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Action and Evil Fall Reading Group 2018

August 26, 2018 at 5:00 am

Action and Evil: the Fall Reading Group

St George’s Round Church, 2018

Jane Austen, Graham Greene, Dorothy Day


Conscience, whether or not formed by religion, moves us to action for the good and against evils, but, again and again, we are confronted by evils which our good deeds seem to require as means, or implicate as effects. Our ancient Greek ancestors, both in religion and philosophy, faced this reality without self-deception.  They saw that all doing requires choosing between goods. To do or to love one good is at best not to do or love another, and, at its extreme in tragedy, is to reject,  oppose, and even hate  another. Therefore the best life is not practical but contemplative. In contemplation all the goods divided by practical choice are known and enjoyed together;  the life of God is shared and we become God’s friends.  Religious life is for most of us the primary sphere of contemplation.

Christianity brought from Judaism friendship with God, neighbour, and the cosmos, of which Genesis made us the crowning part, by love. All Christ demands is summed up in two commandments to love, and this is love, not in words only, but also in deeds. Practice became necessary to the good. However, the same great theologian of love, whose symbol is a heart enflamed by love, taught also that, in our present state, humans cannot not sin. Hell is made by love. Charles Williams articulated the Augustinianism which underlies Western Christianity, the Christianity of all our authors. It is fundamental to his doctrine of Co-inherence.

We inhere in one another in sin and guilt as well as in redemption. “ ‘Fuimus ille unus’ Augustine said; ‘we were in the one when we were the one.’ Whatever ages of time lay between us and Adam, yet we were in him and we were him; more, we sinned in him and his guilt is in us. And, if indeed all mankind is held together by its web of existence, then ages cannot separate one from another. Exchange, substitution, co-inherence are a natural fact, as well as a supernatural truth. ‘Another is in me,’ said Felicitas; ‘we were in another,’ said Augustine. The co-inherence reaches back to the beginning as it stretches on to the end, and the anthropos is present everywhere. ‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’; co-inherence did not begin with Christianity; all that happened then was that co-inherence itself was redeemed and revealed by that very redemption as a supernatural principle as well as a natural. We were made sin in Adam but Christ was made sin for us and we in him were taken out of sin. To refuse the ancient heritage of guilt is to cut ourselves off from mankind as certainly as to refuse the new principle. It is necessary to submit to the one as freely as to the other. The new principle had been introduced into the web, and only that principle could separate one soul from another or any soul from the multitude. The principle was not only in the spirit but in the flesh of man.” (The Descent of the Dove, 69-70)

Williams repeats this Augustinian teaching in the Epilogue to The Descent of the Dove, adding how the good knowing good as evil (Adam) is our destruction, and the good knowing evil as good (the Adam of whom Adam is an image, Christ) is our salvation: “In that natural co-inherence, the Christian Church has understood another; the about-to-be-born already co-inheres in an ancestral and contemporary guilt. It is shapen in wickedness, and in sin has its mother conceived it. The fundamental fact of itself is already opposed to the principle of the universe; it knows that good as evil, and therefore it derives and desires its own good disorderly.” (p. 234)

The consequence, drawn by Augustine, and unavoidable, is that freedom is given to humans from outside, that freedom depends on grace. This, in Christendom, from Constantine until it lost the power to do so, seemed to require what Williams labels, “the Imposition of Belief.”  If the Church,  as the community and means of the grace given from outside is the condition of freedom, then its imposition of belief, with all the evils that entailed and entails, is necessary to the good. This is why, for Williams, liberal toleration has been forced as a practical necessity contrary to a theological one.   “A man, it is felt, cannot be expected to keep faith with something which contradicts and destroys the whole nature of faith and of life. ‘No faith with heretics’ is not an ecclesiastical rule; it is a natural and inevitable human emotion.  … [Heresy destroys the human] and with the inhuman there can be no treaty. This is the difficulty of toleration; it is also the objection to toleration. ” (Descent, pp. 178-9) “Compromise was unthinkable, and toleration had to be a necessity before it could be a virtue. In fact, as a virtue it does not yet exist, though we once thought it did. For our fathers became bored and miserable and decadent through their incessant killing, and we, the children of that killing, supposed ourselves to be convinced of charity, when, in truth, we only shuddered still at the memory of blood.” (Descent, p. 182) “Messias and his Apostles had not spent a great deal of time talking about freedom and personal independence and individualism and a man’s right to his own opinions. … But, what with one thing and another, the idea that everyone ought to be as free as possible had spread widely during the nineteenth century. Even then (and even now) that farther development of liberty which has been nobly defined to be ‘the protection and not the persecution of the Opposition’ had not spread far. It was not easy for it to spread in Christendom, for, by definition, Christendom cannot fundamentally admit the right of an Opposition (to its dogmas) to exist; to refuse the Co-inherence is to separate oneself from the nature of things.” (Descent, pp. 216-7)

The Augustinian crushing of natural practical freedom has the consequence that its assertion comes to us as a heresy, Pelagianism. Dame Rebecca West, in a closely argued analysis of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in terms of the Calvinist Augustinianism of the Renaissance,  defines that Pelagianism.  “Shakespeare’s work gives impressive testimony against a heresy which had been revived by  the Renaissance and was steadily to  gain  adherents  till it triumphed in the nineteenth century: against Pelagianism. It was an array of evidence against the theory that man is free equally to choose between good and  evil,  and  that, should he choose good, his own natural ability  will enable him to reach moral perfection, and that our race could be changed and made innocent  without  search  for a higher authority and submission to it.” (The Court and the Castle, 1975, pp. 70-71).


She goes on to write: “The pessimism of Hamlet is indeed extreme. It is Calvinist in its allegation of total depravity, and indeed there are echoes of Calvin’s voice all through this play, never more strongly than  in the ‘What a  piece of  work is man’ speech. For Calvin had the same sense as Shakespeare that man is an “extraordinarily  beautiful creature ‘So hath God marvellously  garnished  the  heaven  and the earth with  so absolutely perfect plenty, variety and beauty of all things as possibly might be, as it were a large and gorgeous house furnished and stored with abundance of most finely chosen stuff, last of all how in framing man and adorning him with  so goodly  beauty, and with so many and so great gifts he had  shewed  in him the most excellent example of all his work.’ (lnstitutes of the Christian Religion, I, 14, par 20 ) Again and again he extols man as a token of God’s glory, replenished with infinite miracles.  There was much divergence between Shakespeare and Calvin when they came to examine the flimsiness of this pretty toy of creation. The quintessence of dust, Shakespeare cal1ed him, and Calvin spoke of a cottage of clay. But Calvin  promised  that some of this clay would be translated to predestined glory, while Shakespeare is silent and leaves his  damned world damned forever on his page.” (The Court and the Castle,  pp. 75-76).


In the framework of the Hellenic and Christian opposition of practice and freedom and of natural co-inherence in sin and supernatural co-inherence in  grace giving freedom, I propose that we read three short books over the course of September, October and November in this order: Jane Austen,  Persuasion (1818), Graham Greene, The Quiet American (1955), Dorothy Day, From Union Square to Rome (1938). We shall meet in St. George’s Round Church for an hour and a half on eleven Monday evenings beginning September 10 at 7 p.m.


Evidently the three books and their circumstances are very different, but I hope we shall find important places where they bear on the problems of acting here and now. Jane Austen comes just before the Church of England breaks into the opposition of Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical. The Church seems completely absorbed into the moral life of society, the opinion of “the world” is decisive. However, no one discerns more exactly the human incapacity not to sin than does this daughter of the Rectory, and no one builds more subtly and completely the Prayer Book pattern of moral life, repentance and forgiveness into the fall and reconciliation the characters in her novels enact. Here is one solution: the necessity of error and the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation. Augustine seemed to think that this practice was what Christianity gave the world.


Graham Greene is also a British author, but, with this semi-biographical novel set in Viet Nam, we move, as with Dorothy Day, to a Roman Catholic writer, and to questioning of the capitalist American imperium from both the Marxist and the Catholic alternatives. In this problematic there is much common to Charles Williams, and especially to Fr Robert Crouse, who introduced some of us to Williams, Augustine, Dorothy Day, and Das Kapital. The quiet American (Pyle) of the title is the Pelagian, whose principles and modes of action are those the Americans employed in Viet Nam in the 1960s and subsequently in the Middle East. The novel is prophetic. Fowler, the British journalist, its central character, gives up, in a shocking way, his “I am not involved,” being only an observer. The interplay forcing this move to deadly action is with Pyle, the Communist guerrillas, and the French colonial administration, seen as Catholic and European, and Augustinian vis-à-vis the quiet American. God may compel us to enact his own justice against our wills. This is another solution. (By the way do NOT watch either of the film versions. They banalize as well as deceive).


Dorothy Day, a New York American, writes of her conversion from Communist journalist to the Roman Catholicism of the Catholic Worker Movement in dialogue with Marxism—the situation with which the last Chapter of the Descent of the Dove, “the Return of the Manhood” leaves us.  Although this autobiography in the form of a letter to her brother was written 80 years ago, it has much for those seeking a Christian inner life and forms of ministry in North End Halifax now. She and her co-workers inspired a form of activism which remains surprisingly present in transformative Christianity in North America.   Here, as with the old Hellenes, but differently, action is suffering, participation in, and bearing with and for, others, The Passion.  Greene venerates this mode as well. This is another solution. There is an official “cause” for her beatification and Dorothy Day has the title “Servant of God.”


The three books are in the public domain and we will be able to post .doc and pdf versions of them on the St G’s website. I shall post materials on my site. Persuasion was read this year in the Foundation Year Programme, so there are lots of copies available in Halifax. From the second meeting on we will assume that everyone has read the whole of Persuasion, so make it part of your Summer reading. Those wishing to prepare cannot do better than think about the confession of sin and absolution before Morning and Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, the Exhortation at the beginning of Baptism, and “The Commandments” in the Prayer Book Catechism.

This series was conceived in conversation with the Drew – Sperry House, with Patrick Graham, and with his library, and is dedicated to them.

Wayne Hankey

St Joan of Arc, 2018

Supplementary Material:

Persuasion by Jane Austin

Dorothy Day From Union Square to Rome

Summary of From Union Square to Rome by Dorothy Day

The Quiet American by Graham Greene – Part 1

The Quiet American by Graham Greene – Part 2

The Quiet American by Graham Greene – Part 3

The Quiet American by Graham Greene – Part 4

The website of the Catholic Worker Movement

Advent Quiet Day 2017: Hurry Up and Wait

January 8, 2018 at 4:01 pm

Advent Quiet Day at St. George’s:
Hurry Up and Wait

“Now it is high time” “Judge nothing before the time”

Father Douglas Chard, Priest in Charge of the Parish of Lockeport and Barrington, will conduct an Advent Quiet Day from 10 am until 3:30 pm in the Round Church on Saturday, December 2nd. The Quiet Day will include three addresses as well as times for quiet reflection. A light lunch will be served.


The schedule for the day will be as follows:

10am: Holy Communion
11am: First Talk: Advent as Beginning: approaching the mystery (followed by silence)
12noon: Mid-Day Prayers in the Church, followed by lunch in the Sunday School Room
1pm: Second Talk: Advent as the End: the goal of Christian believing (followed by silence)
2pm: Third Talk: Advent as the Way: longing and confidence (followed by silence)
3pm: Evening Prayer

All parishioners and friends are encouraged to make this Quiet Day the beginning of their observance of the holy season of Advent.

The text of Father Chard’s addresses is available here (PDF)

Youth Study: Sacred Art and the Spiritual Life (Advent 2016)

November 27, 2016 at 11:33 am

The Sacred Art and the Spiritual Life study series initiated in Lent will resume for three Sundays to help guide us through the season of Advent. This series will take place at 3pm on Advent I (Nov. 27th), Advent III (Dec. 11th), and Advent IV (Dec. 18th) in the Sunday School Room. Young people of all ages as well as adults are warmly invited to attend. Please try to hold these dates, which will provide wonderful opportunities for learning, edification and fellowship.


November 27  – Dr. Marylin McKay, NSCAD

The Development of Christian Imagery: Depictions from the Life of the Early Church


December 11  – The Rev’d Dr. Thomas Curran, University of King’s College

The Beginnings of Pilgrimage: Dante’s Inferno with interpretations by Gustave Doré


December 18 – Dr. Sandra Alfoldy, NSCAD

Later Spiritual Movements – the Gothic Revival and Pre-Raphaelites

Adult Study: Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C. S. Lewis

October 16, 2016 at 10:59 am

Led by Barbara Armstrong.

During October and November, St. George’s will host a study series in preparation for Advent, based on the recently published book, Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians: Finding Authentic Faith in a Forgotten Age with C. S. Lewis, by church historian and Wheaton College faculty member Dr. Chris Armstrong – an engaging teacher and speaker who has a passion for bringing church history to life for ordinary Christians.
The series will begin with an introductory lecture by the author at St. George’s Round Church at 3:30 pm, Sunday, October 16 (prior to Evensong at 5:00 pm). Refreshments will be provided, along with opportunities for questions and discussion.

RESCHEDULED for Apr 23 – Parish Quiet Day: St Monica, Mother of Augustine, Image of the Church

February 24, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Missioner: The Rev’d Nicholas Hatt, Incumbent, Parish of the Holy Spirit

This year’s parish retreat will include a series of reflections on the life of St Monica, mother of St Augustine, offered by the Rev’d Nicholas Hatt and hosted by his parish in Mt Uniacke. Fr Hatt is well-known to our congregation. This is a tremendous opportunity both to devote ourselves to prayer and to support his ministry. There is a wonderful connection between St George’s and the parish where Fr Hatt now serves: The Rev’d Robert Fitzgerald Uniacke, Rector of St George’s from 1825-1870, laid the cornerstone of Holy Spirit Church in 1845. Please plan to attend.

St George’s Day, Saturday, April 23, 9:30am-2pm, 1231 Highway #1, Mt Uniacke (Lakelands)

Adult study: Dante and the renewal of the soul

February 24, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Lent Dante Group 2016Led by Dr Thomas Curran

7-8:15pm, Wednesdays in Lent, February 24 through March 16 (Reading Room, Trinity House)

This study group will continue the parish’s reflection on the greatest of Christian poets, Dante. Born at the end of the 13th C, Dante’s great three volume poem, called the Divine Comedy, tells the story of the soul’s pilgrimage to God in haunting and poignant images. No prior knowledge of the text required and all welcome!

Youth study: Sacred art and the spiritual life

February 24, 2016 at 2:15 pm

The Divine Image 2016Coordinators: Steven Gibson & Shannon Parker

4-5pm, Sundays in Lent, February 14 through March 20 (Reading Room, Trinity House)

This study will introduce our parish youth to various expressions of sacred art, including the chance to work with at least one practicing artist. Emma Fitzgerald, Gary Thorne, Mary Maclaughlin, Peter Bryson and others will lead us. Though directed towards the youth, all ages welcome!


February 14  – Mary Evans Maclachlan

Giotto: Sacred Images in the Early Renaissance


February 21  – Peter Bryson

The Revolution of Gothic Architecture


February 28 – Emma Fitzgerald

Drawing from Observation of Nature:a Hands-on Workshop


March 6 – The Rev’d Dr Gary Thorne

The Role of Icons in the Life of the Church


March 13-  Mary Evans Maclachlan

Holy Paragons: Saints and their Stories. Instances of Holy Lives as described throughLate-Medieval Imagery


March 20 – Special Guest


Advent Quiet Day 2015

December 8, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Advent Quiet Day 2015Come be my light: Three saints for Advent

An afternoon of prayer and silence with three reflections on a ‘triptych’ of 20th century saints whose witness can shape our Advent pilgrimage. Join us for a time of reflection at the University of King’s College Chapel, led by Fr Christopher. We will consider the lives of three saints: Fr Alfred Delp, Mother Maria Skobstova, and Dorothy Day.

Saturday, December 12th, 12 – 5 pm

Download the readings: Readings for Quiet Day, Advent 2015

Quiet Day Schedule:

12-1: Noonday prayers and Holy Communion

1-1:30: The First Address: “The Beginning of Conversion: Be Shaken – Alfred Delp” (propers for Stir-up Sunday and Advent 1)

1:30-2:30: Silence

2:30-3:00: The Second Address: “Mother Maria Skobstova: Preparing for Judgment” (propers for Advent 2)

3-4:00: Silence

4-4:30: The Third Address: “No one is saved alone – Dorothy Day” (propers for Stir-up Sunday and Advent 4)

4:30: Evening Prayer

5pm: Supper and fellowship

Advent Study Group: The Advent of Dante’s Divine Comedy

November 13, 2015 at 10:52 am

Advent Dante Group 2015

An Advent study group with the Rev’d Dr Thomas Curran, Associate Professor of the Humanities, King’s College

7:00 pm in the Sunday School Room, St George’s Parish Hall, 2221 Maitland St


November 24th—Sunday Next Before Advent:

“A Dark Wood”: The Infernal Kingdom of the Leopard, the Lion & the Wolf

December 1st—Advent I:

Seer & Sibyl: The Restoration of the Golden Age

December 8th—Advent II:

Judgement: Incontinence, Violence and Fraud

Youth Confirmation Class

October 6, 2015 at 11:24 am

Led by Fr Christopher Snook and a number of clergy and laypeople from the St George’s congregation, class meets at 4 pm on Sundays in the Sunday School Room in the Parish Hall, and wraps up just in time for Evensong at 5 pm. Parents, please consider joining your children for Evensong. Children able to attend will be encouraged to take part as readers on a weekly rotation.

Topics discussed include the Catechism, the Baptismal Covenant, the Apostle’s Creed, the Commandments, Prayer, the Sacraments, “What is the Church?” and “How Shall I Live?”

The class will not meet October 11th, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Confirmands are asked to also plan to attend the ordination of Mr Nicholas Hatt as a deacon in the Church of God on Wednesday, October 28th at 7 pm at All Saints’ Cathedral.

Confirmation takes place when the bishop visits, 7pm on Monday, January 25th, 2016.

If you are an adult interested in confirmation, please see the St George’s Reading Group. And please contact Fr Snook!