The North is different – it’s official.

Even the soft and accommodating southerners in “Forward in Faith” have begun to tire of the endlessly repeated mantra, “the North is different”, as a predictable prelude to special pleading. For example, only “northern” candidates were acceptable for the vacancy at Beverley when it arose. (Any such restriction to “southern” candidates for Ebbsfleet or Richboro’ would, of course, sound ridiculous.)

But now, it’s official. Our man in York, “Doughty Dave”, has gone public before the Queen and Prince Philip, calling for a “celebration of the distinctiveness of Northern Christianity” and a rediscovery of “robust” Celtic Christianity.

Even more shocking is his description of Church of England services as “tedious” – and this on the eve of the great “Salisbury reforms”. Still, all is not lost for poor southerners. Once copies of the new multi-flex interactive A.S.B. (or Common Worship as it is officially known) is in the hands of the congregations we will be seeking dynamic new ways to make it The People’s Book and the North will not be forgotten.

The choir can intone the Celtic hums of Enya followed by readings from David Adam and the Turnbull Commission report. The peace ,or “ecce thump”, during which everyone will smite his neighbour heartily on the back, will be followed by the offertory hymn ” You’ll never walk alone” during which priests will wave their stoles like football scarves. As a response to the institution narrative and the elevation , the congregation, to a woman, will leap up, arms akimbo, and, in their best Cilla Black accent, shout out “Surprise! Surprise!” as an affirmation of their faith in transubstantiation.

Geoffrey Kirk and Stephen Parkinson are both Yorkshiremen.

Bach to Basics.

Canon June Osborne , currently treasurer at Salisbury Cathedral and Bishop – in – waiting, inadvertently gave hope to Bill Beaver and the beleaguered statistics department of Church House. In her regular Times slot she not only put in a mighty plug for the wonderful work of her Cathedral but turned attention to the enthusiasm of music aficionados for concerts in Church buildings. Warning against “colonising” people’s beliefs and the use of the word “religious” as “too misleading and narrow a term” we were led to see that concert going is a truly religious activity.

“Systems of belief are now frequently understood as enemies of freedom and choice” but not so concert going. So, concludes, our June, “perhaps a deeply religious people is expressing its spiritual dissatisfaction with what is on offer” – and going to concerts instead presumably!

While not all of us may recognise this description of modern-day England, the statistical upshot is potentially startling. Four fully attended concerts in the average parish church per year, if they could be formally reclassified as worship, would see somewhere between a 25 and 30 per cent increase in the averaged out congregational figures.

More people go to Church than you think.

Secret Service.

Once the General Synod has recovered from congratulating itself on the new cheaper disciplinary procedure for errant clergy it might like to pause for thought about the other aspects of the deal. The fact that disciplinary proceedings will now be held in private will certainly assist the Church in covering up scandal however …

The prospect of diocesan tribunals (more appointed placemen?) may have serious implications for justice. One correspondent has written in about his diocese, a liberal one party state, and its treatment of two adulterous clergymen. One man had an affair while his wife was suffering post – natal depression and was suspended and then persuaded to resign.

Another man who had been having a long-term affair with a member of his congregation was “pastored” through his divorce and got another parish in another diocese where he duly married his mistress.

Both men were, of course, culpable but no prizes for guessing which one was the failed traditionalist and which one was the enthusiastic liberal.

Girl power.

It will come as no very great surprise to readers of this rancidly chauvinist publication to know that Methodism is dying out. Literally.

The first of the British mainstream churches to embrace feminism and the cart load of doctrinal disaster that inevitably accompanies it now finds itself with a double problem. First, its members are dying twice as fast as the general population. Second, there is a serious flight of the remaining men from the chapel. Very shortly, according to a major study by Clive field of Birmingham University, there will be seven women for every three men. Such new members as the ailing institution manages to recruit, are overwhelmingly female. Methodism’s numbers have almost halved since the 1970s when women were first “ordained”.

Not only have men fled but, curiously, the children have gone too. Over 80 per cent of the once thriving Sunday School attendances have vanished. Mr Field notes the “overarching feminisation of Methodism” and predicts a further 33 per cent decline in membership by 2010 – the rest of the men presumably.

A Priestess Forever.

When hedgehog -head pop star Sinead O’ Connor- best known for her public insults to the Pope and her less than conservative views on abortion – was “ordained” in the self-proclaimed “Tridentine” Church it made all the papers. Now, sadly, after a mere few months of ministry, Ms. O’ Connor has been excommunicated by “bishop” Martin Pius Kelly, the renegade head of this bizarre organisation. Apparently Kelly was outraged by her revelations about her sex life and her exciting new tongue stud. Amusingly, he thought it would bring the “Church” into disrepute.

What a friend we have in Courtney.

Courtney Cox, star of the long running twenty something TV hit “Friends”, has found a short cut round repentance and the dreary business of self-examination and confession. She is, according to “Heat” magazine, paying to have her soul cleansed by the leader of the Energetic Matrix Church of Consciousness. This is done by storing a picture of the client in a special machine which “balances their energies”. Amazing! And to think Jesus went to all that trouble unnecessarily.

Naming and shaming.

Police recently took time off from minor crime inquiries (mugging, burglary, drugs) to pursue a young boy of 16 who had gone off with some older men and ( be brave dear reader) become a Christian!

Bobby Kelly, who had joined the Jesus Christians (an interesting tautology) was finally rescued by the strong arm of the law and testified that his religious involvement was entirely consensual.

Becoming a Christian at 16 is legal but this case raises the question of whether the age of consent to such bizarre and dangerous practices should be raised. No doubt Messrs. Blair and Straw will be examining this case in some detail.

Hallo sailor.

When St Paul’s, Knightsbridge advertised for a new vicar last year it raised a few eyebrows. The gist of their request was for a person who knew which knife and fork to use and could mix easily with the upper crust. As a result they appointed Father Neil Follett, the vicar of Godmanchester near Huntingdon.

Within months Father Follett, who was separated from his wife and children, fled the vicarage claiming he was being blackmailed by a fellow homosexual, a university professor whom he met over the Internet and had fallen out with over credit card bills. Days later the long serving churchwarden, former naval captain Ian Powe, was accused of sexually harassing Father Follett at Westminster Community Safety Unit. Captain Powe, who denied any wrongdoing, vouchsafed “I used to have an expression that worse things happen at sea. I’m not using it anymore.”

Perhaps the next advertisement for St. Paul’s vacancy will have different priorities .