Thinking Anglicans

Michael Perham

The Diocese of Gloucester has this morning announced that Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester between 2004 and 2014, died on the evening of Monday 17 April.

In the announcement, Bishop Michael’s successor as Bishop of Gloucester, Bishop Rachel Treweek writes:

It is with great sadness that I am writing to inform you that Bishop Michael died peacefully at home on Monday evening, April 17, following a special Easter weekend with all the family.

I last saw Bishop Michael on Tuesday 11 April during Holy Week. Not only was it good to share together in the Eucharist on that occasion but also to preside at the Chrism Eucharist on Maundy Thursday knowing that the Dean would then be taking Bishop Michael bread and wine from our service in Gloucester Cathedral with the love and prayers of the Diocese.


  • sam says:

    Sad news.
    Jesu, mercy.
    Mary, pray.

  • Shamus says:

    I still recall Michael Perham giving a very practical talk some 30 years ago when he was a Vicar in Poole, to a deanery chapter about celebrating the Eucharist, and recommending avoiding genuflecting when celebrating facing West behind an altar, to avoid the appearance of a disembodied head behind the altar. A gentleman who contributed a very great deal to the life of the CofE. Rest in peace, rise in glory.

  • Father David says:

    I, like Shamus, also remember Michael Perham giving a similar talk on Celebrating the Eucharist at Hulme in Manchester at a Liturgical Conference many years ago organised by Kenneth Stephenson, who went onto become the Bishop of Portsmouth and also sadly died prematurely (I always thought that, had he lived, Kenneth would have made a first rate scholarly Bishop of Durham, even though he was a rebel among bishops, rather than a prefect). The same advice regarding genuflecting was similarly imparted by Michael as it made the priest look rather like a Jack in the Box. May he rest in peace.

  • Ian black says:

    I read ‘Lively Sacrifice’ before my ordination as priest and it provided the rationale for more or less everything I do when presiding at the Eucharist. His writings on Common Worship helped me understand it as it emerged. I give thanks for him tonight with great joy for what he gave us. He and his family are in my prayers in this season of resurrection hope.

  • John Bunyan says:

    Many will be thankful for the life and work of Bishop Perham. But just by the way, though not a high churchman, I find it a little odd to speak just of “bread and wine” being taken to the Bishop. And at the church I attended last Sunday, the three ministers sat just behind the altar so that for some of the time only their heads were visible, seeming to be sitting on the altar, a rather absurd and unpleasant sight. Though not a low churchman, I prefer that the celebrant stand at the north end with the focus on the true unseen host at the Meal, or face east at the head of the people. I remember the old poem that includes the line, “when I see the Vicar’s face, I cannot think of God”.

  • I. too, wondered at the mention of ‘bread and wine’ being taken to the Bishop from a Eucharistic Celebration. Surely, this would have been better referred to – especially in the circumstances – as ‘The Body and Blood of Christ’.

    I remember an occasion not too long ago when I genuflected behind the altar at Mass, and a small voice was heard to say: “Where’s God gone?”

    May the soul of Bishop Michael now Rest in Peace and rise one day with Christ in Glory.

  • Father David says:

    I’m afraid that I don’t know and cannot locate the poem that John Bunyan refers to but John Hunwicke on his Mutual Enrichment blog has an interesting comment about which way to face when celebrating the Sacred Mysteries. He writes:- “the 1552 BCP rubrics ordered the priest to stand at the North, or left, side of the Table. Thus, he would be sideways-on to the people, who would have a good view of his right ear but would not be required to be confronted by his grinning face”.
    On Sunday’s, at St. Peter’s I face East at 8 o’clock and West at 9.45 (at Choral Evensong when officiating sitting in my stall I face North, hence the congregation can see my left ear). So, the faithful have a choice as to which elevation of the Rector they prefer. In 40 years of ministry I can only think of one occasion when I celebrated at the North End (thus facing south) and that was at the delightful parish church of St. James, Fulmer in the early 1980s.

  • ‘John Hunwicke writes:- “the 1552 BCP rubrics ordered the priest to stand at the North, or left, side of the Table. Thus, he would be sideways-on to the people, who would have a good view of his right ear but would not be required to be confronted by his grinning face”‘

    This is, however, to misunderstand the intent of the 1552 rubric. The Table was to be placed lengthwise in the chancel and the priest stand on the north side of the Table — with the congregation ranged on the south side, opposite him. Perhaps a few people at the east and west ends of the lengthwise Table. Thus most of the congregation would have been facing him. This was a “versus populum” celebration, long before the 20th century reforms.

    It was only when Archbishop Laud ordered the communion tables to be returned to the east end but without any alteration in the north-side rubric that the people, now placed to the west of the Table, would see the priest in profile. Unintended consequences. The true Cranmerian position is all gathered around the table — “omnium circumstantium” as Bosco Peters has written and and

  • Father David says:

    You are quite correct Simon in your observation that in the 16th century, the Holy Table would have been placed lengthwise in the chancel but if the priest stood at the North with the length of the table before him the congregation in the nave would still have a good view of his right ear. I suspect that when the clergy celebrated in 1552 a “grinning face” would be a very rare sight indeed.

  • Tim S says:

    I hope this might be a post about Michael Perham rather than intricacies of tables and altars.Michael’s interest was not what we did, but the way we did it… in a lively, joyful, confident, hopeful way.
    Michael was one of the most warm, generous, creative and deeply grounded priests I met and worked with. He was outstanding in all roles – parish priest, dean, bishop, but mostly as a human being.

  • cryptogram says:

    Tim S has it exactly right. I praise God that I knew Michael as bishop. He was a warm, affirming person with a wonderful sense of worship, whether in Gloucester Cathedral or St Etheldreda’s, Gas Street. He was able to communicate the ineffable, that sense of worship as our temporary sharing in the cosmic worship of heaven, “heaven in ordinarie” in Herbert’s phrase. A pastoral liturgist if ever there was one.

  • I think Michael Perham would have been happy to have us discussing liturgical points, amongst other memories of him!

    Fr David writes about “the congregation in the nave”. But my point is that the congregation would have done as they were bidden, to “draw near”, not just “with faith” but physically, leaving the nave and gathering with the priest around the Table in the chancel. They would not have been seeing him from the west and therefore in profile, but from the south and so full-face.

    I agree that he would likely not have a “grinning face” though.

  • My only contact with Michael Perham was through his book ‘Liturgy Pastoral and Parochial’ which was not only brilliant but also enjoyable to read.

  • Edward Prebble says:

    The discussion of late, much lamented bishops, and of liturgical niceties reminds me of an article in a Diocesan newsletter by +George Reindorp in about 1980, when I lived in the Diocese of Salisbury. He was describing a “typical” Sunday morning.
    At St Ethelreda’s at 8.00, he celebrated facing East. At St Swithun’s at a family Eucharist at 9.30, he faced west. At St Oswalds at 11.00, he found much of the sanctuary filled with scaffolding. He wrote: “It is the only time in my ministry when I have been obliged to take a south-end celebration.”

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