Visitors to Canterbury Cathedral, once they have passed through the ‘pray or pay’ checkpoints, will generally avail themselves of a small modern building on the outskirts of the pilgrims site. It is the ‘chapel of ease’ and, in the earliest traditions of orthodox worship, still happily and uncontroversially divided into ‘Ladies’ and ‘Gentlemen’.
Recent male visitors have been somewhat surprised to find the entrance to their latrine guarded by a large warning notice – ‘A Female Attendant is on duty here!’ Some, no doubt, have felt intimidated and taken their business elsewhere. Others have lingered in hope. Many have wondered if the shortage of male lavatory attendants is peculiar to East Kent. Intelligence from the other side suggests not.
Those with intimate connections with life partners of a different gender report a curious parallel. Apparently the ‘Ladies’ are greeted with a similarly forbidding notice, warning that ‘A Male Attendant is on duty here’.
Is it beyond the wit of Canterbury Cathedral plc personnel department to organize a job swap or will the girls have to continue to whistle and sing to avoid embarrassment?
Traditionalist males are considering passing resolutions ‘A’ and ‘B’ for their facilities!
GLAD WINS NO FRIENDS
The amour propre of those bishops who cling desperately to ‘local arrangements’ to avoid the contamination of their authority by ‘flying bishops’ is always a source of rich entertainment. Nowhere more so than in Guildford diocese recently, according to bemused members of the congregation. At the Chrism Mass for traditionalists, John Gladwin, Bishop of Guildford, surpassed himself. 'Gladys', leading liberal and star of Southwark Cathedral's famous ‘Gay Day’, had himself enthroned in all pomp and panoply in his seat, plumb centre, above the celebrant and, coincidentally, Our Lord. Like the good former Evangelical that he is, he insisted on a full separate and special censing.
Those who went to Canterbury witnessed a rather different display of authority. Rowan Williams, for it was he, was content to stand humbly in the sanctuary robed in alb and stole like every other priest there, say his prayers, reverence the celebrant and the sacrament and behave with self-effacing graciousness.
Someone really must teach him how to behave like a bishop in the Church of England.
Returning from one of those exciting Free Church weddings where the reception is teetotal, the journey home for one family was enlivened by their youngest daughter.
‘Dad,’ she enquired, ‘what's fornication?’
As this was territory that the parents were hoping not have to enter for another two or three years at least, Dad prevaricated. The little girl was not going to be outmanoeuvred and persisted with her enquiries. In desperation Dad asked her where she had heard the word. ‘Oh’, she replied, ‘it was from Uncle Joe. He said to Auntie Susan,
"Fornication like this they should have had champagne"!’
LET US SPRAY
Liturgy experts have been intrigued by an exciting new approach to corporate prayer pioneered in the cutting edge Diocese of… wait for it… Sodor and Man!
The Diocesan Children's work adviser hires out a professional bubble blowing machine for use at family services. The Reverend Bev Wells recently assisted her husband, Nick, with it in one of his more imaginative bouts or public intercession. Mr Wells invited the children to call out prayer needs and responded to each one by puffing through a little plastic hoop. Meanwhile Bev, secreted in the pulpit, revved up the soapy supplicator and showers of ‘prayer bubbles’ rose heavenwards.
No doubt, as they all popped or drifted down again, some of the older and wiser children may have reflected how wise the Book of Revelation was to choose incense as the image of the prayers of the saints ascending to God.
Another family service perhaps.
Revisionist history is so liberating. It is most exciting to discover that almost every significant historical figure from Alexander the Great to Elton John is ‘gay’. Scriptural studies lag a bit behind here but, fear not, ‘Changing Attitudes’, one of the potty Lotto's favourite 'charities' is doing its bit. As part of its task to get the Church of England to come on and come out it is holding a series of biblical conferences. Needless to say poor old David and Jonathan get their usual outing but wait, who's this? As part of a ‘celebration of love in the Bible’ there will be a talk on ‘Ruth and Naomi’!
Can they be the scriptures’ supreme sapphic sisterhood? Think about it for moment. Why would you return with your mother-in-law to live the life of a gleaner? Why wasn't Boaz married? Why was he so anxious that no one knew there had been a woman with him on the threshing floor? No doubt all will be suitably interpreted by 'Changing Attitudes' upcoming conference at Manchester.
Standing room only surely when Father Jim Cotter, resident spirituality and sexuality expert, eventually explores the hermeneutics of 'the Mighty Men of Israel' !
THE LOST SHEPHERD
When ‘Cost of Conscience's' authoritative survey, The Mind of Anglicans, revealed that astonishing numbers of clergy did not believe the basics of the faith, it became a public scandal. Now, it appears, we were all too judgmental.
A Church of England report, issued last month, reveals that clergy training is the root problem. Surprise, surprise. The clergy of the last few years display ‘a clear deficit’ in theological knowledge. They have ‘poor levels of perspective in relation to church traditions, worship and doctrine’. They are obliged to spend too much time on such vital ministerial matters as, ‘gender power relations’, ‘racial awareness’, inclusive language and appropriate social attitudes.
So there you have it. The clergy are not all miserable atheists. Many of them, so we must now accept, never knew what it was they were expected to believe in the first place or had it knocked out of them by more important issues at theological college.
All very reminiscent of the famous liberal vestry prayer:-
‘O God, for as much as without thee we are not able to doubt thee,
O give us the grace to persuade the whole race that we know nothing about thee.’
A sign outside a Jewish shop in North London recently displayed some imaginative inter-faith marketing. 'HALF PRICE ESTHER EGGS', it proclaimed!
Next year, perhaps, it could offer them with that other great symbol of the Paschal feast – A FLUFFY RABBI!
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