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Press: Virtual Synod is even more of a non-event

17 July 2020


The secretary-general of the General Synod, William Nye, responds to a question during an informal meeting of the Synod, held via Zoom, on Saturday

The secretary-general of the General Synod, William Nye, responds to a question during an informal meeting of the Synod, held via Zoom, on Saturday

LET’s open with the most important news: Bakewell Parish Church is working much better than Ann Treneman supposes (Press, 10 July). A cross letter in The Times took her column to task: “Each Sunday we have been invited to online worship at bakewellchurch.co.uk, as well as a 30-minute live-streamed event of prayer, reflection and encouragement via Facebook.

“Parish events such as Blessing of the Wells have been celebrated via online multimedia services. Like every other parish in the benefice we have had regular phone contact with the clergy and feel able to raise any problem with them.”

There is a serious point to this, when it comes to drawing up the balance for the Church’s performance in lockdown. What people on the inside see can be very difficult for those on the outside. It is very much easier for people who have experience and expectations of a physical rite to flesh out a virtual one than it is for those casual viewers for whom it has only ever been an experience on screen.


THIS, I suppose, brings us to the General Synod coverage. It turns out that a synod that doesn’t happen is even more of a non-event than one that does. Harriet Sherwood, in The Guardian, managed to make it sound slightly unexpected: “The synod, normally held in York over five days, was reduced to a one-day Zoom session because of the Covid pandemic. As well as two question-and-answer sessions and a discussion about the church’s response to the crisis, it featured barking dogs, slamming doors, off-screen whispers and a number of technical glitches.”

Kaya Burgess managed to get a few paragraphs into The Times: “Archbishops and bishops appeared to be ‘using their office to promote their own political views’ when they criticised Dominic Cummings or showed support for Black Lives Matter, members of the General Synod have said.

“Senior clerics have faced criticism from members of the Church of England’s governing parliament over their use of social media to post comments that appear ‘partisan’ and risk alienating those with different political views.”


ON THE other hand, there are some clergy who get praised for things that they would rather not. The Revd Kate Bottley tweeted out a picture of herself on her lawn looking delighted in a rather gorgeous pink dress, and was rewarded with 11,000 likes and 592 responses.

Her next tweet read: “If it’s OK with you, I’d prefer it if you didn’t comment on my weight. I know you think you’re being kind but thinner isn’t necessarily better or more beautiful and the size of my arse is the least interesting thing about me.” That, by contrast, got 131 likes and 3 replies.

I first found the picture on the Mail Online, a few pixels away from a photograph of a Kardashian “flaunting her signature curves”. So, the size of a real celebrity’s arse clearly is the most interesting thing about her.

I really admire the ways in which Ms Bottley has used her fame to suborn some of the fundamental assumptions of celebrity culture. One snappy tweet gets the message, or a hint of the message, to people who would never listen to a sermon, even if they heard one.


PERHAPS there is an effect of perspective: the higher you ascend towards Celebrity Heaven, the more conspicuous your bottom becomes to the watchers far below; and no one could possibly ascend higher than the rapper and Kardashian by marriage Kanye West, who appeared to announce last week that he was running for President. “Jesus”, he once rapped, “Is the most high, but I am a close high.”

You could be mistaken for taking his interview with Forbes magazine to be the ramblings of someone whose idea of “high” owes less to theology than to pharmacology. Perhaps it was, but God none the less played an important part in it:

“Clean up the chemicals. In our deodorant, in our toothpaste, there are chemicals that affect our ability to be of service to God. . .

“So many of our children that are being vaccinated and paralysed. . . So when they say the way we’re going to fix Covid is with a vaccine, I’m extremely cautious. That’s the mark of the beast. They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven.

“Let’s see if the appointing is at 2020 or if it’s 2024 — because God appoints the president. If I win in 2020 then it was God’s appointment. If I win in 2024 then that was God’s appointment.”


THE Telegraph and then the Mail carried accounts of an injudicious friendship between Lindy Runcie and Victor de Waal, when he was Dean of Canterbury. The only blameworthy thing I could find was that she sued the Daily Star the next year for reporting that her marriage was in trouble, and won substantial damages, which she spent on the gardens at Lambeth Palace.

Perhaps there will now be hacks sent out on a revenge mission, to dig for dirt — and all the exotic plants now growing from it.

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