Meeting of minds
WHEN I was a child, my father was hardly ever at home in the
evening. In this, he was continuing a long-standing family
tradition. His grandfather, so the story went, was usually to be
found contributing to the profits of the local public house. His
son, my paternal grandfather, reacted to this by becoming a
teetotaller and a pillar of the community, deeply involved in the
affairs of the Baptist Chapel and local politics.
This preoccupation with good works and democratic involvement
continued down his lineage. Two of his daughters, with his
enthusiastic approval, marched with the suffragettes, while my
exasperated mother once calculated that my father belonged to 17
different voluntary organisations, each of which required him to
attend meetings and bring work home.
And now the mantle has fallen on his daughter. I like meetings.
My first venture out of the convent after being ill last year was
to a PCC meeting. I enjoy studying papers, getting to grips with an
agenda, arguing a case, working out policies, and helping to get
things done. Inexplicable as it seems to me, not many people share
Be in it to win it
THE season of annual parochial church meetings is upon us. In
the next few weeks, churchpeople will be choosing those who will
represent them in decision-making. It may not be difficult to find
people to serve on the PCC; after all, the effect of its decisions
in the life of the parish church is very evident, and the
congregation has an interest in maintaining that life in a healthy
and congenial way. But the words "deanery synod" cause many of the
company to shrink into invisibility.
Yet worshippers in many other churches envy us our capacity to
make the voice of the laity and the grass-roots clergy heard in
this way. The deanery synod is the next tier of representation,
which enables democratic participation in an area wider than the
parish, and consultation outside the bounds of our particular brand
Furthermore, many churchpeople do not realise that lay members
of deanery synods form the electorate for the General Synod's House
As I said in my last column (31 January), the decisions of the
General Synod sometimes seem to have little effect at the local
level. Sometimes, however, the impact is noticeable, as in the
alterations in parochial fees, and in the recent widening of
qualifying connections for marriage in a particular church.
And, in November 2012, in the vote on the women-bishops
legislation, we were suddenly shocked into being aware of the
effect of electing a General Synod that did not accurately reflect
views on the ground.
We have the General Synod that we elect. And the process of
election starts now, with the deanery synod.
Day of wrath
THE choir that I sing with is deep in rehearsals for Verdi's
Requiem. This is an experience like none I have had
before. Verdi does not go in for British understatement. To be part
of massed voices raised in the dynamic extremes of Italian operatic
style is both exhilarating and exhausting; I certainly sleep well
on choir nights.
But if the Walter Mitty soprano in me loves it all, the priest
and mission Sister has theological qualms. It is musically
understandable that the section of this work most often heard is
the Dies Irae, with its terrifying picture of the punitive wrath of
God. But is this the idea of God that I should be promoting? And is
abject grovelling an appropriate response to the prospect of
A little corrective mission-preaching would, I feel, be in
order. The trouble is, I do not think I could convey my message as
powerfullyas Verdi conveys his.
Words with meaning
THEN again, my appreciation of the work has been entirely
transformed by a recent television programme about performances
held in the concentration camp at Terezín (Theresienstadt).
A group of Czech prisoners there included a young musician who
had managed to carry with him a piano score of the
Requiem. He recruited and rehearsed a choir of prisoners,
teaching them each part by rote.
The composition of the choir was constantly changing, as new
people arrived at the camp and former inmates were dispatched to
Auschwitz. Performances were given from time to time, by permission
of the guards.
Perhaps they did not realise the significance for these
particular singers of the words, "Day of wrath! When God shall sit
in judgment, when what is hidden is uncovered, nothing forgotten,
Survivors from the choir testified how singing together had
lifted their spirits and given them the strength to carry on in
their almost intolerable circumstances. The attempt to exterminate
them had failed, and their memories were a memorial to those who
"Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord, and let light perpetual
shine upon them."
The Revd Sister Rosemary CHN is a nun at the Convent of the
Holy Name in Derby.