Sunday, 8 July 2018

A Bronte Remembrance Sermon in Haworth

I never wrote a thing about my trip to Haworth during the first weekend of June 2018 although that doesn’t mean I didn’t think a great many things following the visit.  It was The Bronte Society’s annual summer festival, not to be confused with the bicentenary for Emily’s 200th birthday which is taking place at the end of July 2018.

Having returned to Scarborough and to my regular life, the one experience that stood out for me the most was the sermon at the Bronte remembrance service on the Saturday morning.  This remembrance service is an annual event but one I'd never before attended.

The vicar, Rev Peter Mullins, has been in post at the church only one year.  His can’t be an easy job managing the needs of the local parishioners and businesses alongside the Bronte inspired tourism bringing visitors into the church in their droves.  It turns out that managing the diverse needs of the community was the basis of his sermon.

He used the analogy of a university, saying that the top of Haworth Main Street was rather like a campus.  On site, you have the separate buildings of the Parsonage, the Sunday School building, the Church, graveyard, car park, cafes, tourist shops, Tourist Information and wait for it… the toilets. 
The toilets!  Cue groans from the congregation.  It seems Bradford Council are unwilling to manage the loos.  It was a shame to see that toilet issues in the area have persisted throughout the centuries.

He made the point that across this campus, there is no Vice Chancellor.  In managing all these separate buildings and the many diverse needs of the various people who appear in Haworth, it’s a hard job made worse by there being no Vice Chancellor.  He told a story of a young female Japanese tourist who had recently come into church weeping for Emily, overcome by emotion that she was standing on the burial site of the author of Wuthering Heights.

There’s no Vice Chancellor, he stated again.

Since a sermon isn’t a two-way dialogue, I suppressed my inner Hermione Grainger and kept my thoughts to myself.  You see I thought I had a good answer but we weren’t in class, we were in church.  To be fair, Rev Mullins’ had a better answer!

Rev Mullins stated that although arguments and disputes are often pointed out, there is a lot of cooperation that occurs within the Bronte campus as a matter of course and we should give credit to those who do all the getting along on a regular basis under trying circumstances and with competing needs.

The communal desire of people to get along, to make things happen, to do the right thing regardless of whose job it is, was evidence of the Holy Spirit working within us all.  The desire to work for the best outcome sprang from people’s good natures and their willingness to put personal differences aside.

It’s a great answer.  For anyone wondering what I was thinking, my answer would have been St Michael, the namesake of the Church in Haworth, St Michael and All Angels.  He’s not only the supreme Archangel and mighty protector but he’s in the company of ALL angels.  He's the ultimate leader, in fact you could say St Michael had always been the “campus leader.”

The timing was amusing, as only one day earlier my friend who does Angel Card readings had pulled out a card for me.  Guess whose name was on the card?  St Michael of course – it seemed significant that this big boy of the Archangel high ranks should appear with his mighty sword on the very day I was heading for Haworth.

Having gone back and read over my notes about what Archangel Michael stands for, I think there are rather a lot of strengths he brings to the people of Haworth, regardless of which century we choose to look at.

St Michael Statue, Maidan Square, Kiev, Ukraine

What can St Michael can offer the people of Haworth and those in positions of responsibility and decision making there?  I felt that the following words stood out: -

  • He brings the light of sun into our hearts, burning away all that is transient and unnecessary
  • He is a natural ally for those who hold a leadership role in life
  • He will help us to fight injustice and support us when we feel alone or overwhelmed by life
  • He will help us let go of anything we need to release, leaving only that which is pure and true to shine forth

I find these words are very strong, beautiful, comforting and protective.  I hope his strength and protection will guide all those people with a job to do in Haworth.


Rev Mullins also spoke of Patrick Bronte quoting a letter Patrick had written to a friend following the death of his wife Maria.  If only I had written notes or could find my copy of the order of service!  In the absence of those and instead relying on memory, the point Patrick was making was that there was no shame in feeling deep sadness and sorrow at losses, but that we should trust that God will see that we have "sufficient" to see us through.

I have thought a lot since about the notion of sufficiency since this sermon and I’ll finish off this blog with a quote by author Brene Brown from her book: “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” (which is a book title and a half isn’t it?)

“Sufficiency isn't two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn't a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn't an amount at all.  It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.”

May you always have – and be - sufficient.  And thank you to St Michael who I feel sure was watching over us all that weekend.

Here are some photos of the interior of St Michael and All Angels church, Haworth:

Rev Mullins pointed out their actual burial vault was located a
few feet away not under this pillar as stated (above)

Memorial plaque for the entire Bronte family including Anne who is buried in Scarborough
(the Old Church being St Mary's)

Aunt Branwell gets her own pillar mention and even her
own first name rather than being forever Aunt (above)

The Bronte Chapel, part of St Michael and All Angels church (above)

Last but not least from my small selection of photos is the 
whopping monument dedicated to the memory of 
William Weightman, assistant curate to Patrick Bronte 
and writer of Valentine's cards for the Bronte sisters.