Church of England Diocese of Guildford Dunsfold


28 Jul 2021, 6:30 p.m.

I’m not normally a fan of weddings. Funerals are great because you learn things — and anyway, the outcome is certain. But weddings? When you reach my age you realise there are a diminishing number of Saturdays left in your life, and the case is not obvious for standing around with people you don’t know and may never see again.

But this Saturday was different. There was something perfect about it. The marriage, short and very sweet, took place in the lovely little church of St Michael and All Angels in the Derbyshire village of Church Broughton.

Kate was marrying Doug, the ceremony officiated by her mother, Jane, who’s about to retire as the local vicar and makes you wonder why the Church of England so long denied itself the calm, steady, unshowy spirituality that a woman can bring to the ministry.

At the reception in a sunny rural garden I was overtaken by a perfect peace. It was so, so English. The gathering was not (in today’s lingo) diverse, but its very heterogeneity — English families, mostly of a certain class, nice people, mostly rural, mostly local — gave the occasion an air of mild, friendly self-assurance: the England of George Eliot, who well knew this corner of the Midlands: an England still so recognisable.

I say “an” England. There are other Englands and we love them differently; but in an age of identity politics let’s recognise that this England too has a quiet identity, as strong as it is gentle.