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Synod sends itself up in nostalgia

17 July 2015

Evoked: a publicity shot of Michael Flanders and Donald Swann in New York, prior to taking their revue, "At the Drop of Another Hat", to Broadway, in 1966

Evoked: a publicity shot of Michael Flanders and Donald Swann in New York, prior to taking their revue, "At the Drop of Another Hat", to Broadwa...

COMEDY and comebacks helped the ninth quinquennium of the General Synod draw gleefully to its close with the customary revue on the Saturday night in York.

The University donated the Roger Kirk Centre for an hour or two for members to let their hair down while donating to typhoon-devastated communities in the Province of Melanesia. As members queued for the bar, they were called to order with words not heard in their midst for three years: “Robin Stevens (Chelmsford), 276”.

Mr Stevens, the Synod’s former stewardship guru, had also been its resident impresario; and he was making a comeback in waistcoat, bow tie, and (apparently) fishnet stockings, to steward hidden talents (and talents that should stay hidden) for this year’s irreverent offering.

To get into the spirit of a Synod revue, it helps to be old enough to remember The Good Old Days and Flanders and Swann. So the Synod’s class of 2000-15 were, on the whole, well qualified to join in the refrain as Adrian Greenwood (Southwark) sang of Monday mornings and it all making work for the Synod office staff, and to clap along as the “Rocking Bishop”, Jonathan Meyrick of Lynn, in glittering clerical collar and leather jacket, let rip, pounding the air, with “I can’t get no Synod action”.

“I think we may have peaked too early,” Mr Stevens said anxiously, arranging the set for “Synodrella”, by the Archbishops’ Council Thespian Society. The Southern Prolocutor won the hand of a stolid Prince Charming, the Northern Primate, while Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) and John Spence, finance director, bobbed up and down indignantly as the Ugly Sisters, and Archdeacon Cherry Vann was a resolutely good fairy godmother.

Mr Spence was briefly elevated to the episcopate, and Stephen Cottrell became a humble churchwarden, as the Chelmsford Players provided their sketch of the “Three Houses”.

Gilbertian advice from Sister Rosemary CHN dealt with how to be “the very model of a government synodical”. There was an exhortation to “Brush up your Prayer Book” from Jo Spreadbury and Rowan Clare Williams; a retrospective of five rollercoaster years, set to Anglican chant; and the Portsmouth Players’ skit on dating the clergy. There was even a serious interlude (“wasted on this audience”, Mr Stevens said), as Vasantha Gnanadoss (Southwark) performed a classical dance in the Kathak tradition.

Mary Judkins and Zahida Mallard (West Yorkshire & the Dales) managed, from behind their Elsa and Anna masks, to lead God’s Frozen chosen in community singing.

But the finale, “SW1P 2015”, was, as usual, left to the Synod staff, who manage, as it pointed out, a wide range of incompatible priorities. “The world of inclusivity is packed with initiatives”, and one of the C of E’s challenges was neatly summarised: “What we’ve got here is major brand dropout!”

And who was that dishevelled figure, like a star appearing, with bike and shorts and a rock T-shirt? A “superannuated civil servant” had returned in the shape of a very chilled-out William Fittall.

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