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Diary: Sister Rosmary

by
28 November 2014

by Sister Rosemary

ISTOCK

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 affordable housing.

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. 

Unlikely comrades

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 happened.

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 breath?

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.

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