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Scarlet Ribbons: A Priest with AIDS

Scarlet Ribbons: A Priest with AIDS

by Rosemary Bailey

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
This profound story tells of the life, and complicated death, of Simon Bailey, the Anglican priest in Dinnington, a Yorkshire mining village. After struggling to accept his identity as a gay male and becoming sexually active, Simon was faced with a foreshortened life when, in the early 1980s, he found out that he had AIDS. He told no one until he fell ill. In response, his friends, family, and parishioners rallied around him with care and support. This beautifully written book by Simon's sister, a journalist, candidly takes things that may be unfamiliar--including gay sexuality, AIDS, Anglican spirituality, and English church life--and makes them familiar and human. This quiet story of profound faith and courage, in which the cross Simon bore led not only to death but to a quiet triumph of the spirit, is recommended for all public libraries.--John R. Leech, Brooklyn, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Successfully integrating her voices of loving sister and dispassionate reporter, the author, a journalist, tells the life story of her brother, Simon Bailey, a gay priest in the Church of England who died in 1995 of AIDS. Drawing from his journals and sermons, from interviews with parishioners, other family members, and friends, the author traces the rocky path her brother walked from his youthful awareness of sexual difference, to his conversion out of the austere Baptist Church in which he was raised into the more "esthetic and sensual" Church of England, to his ordination, years of ministry to Dinnington parish in Yorkshire, and his final physical decline under the tender watch and care of his devoted parishioners. Much of the drama of the story unfolds in the step-by-step process by which the priest admits friends, close parishioners, family, church hierarchy, and the pressþin that orderþto the knowledge of his illness, a sequence that moves the author frankly to confess how "immensely sad" it is that she, her siblings, and parents were not among the first to be trusted with the news. That unself-justifying candor is part of what makes Bailey the perfect memorialist of her brother. Though she joyfully communicates the high points of reactions to his illnessþespecially the unprecedented public support he received, as an AIDS-afflicted Anglican priest, to continue actively in his priestly office, as he wished, up until he diedþshe also admits to moral misgivings over the secrecy he kept for so long. Simon's shortened life reminds Bailey of the dying Beth from Little Women; but his capacity to transform private suffering into eloquent and edifying sermons willsuggest to many readers of Scarlet Ribbons another, more ambiguous literary portrait from Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter: the long-suffering minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. The ambiguities in Simon's life that the author preserves in her memorial of him will deepen and extend the impression he leaves. (16 b&w photos)

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Serpent's Tail Publishing Ltd
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.36(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.73(d)

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