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Polari service staged by trainee priests was ‘hugely regrettable’

Polari service staged by trainee priests was ‘hugely regrettable’

The Rev Canon Chris Chivers, above, looks like a fella who enjoys a hearty laugh.

But the Principal of Westcott House, a Church of England theological college in Cambridge, did not see the funny side of a service conducted in the antiquated gay slang language Polari to mark LGBT history month.

According to the BBC, the congregation who attended the service in the chapel of Westcott House was told that the use of the Polari was an attempt to:

Queer the liturgy of evening prayer.

Instead of the traditional “Glory be to the father, and to the son, and the Holy Spirit” the prayer offered was:

Fabeness be to the Auntie, and to the Homie Chavvie, and to the Fantabulosa Fairy.

An outraged Chivers said the liturgy of the service had not been authorised for use.

I fully recognise that the contents of the service are at variance with the doctrine and teaching of the Church of England and that is hugely regrettable.

Inevitably for some members of the house this caused considerable upset and disquiet and I have spoken at length to those involved in organising the service.

I will be reviewing and tightening the internal mechanisms of the house to ensure this never happens again.

Polari is thought to have originated in Victorian London but fell out of use as homosexuality began to be decriminalised in England in the 1960s.

Its words, however, were brought to wider public attention in the same decade by comedian Kenneth Williams in the BBC radio series “Round the Horne”.

One person present at the service told BBC News it was led by an ordinand – a trainee priest – rather than a licensed minister. The congregation was also made up of trainees.

While they had been given permission to hold a service to commemorate LGBT history month, a Church of England source said the college chaplain had not seen the wording of the service.

The translation was based on the Polari Bible, a work compiled as a project in 2003 by the self-styled Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

The scripture and liturgy were printed on to an order of service.  An Old Testament reading from the Prophet Joel which says “rend your heart and not your garments, return to the Lord your God” was printed in Polari as

Rend your thumping chest and not your frocks – and turn unto the Duchess your Gloria: for she is bona and merciful.

Here’s a Bible reading in Polari read in the style of Kenneth Williams:

18 responses to “Polari service staged by trainee priests was ‘hugely regrettable’”

  1. barriejohn says:

    The Fantabulosa Fairy! That beats Dave Allen’s “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and into the hole ‘e goes”!

  2. Daz says:

    Speaking of Kenneth Williams, I ran across an archive of loads of 1970s episodes of Just A Minute the other day.

  3. barriejohn says:

    Kenneth Williams would have loved this.

    https://youtu.be/OZL4rTEWU5c

    I wonder whether Mary Whitehouse and family listened to Round the Horne? Practically the entire country did, including very straight-laced Christian friends of mine!

    (PS “Bona Law” was the best episode. “We’ve got a criminal practice that takes up most of our time” – in the days when homosexual sex was illegal.)

  4. Daz says:

    Barriejohn’s Dave Allen reference. ‘Cause any excuse to post this is a good excuse.

  5. andym says:

    “May your God go with you.” At the time, I don’t think I realised just what a subversive comment that was for the era.

    Like Dermot Morgan, Allen loathed the catholic church and particularly its stranglehold on Ireland.

  6. remigius says:

    “The Rev Canon Chris Chivers, above, looks like a fella who enjoys a hearty laugh.”

    He looks more like a fella who enjoys a hearty breakfast.

  7. sailor1031 says:

    Reminds me of the hippies who used to say “in the name of Daddy-o, the late JC and Spooky”

    As for Mary Whitehouse, where did she find all that filth on TV? I could never find any although I do remember one evening when prime time entertainment on BBC-TV was a riveting half hour on beekeeping followed by three (count ’em three) hours of championship snooker. As Peter Cooke said in “BTF” (yes I’m that old) – “not enough to keep the mind alive”.

  8. barriejohn says:

    Sailor: I’m old enough to remember “The Potter’s Wheel”!

    https://youtu.be/jUzGF401vLc

    “London to Brighton in Four Minutes” (the next video) WAS quite fascinating to a young lad, though. Funnily enough, snooker is one of the few sports that has ever interested me, as I thought that it resembled chess in many ways (is it even a sport?). However, do you remember the disastrous efforts to bring chess to the small screen, with Raymond Keene screaming: “He’s smashing down the left hand side of the board now!” (followed by several minutes of waffle while the players were deep in thought).

  9. remigius says:

    barriejohn. Chess is a sport, and it is often played in large stadiums to capacity crowds, as this headline attests.

    http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/sport/football/hull-city/fa-cup-warnock-predicts-a-tight-game-of-chess-at-wembley-1-6555597

  10. Stephen Mynett says:

    BJ: Pot Black was superb and although have forgotten the colours involved still remember the gist of the great line of commentary: “For those of you watching in black and white the blue ball is behind the green.”

    I am surprised they have not had another go at TV chess, especially as Blitz Chess is popular now, five minutes per person make for a very fast and easily broadcast game.

  11. barriejohn says:

    Remigius: “I resign.”

    S.Mynett: That sounds about as closely related to real chess as Twenty Twenty nonsense is to real cricket!

  12. Trevor Blake says:

    “Inevitably for some members of the house this caused considerable upset and disquiet and I have spoken at length to those involved in organising the service.”

    Some members of the house should stick to reading a more standard Bible. For instance, they can read Judges 11:29-39. Jepthah was so pleased with God’s assistance in killing a neighboring tribe that he promised to sacrifice the first living being that came through his door. His daughter walked in, and he burned her alive.

    Who could feel upset or disquiet reading that?

  13. barriejohn says:

    Trevor Blake: That story gave me nightmares as a boy, especially as we had a Bible containing a colour print of the distraught Jephthah meeting his daughter. It’s obvious what happened, but Christians (and some Jews) twist the text around (quelle surprise) to suggest that no sacrifice was actually made.

    http://thetorah.com/did-jephthah-actually-kill-his-daughter/

  14. sailor1031 says:

    @Barriejohn: being a canadian kid I missed all the early BBC programs unless they were sold to CBC. But there were in the 50s and 60s a number of homegrown programs (we didn’t get TV until the fifties) like RCMP, forest rangers and the like and of course “hockey night in canada”. My acquaintance with the BBC dates from the sixties when I was at an airbase in the midlands and the late nineties when I spent an enjoyable eighteen months in England on a project.

  15. barriejohn says:

    Sailor 1031: Small world – I did my teacher training in the sixties at Padgate (Warrington), which had been a Canadian air base in a previous life. We also only got a TV in the mid-fifties (my dad thought that it discouraged conversation and was bad for kids’ education, but my sister was about three by then and wanted to watch the children’s programmes, so she and Mum won the battle!). A lot of our televisual diet was American imports, like Bilko, The Dick Van Dyke Show (fond memories of Mary Tyler Moore), Joan Davis (I Married Joan), “miserly” Jack Benny (greatest stand-up comedian ever?), and the inestimable Burns and Allen. Here’s Jack Benny with the great Mel Blanc:

    https://youtu.be/1DOEDT6XGBk

    (Barry: If we’ve gone too far OT, just delete it all!)

  16. remigius says:

    You lucky buggers. When I were a lad we used to dream of having a telly. We had to make do with a cardboard box in front of the window. And if we were lucky a car went past. Or a horse.

  17. barriejohn says:

    Were that in Yorkshire, Remigius? My father inherited my grandfather’s Irish genes, and was a born entertainer. One Christmas, before any of the family had a TV set, he entertained us all (aunts, uncles and cousins, too) by building a huge cardboard TV cabinet in the bay window in our front room, and appearing inside it as Tommy Cooper, complete with fez (he could do conjuring tricks, no problem!). And as for horses; whenever one went by my grandmother would send me out with a bucket and spade to collect the droppings for her roses, much to my embarrassment. As I keep saying: those were the days!

  18. Bona Dish says:

    Oooh you know all the palari! Well I’ve got your number, ducky.