30 March 2024

Changing the clocks
tonight does not
take an hour away
from my day or life

The clock at Donegal House and the Guildhall in Lichfield was presented to the Mayor and people of Lichfield by Mrs MA Swinfen-Broun of Swinfen Hall in 1928 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

I’ve spent some time this afternoon watching the boat races and I have lost a few hours cheering on the two winning Cambridge teams. This has been the last day in Lent,the last Saturday in March, and the last day in the Winter Time of GMT. The clocks change tonight, going forward an hour at 1 am. Despite the wet and cold weather we have had in recent days, this also marks the beginning of British Summer Time (BST).

The clocks move forward every year early in the morning on the last Sunday of March, which is also Easter Day this year.

The clocks moving forward also means that we lose an hour in bed. But this is also a leap year, so we have gained an extra day and lost an hour in the course of less than a month.

The decision for clocks to go forward for summer came about through a campaign in the early 20th century to change the clocks during the summer months, so that people in the northern hemisphere could make more use of the earlier daylight hours.

Benjamin Franklin first suggested the idea of daylight saving time in a whimsical article in 1784.

William Willett, an early promoter of British Summer Time, published a pamphlet The Waste of Daylight (1907) that proposed changing the clocks in spring and putting them back in autumn. However, his proposal was complicated, involving advancing the clocks by 80 minutes in four separate moves of 20 minutes each.

The House of Commons rejected a Bill in 1908 to advance the clocks by one hour during the spring and summer months.

Willett died in 1915. A year later Parliament passed the Summer Time Act. It was introduced as a temporary efficiency measure for World War I, but established the practice of putting the clocks an hour forward during summer.

The decision to change the clocks on the last Saturday night and Sunday morning in March was made because it would be the least disruptive option for schools and businesses.

Before time became standardised, different areas of Britain and Ireland kept their own local time, and until the late 19th century, each area set its own clocks.

The Time Act 1880 established Greenwich Mean Time for Great Britain and Dublin Mean Time for Ireland. For 36 years, Ireland’s time was set on the longitude of Dunsink Observatory, and was 25 minutes 21 seconds later than Greenwich. This had implications for trade and commerce, as well as communications and travel.

On 1 October 1916, just five months after the Easter Rising, Ireland relinquished its individual time zone and adopted Greenwich Mean Time. With the introduction of daylight saving and the end of summertime that year Dublin’s time was aligned to that of London.

The Time (Ireland) Act 1916, which came into effect on the night of 30 September and 1 October, and all clocks were put back 35 minutes. This streamlined the time zones, and Ireland adopted Western European Time, set on the Greenwich meridian. Many nationalists saw this as a further erosion of Ireland’s autonomy. But the question of the time zone was not revisited after independence, and from 1918 Ireland remained within the standardised time zones that were effective across Europe.

The Standard Time Act 1968 legally established that ‘the time for general purposes in the State (to be known as standard time) shall be one hour in advance of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year.’ The act was amended by the Standard Time (Amendment) Act 1971, which legally established Greenwich Mean Time as a winter time period.

Double summer time (GMT + 2 hours) was used in the UK during World War II, but was not introduced in Ireland, leaving different time zones on each side of the border until 1947.

Interestingly, the clocks the Royal Observatory Greenwich are not changed during British Summer Time and are always set at Greenwich Mean Time. Visitors to the Observatory during summer are often confused by the apparent delay on the Shepherd Gate Clock, Britain’s first public clock to show GMT.

On the other hand, the Dolphin sundial in the Observatory needs to be adjusted four times a year: at the solstices in June and December, and when the clocks change in March and October.

Mathematical genius is not needed to change the clock tonight

Today, people argue that changing the clocks is good for environmental reasons by reducing energy consumption; gives longer evenings to support leisure and tourism; encourages people to exercise more outdoors; and reduces road accidents.

However, some still argue against daylight saving time – they have concerns about the safety of children going to school in darker mornings, about farm safety and about the effect of changing routines on livestock. Others argue that changing the clocks is now redundant as many people spend time in well-lit homes and workplaces, where the amount of daylight makes little difference to their lives.

About 70 countries have some form of daylight saving time, but this varies from region to region. In the US, the clocks go forward on the second Sunday in March (10 March 2024) and back on the first Sunday in November (3 November 2024), although not all states change their clocks. Arizona does not use Daylight Saving Time, apart from the semi-autonomous Navajo Nation, nor does Hawaii.

The European Parliament backed a proposal In March 2019 to end the practice of changing the clocks in EU member states. Initially the plan was for EU member states to change their clocks for the last time in 2021, but the legislation has stalled in recent years, and seasonal time changes continue.

Many years ago, I knew a student who was a fervent evangelical was vocally opposed to the Lenten practices, including changes in both the college chapel and college kitchen. One year, he strenuously objected that because it was a leap year and 29 February fell in Lent, an extra day had been introduced to Lent.

He suggested it was some high church ‘trap’ to add to the Lenten observances. No amount of logical argument could persuade him that the number of days remained the same whether or not it was a Leap Year. He did not smile when I suggested summer time was reducing Lent by an hour.

Most phones and laptops automatically update themselves, but, it seems, many watches, most clocks and the timers in cars and on kitchen devices do not change automatically and need to be moved forward tonight.

So, it still makes sense to remind myself to put the clocks forward tonight.

Clocks and sundials seen in Norwich this week (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Daily prayer in Lent with
early English saints:
46, 30 March 2024,
Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe

‘All shall we well’ … Julian of Norwich depicted in a window in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

We have come to the end of Lent and Holy Week. Yesterday was Good Friday (29 March 2024) and tomorrow is Easter Day (31 March 2024).

Throughout Lent this year, I have taken time each morning to reflect on the lives of early, pre-Reformation English saints commemorated in Common Worship.

Later this evening, I hope to be involved in the Easter Vigil Mass prayers in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford.

But, before this day begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, A reflection on two early, pre-Reformation English saints;

2, today’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The Church of Saint Julian in Norwich, where Julian of Norwich lived as an anchorite (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Early English pre-Reformation saints: 46, Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe

Julian of Norwich is remembered in Common Worship as a Spiritual Writer on 8 May and Margery Kempe is remembered as a Mystic on 9 November.

On 8 May 1373, when she was 30 years old and suffering from what was considered to be a terminal illness, a woman of Norwich, whose own name is unrecorded, experienced a series of 16 visions, that revealed aspects of the love of God. Following her recovery. She spent the next 20 years of her life pondering their meaning and recorded her conclusions in The Revelations of Divine Love, which became the first book written by a woman in English.

At some point in her life, she became an anchorite attached to the Church of Saint Julian in Norwich, which I visited earlier this week. She became known by the name of Julian to later generations. She died ca 1417.

Margery Kempe was born in Bishop’s Lynn, now King’s Lynn, in Norfolk in the late 14th century and was a contemporary of Julian of Norwich. She received many visions, several of them of the holy family, one of the most regular being of the crucifixion. She also had conversations with the saints. She was much sought after as a visionary, was endlessly in trouble with the Church, rebuked by the Archbishop, and was more than once imprisoned.

Following the messages in her visions, she went on pilgrimage to many holy places, including Walsingham, Canterbury, Compostela, Rome and Jerusalem, often setting out penniless. She was blessed with the gift of tears and seems to have been favoured with singular signs of Christ’s love, whereby for long periods she enjoyed consciousness of a close communion with him and developed a strong compassion for the sins of the world.

Her autobiography, The Book of Margery Kempe, recounts her remarkable life, and is often thought of as the oldest example of an autobiography in the English language. She died in the mid-15th century.

‘The Book of Margery Kempe’ is the oldest example of an autobiography in the English language

John 19: 38-42 (NRSVA):

38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

‘Jesus is laid in the tomb’ … Station 14 in Saint Julian’s Church, Norwich (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Today’s Prayers (Saturday 30 March 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), has been ‘Holy Week Reflection.’ This theme was introduced last Sunday by the Revd Canon Dr Peniel Rajkumar, Theologian and Director of Global Mission, USPG.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (30 March 2024) invites us to pray in these words:

Lord, may we be active members of the community and welcome the stranger into our churches.

The Collect:

Grant, Lord,
that we who are baptized into the death
of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
may continually put to death our evil desires
and be buried with him;
and that through the grave and gate of death
we may pass to our joyful resurrection;
through his merits,
who died and was buried and rose again for us,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

In the depths of our isolation
we cry to you, Lord God:
give light in our darkness
and bring us out of the prison of our despair;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday: Walter Hilton of Thurgarton

Tomorrow: Easter Day

‘The Book of Margery Kempe’ is an autobiographical account of her remarkable life

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org