Chancel window

As we file up the chancel to the altar for the Eucharist, two martyred fathers of the church watch over us in stained glass to our right, reminding us that they sacrificed their lives, horribly. Andrew displays the upside down X-shaped cross on which he was put to death and Philip holds a T-cross like a shepherd’s crook. However, unlike their medieval Gothic predecessors, they are not shown nailed to their crosses. The colours are dark, the emotion aroused respectful. If you prefer to feel the love, retrace your steps to stand by the Mother and Child window along this wall at the back of the church, two smiling beings bathed in the blue of eternity and the white of purity, illuminated by the golden rays of the holy dove. This happy scene smiles across to us when stand by the font.

These are two of the most powerful images of Christianity: martyrdom and love; the severity of the male images and the joy of Mother, Child and Spirit.

The windows of the two apostles are a classic Gothic revival design, put up in memory of Holy Trinity’s vicar from 1916 to 1924, Philip Doyne. The apostle Philip was chosen because it was the Rev Doyne’s first name; and Philip is traditionally paired with Andrew because both came from Bethesda. Andrew, as it happens, is the patron saint of this parish so the two matched well. The apostles appear with their Catholic title of Saint though the Church of England normally addresses its holy ones as plain John or Mary (think of ‘The Gospel according to Mark’), and certainly not in the Latin that identifies the pair here: Sanctus Andreas and Sanctus Philip (why not Philippos while they were about it?)

The patriarchal Andrew and Philip, whose robes are dark and sober as befits grave men, reign over two small windows at their feet, and it’s here that Jesus’ teachings of love are spelled out in two pictures from the Gospels that are drawn with great charm. There is the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, framed by the words: ‘Certain Greeks came to Philip saying they would see Jesus’. But what’s happened here? The Philip inscription is below Andrew’s portrait. Jesus carries the same T cross that Philip is carrying – and they are below Andrew. And no Greeks attended the feeding of the five thousand that we know of.

Ah well: there was a mix up. The stained glass workshop assigned the quotation and the T-cross to the wrong man and the wrong story. It was an easy mistake to make for anyone who knew their New Testament well but hadn’t studied their instructions too carefully: the two apostles are often bracketed together because, after the news about the pagan Greeks wanting to meet Jesus, John 12.21 says: “Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus.” That picture could have appeared correctly under either man. The loaves and the fishes, though, are more tightly associated with Philip and correctly appear below him here because, when Jesus asks his followers to feed the five thousand, John 6.7 says it is Philip who answers him: “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient.”

The happiness of the Gospel vignettes is there again in the window in the south aisle by the font. This picture of a Mother as blond as an Anglo-Saxon maiden, holding her chubby golden-haired child while one angel swings a censor and the other prays, was in fact a memorial window. It was given by Charles Johnston, who was Holy Trinity’s vicar from 1891 to 1916, in memory of his wife, who died the year he retired: a death celebrated with a picture of joyous youth. The only hint of unhappiness is the sadness in the girl’s face as she foresees this baby’s death. The child, though, is a bouncing infant who has learned the royal wave (or blessing) and whose kingly orb is held with the firm possessiveness of a teddy bear. The relaxed picture makes it a more modern window than the chancel stained glass, although made a few years earlier.

‘Ecce Angus Dei’ (Behold the Lamb of God) announces the scroll in Latin at the top, as though the Holy Spirit itself were speaking. Holy Trinity must have been quite high church in the early 20th century, what with all this Latin. No problems here with accuracy though because the font into which pour the rays of the spirit is ours, identical but for the carving of the cross. This appears as a quatrefoil (the four leaves recall the cross) in the window and a plain cross on the font. As the font was designed by Ninian Comper in the 1950s, it echoed the stained glass rather than the other way round.