I’ve just bought a sword, as one does.
I’ve always had a yen for one, and over the last few years have left a number of bids at Gorringe’s, our local auction house in Lewes, to no avail: but at last I got one. Having Googled it, I discovered that it is an Infantry Officer’s Sword, dating c 1895-7. Its handle is pretty corroded, it has no serial number, maker’s mark or owner’s name (which explains why I could afford it) but I don’t care: I’m hugely pleased.
I know that an enthusiasm for steam trains is seen as a more appropriately clerical pursuit, but maybe an interest in swords speaks more to my inner Lord of the Rings/Game of Thrones Geek.
Mind you, it might be something in the local water. Anyone looking at Little Horsted today will see a delightful hamlet of some 200 souls with a 14th century church and breath taking views across the South Downs: in the 16th century, though, it was a centre of the international arms trade.
John Levett, a resident of Little Horsted in the 1530’s, was a pioneer of the Wealden iron smelting industry: when he died in 1535, he left his "Iron mylles and furnesses" to his brother John, who happened to be Vicar of Buxted.
“Parson Levett”, as the Privy Council called him, rapidly and unexpectedly developed into a major armaments entrepreneur, and by 1543 was the main supplier of cast iron cannons to King Henry VIII - all the while faithfully nurturing his flock as a country Parson.
No contradiction in vocation appears to have crossed the serenity of his mind.
Our faith can’t just be an interior spirituality: it must have a practical impact on how we live our lives, on how we relate to and care for the people and world around us.
Or, as James 2:26 puts it “ For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
I wonder what Parson Levett made of these words?
Love, Fr. John