*** DEBUG END ***

Caption Competition

11 July 2014

Entries for our next caption-competition picture (above) must reach us by Friday 4 July.

by email to: captioncompetition@churchtimes.co.uk

by post (postcards only)to: Caption Competition, Church Times, 3rd floor Invicta House, 108-114 Golden Lane, London EC1Y 0TG


HUMOUR sometimes requires closer examination. Not often: it functions, like other human activities, on a set of shared assumptions. The problem comes when these are not shared.

The last caption-competition photo was chosen from a batch sent to us of a blessing of a Romanian radio studio by the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Daniel. The combination of a solemn act and a DIY implement invited your captions, we felt.

When the photograph was published, the editor received a letter of complaint from the Rt Revd Dr Geoffrey Rowell, the former Bishop in Europe. He wrote:

"The chrismation of an ikon is a solemn religious blessing, and therefore a sacramental act. For a responsible church newspaper to use it as an occasion to invite amusing, flippant, or sardonic comment is both inappropriate and offensive to Orthodox believers, and to the Romanian Orthodox Church, with whom we have enjoyed long and close ecumenical relations.

"Having as Bishop in Europe enjoyed the personal hospitality and warm welcome of Patriarch Daniel at the breakfast following the midnight Easter liturgy, I am embarrassed by such insensitivity.

"We need to model sensitivity and understanding of the faith and devotion of Christian brothers and sisters, and not hold them up to ridicule. This can only reinforce suspicions that Western Christian values have been subverted by contemporary culture which holds little sacred, and where anything can become a  Private Eye satirical cover.

"Having published the picture in this context, I believe an apology is owed to the Romanian Orthodox Church, and that there should be no republication of the picture with a gallery of comments thought to be amusing but compounding the insensitivity."

These were not objections that we could set aside lightly, even though we received no others. They touch the essence of the caption competition. There is an innate absurdity about most human activity, and part of the enjoyment of our God-given nature is to recognise this absurdity. It is what lies at the root of humility - as can be seen when it is absent.

If the competition held people up to ridicule, as Dr Rowell suggests, we should not run it. It is on this understanding that we regularly extend an ecumenical welcome to subjects from other denominations and other countries.

We do not believe that Dr Rowell is suggesting that members of the Romanian Orthodox Church are humourless. We note, via the BBC, that photos of the studio blessing have generated a humorous reaction in the Romanian press.

This is not, of course, all that could be said in this matter. For example, offensiveness can be funny: the best political humour is often the most outrageous. We do not believe that this applies to our competition.


AS FOR the entries, all our readers were on their best behaviour. Our choice of winner may have been influenced by the Bishop's objections. Thanks, once again, to Divine for providing the Fairtrade chocolate prize (divinechocolate.com).

"Everyone agreed that the Bishop was a real Holy Roller" (Diana Jones); "His birthday B&Q voucher came in very useful for the ceremony" (Brian Simmons); "The Orthodox band was limited to a bowl, one maraca, and a large stick" (Peter Walker); and "Aspergillums are for wimps - this is the way a real man does it" (Paul Reynolds).

"'I just wanted an orthodox spring-cleaning service,' complained Mandy" (Howard Reeve); "Mavis the secretary looked on, bemused - aware that this was an unorthodox approach to painting an icon" (Michael Foster); "In his youth, the Patriarch had washed car windows at weekends" (Patrick Irvine); and "Everyone was so taken up with the patriarch and the painting that they completely missed the murder with the maraca" (Corin Child).


When making comments, icon tact must be strictly maintained

John Appleby



Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite


Thu 20 Apr @ 16:08
The Archbishop of Canterbury has received the specially commissioned King James Bible that will be presented to Kin… https://t.co/u8LMnSFcfV

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)