1066 And All What?

Death of Saint Harold

This is an exciting moment for liturgists everywhere. It would appear that the Church of England has published a new prayer, this time commemorating the Battle of Hastings.

Following some discussion last night on social media, I’m pleased to be able to provide this study guide to the prayer for those thinking of using it, in the form of 12 questions. (The questions may be useful for discussion groups).

But first, the prayer itself.

God of justice and mercy,
whose Son came among us as the Prince of Peace:
look with grace on all who look back on the Battle of Hastings
as a defining moment in our history.
Guide our island nation, poised between Europe and Scandinavia,
and from the remembrance of defeat bring solidarity
with oppressed, subjugated and humiliated peoples today.
By your Spirit lead us to make the past our friend,
and to find our future in you,
that we may become a people of memory and hope;
through our crucified and risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

1 – The prayer begins conventionally as an address to the God of justice and mercy. Looking back at the Battle of Hastings, which side represented the forces of justice? Which side was God on?

2 – In telling God to look with grace on all who look back on the Battle of Hastings does the Church of England suggest that those who do not look back on the Battle of Hastings will not experience that favour?

3 – What will be the measurable consequences of the favour of God being bestowed upon Battle of Hastings gazers?

4 – What nation is being invoked in the term “island nation”? (Groups may wish to make reference to #indyref, #brexit and #conquest in answering this question).

5 – Using a map and the description “poised between Europe and Scandinavia”, can you pinpoint

a) Europe?
b) Scandinavia?
c) This Island Nation?

6 – Given the phrase the “remembrance of defeat”, in whose voice is this prayer offered?

7 – Similarly, who is the “we” in the phrase “that we may become a people of memory and hope”?

8 – In what ways are the Saxon people of England today not a people of memory and hope? Give examples to demonstrate your understanding of this question.

9 – How would you lead a youth group towards understanding the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ through the death of King Harold? (Consider drama, storytelling and needlecraft based approaches)

10 – How can the oppressed, subjugated and humiliated members of the Church of England, acting in solidarity with all people of struggle, reach out to build a better world?

11 – Would the addition of Saint Harold the Good to the Calendar of the Church of England be a step forward for justice?

12 – In what circumstances will you use this prayer?


  1. Thank-you, Thurible. As Gray almost said:

    ‘Full many a prayer is born to blush unseen,
    And waste its sweetness on the desert website’.

    You have restored it to its rightful place in the annals of the Church of England.

  2. 2) Not even I am old enough
    12) When Hell freezes over?

  3. Chris Sterry says

    Could the Church of England not publish a similarly mellifluous and incisive prayer for the Bells of York?

  4. Tim Lewis says

    I am trying my best to be “poised” but it is too early in the day.

  5. This prayer is terrible tosh. Someone somewhere has tried to be “up to the minute” and failed drastically. I will not be using it, and thankfully, by the time the 1000th anniversary of the Battle comes around I shall not be here to worry about it.

    • Stephen Clark says

      Agree entirely …Tosh is a polite way of saying what we in the Antipodes call..Bu&&S%$t!

  6. Elsie says

    ‘Poised’ ….. for what?
    ‘We’ ….. ??

    This is dire dragging of the past to make ill fitting pieces build a picture which is long gone. For heavens sake, look forwards!

  7. Brilliantly and accurately analysed – have added your link as a postscript to my little blog post http://edfordham.com/index.php/lgbt-equality/77-871-and-all-that-the-creation-of-england

  8. Robin says

    9….The needle craft approach must be a winner.

  9. Meg Rosenfeld says

    Well, at least this weird new prayer has evoked some of the wittiest comments I’ve read to date! Gazing from afar as I am (California) I can see a faint logic in the notion of those who identify with the English (e.g. the speakers of Old English, the subjects of King Harold) recognizing that their land was defeated and successfully occupied by a foreign power, and therefore they should be compassionate toward other people in a similar situation. But as Treebeard might say, let us not be Hastings. (ouch, sorry, couldn’t resist)

  10. The Church of England’s current strategy for growth is to publish a prayer for anything that happens to be trending.

  11. Paul Hutchinson says

    Thank you for biting on the reference. Wondering who would articulate my feelings on this delightfully crafted work, I was not disappointed by your response.

  12. Richard says

    I thought I’d have a go
    An alternative collect for 1066:
    “O God,
    who raises the poor from the dust and the needy from the dunghill,
    and regards the oppressed of every age:
    hear us as we bring to mind the slaughter of Senlac, and the brutal subjugation of England by the usurper of Normandy,
    and direct the nation and her rulers to seek justice and truth,
    freedom and peace;
    for you alone put down the mighty from their thrones and exalt those of low degree;
    through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

  13. Daniel Lamont says

    I was so sure that this was a spoof that I checked the CofE website. Its crassness is beyond belief. I didn’t think our leaders had such tin-ears. If Head Office cannot even get prayers right, there is no hope for the institution.

  14. Firstly, I like the picture. Battle scenes can always find a relevance in churches.

    Now for the questions. Question 1 is easy. God shows no favouritism, although I am confident God would be partial to Tim-Tam bikkies.
    Question 7: the “we” is “us”.
    I’ll have to ponder the rest. It’s good to ponder.

  15. Kennedy Fraser says

    You may want to use http://bayeux.datensalat.net/ for question 9

  16. Vivienne says

    You don’t mention the delightful phrase: ‘make the past our friend’.
    I am trying to work out how to do this. Should I invite the past to supper? Link to it on Facebook? Give it my last rollo?

    Absolute nonsense!

    I am embarrassed (yet again) for the Cof E.

  17. Gallovidian says

    As a person of Norman descent (like many fellow Anglicans) I take offence at this piece of blatant prejudice!

  18. John-Julian, OJN says

    And you Brits think we Americans are odd, while you voluntarily leap into such a pit of literary/theological drivel.

    • No, this isn’t from the British Church – there’s no such thing. It is very firmly from the Church of England.

  19. Meg Rosenfeld says

    During a very lengthy prayer this morning, I happened to notice a line in Psalm 105, verse 30, which seems relevant to the Battle of Hastings and its aftermath:

    Their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings.

  20. I gather it was written by the Liturgical Commission.

    Liturgical Commission

    • Dominic de Mattos says

      There now, I thought the Liturgical Commission had been around longer than that. I thought it was a deeply moving prayer – if a facepalm can be called movement. I think when they said “poised between”, what they were actually looking for was “pummelled by”. Hey ho. I wonder if they have a prayer for the unseasonably warm day today?

  21. Lester Knibb says

    I hope management have investigated and deducted any pay that may have accrued during the writing of such “tosh”, assuming it was done in work time. It’s hard enough trying to get non-Christians to take Christianity seriously without putting stumbling-blocks like this in their way. Perhaps this was what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians.

  22. I am attending an Alpha Course to find out if I am a Christian. When I read a prayer like this I wonder if it was intended to give God a good laugh (which I hope) or was just plain misguided. My course seems to be riddled with items like this along with wild assumptions.

  23. Rachma says

    so lovely to get back from 8 days IGR and 3 different funeral directors messages and then to see this and get a laugh catching up. This will be another one of your emails that will make a very good exercise to use when training intercessors to develop some critical thinking skills.

  24. Bob Shearer says

    Definitely using this in home group this evening, based upon the notion that England is “poised”. Does this apparent self-possession occur only post Brexit? For christians, what does that mean in our relation to God? And this a temporary condition?

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