One of our correspondents was recently collected for a funeral by a well-known firm of local undertakers. On the way to the deceased’s house he was surprised to find these normally sober, controlled and utterly professional morticians constantly dissolving into helpless laughter. On enquiry it emerged that they had just come from a “service” at the crematorium where they had been obliged to carry in the recently departed to the strains of “BURN BABY BURN – DISCO FEVER”? and bring down the curtain on the departing coffin to the throbbing beat of “STAYING ALIVE”?.
NOT BEFORE TIME
The well-known musician Dave Swarbrick was recently intrigued to read his own fulsome obituary in The Daily Telegraph whilst recovering in intensive care. Since it is rumoured that clerical obituaries in that august organ are compiled by that pillar of liberalism, Trevor Beeson (former Dean of Winchester, and wearer of snappy suits) the Archdeacon of York, George Austin, greeted the news with the anxious comment:
“I hope to die before mine is published.”
A recent Radio 5 “phone-in” on divorce revealed a great deal of heartache, resilience and humour.
One deeply unenamoured victim of the modern marriage called in with the following piece of advice for those contemplating marrying again after divorce.
“Next time, why not save a lot of time and emotional distress? Just buy a house for someone you hate and cut out the bit that goes before!”
CLIVE THE GREAT?
A recent enquirer at the excellent Faith House Bookshop expressed a particular interest in the published works of St Gregory the Great. The helpful assistant dutifully typed “Gregory”? and “Great” into the computer and put it into search mode.
Imagine their mutual surprise when, amongst the many other uplifting works, appeared GREGORY: “GREAT SEX: SENSUAL TECHNIQUES” – how to raise sexual awareness, the erotic potential of each sense, exercises to be practised alone or as a couple etc. etc. etc.
On closer examination, this turned out not to be a forgotten work of the Holy Father but a Health and Hygiene publication by the as yet uncanonised Clive Gregory.
Still, for those who wish to investigate the potential of a waft of Rosa Mystica as a marital aid, a call to Patrick or Colin at the bookshop and a mere £14.99 secures.
APRIL IN SOUTHWARK
Sharp-eyed appointment watchers have drawn to our attention a recent preferment recorded in ‘Jezebel’s Trumpet’ (The Church Times).
The Revd April Keetch, Vicar of St John’s, Deptford, has been made an honorary canon of Southwark Cathedral. This will no doubt cause confusion as our own Rev April Heavisides, chaplain to the Millennium Experience, is already a canon at Cool Britannia’s House of Prayer.
Hereinafter La Heavisides will be known as April the First.
At a recent vote in the House of Lords, a senior Conservative peer and loyal churchman glanced over his shoulder at the division to discover he was being dutifully followed by four of Lambeth’s finest. Momentarily flustered by finding himself in such unusual company, he created some amusement by blurting out, “Oh dear, I must have come through the wrong lobby”, and going back to check.
The Rt Revd Stephen Pedley, Bishop of Lancaster (Runcie 1964) has made the nationals by his recent ruminations in the diocesan magazine. Exhorting his people to familiarise themselves with the way in which our society gets its information, he writes:
“One does not have to clear the top shelves in the corner shop and read it all”? (thank goodness for that)” but some sort of limited excursion into the culture that surrounds us could be a useful exercise”.
In an effort to avoid “appearing irrelevant” in “modern day Britain”?, we sent our mission correspondent to follow the bishop’s bidding and do some research amongst the “lads magazines”.
On offer this month are such vital aids to outreach as:
“Sex tips we tried on our own girl friends” (“LATER”)
“Gotcha! Young Murdoch’s bride stripped bare!” (“GQ”)
“LOADED” magazine comes across with “Lady Frenzy – 32 pages of the World’s Hottest Babes” coupled with “Sex in Japan”.
“BIZARRE”, appropriately, promotes “Orgy in a bag”, while “?Sky” runs an intriguing article by Jennifer Love Hewitt entitled, “What my breasts did last summer!”
Our correspondent paused briefly, in the middle of reading “What’s up my butt, Doc?” (FHM), to raise a glass to the enlightened prelate.
“Good old Pedders” he chortled “being a clergyperson’s never been so much fun.”
Amongst clergy expenses is an item, usually quite small, for hospitality. This covers everything from endless cups of coffee for parish meetings, baptism families, bereaved etc to cooking a meal for a visiting preacher or giving tea and sandwiches to gentlemen of the road.
Imagine the surprise of many clergy and accountants when the Inland Revenue recently tried to disallow any provision for the bereaved.
The reasoning was quite simple. Clergy are not professional counsellors and therefore “?counselling” the bereaved is not part of their brief. Any costs incurred by such amateur interference is not allowable against tax.
After a howl of protest, the Revenue backed down – but it is a sign of things to come.
FACT: Britain has more counsellors than servicemen.
BISHOPS FAIL TO TAKE THE STRAIN
One of the best sights at the recent Lambeth Youth Fest (TOOL – The Time of Our Lives) was a tug of war competition between an episcopal team and a young persons’ team. The event, attended by just over a quarter of the initially hoped for 12,000, and mysteriously missing the promised star attraction, Rowan Atkinson, was in need of some merriment which a bit of the old heave-ho duly provided. Exercising maximum collegiality and in full collaborative ministry mode, the bishops failed to dig their heels in and were dragged over the line they were determined not to cross.
All very traditional.
An ordinary clergyman’s stipend is a matter of public record. A bishop’s remuneration is listed, amongst other places, in Whitakers (e.g. Canterbury £48k, York £42k, London £39k, Diocesans £26k. Figures 97/98 )
An ordinary clergyman’s expenses are a matter of public record and open to scrutiny in the annual parish accounts.
Bishops’ expenses are paid by the Church Commissioners and appear in their accounts only as a total figure. When that figure has more than doubled in a decade, from £4.3m to £8.8m, it is reasonable to ask how and why and who.
Instead of responding with the openness that would be required of a parish priest in this situation, the bishops and Commissioners instinctively reacted by circling the wagons. This is a private matter and any disclosure of detail would lead to misunderstanding and a bad press. Like the annual church attendance figures, the cost of our bishops should be known only by those with the highest security clearance i.e. themselves.
A diocesan who racks up expenses of £160,000 and a suffragan who spends in excess of £40,000 may have good reason – but it would be better for the health of the church if a policy of openness and transparent honesty were able to confirm that.
As we go to press the Archbishops have announced a “review”. This is to be welcomed. Their first recommendation must be that, like any other clergyman’s, the bishops expenses figures must be published.