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Literature / Sermons In Chalk

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British novel published in 2018 by GMW Wemyss: the fifth in the Village Tales series, following on from 2016's Ye Little Hills Like Lambs, in lieu of the much-delayed (Ordinary Time), now due in 2019.

This slim volume collects the sermons and homilies of the series’ C of E clergy for the Woolfonts and Downlands parishes, some of them from past books and some as yet unpublished and yet to come, both for Occasional Services (christenings, solemnizations of matrimony, and burials of the dead) and for many of the feasts and fasts of the Church Kalendar. It includes the saintly Canon Paddick’s famous “Northern Soul” sermon (on Ruth) and “An Army With Banners” sermon (defending the Church of England); the professorial Fr Gascelyn Levett on S John the Evangelist at the Latin Gate; young Fr Campion on S Aldhelm as an “ecclesiastical Ken Dodd;” and Fr Bohun on the military virtues of discipline, training, and sacrifice.

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It is prefaced with introductory remarks by the author as In-Universe parish historian (in which the Real Life delay in publishing Ordinary Time is explained); the Duchess; the Duke, who in quoting “Willie the Shake”: “tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, / Sermons in stones, and good in every thing”: observes that the local geology is chalk, thereby carving out (sorry) the Title Drop; the Bishop, being conscientiously broad-minded; the subtly reluctant Archdeacon; and the gleefully approving Rural Dean.

The character sheet for the series, clergy included, is here.


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The tropes common to the series are being listed on that page. Additionally, Sermons In Chalk provides especially notable or specific examples of:

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    Tropes A through Z 

  • A Death in the Limelight: Well, that’s funerals for you....
  • As the Good Book Says...: The clergy, though High Church, are not above the occasional Scriptural allusion in passing, or quoting an apposite point from the Book of Common Prayer.
  • Badass Preacher: Canon Paddick, as he grows in years and Grace, gets more politely badass by the day. And Fr Bohun (that humble late-entry curate who gave up a fortune to serve the Church but remains a baronet, a holder of the Military Cross, and a retired Major of Household Cavalry) brings calls to repentance which no one who isn't a fool disregards.
  • The Bible: Gets its share of In-Universe reference, unsurprisingly.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Christenings on occasion follow hard on the heels of burial services.
  • Britain is Only London: Averted. Only two of the services are outside the District, and those are in Wolvo and in rural Cheshire.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Averted. It’s trad, orthodox Anglo-Catholic here.
  • Close-Knit Community: And never more so than on Christmas and Easter and at baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
  • Cool Old Guy: Fr Gascelyn Levett. And the Dean as well.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Even in a preface to a collection of sermons, the Duke gets his shots in.
  • Ensemble Cast: The parishes in toto.
  • Fictional Document: The prefaces and the sermons alike.
  • The Four Loves: The primary element in the narrativium, as ever, and name-checked in one of Canon Noel Paddick’s sermons.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: In fact, Good Is Both Erudite and Approachable.
  • Good Is Not Soft: When the padres urge repentance … listen.
  • Good Shepherd: The Canon Rector and all three curates.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: As you might expect of highly educated characters, many of them Oxbridge sorts – Smart People Know Latin, after all –, there is some (and some Hebrew, as well); but Frs Bohun and Gascelyn Levett lampshade the fact that most people nowadays don’t know Latin, even in the Universities.
  • Hidden Depths: These are not men to presume upon, patronize, or underestimate.
  • Literary Allusion Title: As the Duke notes in his preface.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Fr Bohun … or, in full, the Rev’d Sir Gilbert Bohun Bt MC, late Major, the Blues and Royals.
  • Parental Substitute: The Rector and his curates are fathers in God, ex officio, to everyone, the Duke included; and the Rector is Special Guardian to his little niece.
  • Saintly Church: In these parishes, at least.
  • Sexy Priest: At the very least the Rector, a young widower often described by others as "Becks in a biretta" (and, for that matter, "Captain Carrot in a cassock"), and the senior curate Fr Campion, sometimes called "a young Jonny Wilkinson in a dog-collar", qualify. Or over-qualify.
  • Title Drop: Lampshaded by the Duke, as above.
  • The Vicar: Strenuously averted and subverted. The Canon Rector and Fr Campion are Good Shepherd Sexy Priests ("Becks in a biretta" and "a young Jonny Wilkinson in a cassock", respectively), and inclined to demonstrate that Good Is Not Soft and Good Is Not Dumb. Fr Bohun is a Retired Badass with a Military Cross to his name; a baronet; and a long-time Home Missionary living in deliberate poverty: Real Men Love Jesus; Fr Harry Gascelyn Levett is a Cambridge Fellow, a newly-retired professor, a member of numerous learned bodies, and the primary expert on church architecture in Britain.

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