Jerusalem’s NOT dark and Satanic says Church of England

I am delighted to hear this. Its theology is absurd but I just LOVE that hymn. Blake's words are pure magic and the Parry setting is uplifting too.

The hymn’s rousing tone has inspired millions, from rugby supporters to the Women’s Institute – but their enthusiasm has not always been shared by the Church of England clergy.

The CofE leadership has now urged ministers to stop banning Jerusalem from weddings for being un-Christian and ‘too nationalistic’.

The Rev Peter Moger, the CofE’s national worship development officer, said William Blake’s much-criticised lyrics can be used a springboard to explore deeper theological themes.

But he may have a hard time persuading many of the clergy. Their objections include that the hymn’s opening lines ‘And did those feet in ancient time/Walk upon England’s mountains green’ are inspired by the apocryphal story that a young Jesus visited Glastonbury in Somerset.

Donald Allister, now the Bishop of Peterborough, has complained: ‘What it is actually saying is, “Wouldn’t it be nice if Jesus lived in England?” Yet we all know he did not, so it is just nonsense.’ Other ministers have complained that references to bows, arrows and spears are ‘too militaristic’ and not suitable for worship.

The parish church of Parliament, St Margaret’s in Westminster, once refused to allow the hymn because the contrasting of ‘dark satanic mills’ with ‘green and pleasant land’ could alienate city-dwellers. The final verse, which describes striving to build Jerusalem in England, has also been branded ‘too nationalistic’.

Victoria Williams and Stuart Turton were prevented from having Jerusalem played at their wedding at Cheadle Church in Stockport in August 2001 because the vicar objected to it.

Mr Moger said: ‘It is possible to respond to a couple wishing to include Jerusalem in their marriage service in one of two ways: negatively, ‘banning’ the hymn, as some have done, or positively, including it, and using it as a helpful springboard from which to explore themes during the address.’ He gave a discussion of how Jesus would react to modern Britain as one possible theme.

The words to Jerusalem were written as a poem by Blake in 1804 and transformed into a hymn by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

1 comment:

  1. I do agree with the criticisms leveled at Blake's lyric. As a true Christian hymn, it can easily be dismissed. However, I believe the song has some merit, nonetheless.

    Blake coyly words the first stanza as a series of questions, so that he doesn't appear to espouse the myth. He merely suggests, What if...? If Christ walked upon English soil as to story goes, did He bring a touch of the heavenly Jerusalem here?

    Then, the second stanza is an appeal to activism. It is a reminder that citizens have a responsibility to make England all it could be. To battle the corporate greed and the oppression of workers exemplified in those "dark satanic mills." This will sometimes require defending that "green and pleasant land" with armed might--as the older generation well knows.

    So... As a hymn, no. But as a call to social activism in Britain, yes. It is inspiring--especially due to Sir Hubert Parry's great tune.


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