In the church of St Peter on the East Cliff in Folkestone, Kent, this morning, the sermon was of battles. It was the Trafalgar Day service – marking the 205th anniversary of Nelson's victory this Thursday – so, with many old sailors in the congregation, Camperdown was mentioned and Lepanto, the Glorious First of June and other long-gone actions at sea.
But it was another battle, in a different sort of see, that was clearly uppermost in the mind of the priest, Father Stephen Bould: his parish may be the first to defect wholesale from the Church of England to Rome following Pope Benedict XVI's offer of a safe harbour for Anglicans disaffected by their church's decision to allow women priests to become bishops.
Bould told his ageing flock: "It is a battle we are fighting now. Let's fight it with flair, imagination and spirit."
The high-Anglican Victorian church on the cliffs above the port has become the scene of the latest twist in the Church of England's agonizingly drawn-out wrestle over women's ministry, 16 years after its first female ordinations. Read more