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Freddy Temple: A PORTRAIT by Christopher Dobb

January 23, 2018

FTAPI only encountered this man once when I had recently moved into the diocese and attended a confirmation service, during which the bishop lit a match and dropped it from the pulpit. Like all sermon gimmicks and anecdotes, one rarely remembers what it sought to illustrate. (The author of the book makes much of Freddy’s almost invariably speaking without notes. He would climb into the pulpit, gaze in silence round his waiting congregation, and proceed to give them, eyeball to eyeball, six or seven minutes of memorable teaching.)

I had thought of Temple as the high church sand ‘simple’ bishop; a foil to the learned and low church diocesan. This was not true since he was well-educated.

I didn’t know that he was a pacifist. Or how he loved TV soaps.

He had two Archbishops of Canterbury (grandfather and uncle) hovering in the recent past, the widow of his Uncle William intruding again and again into his life — and, more annoyingly, into that of his patient wife Joan.

Their six-year-old son, Michael, while Freddy was the young Dean of Hong Kong.

The book gives us a full picture of Freddy’s background, his education, his curacies, and his incumbencies (including that influential period in the Far East), all culminating in the watershed of St Mary’s, Portsea; and then of his 30 years as archdeacon and suffragan bishop in the same part of north Wiltshire in which he retired and died.

He was heavily involved in ecumenism and in industrial chaplaincy – two issues that the current diocese takes little interest on.

I especially warmed to this book when it started to deal with my diocese and with people that I have known.

Letters are quoted in full, which makes this an over-indulgent book. The letters about pacifism and to his son at pubic school were boring. A little, judicious editing wouldn’t have gone amiss.

(Frederick Stephen (Freddy) Temple was born in Patna, India, the son of Colonel Frederick C Temple an Indian Government Engineer and Grandson of Archbishop Frederick Temple. He was educated at Rugby and Balliol in the family tradition and then spent the war years in the Friends Ambulance Service before returning to Trinity Hall Cambridge after hostilities to prepare for Holy Orders. Working as Curate and then Rector in small Nottinghamshire and Manchester parishes, he was appointed Dean of Hong Kong cathedral in 1953. Whilst there, he met Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher who invited him in 1959 to return to England and take up the post of Chaplain at Lambeth and to assist in winding up his affairs before retirement. Freddy did have the opportunity of accompanying the Archbishop on his historic pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Istanbul and Rome, where the Archbishop was the first English Primate to meet the Pope since the reformation. Appointed Vicar of Portsea in 1961, he threw immersed himself in the work of this busy and diverse community until Bishop Tomkins offered him the Archdeaconry of Swindon in 1970. He remained there when raised to the Bishopric of Malmesbury and until his retirement in 1983, although he remained an Honorary Assistant Bishop to the diocese. Later Freddy’s health gradually failed and he died in a nursing home at Purton, Wiltshire on November 26th 2000.)

The author, who was known as Father Chris, served in Swindon for about 18 years before retiring as the vicar of St Augustine’s Church and he died in 2012.


In yet another letter, written a fortnight later, Freddy wrote, again to Frank West:

The extreme Evangelical wing in the diocese is causing us concern; one or two of our younger clergy have been quite, quite silly in what they’ve written in their par­ish magazines and in what they have said at meetings . They seem to think that they have everything `sewn up.’ What John and I find most disturbing is an anti-homo­sexual lobby emanating from them. Little do they know that the best pastoral con­cern and care can come from some, though necessarily not all, of these priests. In my naughty moments, I can’t but help agreeing with Katherine Whitehorn, who wrote recently in the Observer, ‘Why do born-again people so often make you wish they’d never been born the first time?’

And again, a while later:

Questions of sexuality have again reared their ugly heads recently. People make such absurd assumptions about homosexual priests – eg they’re not ‘safe’ with boys in the Youth Fellowship or whatever. Maybe this IS true in a minority of cases, but it’s just as fatuous to say to say that a heterosexual priest places girls in danger in similar circumstances. I’m sure that many of the great slum priests of the last cen­tury were homosexual by inclination. Just as I’m equally sure that they’d be the very last people to abuse their position of trust. And the same goes for today. When, I wonder, will the Church get this whole question right? Or are we fright­ened of losing the money of the faithful? If that’s the case, then God will eventually call us to account.

 Monica Furlong: `At this particular time there is perhaps a strong temptation among some mem­bers of the clergy to adopt a social worker act, to take refuge behind one of the com­forting and reassuring masks which others in the helping professions are lucky enough to be able to wear. At least these roles are something which the world can understand.

I am clear what I want of the clergy. I want them to be people who can by their own happiness and contentment challenge my ideas about status, about success, about money, and so teach me to live independently of such drugs. I want them to be people who can dare, as I do not dare, and as few of my contemporaries dare, to refuse to work flat out ( since work is an even more subtle drug than status) , to refuse to compete with me in strenuousness. I want them to be people who are se­cure enough in the value of what they are doing to have time to read, to sit and think, and face the emptiness and possible depression which often attack people when they do not keep the surface of their mind occupied. I want them to be people who have faced this kind of loneliness and discovered how fruitful it is, as I want them to be people who have faced the problem of prayer. I want them to be people who can sit still without feeling guilty, and from whom I can learn some tranquillity in a society which has almost lost the art.’

 Easter Day 1955

`And they said nothing to anyone; for they were afraid.’ So ends the earliest his­torical account we have in the Gospels of the Resurrection; St. Mark’s Gospel originally ended there, with the women running away frightened by what they had seen of the empty tomb and the young man inside in white. ‘They said noth­ing; for they were afraid.’ It has been well said that this text should be up in every parson’s study as a warning against glibspeaking on the great themes of God. And here in the Resurrection we touch God’s power and majesty at its greatest; this conquest of death, the inevitable crisis facing each one of us. It is no wonder that the women were afraid; there is in the Easter story a great and deep joy and strength, but only for those who have had their own complacency and self-suffi­ciency shaken to the utmost.. There must be no fitting in of the Easter story to the mental furniture of this world; it belongs solely to God and the next, to show us that we belong in the end there as well.

It is a great pity in a way that Easter comes in the spring, as so often the Resur‑

rection is whittled down to the re-birth of nature in spring, which is then going to die again in the autumn. Christ rose to die no more – Christ who claimed to be God, whom the respectable people in the world has killed because they were una­ble to fit him in with their small scheme of life without his disturbing it too much and too radically.

Pilate represented the good government of Rome; a good government indeed –

such a good Public Works department with its roads and buildings, up-to-date sanitation for the time; such an excellent record of peace through its army and police. But the good men responsible for government at the time could not bother with him; administrators must be practical and have little time for abstract moral and theological ideas. ‘What is Truth?’, they ask – and seldom stay for an answer.

The religious leaders of the time could not fit him into their rigid scheme of

ethics and worship; his trust in man’s freedom seemed too dangerous to them and his claims were too big; it was sad, but one man must die for the people. The cul­tural leaders in the Sadducees did not want him disturbing their plan of quiet ab­sorption of all that was best in Greek and Roman thought by the Jews; he threatened to disturb their educational programme. And the common people, who had hoped that he would give them what they wanted, had cheered loudly on Sunday and turned to curses and shouting on Friday; and his close friends, his friends who had been with him for three whole years, were shattered and fled. No wonder the women were afraid when they found that he had not been conquered by death; he had been victorious. All his claims were true; where would they all stand with him now? They who had all failed him so badly.

It is surprising how often the word ‘fear’ comes in the New Testament; it is a sal­utary corrective to the charming, polite Public School picture of a Jesus just teaching good manners and ethics. ‘Fear not’, say the angels right at the start, when first God’s power bursts in a new way into the world. The man called Legion is healed and the keepers of swine nearby are so panic-struck that their fear is con­veyed to the swine, who rush down the slope and are drowned. So the neighbours, coming out to see the man now sober, are frightened by this sign of God’s power and ask Jesus to leave. Jesus comes across the stormy seas of life to his disciples, walking on the water – and they cry out with fear. Peter, James and John seem him transfigured on the mountain as he sees what God’s purpose for him is – and the glory of his radiance frightens them. He tells them that the Son of Man must suf­fer – and they were afraid to ask him what he meant. He strides up to Jerusalem in front of them, and they follow behind – afraid. Those are a few of many examples; and all through we find Jesus saying, ‘Be not afraid; fear not.’ His coming brought with it fear, for it shook men’s small and shallow security – the security of paddling on the shore. He told them to be real men and launch out into the deep.

The opposite of faith is not a mental agnosticism, but fear in all its forms; fear of insecurity, fear of being discovered for what one really is, fear of sickness; fear of death. And God came in Christ to win us from those fears, to trust and surrender to him. In Christ he was ready to go to any length to’o that, and on Easter Day God vindicated his power and his goodness and his love. But, at first, to fright­ened disciples who had not been able before to trust in him when they saw him giving himself up; when they could not believe that God could still win. To fright­ened disciples, then, God’s power must have seemed overwhelming; they could not believe that his forgiveness could still have them back. And so he moves amongst them saying, ‘Fear not: peace be with you’ – a peace which comes when you know you have enough resources for the tasks in hand. We have peace of mind when we know we have enough behind us for the jobs we have to; we only panic when we feel unprepared and uncertain what may come. Christ comes at Easter with such assurances; but he only comes to those who have been shaken to the utmost; to those who have realised to the full that they have failed. He did not appear to any but his frightened and scattered disciples: it would be no use for him to come to those who had not been shaken – as they still believed they could man­age on their own, and so were in no position to accept what he could offer; they did not see their need. Only to those who knew their need could he come in the certain historical fact of Easter, and say that God is always victorious in the end in his own way. Trust in him and you need have no fear; whatever the sin and suffer­ing in this world, it is already conquered; you have only the mopping up opera­tions to complete; trust and be at peace.

So he comes to us. But we cannot receive that assurance and that certainty unless we see how completely our own ideas and plans for our own salvation, and the world’s, have failed., until we know what the fear of the Lord is – what it means to face the power and glory of God. Until we have known that, we cannot know the peace of God. But when we do, we can come just as those first disciples did and humbly confess our failure and desertion; and then be sent out with all the power of his resurrection, full of peace and confidence to live and work as he did. He came unto his own; and his own received him not; but as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God. The right to become children          He will not be of God on the same terms as did; through facing the reality of the world, not avoiding it.

 But he did not reject the need for bread in its right place. In his model prayer it comes after the petitions of God’s Kingdom and the hallowing of his name; only then can the need for material things take its right and proper place. And the model he gives is, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ Give us each day our daily needs; needs, not luxuries; we are not to pray for extras, for luxuries. And it is ‘dai­ly’, not monthly or yearly; we are not to ask for the certainty of this year’s daily needs but to be confident enough will come for each day. Too often we pray and live for the certainty of years of comfort and security.

Our daily needs have their place in God’s strategy but not our yearly comforts. When the five thousand are in the desert Christ is concerned to feed them. He can use the prudent generosity of the lad with five loaves and two small fishes, prudent because he had remembered to bring his lunch with him; if he had forgot­ten, God could not have fed those crowds. Generous, because he was not con­cerned about his own lunch but ready to give and share what he had. Christ the Workman delights in hard work and prudence, with a readiness to share when there is need. He takes the loaves and gives thanks, so certain that God can use that offering and then through his disciples feed the crowd – through his disciples, them up into the hills to be alone with God, to recover his balance and his poise. He will not be made king for that reason. He will never allow us to make Him King in our hearts if it is only in order that we have sufficient material things that we want him there. God is continually slipping through our grasp when we claim him for that reason alone.

And the next day he tries to teach them the right place of material things. ‘Ye seek me not because ye saw signs but because ye ate of the loaves.

food that perisheth but for the food which abideth unto eternal life which the Son of Man shall give you.’ To work for just material things is to work for something that dies and brings no satisfaction. But then Jesus adds that the living bread which he will give for the world is his flesh. At that, many of his disciples grumbled and murmured that it was a hard saying – and left him. He alienated many would-be followers by what he said. Why did he do it? Because he wanted to be sure that our devotion to him and worship of him should not just be vague and airy; a sentimental choosing of those bits of the gospel we like; a following of the nission, how to worship when we feel like it and where we like. We all know that type of person. Christian devotion was to be pinned down to a specific act of his and a                                  specific time, to be centred on his death for us, for you cannot eat flesh unless the person die. And there is nothing sentimental about death; it is hard and realistic and is the acme of self-sacrifice. We are to receive that type of living bread, the bread of complete self-sacrifice, taking into ourselves all the power of Christ’s life only given in his death and resurrection. Our worship must be centred in that definite act of self-giving. And so it is at the heart of the Communion service. There we offer up our material work in the bread, the symbol of our activity during the week, to have it broken by Christ, who is host at his own table – broken for two reason: first, it must be broken because it is not adequate or good enough unless purged of all self-complacency before Christ can use it as the means by which he comes back to us; secondly, it must be broken to be shared. We cannot keep it all intact. Then the broken and shared Christ can use it as his own instrument to come back to us as living bread, eternal bread.

 I want to tell you the true story about a boy, the only child in an unhappy home. He knew from an early age he was not wanted; he was bright and quick and real­ised this. So he started by being difficult; then he broke things, then he stole. He was testing to see if there was anyone who was ready to take any real interest in him. Then he became violent and finally he became dangerous and had to be put in a padded cell in a mental home.

At this hospital a young Christian doctor made a special study of his case and one day said to a friend of mine, ‘Of course the problem with Xis that we can never spend long enough with him. The doctors are all too busy and they always go in with someone else and leave the door open. That is no good; the boy is too quick not to spot that and he just becomes more violent. I have been in alone shutting the door behind me, but of course leaving it unlocked; but after a time I have al­ways got the wind up and edged behind a table or a chair nearer the door and then I know it is no good.’ That young doctor went on, ‘I am convinced that the only cure for that young man is for someone to go in unarmed and have the door locked behind him and to stay in there until the boy kills him without doing anything to resist. Then in the remorse and realisation that someone has really cared for him right to the end, his cure will begin; but of course there is no man you can ask to do that.’ No man; but it is just what we Christians believe God has done in the world.

You have only to open your newspaper any morning and read the headlines of troubles in the Congo, in Laos, of police hunts for murderers of young girls in Eng­land, to see that our world is very much like the cell of that young man, full of peo­ple who mistrust each other and don’t really believe anyone cares very much. Christians believe that God did not just send gifts to the world, or instructions, but came into the world through a door that was locked on the outside, the door of birth, and stayed just as long as man would have him. But man, then as now, was so full of mistrust, suspicion and fear that God was put to death and showed his love like that. But the story doesn’t end there. Christians also believe that three days later Jesus rose again; so God proved that nothing in the end defeats his love and care for us.

If only we could all get hold of that truth and live it out in the world. No matter how gloomy the news looks tomorrow morning in the papers, no matter how nas­ty and horrid you know in your heart you have been today to people round you, how fundamentally selfish and self-seeking we know we each are, or how horrid we think other folk have been to us, God cares completely for each one of us and enters the mad suspicious cell of our life; he has come to stay as long as we want him and even if by our actions and thoughts we try to kill him, nothing can con­quer his love ever and he is always ready for us to turn to him and live happily in his friendship under his guidance.

‘The other brief and supreme prayer was ‘Jesus, remember me’, uttered by the only person to call Our Lord by his first name throughout the Gospel, because only penitence creates real intimacy.

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