Skirwith's Bony Altar

St John the Evangelist’s church in Skirwith, Cumbria, has long been associated with Anglo-Catholicism. This was a development in the mid-nineteenth century out of the old High Church party in which some Church of England parishes restored the old rituals and, in my view, superstitions of Rome, from which the Reformation had sought to deliver us. Although many Anglo-Catholics are truer to theological orthodoxy that their Low Church liberal colleagues, their worship is littered with distraction.

Take, for example, the altar at St John’s. Now even having a so-called altar would once have been too ‘popish’ for respectable Anglicans, but at St John’s they even have a relic built into it. That’s right, a fragment of an arm belonging to St Vincent de Paul (died 1660), a Roman Catholic saint, has been placed in the marble of the altar. This is one of the worst examples of old paganism that crept into churches. Whereas a case may be made for a more elaborate worship than we nonconformists and our puritan forbears might countenance, inserting old bones into furnishings to increase their holiness is, quite frankly, horrible. It disrespects the corpse of the so-called saint, and it leads astray the worshipper, who learns to delight in man rather than Christ.

I pray the next incumbent of Skirwith throws this altar in a skip, bones and all.

-And her, too. 

Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’ ” 1 Kings 13:2, NKJV
A correspondent has since informed me:
It could have been interesting to note that, as late as the early 1960's, a local resident barricaded the worshippers in the church as a protest again the 'High Church practices' and it made the local press.