I don’t recall the first time I heard about Fair Trade. I have second-hand memories of dire instant coffee. Second-hand because I didn’t start drinking coffee till I was an undergraduate. By then the instant stuff had improved, though I’m committed to ground coffee these days.
It must be six months or more since I first heard that Oxford church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch was coming to Sheffield as a Prokhorov lecturer. I immediately emailed the colleague responsible to reserve a place at the masterclass. Though I doubt he recalls it, MacCulloch was approached as a possible examiner for my PhD thesis and I remain a little bit fanatical about his work on Reformations—so marvellously complex. It is therefore with real sadness that I find myself on the outside of that event.
Masterclass day is day 2 of UCU strikes. Pensions are the official issue, but there’s a wider anger afoot. Zero-hour teaching contracts, a culture of publish or perish, constant criticism from public figures who think they have an idea how we spend our summers.
All this comes as a project I’ve been curating for (coincidentally) at least 6 months felt like it was taking off. And with permission from an organising colleague, we had advertised MacCulloch’s evening lecture under that 500 Reformations umbrella. 500 Reformations had itself revealed to me an unexpected direction of collegiate interest in Luther. I found myself added into a collaborative bid to consider the great reformer’s philosophical legacy. The first event for that collaboration is also taking place on day 2 of the strikes.
As it happens I know through private networks that I’m far from the only person who queried the intention to go ahead with the scheduled events as planned. However, for some colleagues it is apparently less obvious that this kind of collaborative enterprise–whether masterclass or explorative meeting–is part of the labour our union has asked us to withdraw, part of the work the University finds valuable, part of what I’m–we’re–paid to get involved in. (Yes, I know there’s luxury in that.) I wish I were able to reconcile my priorities with such personal convenience, or that we were able to find a workable compromise—to postpone or cancel the planned events and perhaps do something informal, off-campus in their place.
Sadly, that kind of resolution looks increasingly unlikely. So I’ve ploughed my energies into a creative protest, one that harnesses a little of Luther’s language and hopefully achieves a level of provocative kindness.
To the picket line, good people… okay, sinners.
Yesterday evening, I went to the village of Bradbourne, to talk about ‘what the Reformation ever did for Bradbourne’ as part of the 500 Reformations project. It was my first visit to the village, and I’d like to go back: Apart from anything else, I arrived and left in the hours of darkness and have yet to see the wall painting which provided the local jumping off point to my talk. Also, my co-speaker and I had a warm reception from an audience of 38 people and a dog. That’s about a third of Bradbourne’s population.* It was a full house. Continue reading 500 Reformations of Bradbourne
Last month, the Church of England’s governing body, General Synod, met in York.* Alongside conversion therapy and rites of passage for transgender people, the agenda also included a change to rules on what clergy wear during services, including special occasions like weddings and funerals.
At present, all C of E clergy are legally required to wear traditional robes, a mode of dress little changed since the question of suitable clothing was debated in the mid-sixteenth century. The new ruling empowers brides, grooms and mourners to make a decision on the vicar’s dress.** The change is not immediate: as with other national laws, the Queen has to give her royal assent. Continue reading Choosing the vicar’s wedding dress
Twice in as many weeks, I’ve provided an expert voice to aid discussion on local radio. The first invitation was to talk about Martin Luther and “what he’d ever done for us”. The most recent, to discuss religious notions of evil and forgiveness following the death of an unrepentant serial killer. Continue reading Religion, evil and forgiveness: some thoughts off air
On Halloween, 1517, nearly 500 years ago, Luther posted up his debate text on the doors of the Wittenberg Castle Church. Was Luther’s text inflammatory? Composed in Latin, its direct capacity to inflame was limited to his literate peer group. Continue reading Watching Luther: a prequel to three public talks
After a gap in posts, this is a somewhat epic effort, following up on a “Language and Society” seminar with University of Sheffield History students this morning. Alongside an overarching interest in “reproducibility”, it contains:
- A description and tips for EEBO-TCP tools including the main Continue reading Tools for EEBO-TCP & the challenge of reproducibility
“Keeping printers busy and rich was a far more effective assurance of loyalty than any regime of censorship. [. . .] To understand the economy of print is not to turn one’s back on the world of ideas. It is a necessary prerequisite to understanding that world.” 1
As the past tense of that first sentence suggests, in this post I’m moving away from contemporary politics and back into the world of book history. Yet reading these words from the close of Pettegree’s “Legion of the Lost”, I found myself translating his remarks to the present. Continue reading Lost books and Archbishop Parker
For weeks I’ve been feeling an inarticulate kind of anger. No one cared to canvas in the former heartlands.
The current post is prompted specifically by the “anecdotal evidence” in Charles Pattie’s contribution to The Conversation. In the footnotes to what follows, you will find some additional information Sheffield’s demographic extremes. The main post provides direct anecdotal evidence from someone who works for the University of Sheffield (like Pattie), but lives on the city’s north eastern fringes.