Important update: The e-mail referred to in this post has been confirmed as a hoax. Please don’t forward the message on if you receive it. Details below.
The following e-mail has been both circulating and doing the rounds:
‘Royal Mail has traditionally alternated between sacred and secular designs for their Christmas stamps and this year it is the turn for a religious image. Royal Mail has issued two sets of designs this year. The main set of designs, available in all the main denominations is of angels, which is vaguely Christian but not explicitly so and certainly not specifically Christmassy. They have also issued a ‘Madonna and Child’ design for first and second class only. Post Office staff have been instructed to only sell this design if people specifically request it, but obviously people can’t request it if they don’t know it exists! If people don’t buy these stamps, Royal Mail will claim there is no demand for religious Christmas stamps and not produce them in future. Please therefore ask for ‘Madonna and Child’ stamps when you do your Christmas posting and also tell your friends, contacts etc. to do the same. Thank You.’
I have seen it on a number of blogs, including Richard’s Connexions (here and here), David Faulkner’s (here and here), Anglican Main Stream (here and here) as well as a Facebook group which I joined because Ruth Gledhill joined it and I am easily led and I didn’t want to be missing out. The Ship of Foolsers are discussing it too. Some of these sources are sceptical, but some aren’t.
The BBC reported on a related story a month ago. To see these stamps in greater detail I’d recommend this site which has in-depth analysis, pictures and (if that wasn’t enough) some commemorative postmarks. As you will note the angel stamps commemorate the tercentenary of Charles Wesley, ‘Anglican priest, co-founder of the Methodist movement and hymn-writer’.
Well, I don’t know. I, like this blogger, think the e-mail is all a lot of nonsense. If you are a Royal Mail employee who has been instructed to hide the ‘Madonna and Child’ stamps behind the driving-licence-change-of-address forms, then please do write in. Please, I am willing to be proved wrong if there is evidence to the contrary. But until that happens we should do what we should do with all forwarded e-mails with no verifying source – ignore them. Unless you’d like the ‘Madonna and Child’ stamps of course, in which case feel free ask for them – just don’t take too long about it as I and all the other readers of this blog will be waiting in the queue behind you.
The rest of us will have to make do with the John Wesley series. We’ll just have to live with the fact that commemorating one of the best hymn writers in the world (ever) is ‘vaguely Christian but not explicitly so’.
Update: From the comments section of the Blue Anorak site:
Royal Mail has been pleased to clarify the situation which is that no such instruction has been made, but that with 14,000 post offices around the country practice might vary as to what customers are offered. They have made the following statement:
“There is absolutely no intention on our part to suppress sales of the Madonna and Child stamps in order to be able to claim there is low demand for religious stamps in future years. Indeed, we have produced tens of millions of them, and we want to sell them!! We have given publicity to both types of Christmas stamps, and the availability of both has been widely covered in the national and local press. Furthermore we plan to have the Madonna and Child stamps available every Christmas in future, alongside each year’s “special” set, which will continue to alternate between religious and secular themes.”
I’m waiting to hear whether this has been posted anywhere ‘official’ so we can squash this thing once and for all.
See also Nicthevic’s post in the comments below:
Revd Paula Vennells, who is a non-stipendiary minister in the Diocese of St Albans, and Network Director for the Post Office says this:
“The rumour that the Royal Mail may be encouraged to stop printing religious stamps at Christmas is completely unfounded; and the request to circulate it has been extraordinarily unhelpful…No-one in Royal Mail group gets up in the morning with the negative motivation implied.”
This e-mail is almost certainly a hoax. Let’s try to get the word out, but by contacting webmasters etc, not forwarding on e-mails.