There’s a Power in Love

A view from Chantry Hill on the Sussex Downs
A view from Chantry Hill on the Sussex Downs

On Saturday the people of Sussex sent their heartfelt congratulations and prayers to the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their wedding day.

The May blossom shone in the sunlight its brilliant white matched by Meghan’s dress against the uninterrupted deep blue skies across Sussex and Windsor.
Storrington, like so many villages across Sussex, was decorated with Union Jacks and bunting celebrating the marriage of HRH Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. The morning brought an additional cause for celebration as we learned that HM the Queen had made the wedding couple the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the first time the title has been used in some 175 years.

Over the centuries our nation’s history and identity has been bound up with our Royal family, our Church and our Landscape. Like the stories of our own families Britain’s recall both joys and sorrows.

The Revd. Rupert Toovey watching the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The Revd. Rupert Toovey watching the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex

We gathered with family and friends around our televisions to share in this hope filled moment in our national life and the life of the Commonwealth. The BBC was at its best.

The American Bishop the Most Reverend Michael Curry spoke eloquently and with passion to the ear of our hearts about the power of love and its ability to heal, to redeem and to undo the ills of our world.
He proclaimed “Oh there’s power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There is something right about it. And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source…Ultimately, the source of love is God himself.”

As this remarkable couple processed along the streets of Windsor in their open topped carriage accompanied by the cheers of the crowd I left home for a celebration of life and faith of a different kind.

In the Parish Church of St Mary’s, Storrington I joined with hundreds of others to witness, pray for and celebrate the Ordination of four new Church of England Priests: The Reverends Colin Cox, Stephen Mills, Harriet Neale-Stevens and Martha Weatherill. There was a powerful sense of love and the Holy Spirit as the Bishop of Horsham, The Right Reverend Mark Sowerby, prayed the Ordination prayer over each of them.

In the early evening I found myself walking with my family along the ancient paths of the Sussex Downs at the back of Storrington on Chantry Hill. As the Larks’ song filled the air I reflected upon what a beautiful day it had been – filled with love and blessing. The Downland landscape’s beauty has held my heart for as long as I can remember and it resonated with the day which had passed. Sussex blesses me with the qualities of rootedness and community which inform my life and prayer day by day.

Spring brings new life and new beginnings and so it is with confidence that I pray that our new Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be blessed by their life together, by God and our county.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

 

Royal Visit Celebrates Heritage and Community

HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent with Peter Thorogood, Roger Linton, and The Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper, opening the new King’s Garden at St Mary’s, Bramber

It is a bright early Summer afternoon as Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra of Kent opens the new King’s Garden in the company of the Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper, Peter Thorogood, Roger Linton and the volunteers at St Mary’s House and Gardens, Bramber. Heritage, hard work and community are affirmed and celebrated.

Peter Thorogood., MBE and Roger Linton., MBE, bought the house and gardens in 1984. Their passion for this wonderful place is infectious. They have created and gathered a community of people around the house and gardens. This team of volunteers have also offered their resources, time and talents to the repair, restoration and maintenance of this important house and garden.

Peter Thorogood has just celebrated his 90th birthday. I offer my congratulations on his birthday and work at St Mary’s. He responds self-effacingly noting the “hard work of the volunteers” and the camaraderie of all who have been involved in the house and gardens. These sentiments are echoed by Roger Linton who reflects upon how he gains such “pleasure from their pleasure”.

St Mary’s House and Gardens, Bramber

Whilst we await the arrival of the Princess I join the volunteers in the tea rooms. The great affection in which they hold Peter and Roger quickly becomes apparent. They clearly value the friendships and sense of community which underpins the work of St Mary’s.

HRH Princess Alexandra is shown around the house and gardens. She pauses in the Jubilee Garden to admire the Princess Alexandra of Kent roses and the Acer palmatum shindeshojo which has been planted to mark her visit.

A Boscobel Rose in The King’s Garden

The King’s Garden also shares a royal theme and has been designed by Roger Linton to commemorate Prince Charles, later Charles II’s escape through Bramber village to Brighton and then to Shoreham from where he would sail into exile in France. It is said that Charles eluded the Parliamentarian forces at both Houghton and Bramber by disguising himself as Colonel George Gunter’s servant and leading his horse. At the heart of The King’s Garden is a sapling oak whose lineage goes back to the famous Boscobel Oak in which Charles II hid after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

St Mary’s House and Gardens has a vital and continuing role in our community. Its story encompasses and tells the story of our county’s place in the history of our nation.

The vision, dedication, hard work and generosity of Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton has permanently written their names into the story and history of this grand old house and her gardens.

These generous custodians have always wanted to share St Mary’s with others and it is their intention that St Mary’s will remain accessible and at the heart of the local community for future generations.

St Mary’s House and Gardens, The Street, Bramber, BN44 3WE, are open to the public for the 2017 season. For further details of opening times, concerts and events visit www.stmarysbramber.co.uk or telephone 01903 816205.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Community and the Arts Celebrate the Queen’s Birthday

Andrew Bernardi plays the 1696 Stradivarius in the company of conductor, David Bevan, and choir © Graham Franks
Andrew Bernardi plays the 1696 Stradivarius in the company of conductor, David Bevan, and choir © Graham Franks

The 2016 Steyning Festival provided the perfect prelude to the remarkable celebrations of Her Majesty the Queen’s official 90th birthday last weekend.

The festival was the largest ever held in Steyning. It represented three years of hard work by a dedicated team of volunteers under the chairmanship of Christine Aubrey. This biannual event gathered leading authors, musicians and artists.

Steyning Festival Chairman, Christine Aubrey with supporters from the Festival and Steyning Parish Church © Graham Franks
Steyning Festival Chairman, Christine Aubrey with supporters from the Festival and Steyning Parish Church © Graham Franks

I asked Christine Aubrey what has been at the heart of her vision for the Steyning Festival. She replied “Bringing the community together – to provide something for everyone.” At moments of great celebration it is often the Arts which bring communities together.

Sara Bowers and the Steyning Bookshop once again ensured a remarkable literary line up.

The festival included Theatre Trails, walks on the Downs and the Art Trail. Star attractions included Craig Charles, Steve Knightley, Vince Cable, The Comedy Store Players, Frank Gardner, Alison Weir, Cressida Cowell and Steyning’s very own Julia Donaldson of Gruffalo fame!

My own contribution was to bring the Steyning and Shipley Arts Festivals together with Steyning Parish Church to put on a performance of one of the finest classical works ever written, Bach’s Mass in B Minor. The Bernardi Music Group and The Choir of Our Most Holy Redeemer St Thomas More were conducted by David Bevan. This work is one of the greatest pieces of music in the Baroque canon. It was an exceptional performance which was both reflective and alive with great vigour and energy. It blessed the sell-out audience. It really was a fitting celebration of the Christian feast of Corpus Christi which marks the Institution of Holy Communion.

The Rt Revd. Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham and the Revd. Rupert Toovey celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday with Steyning’s community
The Rt Revd. Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham and the Revd. Rupert Toovey celebrating Her Majesty the Queen’s 90th birthday with Steyning’s community

Steyning Parish Church is at the heart of its community and this was reflected in the generosity of those attending concerts and events throughout the festival with some £2000 donated towards the tower restoration fund through retiring collections. Estimates for the urgent restoration are upwards of £150,000 and all contributions are most welcome.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th Birthday was celebrated with a service of thanksgiving at Steyning Parish Church, led by the Revd. Fr. Neil Roberts. The Rt Revd. Mark Sowerby, the Bishop of Horsham, reflected on the role of the arts in bringing our community together and the richness with which they bless our lives. He spoke movingly of the Queen’s contribution to our nation’s life and identity.

After the service Steyning’s community gathered outside the church and the Festival Big Top, on St Cuthman’s field, to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday with music and picnics.

I was interested to know what the highlight of the 2016 Steyning Festival was for Christine Aubrey. She smiled and exclaimed “The pleasure of watching everybody enjoying themselves!” This generosity of spirit has been evident throughout this wonderful event and Christine Aubrey and her team of volunteers are deserving of our thanks and congratulations!

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Her Majesty The Queen at 90

A Dorothy Wilding photographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and a Royal Worcester brown cast bronze Silver Jubilee figure of Her Majesty
A Dorothy Wilding photographic portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and a Royal Worcester brown cast bronze Silver Jubilee figure of Her Majesty

This weekend the nation will come together to mark Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s official 90th birthday.

A Victorian giltwood open armchair of Neoclassical Louis XVI design, covered in Royal Windsor tapestry
A Victorian giltwood open armchair of Neoclassical Louis XVI design, covered in Royal Windsor tapestry

Up and down the land people will be engaged in street parties and watch events unfold on their televisions. The weekend celebrations begin on Friday 10th June with a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral. A fitting start as the Queen’s Christian faith has been one of the cornerstones of her life and reign and is central to her sense of calling to the position of monarch. It has given life to the qualities of service, respect and duty with which she has blessed us all. Our monarchs have often inspired our nation’s tastes through their patronage as well as their reigns. The first official photographs of HM Elizabeth II were taken on the 26th February 1952, just twenty days after her accession, by the English society photographer, Dorothy Wilding. Wilding’s photographs are striking in their simplicity. She often employed a plain white background, as in her portrait of the young monarch shown here. The backdrop ensures that our attention is entirely focused on the sitter. There is a timeless quality to the patinated, cast bronze figure of HM Queen Elizabeth II. It was modelled by Ronald van Ruyckevelt for Royal Worcester to commemorate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

An Edwardian satinwood display cabinet-on-stand, probably housed originally at Sandringham
An Edwardian satinwood display cabinet-on-stand, probably housed originally at Sandringham

The Edwardian satinwood display cabinet-on-stand is an example of Royal patronage. It was manufactured by Queen Alexandra’s Carving School and was probably originally housed at Sandringham. It is marked with a manufacturer’s stamp and inscribed ‘From Sandringham’ to the inside of one of the doors. An accompanying letter from the Estate Office at Sandringham, confirms that the impressed mark on the drawer indicates that it was ‘constructed by pupils at Queen Alexandra’s Carving School’. The Victorian giltwood open armchair of Neoclassical Louis XVI design is covered in Royal Windsor tapestry. It was given as a wedding present to Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, Queen Victoria’s youngest son, and his bride, Princess Helen of Waldeck and Pyrmont. They were married at Windsor on 27th April 1882 and lived at Claremont near Esher, where the Duchess of Albany died in 1922. These wonderful objects form part of an eclectic single-owner collection to be auctioned at Toovey’s Washington salerooms on Tuesday 14th June 2016. They reflect the notable passion for British Royalty of a very private gentleman collector. The array of royal related pieces date from Tudor times to the present day. Information on the sale is available at www.tooveys.com. Our fascination with these objects reflects a love and gratitude for our Royal family and especially HM Queen Elizabeth II. In a recent interview with the BBC royal correspondent, Nicholas Witchell, Prince William spoke for many of us when he said: “The Queen’s duty and her service, her tolerance, her commitment to others – I think that’s all been incredibly important to me and it’s been a real guiding example of just what a good monarch could be.” We wish Her Majesty a very happy birthday, giving thanks for her continuing Christian life and example to us all. May God continue to bless her and her family.

By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.

Tolerance and Fairness at the Heart of a Nation

An engraving of Queen Elizabeth I by Crispijn van de Passe I, published in 1592

There has been much debate around national identity in relation to the forthcoming vote this week on whether Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom. The undisputed qualities of the Scottish people and their contribution to our nation’s history have rightly been celebrated. Nations, like families and communities, are bound together by the telling of these shared stories – a common narrative of joy and sorrow.

These debates have caused me to consider what the English bring to our nation. For me, one of our major contributions is the way in which the story of our island’s life, history and Christian faith is articulated and marked by the Church of England in each generation. It is from the Church that the qualities of tolerance and fairness come, qualities which shape our national character.

Richard Hooker’s ‘Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie’, printed in 1666

I am proud that tolerance and fairness are still to be found at the heart of our nation. These qualities were seeded, though not perfected, during the reign of Elizabeth I (1533-1603). There had been much conflict and bloodshed after Henry VIII’s break with Rome, as Roman Catholics and Protestants each sought to establish their authority and particular understandings of the Christian faith in England. Elizabeth I came to the throne in 1558. Her first aim was to return England to the Protestant faith. What she and her advisors created was a church which was, and remains, both Catholic and Reformed.

The Act of Supremacy of 1558 established Elizabeth as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. In the same year the Act of Uniformity was passed by a narrow majority in Parliament. It required the population to attend an Anglican church each Sunday. In addition, it specified that a new version of the Book of Common Prayer be used.

The Holy Bible published in London in 1619. The binding is embroidered satin

After Parliament had been dismissed, a series of Royal Injunctions were courageously passed by Elizabeth I in 1559. The result of this was that the wording of the liturgy for Holy Communion remained open to a variety of interpretations. This allowed Christians holding differing understandings of the nature of the consecrated bread and wine to receive this sacrament with integrity in the privacy of their own hearts. Elizabeth famously declared that she did not wish to ‘make windows into men’s souls’ on the basis that ‘there is only one Jesus Christ and all the rest is a dispute over trifles’. The Royal Injunctions ensured much continuity with the practices of the Roman Catholic past. These included requirements that ministers wear vestments and use wafers in the place of baker’s bread.

A photograph of Queen Elizabeth II by Sir Cecil Beaton

It was the famous Anglican theologian Richard Hooker (1554-1600), in ‘Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie’, who emphasised the importance of reason, tolerance and the value of tradition, which are at the heart of the English nation and her Church.

What this means in practice is that our common narrative, our tradition, allows us to be confident of who we are. Reason allows for open-minded and open-hearted questioning and for difference of opinion. Together the two afford us tolerance and we can celebrate diversity and difference in a spirit of love and understanding, rather than fear and ignorance.

These qualities have blessed our nation and our Church. It is my prayer that we will allow these qualities to be central to our continued, shared national story. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II still holds the title ‘Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England’, fitting as we live in a nation which aspires to tolerance and fairness in this second great Elizabethan age.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 17th September 2014 in the West Sussex Gazette.