The church has an Early English tower. The Chancel was restored by Charles Kirk in the 1880s. The church is a Grade I listed building. Whall’s two- light window in the South Aisle West celebrates the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s rule. The left hand light shows a mother with two children and the right hand light shows a child sitting on Christ’s lap. Inscription in left hand light reads “Suffer the little children to come unto me” and that in the right hand light reads “For such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” At the foot of the left hand light is a crown and the date 1837, and at the foot of the right hand light is V.R.I. and the date 1897. (List of works by Christopher Whall)
Many moons ago when I was rethinking my Christian roots, I was guided to read a new passage from a prayer-book every time I entered a church. I was a big fan of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction at the time and so one day went into the local church to see if I could find the quote which Samuel L Jackson’s character, Jules, claims was from Ezekiel 25:17:
“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
I found out soon after that in actual fact, Ezekiel 25:17 doesn’t say this at all. Tarantino had liberally exposed Ezekiel to the Genesis story of Cain and Abel which he then finished it off with an infusion of the spirit of Psalm 23. It was quite a marriage of different texts used to justify vengeance and acts of great violence throughout the film.
Whilst I was disappointed back then to find the text was a figment of a screen writer’s and not a scripture writer’s imagination, I was reminded of Tarantino’s stories a few days after Brexit’s Article 50 trigger had been pulled, and when I visited St Mary’s Church in Marston to view the Christopher Whall window which commemorated the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was a lively affair full of exhortations of national pride and future empire building. Chamberlain suggested the Diamond Jubilee should be seen as a “Festival of the British Empire” and communities across the country decorated streets with arches, flags and bunting and the usual Jubilee paraphernalia. Children received Jubilee mugs; elderly women were given tea and elderly men were given tobacco. Clearly they’d not heard of Health and Safety in those days. In Marston, the Christopher Whall window was installed in the west window in the south aisle to commemorate the event.
“The streets, the windows, the roofs of the houses, were one mass of beaming faces, and the cheers never ceased,” Queen Vic wrote in her journal the day after her anniversary (presumably about the street parties, not about the installation of the window). Later that night Victoria sat next to Archduke Franz Ferdinand at a state banquet in Buckingham Palace. His subsequent assassination in 1914 led, as we know, to the start of World War I.
Perhaps had they had the benefit of a Tarantino mixed up biblical script we wouldn’t be sat where we are today. He could have added a recipe to the Barkston Village Recipe Book which instead of calling for vengeance, could have made a powerful call to action for wisdom in times of nationalistic fervour and difficult international relations. He might have fused elements of Chapter IX of the Wisdom of Solomon – the bible reading on the lectern from last week’s service or the preparation for next week’s:
God of my ancestors, merciful Lord, by your word you created everything. By your Wisdom you made us humans to rule all creation, to govern the world with holiness and righteousness, to administer justice with integrity. Give me the Wisdom that sits beside your throne…
with something from Matthew from the New Testament:
I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven…
Unfortunately, as far as I know, Tarantino hasn’t yet visited Marston, but when he does, I’m sure he’ll be given a warm welcome, especially if he can shed some guiding light on the fictions we’re all facing in these Brexit fuelled, anxious times.