IT IS not yet the silly season. For one thing, Parliament is
still sitting, debating gay marriage, among other topics. For
another, the General Synod has yet to pronounce on women bishops.
Perhaps because of these, the most talked-about church story this
week was the wedding video from Blyth, in Nottinghamshire. In it,
the Revd Kate Bottley initiates a flash-mob disco dance, joined, in
the end, by the whole congregation, bar the two elderly aunts who
left in the middle. Questions have been raised on Twitter and
elsewhere whether this was a correct interpolation into divine
service: "I hate to be off-message, but I really don't think that
flashmobs in the liturgy are a good thing;" the Church's "job is
not to connect with people simply for the sake of it, but in order
to engage people with the message of the gospel;" "Cringeworthy,
inappropriate, just felt all wrong."
Criticising services is, of course, an enjoyable pastime for
many. To a judgemental eye, schooled by The X Factor and
Britain's Got Talent, a service can rate as very poor
entertainment: sermon weak, music poor, readings inaudible, that
sort of thing. The clergy often invite criticism, going off-piste
in the liturgy, failing to respect, or overdoing, the traditions of
the place. There are many factors that can exclude members of the
congregation from the central drama of the service, turning them
from participants into observers.
To introduce any form of congregational movement into the
marriage service was, by this score, risky; yet it was what was
needed to engage those whose attention might have been slipping,
and to involve them in the couple's happiness. Wedding officiants
will have to be on their guard against future would-be YouTube
stars. But the fact that the Blyth wedding dance was good-hearted,
energetic, and popular with the congregation ought to silence the
critics. After all, a typical liturgy has people standing up at
various intervals, but goes no further. Why not give them something
to do while they are on their feet?
'Losing can happen'
IT IS Wimbledon season. The first day's play produced an example
of good sportsmanship which will be hard to beat. Tennis players
are renowned for their fanatical desire to win: it is an essential
part of the mind-games they play on court. It was thus a pleasure
to hear Rafael Nadal reflecting on his defeat by the 135th seed,
Steve Darcis. "I know that losing can happen, and it happened.
That's all." He declined to blame an injury, instead praising his
opponent. "He deserves not one excuse." Magnamity in defeat is
harder, and therefore more laudable, than graciousness in