastic vow of staying on one site (not normally one room) was couched as ‘stability’ but that word today feels far from losing the right to roam. Julian allowed herself to be imprisoned for life, without an exercise yard, and only a squint into the church she was attached to. She gave up touch for the rest of her years – at least 40. I think she was expected to give up too much. I watched a documentary about a modern Benedictine nun and wondered how her loved ones must have felt during her service of dedication. I wonder even more at the pain and confusion which Julian’s felt at her entering a living death – like that of the evil Kryptonian trio in Superman movies. Julian is banished to a phantom zone, taking the biblical ‘in the world but not of it’ (Romans 12:2) to extreme, making her life to be a holy example to be admired.

I wonder at what can have persuaded her to have taken such a step?

And what can have made the church conceive of such a ‘vocation’?

I’d like to briefly and finally think of myself, and perhaps you can relate…a modern, free range, plain clothes nun. Tomorrow my guest blog post on Lauri Ann Lumby’s website goes out about this topic. I’ve further thought that this name I gave myself at university briefly was increasingly apt. I like quiet days and silence and reflection and study. I choose them. But I see no reason to vow to give up the possibility of noisy days, of relationships, fun, of own clothes, holidays, own choice of bed time…Does God wish us to vow, or is that a human insistence on binding contracts? I also see that I have been called to this enjoyment and need of quiet among its antithesis: the row round me of my student days has oft continued. I am still in the world, although like others listening to or reading this, this world as it currently is can feel overwhelmingly harsh and alien at times. But I am comforted that not only am I not alone in feeling this – and thus, neither are you – but that I continue to hear how the old world is falling away and that we really will see a different one, where sensitive uncommon souls like Julian can thrive without being cut out of it.

Do introduce yourselves on betweenthestools@hotmail.co.uk and let me know your (constructive) thoughts on this, or how you are.

And do check back next Sunday night when I’ll have an update…I may do one more, but it probably won’t be another live service

The next of those is 25th June on Etheldreda, another East Anglian special lady with a special anniversary.

So…do join me on a Julian journey this special Julian week (see https://julianofnorwich.org) and check back next Sunday

The painting in the background is explained here

Blessings and thank you for joining me and hope to see you again

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Sunday’s service and Violet’s anniversary

On Sunday 7th, we’re thinking of a new king and a visionary woman with a special anniversary – probably more about the latter (Julian of Norwich). If you’d like to come live to the videocall at 8pm BST, please email betweenthestools@hotmail.co.uk before Sunday at noon my time.

The 5th of May is the 52nd anniverary of the passing of Violet Jessop, once a near-ish neighbour and who remains an inspiration regarding my Titanic book, on which I also offer talks

I plan a pilgrimage to her grave in Hartest, Suffolk

I will tell you about my findings with pictures anon

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Titanic play performance for 111th anniversary 14-15th

My novella/play The Jury In My Mind is exactly a year old today, 10th April – the day that Titanic left Southampton for its only voyage. Between the 14th and 15th, straddling time zones and days, the ship floundered.

I said that it would be performed a year on – and it’s happening online at that time, this weekend.

I’m going to give a one woman performance….it will be available for a limited time from Friday 14th at 11.40pm BST for free, and then to subscribers, and those who buy the novel (print or download). If you’ve already bought it, you can listen for free anytime, but please tune in to help drive traffic to the podcast

It was all recorded on the weekend of the voyage but part 2 will be available in the summer, during the time of the official inquests

It will be on my podcast channel, Acast, which I use for my audio on here


Please get in touch for more information

I am still looking to have it put on in a theatre…would yours be interested?

Please email me on RushbrookBooks@outlook.com (also the BetweenTheStools email is fine)

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Easter service 2023: Esther Not Jezebel

Introit: The Storm from Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Craig Armstrong and A R Rahman


(Do note my gold for Eastr, E necklace and my top)

The Joy of The Risen Lord be with you!

Welcome to Between the Stools at Easter 2023. Welcome to all the range of beliefs we have with us tonight and who will listen later, but this (along with the Christmas period) is when I am at my most Christian, and I make no apology for that. This year, we are seeing the events of Easter through the prism of the Tudors as a part of our History Year.


The music we began with is from the denouement of the 2007 film Golden Age where Queen Elizabeth I stands on a cliff edge looking out onto the battle with the Spanish Armada. This is the thrilling music, with crashing waves and bursts of flames…her enemies fall and weep…their candle goes out…until (now out of her nightie into a big dress) Eliza stands twirling over the globe. She has overcome and reigns supreme.

Only Jesus overcomes like this; and the vanquishment we celebrate today is very different from this one of 1588. Dear Spanish friends, know that I do not consider burning your kinsfolk in their boats anything to boast about or feel pride for. Elizabeth may be famed for this victory over so-called enemies, even evil – we’ll think on her and that in September – but we’ve been with her mother and others who, like Jesus, made their ultimate accomplishments in very different ways. There was plenty of drama, but no battles; we could see their being executed – often at a fairly young age – as a loss, even a failure – and certainly a tragedy. But we’re asked to see this through Easter eyes, not that of worldly accomplishment.

Tragedy also brings pathos and sympathy and with that, followers and mythmaking. Each person we’ve thought of (or will) this year who was put to death is a martyr and glorified as such. Anne Boleyn said to her husband Henry VIII, ‘I thank you for raising me from gentlewoman to nobility, from noblewoman to queen…and finally, the highest crown of all: martyrdom.’

So instead of Anne losing, Henry’s actions gave her accolades greater than could be in this world. The severed head is a symbol of divinity.

Easter is about One whose crown is higher still.

I wish to qualify that martyrdom isn’t something to seek out and gain glory points over, but that I have long felt – and my family has met people who were tortured and sentenced to death for their faith – that God takes especial care of those who suffer for his sake, although I’m not sure I like that phrase. I have heard that terrible suffering brings an extraordinary experience of God – again, not to seek that out or to justify the tormentors. I also believe that with all physical suffering that he collects our spirit before it becomes unbearable, although the body may suffer on. And we are given the greatest love and healing when we arrive Home.

Some may be surprised that I’m bringing in 16th C people – mostly Anne Boleyn – to this day, the special preserve of Jesus. One, you will tell me, he was and is God. I absolutely agree, and that – along with his literal bodily resurrection – is vital to my faith. Second, you will say that Jesus was sinless, but Anne was fallen. Well, that’s not the Anne I believe in, but she was human and thus subject to the human condition – although if you joined me on Thursday you’ll note that the poem we heard attributed to Anne speaks of her ‘guiltless ghost’. That is generally taken to mean that she did not do the crimes she was accused of. (Dare I point out on this holy day that the sinlessness of Jesus is a doctrine, tied into the theory sacrificial atonement; I do struggle with his behaviour in a few places…) I believe that we are back to that theme we thought of in January and my penultimate Lenten reflection: that in theology, unlike today’s law, the opposite of being guilty isn’t innocence, but righteousness. Yet righteousness isn’t perfection…

I will save the other sermon that statement could easily become and continue:

Jesus, you may further object, rose again, and Anne didn’t. Jesus saved the world; he was a one off. What did Anne do….?

Well, I believe she accomplished the start of a world changing event too – not on the level that Jesus did, but that she was an important follow up; she too was a bringer of a new age – hence I link her with Mary Magdalene in the thesis which they wouldn’t let me write. I’m kind of doing a version of it this year with you via Between The Stools.

And I believe that Mary and Anne have become more prominently de-vilified in recent decades because we are also in a new game changing age.

Other than Jesus, I don’t seek individual saviours; in this time particularly, teams are needed.

Could you be a changer?

MUSIC by Rob Lane from Henry VIII 2003

Aware that my sermon of 10 years ago (the last anniversary of Anne’s coronation) is already on this blog, and that I’ve said similar things on her before, I wondered if I needed to say something fresh. I could summarise some of my dissertation, where I tell you how little is known about her, and what few and polarised sources we have. If we only knew about Jesus from government documents and the spies of his detractors, what would that have done for the Christian faith?

Could we compare the Gospels to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs?

I had again intended to extol Anne as the champion of free thinking – and we’re living in times when thinking is not free. Our speech has been censored. Hence I see what Anne stood for as vital to now, whatever our country or beliefs. Perhaps the internet is the equivalent of the Bible in English: being able to read and exchange and express ideas. Printing presses assisted the dissemination of new ideas, but there was a smuggled market. Anne and her family were involved, as I mentioned in my last Lenten blog post, in the sharing of forbidden evangelical tracts and English Bibles, because not all works were welcome by the authorities. It is something that I have been aware of in recent years, although some listeners may be surprised and see little comparison. I sadly have met many whose websites have been censored and become aware of the publishing industry and media as a funded funnel.

I wish to encourage that despite the book and sometimes author even reader burning in early modern Europe, despite the horrible deaths of early Christians, that those ideas continued, and cannot be quenched. Therefore our ideas and truths cannot be quenched by suppression.

I wanted to extol Anne Boleyn as Esther, not Jezebel. Joanna Denny saw Anne as the biblical queen, chosen against her conscious will by a powerful greedy king who wishes to put his wife aside for a new one. The king’s choice – or should we say, quarry – cannot refuse without risking herself and her family, so she turns this situation and finds in it a special spiritual mission. She becomes a saviour to her people, of God’s people. The Jews in exile are being persecuted, and Esther dares to approach her husband Artaxerxes – which even a wife risked her life to do – to ask for her people to be saved. It recalls several of Henry VIII’s wives who pleaded for would be martyrs. Esther – one of only two women to have biblical canonical books named after them – is successful. The parallels with Anne are striking: the reason that the first queen was put aside; the powerful upstart, making rules to crush the beliefs of others – Haman is the Thomas Cromwell of the citadel of Susa. He does get his comeuppance, being hanged on the gallows he so keenly prepared for others. Like Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, Esther has an uncle who steers her and gains prominence for himself.

Anne Boleyn herself saw herself as an Esther (how near that word is to Easter) since she had her chaplain preach on this Old Testament book in front of the court at Easter, clearly implying herself in the title role.

You have come to royal position for such a time as this”. Esther 4:14

Usually, Anne is seen as another famous OT queen – Jezebel, the grasper who converted things (vineyards, palaces) and had the owners cast aside (Naboth, Wolsey) to obtain them. We may rejoice – especially with extra biblical knowledge of her heinous behaviour – at her demise (falling from a window whilst applying lippie and being eaten by wild dogs). The world was thus rid of a plotting, conniving, cruel woman who tempted the king into wickedness. Catholics were encouraged to see low born Anne as the strumpet, taking good king Hal away from the true church, killing the faithful.

As I’ve been saying this year and will continue to, I see nothing good about Henry VIII. The more I know, the more I am horrified. I believe that it is he who butchered thousands. He seemed to wish for absolute power and to crush any kind of belief which clashed with his and the power he wished for.

I see that there is much in common with Persia’s Artaxerxes and the second Tudor king. Artaxerxes, also known as Ahasuerus, considered himself King of Kings. No-one could approach him without him extending his sceptre; if you did, and you didn’t, then you died. In this way, Esther also risked her life. Esther’s husband also ruled a large empire, as Britain came to be; it started under the Tudors. In some discussions about who Esther’s husband was, I have seen mentions of Babylon – that now fallen empire which is used to denote evil and opposition to God’ people. Babylon is in the Bible’s final book and is still spoken of as the enslaving force behind the world which is being slain. Some listeners will be well are of the subtle slavery and utter control of this dying system, which is disguised to others. I believe that Jesus’s mission was also about confronting Babylon in a cosmic way. Although I see Jesus as King of Kings, he is a very different kind from the earthly other users of the title. On Earth, he sat on no throne, had no concubines, no palaces, no provinces and possessions. He did not wear jewels and costly garments – Henry VIII! And Jesus was the only person who could speak of God and I as we – yet he didn’t; but monarchs do.

Whereas Catherine Parr saw Henry as Moses, letting God’s people go from the Pope, I see England under Henry as needing deliverance. I say this not as a Catholic but one who sees in Henry a Babylonian, and wives 2 and 6 as the lady Moses trying to steer and shield from Pharaoh. So rather than being the whore of Babylon, Anne Boleyn, I believe, took on that dragon.

You might be asking how? Was it by merely being in a position to influence the king with her New Learning and ask for mercy on her fellow believers? Was her eye not more political? Was her new church really purer, more biblical? What did she really believe…and is it something that you or I would align with – and we may answer that differently.

As I’ve been hinting in previous posts and services this year, I am changing my view of the Tudors and the reformation. It has already changed towards the Anglican church. I believe that there is a new layer for me to uncover – and not something that will be found in an archive, but a new spiritual understanding. It seems that 15 centuries after Christ, that the church that followed – and note that Jesus did not set up an institutional church – had become corrupt; it needed renewal or rebuilding. I am not sure that a national or multinational chain was ever necessary and intended; nor do I believe that all Catholics were wrong and bad, just as I do not now – and Catholics are welcome here. Especially if you play the tambourine.

I believe that just as Jesus was sent at a particular point in history to do the major intervention as God’s son on Earth, that other special people were also sent to create and assist with watersheds. There is a belief that Jesus visited Earth before – even among Evangelicals: some say he was Melchizedek the High Priest – somewhat different from being a king and head of the church. Have other persons on divine missions come more than once? Perhaps that’s something to more comfortable explore on Magdalene Sunday… [around July 22nd] …but I wanted to hint at a very different way of seeing Henry and his wife, and that role has come round again. In these times, Henry is usually called by another name. Your mind may boggle to work out what I’m thinking; there has been a repeat within a century. I heard a channel speak – the second time that Magenta Pixie has snuck into my Easter sermon – and she claimed that her guides state that today’s second son and his controversial wife have a role in common. I cannot say if I agree, only that I am open to the possibility of royal couples who break down paradigms and whose duties include cosmic business. I struggle to see the 16th C red headed Henry as any kind of Moses figure, let alone Christ – quite the reverse; but I do wonder if through him something was achieved, or at least, attempted; and that that cycle and progression has needed other figures to break down institutional abuse and kingdoms not of this world which are not of God – and by that, I do not mean rival religions. I am talking Babylon.

And that’s why I think that Babylon-busters are so important to identify and recall, and to seek new ones – and be them. Hence I felt drawn to Anne today, and why I believe she connects with Mary Magdalene and why she is popular and important now.

This may be preaching to some of the converted – and I may have pinched this wonderful insight from my listeners – but my friends and sisters in Lauri Ann Lumby’s circle this week said that salvation is completion, and self actualisation (if you said that and want me to attribute it to you by name, let me know). Jesus was a fully developed human – as well, I strongly believe, being fully divine too. Did that fulfilment come with his response to the violent and unjust death he endured…perfected in his coming through the grave? I’m aware that perfection is also a legal term). Might Anne Boleyn and the others in British history – from Edmund to Mary Queen of Scots to our Magdalene Sunday guest – have a mature level of personal development and completion?

However, that is not all that Jesus accomplished.

Easter is about taking on Babylon and winning, by subverting all its corrupt distorted values, its gods and systems of institution and control.

I have much more to say about Anne – I’ll probably say some in July…


But I also wanted to say that I know what it is to struggle at Easter. How does one rise with the joy of the Lord when your heart is filled with sorrow? Are you still in Good Friday mode, wondering where your supporters are as you face your unjust crisis alone? Does it feel that others are more interested in their own safety than helping you?…like those hiding disciples or Boleyn and Howard families? Are you feeling far from God, or unsure what you believe about Easter? Perhaps God seems to have abandoned you and you have not yet experienced the first Light of Easter. Perhaps this feeling has gone on very much longer than Friday. I too have often felt low around Easter; it is also a long public holiday weekend in many countries, and with a strong focus on family. That can feel painful. I would love Between the Stools to be a family, especially to those without one, or in good relation to theirs. If you are not in a church family, or have had difficulties with them, Easter – that high point of the Christian faith – can feel lonely. Remember that between the Stools is meant to be for those feeling that they’ve nowhere to sit. I can’ t guarantee there’ll never be times when someone feels the above about us, but I do wish to guarantee to reach out and put right.

So I just want to acknowledge and heal any of that which applies.

Hold that a moment

I believe that God relinquished, not abandoned Jesus (as I say in my 7 sayings, although the Spirit of God is still present); God never lets us go and I think my relinquishment statement is often true of people too…eg the recent Korean film Broker.

Let us feel loved and held when we are alone. Let us feel the Light of Easter in our lives and world, no matter the darkness around us. Let us reach out and see Your plan throughout history to restore good and light and love, and to pull us back when our path goes far.

Let us be the change in the world that we seek

Let us be bringers of a new age

Thank you for being here

Next weekend 14th/15th – online performance of my Titanic play. Email, subscribe or check back for details

Next BTS service is May 7th – Julian of Norwich and Britain’s coronation

NEW June date – it’s now 25th

I discovered a special lady has a special birthday and I felt I’d like to include her

I’ll play you out with more Rob Lane – the triumphal moment in Anne’s life

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A-ha and other movies

Due to my novel launch, I’ve stockpiled other thoughts for a while, except if they are on service themes.

The three things I wish to speak of today are all recently released films – and a new release of my own.

The Duke was an unexpected surprise, for this people pleasing comedy starring a pair of national treasures in a true story about stealing another had the issue of TV licensing at its heart, and showed up the injustice of this outdated bullying levy. I wish that it had gone far further in questioning the door to door extortion by the BBC, and the expectation of having to prove that you don’t contract with someone. Unlike a Belfast paper I’ll not dignify by naming it, the removed right of implied access is not a legal loophole, it’s fact exposing the legal fiction and regaining our rights from this manupulative status quo. I question the message of television, especially its news, more than ever, and since I wrote a piece on TV licensing half a decade ago. Surveillance in the name of subscription is not the answer.

Bernadetta was a shock, but not all unpleasant. Every film magazine I read portrays this period tale about nuns as a romp, but it was traumatic and violent – which neither Picture Recommends, Empire nor Little White Lies warns about. The other women at my screening – all strangers – met in the toilets for a post-trauma meeting, feeling highly harrowed. I didn’t want to talk about it, and yet it was compelling. I want to ensure that potential viewers are warned, but I also want to saw that it was memorable – not for just being upsetting or rude. It had the effect of the film in my novel, Parallel Spirals, with which it shares much material. There seemed to be something profound, as I see it as a story of the body – its denial, all its uses, and then its reclamation. It exposes evil rather satisfyingly, and allows the supernatural element to be possible, rather than decrying it as some modern biographers have done. I might even see it again – I’ll be interested in DVD extras. Just be prepared to hide your face in one scene especially and book energy healing and counselling right after the screening.

A-ha the movie is a band documentary made by Eeyore. I’ve followed this trio since the mid 1980s, and they have been an especial influence on my own music. Discovering the film – shown in Britain for one night only at selected cinemas – elicted a squeal and took as much determination as A-ha did to come to London to get to it. But it was balloon bursting… there were strong hints that the band didn’t really get on, had threatened to split up even more often than their 2 official break ups, and that some favourite songs were hybrids foisted on their vying writers by producers. Worse still, the albums I consider their finest – before their mid 90s first hiatus – were dismissed as dishonest U2-esque impersonations to react against the manufactured boyband image. Perhaps that is why the non single offerings of East of the Sun, West of the Moon and Memorial Beach are so rarely played live. I enjoyed seeing the snippets of their famous signature pop videos – the animated ones by Steve Barron that helped win them attention – and there were moments of reliving the joy I felt at seeing them live.

What it has most provoked in me was to at least make public my own homage to A-ha – a song about them the last time I thought they’d finished as a group. In under 7 minutes, I take you through 25 years of pop history, but also my own with Norway’s famous export.

I’m going to post it here with the words by the end of the month, along with some updates on the novel

Here it is:


The title comes from the T-shirts on some German fans at their supposed farewell concerts of 2010 “You wrote the soundtrack to our lives” – lyrics below

You hear the start of an early style concert; Scoundrel Days for the verse and chorus, and then the very different sounds to show their departure in style, ending with I Call Your Name into Memorial Beach…. back (after their first split) to what they were like pre 1994, and then the long outro of the 2010 Royal Albert Hall orchestral concert and Shadowside on their 10th studio album

(c) Elspeth Rushbrook 2012-22 – recording quality deliberate

I hope to make a video and release it commercially for the 40th anniversary

Soundtrack to our lives

Called from teen chores

Drawn by your chords

Joining the dots

Animating cartoons

Rips and wristbands

Swoon of boyband

I showed my independence

in resisting you

Was it likeness

sneaking solidarity

that began in the back of a car

While I laughed at mishearing

a truce I was nearing

transported by wheels

and the songs of A-ha

You wrote the soundtrack to our lives

You soared and hearts

and seared our cries

As we grew you did too

You wrote the soundtrack to our lives

You counselled: choose adventure over safety

Poetic riddles, soulful words

Now yeahs and oohs mix with grundgy darknesss

Distort ideas which are absurd

Estranged by your strangeness

Rabbit winds flew me by

Waiting for you to move back to Memphis

These locust years felt rather dry

I only saw how sweet it was

As night grew dark for all

We had our wings clipped

We writhed your snake twists

Called dying loves’ names

and felt cold as stone

Aurally tripped

memoir emotive

we travelled by trapdoor

til a lifeline is thrown

The strength of recall

from student to concert hall

Does not abate now the butterfly’s flown

You needed an audience and thanked us for finding you

I hope through you

I will find my own

You wrote the soundtrack to our lives

and seared our cries

As we grew you did too

You soared our hearts

You wrote the soundtrack to our lives

Wiating for her in darkness she glows

Untouchable angels in velvet repose

Emmerald neon comes out of blue

Stillborn by choice, in joy found by you

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The Launch of The Jury In My Mind

Following our Titanic theme this year, this was a Between The Stools special event to launch my novella/play which commemorates the 110th anniversary of the day that Titanic sailed

Here is the trailer version (31st May):


Here is an audio of the full event:



I hope to post an edited version of the video soon – link coming

Further Titanic related services this Holy week 2022:

Thurs 14th 11.40pm-2.20am GMT* Silent watch night for Titanic/Maundy Thursday

Please note you don’t have to come for all of it. Just the music at the start and end will be available later

Friday 15th Sundown sermon: Sacrifice, or why I’m Cross with the Cross 7.28pm GMT*

Sat 16th Easter Eve Written reflection: The Inferno

Sun 17th Dawn words (pre-recorded) and 8pm GMT* service on Titanic: Death Is Not The End

*Note – we are now on British Summer Time, which is an hour later

Titanic themed posts will continue for a year

Go to this post for how to buy the book

NOW ON APPLE BOOKS https://books.apple.com/gb/book/id1618784574

The Jury In My Mind COLOUR
The Jury In My…
A novella/play on t…
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The Jury In My Mind

A new novella/play on the Titanic

There will be a series of Titanic related posts here running up to the launch (see sidebar/tag cloud) including a weekly Lenten reflection and Easter services (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun of Holy Week)

The live event will be a semi BTS service; it will be under an hour and include original music – the story has its own theme – and a reading and a talk about me and the Titanic

It will be recorded and posted on this blog, pinned, shortly after (allow a day or two for editing).

More information about buying the book below

Links to the trailers and launch event here


You are about to witness a revelation

There is an inquisition that the world has never known

on the most famous sea disaster in living memory.

It has raged passionately on a daily basis,  yet has never been recorded or publicly attended.

Its location and contents have remained clandestine and undiscovered.

Until now.

The courtroom is in my head; the juror and victim: me.

I expect that everyone holds such a bar inside them regularly.

My jury has met frequently over a range of matters.

This is its bitterest and longest running case.

It remains unresolved.

I am anxious to settle this immediately.

The case is not about not scrutinising the actions of the White Star Line company.

Instead, friends and lovers, even God, are called to the dock

My case is within these perimeters, and yet independent of them.

It is a microcosmic view, not privy to the captain’s table nor the crow’s nest

This is an entirely personal claim, from one young woman’s experience of the voyage, and a tragedy of the most personal kind:

a double loss, the hardest of all to assimilate; the sharpest of two edged swords, which to my knowledge has not been told before.

This is a voyage of spiritual and emotional maturity.

Where to obtain a copy

It is being printed by more than one source. There will also be a digital PDF download and ebook.

It is not immediately available in shops, libraries or sites like Amazon. It will be print on demand via online platforms and available when I do in-person events. I will not be selling the book directly otherwise.

One of the sources will be https://www.drivethrufiction.com/browse/pub/10068/Rushbrook-Books, digital download only (also my previous novel)

Another is Blurb where print, PDF, and ebook (apparently only for a year) are available

https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/11113693-the-jury-in-my-mind-colour Print & PDF

See my published books

https://www.blurb.co.uk/ebooks/774853-the-jury-in-my-mind (colour inside)

There is a cheaper version with black and white interior https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/11157333-the-jury-in-my-mind-black-and-white

The ebook is on Apple: https://books.apple.com/gb/book/id1618784574

Others will be added here and updated as necessary

There will be ISBNs, depending on who’s printing it – some places auto assign one and if you send it back for revisions, the same version receives another. Hence I will wait before posting these here and it is not showing on Nielsen book data yet.

Like the Titanic had a guarantee group aboard the voyages to look for things to improve, I am doing the same. If you see any glitches or errors, please email me on RushbrookBooks@outlook.com

I am open to speaking engagements around England (further will depend on restrictions and that travel expenses may prove prohibitive). Please use the above email or the contact form under ‘about me’

Facts about the book

It’s 198 pages long, about half a kilo in weight, and c20x13 cm (5×8 in). Yes it should fit a letterbox, depending how third parties package it

It includes my hybrid novella/play (34,000 words), which has occasional colour artwork by me interspersed with the text on lovely glossy paper, and also

a short story, extending this one

an epilogue 20 years on

the Titanic and me (author)

Questions you might have – about the facts of the story


my poem, on which the play’s musical theme is based

about me and my other projects

totalling 42,500 words = a unique independently made piece of art

Please note: this text is not suitable for performance – I have separate ones for stage and radio, and there will need to be an agreement with me, including a fee for using my work; but I’d be delighted if any companies are interested

It is self published by choice: I explain why here and in posts around it

I may also do a piece on costs; but printing and postage is pricey, and there have been thousands of unpaid hours in the production of this

I’m not interested in the mass market that outprices small businesses and makes losses just to get sales

The digital version isn’t much cheaper than the physical book because the same amount of work went into making it; you have the same product; and you’ve saved postage costs. If you want it printed, I recommend the professionally print and bound copy

I will be adding new artwork to https://www.redbubble.com/people/ERUSHBROOK/shop reflecting the pictures in this book

The music and launch audio recording are on https://shows.acast.com/between-the-stools

The Jury In My Mind COLOUR

The Jury In My…

A novella/play on t…

By Elspeth Rushbrook

Photo book

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Parallel Spirals sequel is now finished!

Yes, within the hour, I did my last save at the end of the document! It will be set and printed and given a final edit/polish before flying into the world. I don’t have a date for that and next year, I will publish my novel about the Titanic, The Jury In My Mind, to coincide with the 110th anniversary. So PS II may wait til after then.

There is going to be a third instalment of Parallel Spirals and some special extras, which I’ve also been working on

If you’ve not read my first novel yet, learn about it here:


Hint about 2nd book’s cover. It’s going to be gold

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Pinned post: open letters


See also Are you distressing and discriminating against disabled and diverse people?

An open letter to Christians about covid Updated

CEASE AND DESIST ORDER re masks on trains

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Julian Follow Up 2: Julian and Judy’s Margaret

Sorry for this being later than I said; I’m still journeying with Julian – she is not a quick read!


My picture: She is Our Clothing. An explanation is here

Instead of going through the book (which I’m having mixed feelings on… does Julian really speak to me?) I’d like to contrast Julian’s relations with God and those of Margaret – no, not St Margaret of Antioch, but Simons of New Jersey, the invention of Judy Blume, now receiving a screen outing after 53 years of being a popular book.

Both women are Western and young first person authors at an epiphany, but Julian’s understanding has matured greatly compared with the young fictional heroine. Margaret is like many of us – and not just pubescents. She does deals with God. She brings him egocentric lists of things she wants. She disbelieves in his existence if she doesn’t obtain those things when she wants them. She does speak honestly to God: she raves when a frenemy gets what she wants sooner (this is a period drama) and shows remorse when she has mean thoughts, and worse still, acts on them and enjoys it. Margaret thinks for herself and doesn’t fully fit the institutional mainstream world. Her parents are of different religions, and that cost Margaret’s mum her own family. Margaret is given the freedom to choose her own faith, and she swiftly observes the foibles of three denominations, including the one calling itself Holy Church – Julian’s alma mater.

I try to imagine Julian at school. She would have been very unusual. Her sheer intensity….and the things she asks God for: wounds and to co-suffer, visions and terrors. I am not judging Julian at all (nor you, if you’re reading this and feeling kindred). In a way, I can feel kindred to a soul clearly not going to meld with the conventional world, and so she willingly leaves it. I’d wondered at how she could bear to take vows and be walled up for life. It seems that being an anchoress (recluse) actually suits Julian, who might have been among those – and my readers may be others – who feel that they don’t have a place or know how to function in the warped world around them with such narrow choices for them. People have speculated that Julian was a wife and mother before entering that cell; I wonder how she felt about those roles. I’m not saying that she was bad at them, nor that other worldly people can’t be great parents. I rather like Margaret’s mum Barbara, as portrayed by Rachel McAdams. I felt a little Julian in her. She followed her heart not the exclusive evangelical way of her parents and married a Jew. She struggles with a loving but controlling mother in law (whose loneliness I felt great compassion for) and her new suburban neighbours who wish to impose on this keen, artistic unconventional soul. She’s not naturally part of the mothers’ circles around her, though she keenly tries to be.

Where would Julian be if she were alive today? Where would a Barbara Simon have been circa 1400? I wonder if some unusual deep thinkers would have chosen a cloister or closet – and still do.

I think I’m starting to part a bit with Julian – is this a reason that, despite living in her city for some years and often hearing of her, that I’ve not bought her book until now? Her God still seems sort of egotistical – wanting glory and to impose a will, and to enjoy suffering to prove his love. Radical for her time and in some ways, ours….but I think that many have moved to a different position already, and Julian’s gore and fiend fest don’t draw me so much. I will reiterate that the fiends are overcome.

(I wonder if Julian would be interesting to compare with Edwina Gateley…)

I’m doing a couple more Julian deeds… if they inspire me to think anew, I’ll let you know

I’m also going to explore her famed visitor and fellow writer – Margery Kempe.

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A Pilgrimage for Violet Jessop on her anniversary

Elspeth's Naughty guides

I’ve been journeying with Titanic triple survivor Violet for some years; she helped inspire my last novel, which is dedicated to her; and I passed the home to which she retired many times whilst writing it. She is buried in another village close to Bury St Edmunds, on the other side of that town. Hartest is a lovely place although not usually in tourist brochures. On the 52nd anniversary of Violet’s passing, I took a pilgrimage to Hartest.

I thought I would explain how to get there and what to do for any others wishing to make the trip

Violet’s fomer home in Great Ashfield is a private house, although it bears a plaque. Because it’s not a public place, I won’t help you find that but I will warn that Great Ashfield is quite minor and only has a church (often open) and village hall; unlike her cottage, which…

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O Death, Rock Me Asleep – Maundy Thursday Watchnight

Easter 2023

Thursday 6th April 9.30pm


Welcome to Between The Stools Maundy Thursday watchnight with Jesus and Anne Boleyn, the prism through whom we’ll be seeing the Easter story this year. There won’t be many words but there will be a little music.

We’re following a history theme this year and have spent Lent with the wives of Henry VIII. I saved Anne B until last. There is a parallel between Jesus and Anne’s swiftly organised arrests, sham trials and deaths – along with others. And the others matter too. We don’t know the men with Jesus’ names but Anne died with her brother George, Francis Weston, Mark Smeaton, William Brereton and Henry Norris.

Those in precarious power abuse it against those who bring a new order which threatens theirs – not by military might, but words. I am not saying that Anne is Jesus (I did wonder about who else’s spirit she embodies), but she and several others we have or will speak of can also be included in our watchnight… Mary Stuart, Jane Grey, Katherine Howard, Elizabeth Barton The Nun of Kent, and our Magdalene Sunday lady. This isn’t about depressing ourselves or dwelling on horror. I actually wish to speak against that, and the vlogger who criticised a television channel for not showing a gory execution. What value is there in wallowing in such details and making the cast and crew re-enact it, and us as viewers enter their energy?

Tonight, I want us to be like Job’s comforters – at the start of that book we explored in January – just sitting quietly and being with one who is suffering and faces great trials. I want us to hold hands with, pray with, presence with. I’m not asking you to go over the details of what will happen to Anne and Jesus tomorrow. I am asking you to think on their lives, and where tomorrow’s act will send them (Heaven), and what became of their story after that. We will take that up in Sunday’s sermon.

I also want us to sit with those who are suffering, afraid, and face the end of their lives. That could be you. Do reach out to me if that’s the case (to betweenthestools@hotmail.co.uk). Let us reach out – and energy knows no bounds – and hold those, pray with them, to take away fear and discomfort.

After our long silence, with short snatches of music, I will play you a full song, then have a few more words to comfort and send us out in hope

I felt Jesus, Anne and the others say: sit with us because we’d like to sit with you so you feel the loving presence of God and those that have gone before


This song is by Katy Rose; she’s set to music Anne Boleyn’s final poem which she wrote on the eve of her death. I will speak again after briefly

O Death Rock Me Asleep (you heard flashes of the Tudor style music, seemingly anonymous (or by Jordan), published in 1611, transcribed Arnold Dolmetsch in 1898, performed by Rosemary Standley & Helstroffer’s Band, Lumina Vocal Emsemble, Anna Dennis & Voices of Music….note this version misses out several verses below.)

O Death, rock me asleep,
Bring me to quiet rest,
Let pass my weary guiltless ghost
Out of my careful breast.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

My pains who can express?
Alas, they are so strong;
My dolour will not suffer strength
My life for to prolong.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

Alone in prison strong
I wait my destiny.
Woe worth this cruel hap that I
Should taste this misery!
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

Farewell, my pleasures past,
Welcome, my present pain!
I feel my torments so increase
That life cannot remain.
Cease now, thou passing bell;
Rung is my doleful knell;
For the sound my death doth tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy

For now I die, I die, I die. attributed to Queen Anne Boleyn d. 19th May 1536

That poem and song ends rather starkly…‘there is no remedy’. I believe there is – he came 1500 years before Anne. I think that rather than forgetting or renouncing her faith – and for that reason I query if this poem is really Anne’s – she laments that, like Jesus, this is her chosen exit strategy. She knows that won’t change, and she may have had honest human feelings about that, as he did. This was her ‘take the cup from me’ moment. But not taking the cup away was an important part of history playing out – not submitting to unstoppable fate or an ogrous potentate’s will…but choosing a life path, focussing on a spiritual perspective. Jesus and Anne knew with Mary, Katherine, Jane and Elizabeth that their end was their beginning.

What happened to them may not happen to you: we are in new times now

We we be thinking about that on Sunday evening, 8pm my time (BST)

Thank you for joining me and I hope to see you again

Please email me by the end of tomorrow if you’d like to come live

Note in the coming music the rise and change to major key in the final chords


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LENT 6: 30/3/23 – Falcon

My weekly Lenten reflections will be on a wife of Henry VIII each week – although not in order

These seek to not retell their stories, but to look at them with a spiritual eye

An illegal book is being held up and thrust at you. It’s yours. What do you do?

Last week’s queen was an author of controversial books. This one wasn’t penned by Anne Boleyn, but contemporary William Tyndale, exiled in Antwerp, where he was put to death the same year as her.

Four hundred and seventy years later, a woman sits in a staffroom, reading. She wafts colleagues who wish to interact away: she is not here, but in 1533…and now even more pressingly,1536! Drawn by the deep purple and gold dress on the cover, awakening nascent historic interest, I spent an intense summer with Anne whom I hitherto knew only in name. Philippa Gregory and Retha Warnicke made me wish for Anne’s end, but Vercors made me want to put flowers on her grave. It is with that French cartoonist’s view – joined by English academic Eric Ives, novelist Jean Plaidy, and historian Joanna Denny – that I have stayed…perhaps until now.

I have saved who I consider the most interesting wife until last; it through Anne Boleyn that we will view Easter this year. Instinctively I knew that the biting prose which first introduced me to Anne was not the truth and that another story was bursting to be known. I found not the ‘strumpet’ who threatened a marriage, a nation and her daughter’s right to reign through her own selfish ambition, but the champion of all the things which I admired, deliberately vilified in the time-honoured way for unusual women who threaten an ungodly fearful status quo: whore and witch.

What I would like to look at today is that book of hers, the reading of which risked her life and that can be argued to have caused the reformation – as it can of Anne herself. Because Anne’s faith is so often missing from books and films, it is only in recent weeks that – despite writing a postgraduate dissertation on her popular depictions – I have started to realise the content of that book and its significance. Since that dissertation, I have learned new things about the reformation and the church of England. So do I still feel the same about the woman who was catalyst and initiator of these? (p132 ch 6 of Denny)

Anne’s faith was – according to Denny and Ives – her driving force. She used her position with a king otherwise not very interested in reform or critical of Rome to effect the most radical change since the Catholic church’s formation. She and her family sponsored, smuggled, and pleaded for reformist works and people. Her reaction to being caught with Tyndale’s tract was to go to the king to ask for it back and share her new reading material with him, for she realised that this tome contained the answer not only to his Great Matter (ie divorce from Katherine of Aragon) but to a new England.

It was Netflix’s Blood, Sex and Royalty – one of a new breed of sexed up documentary with talking academic heads interspersed with graphic sex – that alerted me to this book’s message. I understood that the New Learning, a fascination with which Anne’s brother and father also shared, was about emancipation for the masses by being able to read the Bible yourself. Tyndale clearly advocates the Bible in one’s mother tongue and bats away the excuses of the clergy – that it’s too hard for ordinary people to understand and that biblical languages don’t easily translate into English. He states that Hebrew and Greek ‘agreeth’ far better with English than Latin, in which the Bible was hitherto. He also expects that heads of households instruct in God’s Word – but how can they if it’s not in their language and they can’t have a copy at home? (Henry conceded one in each church).

We’ll think more about the significance of being able to read and own the Bible in July.

The New Learning was also about standing away from the ‘Church’ teaching of salvation by works. Last week I asked: saved – from what?

My understanding is that ‘by works’ means: please the ‘Church’ and pay it to obtain God’s favour, pretending to conflate the two. It means that we have to work to please God and through that alone will we attain Glory and avoid Hell. (The Parable of the Labourers in Matt 20 and much of the New Testament epistles are evidence against that). Reformed theology rightly says: grace is not earned, it is a gift from God. Grace and salvation, for me, are not the same. Were they for Anne?

Last week I also showed my concern for our relationship with God being expressed in legal terms: that of justification, which Tyndale also advocates (that too is the language of the court).

Anne loved to debate theology and did so with those around her constantly. Would we still agree?

I agree that not being ‘saved’ by works doesn’t mean that it isn’t important what you do. Anne Boleyn cared about right action: in that 2022 Netflix documentary I believe Tracy Borman said that Anne introduced charity to the court; several writers state that she had concern for her subject’s wellbeing and high standards for the conduct of her ladies, as well demonstrating her own as refusing to go to the king’s bed until they were contracted to marry and Katherine put aside.

An aspect of action that Tyndale took on in The Obedience of the Christian Man (1528) is one’s relationship with so-called authority. Much of it is conventional, as his his rendering of the New Testament: I tested his translation on the verses prohibiting women teaching (such as 1 Tim 2:12) which came up last week. He endorses violence against one’s children in the name of correction; exhorts that servants obey masters, for they are God unto you (as are parents, and most worryingly, kings). Tyndale said If thou obey, though it be but carnally, either for fear, for vain glory, or profit, thy blessing shall be long life upon the earth’, thus that obedience for any reason will garner you God’s favour whereas the opposite will garner you the opposite. I am highly disturbed by that statement and heartily disagree. ‘Kings were ordained’ and ‘the sword put in their hands’, wrote Tyndale. He also said that kings are God’s vicars upon the Earth (ie stand ins) and may do as they wish. I dread to think how such sentiments fed Henry’s ego. Already believing that he had the divine right to rule and was puffed up with pride, Henry now had in writing – apparently backed up by well chosen theologians – that he should be the supreme authority in his nation. Tyndale attacks all kinds of clerics, including monks, whom he claims were ‘free and exempted from all service and obedience due unto mansave the pope. He calls men of the cloister marked by the Beast (haven’t many of us wondered if we witness that in our time?). How might that rather unqualified and nonsensical remark have fuelled hatred of the monasteries and their destruction? (We’ll meet some cloistered people this year).

From what I’ve read and understand, I don’t think that Tyndale was as radical an author as Robert Browne later in century, who questioned civic authority more generally. Anne too was questioning only one form – albeit a very powerful one – and one that made England part of an empire: Rome’s. But was she really about making an empire of our own, about seeding a nation state? Vercors thinks so, and he saw our courage to stand alone against Hitler as being rooted in Anne Boleyn. Would she have seen it as good to stand alone from Europe? Had she forseen something deeper when she steered this Sceptred Isle from the Mitred one? I am unsure what I think of the sceptre. I don’t support empires and am ashamed of Britain’s and how far reaching it was. If this is a conscious legacy of Anne’s, it is not something which I admire.

I have so much more to say on Anne: I’ll be saying some of it next Sunday, and have blogged about her previously. For now, I wish to state my disappointment that Blood Sex and Royalty, after having Anne and the glossy lipped professors debate theology and make a point of her having Tyndale, doesn’t end with her legacy as a theologian. Her brother tells her that she’ll change the world, but neither shows nor tells how. Once again, after the axe falls, so does the curtain: the story of Anne ends with the usual coda – a ginger toddler who will become known as Gloriana. Thus Anne’s contribution to England was her genes, not her courageous work in uncoupling from a continental-wide yoke of corruption and inequality. Her downfall is shown for not bearing sons and keeping the king’s favour, not because of the swift work of her enemies. Who and why is something we’ll take up again.

I wish to leave you for now in the final Lenten reflection of this year with Anne Boleyn, not on a scaffold or in a prison (although we’ll sit with her the latter,with Jesus, next Thursday), not as a monogram hastily etched away and likenesses destroyed, but a woman who cared so much about the exciting new faith in Jesus that she was willing to spend ten years with one of the most dangerous rulers of all time to change hearts, minds, laws and history.

We’ll have Tudor themed Maundy Thursday and Easter online services, at 930pm and 8pm BST.

Both will be about 45 mins. The first will be quite and reflective. Both will feature music

Please email me, Elspeth, on betweenthestools@hotmail.co.uk if you’re interested in coming live by the end of Weds 5th as I will make decisions based on that

I shall also be performing a reading of my novella The Jury In My Mind for the 111th anniversary of the Titanic the following week. It will be online free to listen to (but not download) for a short time from weekend 14/15th April 2023

Note the change of date for June’s service to reflect an important anniversary

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LENT 5: 23/3/23 – Maiden

My weekly Lenten reflections will be on a wife of Henry VIII each week – although not in order

These seek to not retell their stories, but to look at them with a spiritual eye

How would you react if you found a warrant for your own arrest? This lady of the week put it back, but her voluble distress after reading it drew her husband to her. She did not reveal the source of her sobs.

Catherine Parr did not go to the Tower. Perhaps she had learned from Anne of Cleves and Jane Seymour how to at least appear docile and say what the king wanted to hear. Pretending that she did not mean to instruct her husband in faith, only seem to oppose him to draw out his great and superior learning was a very Neck Turns The Head strategy – and one that saved hers. When the warrant she’d no doubt dreaded was served, writhing Wriothesley come to arrest her was turned away by the king.

Catherine Parr’s warrant – which Henry had agreed to – was not for alleged adultery like the other two wives, nor witchcraft, but heresy. Heresy and witchcraft are not far apart – both are beliefs and practices not sanctioned by, and perceived as a threat to, the church and its authority. By authority, it really means the hegemony and solo privilege of that institution.

Catherine may not have begun married life as a heretic – to Henry that is – she was married 4 times. Some historians claim that she was conservatively Catholic when the ever rounder and more irascible king pulled her away from the one she loved – an ambitious man who would try to be de facto king himself, and suffer the fate that she avoided. My interest in Catherine isn’t the relationship that resumed after Henry’s death almost as quickly as his own new spouses. The epithet ‘survived’ – I am bored of that crude rhyme – isn’t just about Catherine 3 outliving Henry VIII – although not for long; it’s that the warrant was not executed. It’s what Catherine believed and was trying to achieve with her reluctant queenship that interests me.

Like next week’s queen and the lens through whom we will view Easter this year, Catherine saw herself as an Esther, alongside the man she called Moses, letting the people go from the oppressive yoke of a man titled P. Catherine felt directed to accept the king – not that it would have been easy to decline (hardly meaningful consent) – because she prayed and felt God reply that this role was divine service to England. Catherine had admired Henry (!) but thought he who had begun so positively in removing the grip of Rome from this country was slipping. Henry didn’t leave the Catholic form of Christianity, just the rule of Rome, which of course, he’d replaced with himself. His 1539 act reiterated Catholicism in all but papacy, creating all other belief as criminal.

I admire Catherine’s courage and the principle of using her queenship – a sacrifice and a risk for her – to further reform, and especially as a spiritual mission. I am not sure that I agree with the content of that mission. Catherine Parr, a published author of theology, is the darling of the conservative reformed modern Christian, such as Lutheran pastor Don Matzat. His synopsis of Henry’s reign is telling: Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard are guilty of adultery; Anne’s faith and mission are conspicuously absent: the break from Rome was because of Henry’s unassailable wish to marry her. Who actually did the reforming of this new independent national church isn’t stated but it’s implied that it was left to others…such as Henry’s final wife.

On discovery of Catherine’s last book, “Lamentations of a Sinner”, Don speaks in delighted terms of Catherine’s abasing herself to gain Christ, echoing Luther’s belief in self-accusation to come to a state of grace. The abasement was controversial for a queen – hence it was not published in Henry’s lifetime. It was an early spiritual autobiography of the new kind: where the author shows their journey from guilty to justified, from wicked to redeemed. It’s a genre which I grew up with.

I sympathise with spiritual epiphanies and honesty about one’s own journey but I reject the Worm Theology inherent in this work and Don’s glee in it. Why is finding God a see-saw of egoes? Why is accusing yourself of sin the first step in beginning a relationship with Jesus?

Catherine was concerned with the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone, as well as his teaching that all spiritual knowledge and authority comes from scripture alone. They were tenets which I was raised with, and kept with…until relatively recently.

Justification is a legal term – reformed theology, as with the apostle Paul’s, is peppered with it. But I do not agree with basing your understanding of God on the flawed and worldly precepts of a broken and ironic system of justice. It came from an ex-Pharisee early on in Christianity, who was still very influenced by the old religion – that of right practice and rules. Paul began developing radical thought away from traditional Judaism, seeing God’s grace as the means of justification. Crudely in my evangelical upbringing we were told this word meant that we are made ‘just as if we’d never sinned’. It is different to expunged, which means blot out (so a record of wrong is gone) but justify goes a step further: it is almost as if time is reversed and the sin wasn’t committed. Actually, legally today, justification is closer to its normal English usage (often legal terms aren’t): it means that an acceptable excuse is given which prevents the guilty party from being punished.

Theological sources tell me that justification is a once and for all rendering of Not Guilty, effected in Jesus’ death. So Jesus’s overcoming death says: we all did do a capital crime that offends God, but a declaration rather than explanation is made which removes from us, the offender, the liability for that offence, and makes us righteous? How very Job.

And what is this crime we all do that earns us the forever fiery pit in God’s eyes – the judge in a courtroom (these terms require courts) to which we are not invited to defend or explain ourselves? Is it the things we could have done different and need to put right? Does it cover the more grievous acts which we may commit? Or is it missing the mark and falling short, like a weak misshot arrow, of a target that can never be reached by humans? What is perfection? And who is an angry, jealous, vengeful god, behaving like Henry VIII, to hold us to a standard that he misses?

Or is our crime not keeping all the many rules in the Pentateuch?

The reformed understanding is and I think was that those lists of Leviticus no longer applied after Jesus. Protestants preach that they no longer need to keep The Law – just the Ten Commandments, and Jesus’ Double Commandment. Oh, and a few exhortations by Paul (these can vary over time and your exact denomination’s beliefs). One of those which hung around in Catherine’s day, and in my background, still may, is that of women not teaching men. Henry levelled this at Catherine. But as anyone who really knows the Bible can tell you – Catherine was likely one; her contemporary who we’ll meet in July was certainly another – Paul doesn’t exactly say that. I’ll give you a full exposition of what I think he does say in July.

I have started something big here that I’ll continue over the year. My issue with Catherine’s doctrine is not to downgrade faith and to have to work one’s way into Heaven and God’s favour, but that she relies on corrupt, patriarchal legalism for her tenet. It is not that church tradition and law is greater than the Bible, but that text is misused, and that God speaks to us with an inner knowing. I’ll say more about that on here, and in my next novel. I stand with Catherine against Rome, but not against the freedom for Catholics to express their faith, nor for an alternative political institution – especially one with the same hierarchy and tyranny at its heart.

Catherine’s radical friends included the fourth wife of someone in last Sunday’s sermon – Catherine Willoughby, who became Mrs Brandon, duchess of Suffolk, and Marguerite of Navarre who influenced next week and Easter’s subject. What these women believed and fought for, and whether we would or should now, we will continue to explore.

We’ll have Tudor themed Maundy Thursday and Easter online services, at 930pm and 8pm BST.

Both will be about 45 mins. The first will be quite and reflective. Both will feature music

Please email me, Elspeth, on betweenthestools@hotmail.co.uk if you’re interested in coming

I shall also be performing a reading of my novella The Jury In My Mind for the 111th anniversary of the Titanic the following week – stay tuned for more information

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