Vicars in Austen: Ridiculous or Virtuous Men?

David Russell Mosley

Ordinary Time
6 October 2015
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire

Dear Friends and Family,

I’ve just finished, last night, the second of Jane Austen’s six novels in my annual re-read of them (if you can’t tell, I re-read a lot of books each year). This year I’ve decided to go with publication order so I began with Sense and Sensibility, just finished Pride and Prejudice, and have Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion left. This is not, for those who don’t know, exactly the order in which the books were written. In fact, along with some unfinished works, Northanger Abbey was the third book Austen wrote, but it was not published until after her death. But there is something I’ve noticed as I’ve begun this annual re-read that I thought I would share with you all at the beginning and revisit when once I’m done.

With the exception of Persuasion, which I’ll get to in a moment, the books in publication order show clergyman in the Church of England in good and bad light. This is what I mean. In Sense and Sensibility we have Edward Ferrars, firstborn son in the Ferrars family, though second born overall, who desires to enter the priesthood in the Church of England. Edward is a good man, though with some faults that ostensibly arise from his good character traits being taken advantage of by a less than good woman. Then, in Pride and Prejudice, we get the simultaneously self-important and self-effacing Mr Collins, a ridiculous clergyman with a rich patroness. In Mansfield Park we are given Edmund Bertram, a second born son desirous of entering the church, like his similarly named counterpart in S&S, but not being hindered by his family. Edmund, not unlike Edward, is a good decent man who is parish minded and desires others to lead a good, Christian life and is caught by the attentions of woman who is not so interested in this kind of life (far less so than Lucy Steele). In Emma, however, we meet Mr Elton whose primary desire as a bachelor vicar is to net himself a wealthy wife. Northanger Abbey gives us Henry Tilney, only the second, thus far, actively practicing priest when we meet him (Mr Collins being the other). He like the others is a good and moral man. Persuasion is where the deviation lies for the clergyman there plays neither quite so big a role as the others, never being even a potential love interest for the heroine, but yet is a good vicar, nor is he a ridiculous one like the others before him.

The back and forth nature of Austen’s depictions of clergy is less important, since it works even less well when examined in the order in which she wrote the books, than the fact that Austen, whose own father was a clergyman, seems to be able to see both the good and, if not the bad, then at least the absurd in the Church. I’m sure much more could be made of this and am equally sure others have noticed this before me. Still, I am now looking forward to continuing my read of Austen’s novels to see how she conceives of the Church, both in its universal sense and in its local sense.

Until then I remain,

Sincerely yours,

Life Update 2: Twins and the USA

David Russell Mosley

Festival of King Edmund
20 November 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire
Dear Friends and Family,

Well, it is has been an interesting week. Last Thursday, Lauren and I went in for our 12 week scan. We were still a little nervous. For us, this scan was going to make the pregnancy real for both of us. Lauren has had the usual symptoms of pregnancy, but isn’t really showing yet; since the changes aren’t happening to me, I really don’t get to experience the pregnancy. So this scan was going to make it all real and settle any fears we might have had.

We go into the Queen’s Medical Centre, wait, get called into the room and get settled. The technician puts the ultrasound wand on Lauren’s stomach and nonchalantly announces, ‘You’re having twins.’ Lauren and I both assume he’s joking. He then proceeds to say, ‘I love shocking people,’ but not in a way that makes us think he’s serious. It isn’t until he says we’re going to label this one Twin A that it finally dawns on us; this isn’t a joke. We’ve been in a state of shock and joy ever since.

baby a one

Twin A

baby b one

Twin B

We’ve since found out that there is some history for twins on Lauren’s side of the family. Even so, its so remote and only one cousin has had them, with no guarantee that it came from the Peterson side of the family, that we had no notion, no inkling that this could happen to us.

Having twins means a lot of changes are coming our way. For starters, it means having to get two of everything instead of just enough for one baby. It also means our original plans of not finding out the gender have gone out the window. In Lauren’s words, ‘I need to be as prepared as I can be.’ There is another change, however, that the twins aren’t causing, but helping to facilitate.

Ever since Lauren and I made the decision to remain in England and pursue ordination in the Church of England we have felt unsettled. We thought we’d feel content. We expected hardships and doubts, but not to the extent we were having them. We had no time, no breathing room to figure things out. It all needed to happen so fast, too fast. Since finding out we’re having twins, our priorities have needed to change. This means, for the time being, we’re putting a pause on the ordination process.

In other words, after I submit my PhD in the Fall of next year we will be coming home to the USA. We aren’t sure what that’s going to look like yet. We’ll want to spend time with family; I’ll need to spend time preparing for my Viva (the defence of my thesis back in the UK), but other than that things are up in the air. We’re going to be very sad to leave England. We have and do love living here. Nevertheless, we’re looking forward to coming home and spending time with friends and family, sharing the gift of our twins with everyone we can. In terms of ordination in the CoE, I’ll be keeping in touch with our DDO and if God has called to ordination in England, then he’ll bring us back. For now, we’re just going to trust in him, thank him for our twins, and pray that I get my thesis written. And on that note, I’ve got some reading and writing to do.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

A Life Update: Ordination News, Thesis Update, and Babies

David Russell Mosley


22 October 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

I thought it was necessary to do another life update as we’ve announced a few things recently and there are a few others I simply haven’t written about.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Lauren and I are now in the midst of the discernment process for me to be ordained in the Church of England. This past Monday we had our first meeting with the DDO (the Diocesan Director of Ordinands). She was absolutely lovely, and it went really well so far as I can tell. She simply wanted to get to know Lauren and I and understand why we think this is the direction God is calling us. We’ll have a few more meetings and hopefully get me into a Diocesan Panel by February so I can go on to a Bishop’s Advisory Panel in time to get the funding necessary to begin the training in September of 2014. If this is where God’s calling us, it’s all going to happen rather quickly. This is both terrifying and exciting.  One of the things Sue did mention is me doing a placement (following a vicar around for a little while) in order to ensure I know what various congregations are like in the Church of England. Hopefully I’ll be able to do this at the parish church in Beeston since Lauren and I don’t drive. Prayers on this front are most definitely appreciated.

One of the other major things we have going on this academic year is, of course, my thesis. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but this will the last year of my PhD. I am now in what is called the write up or Thesis Pending Period. Essentially what this means is I get fewer meetings with my supervisors, and have to be done by the end of next September (that’s right the same one I’d start my training in if all goes towards ordination), or else! I have half of my thesis written and plan to have the other half done by no later than May so I can spend the summer editing and getting it ready for submission. Prayers are also certainly appreciated on this front as well.

The final, and perhaps biggest news we have, as well as another reason for me needing to have the thesis written by May, is that Lauren and I are pregnant. Yes, technically she’s the only one who is actually growing a human child, but as its my child too, and we’re one flesh, I think I can say that we are pregnant.Image We are absolutely ecstatic about this! Having kids has been one of our biggest dreams since before we even got married. I’m sure there will be many more baby posts to come in the future, but for now I will say this: Lauren is doing well; we’re intentionally not finding out the gender; and our little one is due on 24 May 2014 (our sixth anniversary).

These are all the main things going on in right now in the Mosley Family (UK). Otherwise life is going on as usual. We’re getting stuck-in as the British would say, in our new church, and finally making some British friends. I hope you all are well. Look out for my next posts on Creation, food, and more.


Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

A Life of Rhythm: The Church Calendar and the Divine Hours

David Russell Mosley

5 October 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Students,

Welcome, first and foremost, to my blog. I asked Pete a few days ago if it was alright to do a quick response to what we heard from Steve on Tuesday. He said yes, so now I’m burdening you with my thoughts. Please, take them for what they are, my personal, albeit reasoned and studied, thoughts.

As Steve so rightly taught, it is essential to have rhythm in life. Just like the vine in John 15, we cannot, yet, always be in fruit. Still, we may be left wondering how we develop a rhythm, what a good rhythm could look like that includes both times of action and times of rest and yet always fits under the umbrella of abiding with Christ. There is one way, a rather excellent one, I think of having intentional rhythm in your life that has come down to us from Christians in centuries past; it is called liturgy. Specifically, I am talking about the liturgy of the year, also known as the Church Calendar, and the liturgy of the day, otherwise known as the Divine Office or Divine Hours. Being more intentional about including these two aspects of the Christian Tradition can help you live your Christian faith more intentionally and with a sense of rhythm.

If you want, you can look back through some of my older posts on the various aspects of the Church Calendar. Right now, I just want to encourage you to start thinking of your year in these terms. The Christian year begins with Advent (usually late November or early December). This year Advent begins on the first of December. And goes until Christmas Eve Advent is a time of waiting. We remember the waiting the world did for the first coming of Christ, and yet we also recognise that we are waiting for the return of Christ. Advent is often a time of fasting From Advent we move to Christmas, which begins on Christmas Eve and continues until the the eve of Epiphany on January fifth. Christmas, of course, is the time where we celebrate the coming of God into the world in human flesh. From Christmas we move to Epiphany (6 January to the 1 February). Epiphany celebrates the life of Christ, especially his baptism. After Epiphany is the feast of Candlemas celebrating the presentation of Christ at the temple by his parents. Starting on February third, then, we enter Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time reminds us that God is also present in the everyday (where we spend most of our lives) as well as the special events. Ordinary time continues until Ash Wednesday (5 March 2014). Ash Wednesday kicks off the second main time of fasting called Lent. During Lent we remember that Christ died for our sins, we confess our sins and remind ourselves why we needed a saviour (on a side note, people often fast or give something up during Lent. It is important to remember that for Christians Sundays are always Feast Days, because we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. This means we cease fasting for every Sunday in Lent). Lent goes until Holy Week, which is the Week before Easter. During this time we remember the events that led up to and include the Crucifixion of Christ). Easter begins Saturday evening and goes until Pentecost fifty days later. Pentecost is a one off celebration to remind us that Christ has given us the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost is another set of Ordinary Time until the year begins again with Advent.

The Christian Year, in my opinion, offers perhaps the best way to live the year out rhythmically. It allows us to both feast and fast with purpose. One way to make sure you pay attention to the Church Year is to take part in the Divine Hours.

My prayer station at home.

My prayer station at home.

The Divine Hours, or Divine Office, is a series of daily times of prayer. Most monks and nuns use some form of these prayers every day. Here in the Church of England with Common Worship  we have provided for us Morning Prayer, Prayer During the Day, and Evening Prayer. Common Worship has set readings and prayers for each of the seasons so we can be more aware of what season we are in. You can find all this for free on the Church of England’s website here: Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in Ordinary Time, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in Seasonal Time, Prayer During the Day Ordinary Time, Prayer During the Day Seasonal Time. I myself say Morning Prayer at 6, Prayer During the Day at or around Noon, and Evening Prayer at about 5. Having set times of prayer helps us organise our days around God and worshipping him (which is what liturgy means, worship), rather than organising our days around work or television or the things of the world. These prayers are set up to be used corporately, but can be done on your own as well. Morning and Evening prayer can also be accompanied by Scripture readings from the Lectionary which you can find here (note: we’re in year C until Advent when we switch to year A). Morning and Evening prayer take about 15-20 minutes and Prayer During the Day takes about 10-12 minutes.

Well, this has gotten too long as it is and so I will bring it to a close. Nevertheless, allow me to encourage you once more to consider using the Church Calendar and the Divine Hours to help you find more rhythm in life. They have been immensely helpful to me. This is, of course, not suitable for everyone and there are many ways to introduce more rhythm into your life, but this is the way I have found most useful and it is also a very traditional way to do so.

See you all on Tuesday.

Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

A Life Update: Ordination in the Church of England

Southwell Minster - view from the north west

Southwell Minster – view from the north west (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

David Russell Mosley


30 September 2013
On the Edge of Elfland
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Dear Friends and Family,

As Lauren and I have told some of you over the last few months, we have been in the process of discerning a call to ordination in the Church of England. It all began several months ago when a friend and new colleague at the university suggested it. She seemed to think I had skills and qualities necessary and needed in the Church of England. I must admit that this sounded crazy to me, at first. However, I could never really forget what she said, it just sat in the back of my mind.

Lauren and I had already made a switch from our previous church in Beeston to St Nicholas’ Church  (an Anglican church) in the City Centre of Nottingham. Being part of this community, plus that nagging voice in the back of my head, brought up again notions of the possibility of ordination in the Church of England. Many other things began happening to seemingly confirm this calling from God. I remembered feelings I had in the past about simply being ordained, a longing I had had as a child for England (and had subsequently gave up when we moved here, thinking staying completely out of the question). So I decided to start seeking advice.

I started emailing friends to seek their advice; I had frequent conversations with Lauren about it. In the end, having spoken both with the Rector at our church and with my supervisor, who is both an ordained Anglican priest and a professor of theology, I went on a retreat to Mucknell Abbey. As I told you in my last letter about that retreat, I was there to discern the Lord’s will for us and came away feeling that we had truly been called to ordination in the Church of England. I came back, told a few friends here, and Lauren of course, and our vicar (Rector, vicar, and priest all, amongst many others, terms I have to become familiar with now).

Today, Lauren and I had a meeting with Steve, the Rector of our church. We talked about ordination and both what it means for Lauren and I separately and together. Having had this meeting, I finally felt able to be open about what we were doing. I didn’t keep this a secret out of shame and only a little out of fear. Instead, I kept it quiet because I didn’t want to say anything until we had made a decision.

What this means for us now is a whole host of new things we’ve never expected or experienced. One of the things I really like about Anglican ordination is that I do not make the final decision. Having told Steve he then refers me to the DDO (Diocesan Director of Ordinands, or person provisionally in charge of people who want to be ordained in a given area). She will meet with us and then I go to Diocesan Panel (assuming the DDO approves of me). At the Panel I’ll be asked questions about why ordination and why the C of E, etc. From there, I’ll go on to the Bishop’s Advisory Panel which, as I understand it, is a weekend away where again, I’m asked lots of questions, along with other ordinands. Should everything go well, I will then begin training at a seminary somewhere, hopefully by next September. From there, honestly, who knows.

I want to be very clear, Lauren and I are not joining the Church of England because we’re fed up with the Restoration Movement or anything like that. It is more that I see this as an extension of RM ideals, especially the unity of all believers. The C of E is well placed to dialog with Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants. It has that blend of liturgy, tradition, and the Scriptures that I particularly appreciate. I feel very firmly that God has called us to this, but if he hasn’t I trust he will tell us in one of the many stops along the way.

This letter is getting over long. I want you all to know how much I desire your love, support, and prayers as Lauren and I begin this journey in our life. We are very excited to see what God has in store for us. Please feel free to message me if you have any questions or concerns about this decision we’ve made. In the mean time, I will keep you all updated both about how the ordination process is going and how my thesis is coming, as well as my usual posts of Faerie, books, poetry, theology, and the Church Calendar.

For now I remain,


Sincerely yours,
David Russell Mosley

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Frances Knight

frances-knightDear Friends and Family,

Today’s TRS Faculty member is Associate Professor of History of Modern Christianity Frances Knight. Frances came to Nottingham in 2009. She did her Bachelor’s and Master’s at King’s College London, where she found most interesting the modern history of the Anglican Church. In 1995, Frances moved to Cambridge to do her PhD under David Thompson.

Frances’ main area of interest is the modern era, especially the nineteenth century, Anglican Church. While I’ve never sat in on any of Frances’ classes, Frances did serve as my internal assessor for my first year confirmation review. She is knowledgeable and very helpful, especially on Anglican theology and history.


Frances has unfortunately not uploaded a complete bibliography, so here are a few key texts.

  • The Church in the Nineteenth Century. I.B.Tauris, 2008.
  • The Nineteenth-Century Church and English Society. Cambridge University Press, 1999.


Why Study an MA in Church History at the University of Nottingham?

Why Study modern Church history?

Why Study the Book of Common Prayer?

Why Study FD Maurice?

Why Study CH Spurgeon?

Looking back at the Second Vatican Council with Tom O’Loughlin and Frances Knight

The Role of The Archbishop of Canterbury with Andrea Russell and Frances Knight

Lady Day

Related Posts

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Simon Oliver

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Mary Cunningham

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Alison Milbank

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Tom O’Loughlin

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Richard Bell

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Roland Deines

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Alan Ford

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Philip Goodchild

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: John Milbank

Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Karen Kilby