I WAS enchanted by the qualities demanded of the new Communications Director for the Church of England: “Working creatively on areas of digital evangelism and discipleship. . . Candidates will have experience of working at senior levels in complex and dispersed structures with a broad range of stakeholders and will bring a strong intellect combined with outstanding relationship building and influencing skills.
“A strong communicator and team player, you will be able to challenge constructively and to work effectively in a changing environment. . . We would welcome applicants from practising Christians including those of long-standing, or a more recent commitment to their faith.”
We have a Mr Scaramucci, from Long Island, on the line. He wants to know how recent a commitment to faith will be acceptable.
Actually, I read the C of E communications office’s official media bulletin every day, partly because it shows the vast gap between the stories that the official Church thinks ought to matter, and those that the public actually care about.
Sometimes this is grotesque and rather sad, as when the news that Sudan has become the 39th Province of the Anglican Communion is entirely ignored, but the apparent suicide by self-immolation of a vicar under police investigation makes almost all the papers. Other times it is much better: for instance, collecting all the ways in which the church has appeared as a resource after the Grenfell Tower tragedy (News, 23 June, Comment, 28 July).
THE Archbishop of York’s appearance at a Grenfell Tower funeral was obviously well judged in itself, and it also got him a good showing in The Guardian, where both his sermon and the interview afterwards were reported. “Speaking outside the church after the service, [Dr] Sentamu said he understood the community’s anger over the causes and consequences of the fire.
“But, he added: ‘What I want to say to them is that when Nelson Mandela came out of prison, and the people were very, very angry, he said ‘You are right and justified to be angry but I want you to use your anger, to direct it to change, don’t use it to destroy.’
“‘I want that message to go out. Anger, yes, but don’t let it destroy you. That anger needs to become a force to be reckoned with in the search for truth, justice and reconciliation. Anger can be destructive or creative, and I want [this community] to be creative’.”
It is a grim reflection that the Grenfell Tower fire, although it would have been covered wherever the towers had been, has been covered about twice as much because it was not only in London, but in Kensington. That’s the way to get national press attention, but the lasting effects are made through the local press, because that is where people find stories that immediately affect them in ways that seem comprehensible.
So the sheer number of small local stories about the way in which the church has helped with the aftermath of the fire will do more good than any number of front-page headlines. This would be true wherever the catastrophe happened. The front-page attacks that the Archbishop of Canterbury made, when he came into office, on loan sharks and payday lenders gained almost all their force from the largely unreported efforts that had been made for years in Durham, and elsewhere, to help people on the ground, or pressed half beneath it.
BUT the strangest story all week came from Jon Ronson in The Guardian, who was investigating the world of custom porn studios — people who will film any fantasy that is sent into them and make a bespoke production for a particular client.
One of them is a woman tormented because, ten years ago, an Italian priest who murdered his mistress was found to have one of her films on his computer. Another couple are mystified because a strange man sent them his stamp collection with a request that women in high heels trample it and then burn it in front of the camera. There is no directly sexual content at all, but the customer emailed them to say how very happy it had made him.
Finally, they come to the most emotionally demanding video of all: a young man writes in and says, “I would like a girl sitting cross-legged on the floor, talking into the camera about how I am loved, and things are bad now but they won’t always be, and suicide is not the answer.”
So they get a porn actress to perform the script: she ad libs to the camera — and that’s it. They send off the video, and still have no idea if it got there, or if it worked. Jesus absolved the woman taken in adultery, but I, like the producer of that film, tear up at the thought of a young man rescued by accepting forgiveness from a prostitute he has never met.
TALKING of sexual sin, I am assured that last week’s column was mistaken to attach any significance to the fact that Lorna Ashworth did not sign the letter to The Daily Telegraph demanding a schism (Press, 28 July). She meant to, but missed the print deadline while it was being drafted.