On Monday, October 29, two dozen people braved below-zero temperatures to make a crowd at Letton Church for the annual Guinea Service. Following the Prayer Book order for Evensong, the invited preacher was Dean of Hereford Cathedral, The Very Revd Michael Tavinor.
Taking as his text Mark’s story of the poor widow putting her two small coins into the temple treasury (Mark 12:41-44), Michael revealed something about himself that his hearers did not know – his life-long interest in studying and collecting coins. He had brought three with him, all of which ‘told a story’.
Kindness: A halfpenny dated 1806 could have been used by Elizabeth Freeman, a woman of some wealth and independence who was motivated by kindness to set up her bequest four years later. It was given to Michael by a kind primary school teacher, Miss Robinson, who encouraged him in his interest.
Freedom: The year 1806 was in the middle of the struggle to pass the Abolition Slavery Bill in both houses of parliament. The second coin, a Queen Elizabeth I sixpence dated 1588, the year of the Armada, spoke of another Elizabeth of self-determination, who resolved not to be constrained by the stereotypes of men and women at that time.
Inclusion: The third coin was a 1950s farthing embedded in a hiker’s pole which Michael takes on his walks. It was given to him by a friend, a great walker, who was losing her mobility so that she could be included in walks in this way.
Following the sermon, the congregation followed tradition in holding a ballot, which overwhelmingly indicated that the Dean should keep the trophy for the coming year.