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Diary: Glyn Paflin

01 September 2017


Start the clock

OUR attention span is now about eight seconds, Laura Treneer, a passionate Christian communicator, says (speak for yourself, madam), which doesn’t bode well for the rest of this column; but that statistic, which she gleaned from Microsoft, should not excuse parishes from plunging into social media, she says.

Eight seconds of attention seems excessive for most Facebook posts; and as for Twitter — a “tweet” still speaks to me of birds in the garden: it’s good that they’ve survived the cats, but I’m not asking their opinion (or wanting a real-time narrative of life and opinions in the parish office, come to that).

As for the other digital fora and flora — choose carefully. That is one of Treneer’s messages, since you could be wasting your time unless you have “focus”, like “One church in Eastbourne [who] set up a Twitter account because they felt they should. No one in the church is on Twitter — so they’re now con­sidering using it solely to attract students and to connect with local businesses that want to use the hall.”

For more such advice, including basic commandments (”Don’t at­­­tack people. . . Don’t spread lies. . . Don’t spread rubbish”), her book is Church Online: Social media* in the new Reach Out series on church communications from the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF). Three other volumes cover, re­­spec­tively, websites; di­s­plays, notice­­boards, in­­vitations, and PR (which doesn’t seem to include relations with the religious press); and wel­come, news-sheets, maga­zines, and stories.

Each is 10.5 × 14.5 cm with about 100 pages of shiny paper and a fount that looks like Gill Sans Light; so sustained attention is made need­lessly hard work. One decent-size paperback, cheaper paper, more illu­­strations, and a readable serif type­face (with a san-serif one for contrast) would be my com­munica­tions advice — for what it’s worth.


*978-0-85746-557-3, for £3.99 (CT Bookshop £3.60), as are the others: Church Online: Websites (978-0-85746-552-8); Church from the Outside (978-0-85746-553-5); and Church from the Inside (978-0-85746-554-2).


Sing as we go

NOT enough people, it is reported, are taking a health-boosting ten-minute walk. That cannot, surely, be true of the people of All Saints’, Margaret Street, in London.

Not, at any rate, on 15 August, when, to my surprise — perhaps I hadn’t been paying enough at­­­ten­tion to social media — I found them going out for the feast of the Assumption into the highways and hedges of Oxford Street with a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The image was borne aloft in a blue-painted portable shrine, for which there is probably another term. A member of the congre­ga­tion, who may well not have been its designated PR person, told me that it had been borrowed from St Magnus the Martyr in the City. The congregation was reas­­sur­ingly large, there were plenty of clergy, properly attired, the singing was well supported, with drum and brass, and most of the hymns had well-known tunes — though I wasn’t familiar with all the words.

Whether the walk was brisk enough to qualify under NHS guide­­­lines, I don’t know; but if you sing as you go, like Gracie Fields, that may double the health benefits.

It certainly gained attention from the Tuesday-night crowds in the shopping street that I still think of as a place to see and be seen, even though the “Less Protein for Less Lust” man, who paraded up and down it for a third of his lifetime, peddling his little booklets, is long gone (and his cause fares as badly as ever in those parts).

The All Saints’ banner “For God and for the Church”, with the leaflets that were handed out, may have helped to explain that it was a C of E church behaving in this ex­­trovert Continental fashion. Nature abhors a vacuum, and, if the Protein man now has more dogmatic suc­­cessors (turn east out of Oxford Circus station for the most popular spot for a conventicle), what a pleasure to find Fr Moses and his flock entering the fray.


In Metroland

PERHAPS it was the effect of watching A. N. Wilson’s BBC docu­mentary Return to Betjemanland for the first time when it was repeated last month that decided me, after decades of living close to the Under­ground, to go at last to Pinner.

The programme had, at the time, put me in a mood of nostalgia — not for Middlesex and Metroland, but at seeing again my first boss at the Church Times, John Whale, interviewing Betjeman for ITN in the 1960s ­— and sounding even more well-bred than he did in his latter years — about the eventually un­­­suc­­­­­cessful campaign to save the Euston Arch. This was a monu­mental neo-classical gateway that stood in front of the old Euston Station — and in the way of pro­­gress, according to the modernist canons of that decade.

But something else must have entered my mind, and, in due course, the sun being out, though the day far gone, Pinner suddenly seemed a manageable and inviting destination; for, if it disappointed, I could soon get back on the Metro­politan line to other untasted de­­­lights of Northwood Hills or Rick­­man­sworth.

I’m happy to tell you that Pinner, associated with idyllic art deco London Transport images, still had its prosperous village feel, with an exhibition in the church hall of artwork by the Pinner Sketch Club (which I avoided as too socially demanding) and an open church with a well-stocked and metho­dic­ally organised parish library (the diaries of Fr Victor Stock? — well, I was on holiday).

Pinner has somewhere to get a cup of coffee, and a picturesque Arts and Crafts police station that must feature in one of Betjeman’s own documentaries. It was worth the tube fare.


Metric martyr

BREXIT or the Brexodus, there is no getting away from European issues; and N. J. Inkley, of Walton-le-Dale, Lancashire, found another avenue for the debate while listen­ing to the Daily Service recently. The reading was the marriage at Cana; and the capacity of the water-pots was given in litres.

”Whilst I do not have a very clear picture of the dimension of a firkin, I do feel that the use of the word gives a ring of authenticity to the account which ‘litres’ does not,” he writes.

Indeed — though I would suggest that it is the not knowing exactly what a firkin is, not the firkin itself, which makes all the difference.

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