MPs, please note
THE work of the General Synod covers a wide range of topics, as
readers of this paper will know, although, sadly, not readers of
most of the rest of the press. In the latest group of sessions, we
tackled our core business of making laws and regulations for the
internal workings of the Church of England: women bishops, of
course, but also the perennial subjects of faculties, property,
fees, and finance.
I am glad that some members are competent in these matters, and
love wrestling with them, because I am afraid they do not set my
heart beating faster.
We inched forward a step in the process of finding unity with
the Methodists - why is it that it is so difficult for Christians
to agree with one another, and yet we try to lecture the world
about reconciliation? (See above, women bishops.)
But, as the Established Church, we feel an obligation to comment
about issues of national importance, and so we had an impassioned
discussion about the spare-room subsidy. It was rather misleading
to describe it as a debate, since almost no one disagreed.
Speaker after speaker recounted stories from personal experience
about the harsh consequences of this system. Part of the great
value of the synodical system is that members represent every part
of the country, and are in touch with people at every level of
society, and so speak with authority as well as emotion.
Part of the motion we passed overwhelmingly called upon the
Mission and Public Affairs Council to co-operate with the
Government, as well as with others, to pro- duce a fairer system of
Will anyone take any notice? We report our conclusions to the
Government, hoping that the weighty voice of the gathered wisdom of
the Church of England might influence its decisions; but does it?
Certainly, MPs and peers took a lively interest in the
women-bishops legislation, but that was because they saw themselves
as helping us to catch up with them.
READERS of this column may perhaps suspect that I spend a lot of
my time going to the cinema. I can assure you that I do not: I go
to see a film only when I hear of one that sounds really exciting,
and my research is so thorough that I am rarely disappointed, and
often feel tempted to share the good news with my readers.
My latest discovery has been Pride. This is set during
the miners' strike of the 1980s - an episode that I remember
vividly, and about which I have abiding strong views. But the film
records events that passed me by completely at the time.
It concerns the efforts of a group of lesbian and gay activists
in London to demonstrate their sympathy for a cause not their own
by collecting money for the striking miners. They wished it to be
known that they were the donors, and this caused problems for the
official leaders of the strike. Having failed to make an agreement
with the national NUM, they decided to approach a single mining
village, chosen, it seems, more or less at random.
Having received a rather bemused welcome, they went to visit the
village, and began a tentative but slowly warming relationship with
their hosts. It would be difficult to imagine two groups of people
who seemed less likely to make friends than flamboyant metropolitan
gay activists and Welsh miners; but, against all the odds, it
The "pride" of the title reflects both the self-respect of the
closely knit mining community, and the carnival procession in which
they and their colleagues supported their new friends.
One thing that saddened me about this cheering film was that the
only characters who showed any connections with Christianity were
the family arranging an up-market christening ("The readings don't
have to be religious, do they?"), and a small group of homophobic
bigots in the village. Surely some of the friendly village people
were good chapel- or churchgoers? But no one mentioned that.
Attack of nerves
WHY are auditions so terrifying?
I am proud to belong to a good choir ("They don't take just
anyone, you know, you have to have audition"); but now the moment
of truth has arrived, and it is the turn of my half of the choir to
submit to the ordeal. My fellow-victims have arrived, pale and
trembling, and I know I am in the same state.
Alone with the examiner, I have to demonstrate what I can do.
But why has my voice developed this uncharacteristic wobble? Why
has this sequence of notes on the page, which yesterday seemed so
reassuringly familiar, refused to produce a recognisable tune from
my throat? And why have my lungs forgotten how to supply me with
The fearsome test is over, and all the victims have survived to
sing again. But what is it about a simple test of basic aptitude
that reduces us competent adults to a state of quivering
helplessness - and does it every time?
The Revd Sister Rosemary CHN is a nun at the Convent of the
Holy Name in Derby.