How to make the C of E a happier place

by
02 November 2006

Hugh Rayment-Pickard decides to solve the Archbishop's problems: 'The little things make all the difference'

"IF I WERE Archbishop of Canterbury . . ." is a phrase that must have been echoing in vicarages around the nation these past weeks. Every Tom, Dick, and Harriet, it seems, knows better than Dr Williams how to do his job. Last week, for example, a few of us were able to solve the entire ECUSA-Nigeria dilemma with the aid only of a couple of bottles of Valpolicella. Being Anglican Primate is easy enough in the saloon bar of the Dog and Duck.

Playing at Armchair Archbishop is all very well, but drawing up a realistic and credible set of policies for the Church of England is no simple task. The problems are vast, and the attempt to please one group inevitably involve upsetting the others. People say, with some justification, that it's an impossible job.

Perhaps, though, this is where we have been going wrong. We've become befuddled with all the impossible problems, and forgotten about the little things that can make a difference. We have been concentrating too much on the macro issues where solutions are in short supply. If we turn to the micro issues - things we really can achieve - we may have more success. As it says in Niebuhr's prayer, give me the courage to change the things I can. Wise words, think you'll agree.

I've been holding some informal focus groups over the past few days, and have come up with the following manifesto designed to bring small but significant benefits to everyone in the Church of England:

There will be mandatory microphone training for all clergy. I never want thear another child asking: "What's the Vicar doing?" as a member of the clergy fumbles in an unseemly way inside his or her clerical robes in order to switch on a radio microphone.

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Signs are to go up outside all churches and vicarages saying, "Please do not apologise for swearing in front of the Vicar." Clergy really have heard all commonly used obscenities, are not shocked, and, in my experience, swear like celebrity chefs when out of earshot of the churchwardens.

To cheer up dull church meetings, members of the Prayer Book Society will be required, when speaking at PCCs and synods, to talk in Elizabethan English.

There will be a 1 fine every time the word "just" is used in prayers. ("We just want to thank you, Lord" etc., etc.) There is no biblical precedent for it; there are no "justs" in the Lord's Prayer, for example. All proceeds to charity.

Once a year all Evangelical clergy will have to dress up and use incense; and all Anglo-Catholic clergy will preside in knitwear, and display the liturgy on an overhead projector.

There will be a compulsory five-a-side football league at the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Teams will be chosen at random, except for Archbishop Akinola, who will have to play goalie on Bishop Gene Robinson's side. (Imagine the conversation in the showers afterwards.)

This notice is to go up in every church porch: "Thank you for not wearing high-gloss lipstick when receiving the chalice."

Once a year, all clergy must sit through a videotape of themselves presiding and preaching at worship. This will remind the clergy how long-suffering the lay people of the Church of England are.

The phrase "lady vicar" will be banned.

Just for fun, beards must be worn by all male clergy engaged in ecumenical discussions with the Orthodox Churches.

T. S. Eliot may be quoted in the vicar's sermons only once each year. There is to be a ten-year moratorium on reading "The Journey of the Magi" at carol services.

A contract will be negotiated with an international coffee-house chain to supply nice-tasting hot beverages after church services around the country. (Instant coffee may only be used in an emergency.)

Bishops will be required to attend drumming workshops. Archbishop Sentamu can then lead an annual massed procession of drumming bishops through the streets of London.

PCC meetings will last no longer than 60 minutes; members will be encouraged to make their contributions once only and as briefly as possible.

The definite article will be inserted into the phrase "fresh expressions of church" so that it reads "fresh expressions of the Church" and at last makes some sense to baffled non-churchgoers.

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Electric buttons marked "I don't know this hymn" will be fitted in all pews and will relay to a display in the incumbent's stall.

Hymns Ancient and Modern will at last be renamed Hymns Ancient.

Adverts for clerical jobs will no longer be allowed to carry boasts about the previous incumbent: "Owing to the appointment of the Revd Joe Bloggas Dean/Archdeacon/Bishop (delete as appropriate) we are seeking a new Vicar".

At services where the clergy speak in sing-song voices, the congregatiowill be authorised to respond in kind.

At weddings, the mother of the bride will be allowed only to do the flowers if she can produce a recognised flower-arranging qualification and references from satisfied customers.

Deanery synods will be suspended for five years. After which time, it will require a two-thirds majority to bring them back into existence.

Finally, the following strap line will be carried on all C of E literature, websites, T-shirts, and bumper stickers: "Taking small steps towards a happier Church of England."

And even if you don't agree with all these policies, I hope you will agreat least that we really do need a happier Church of England.

The Revd Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard is Area Dean of Kensington in London.

Have you any suggestions to add to these? Email them to letters@churchtimes.co.uk

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