As more and more money is demanded for less and less parochial clergy, financial retrenchment bites deep. But not, apparently, for the Archbishop’s Council.

Last month clergy received packs of high quality, expensively printed, glossy brochures entitled A Year in Review, telling us what we mostly know in a highly spun way. All, it seems, is just brilliant with the Church of England. The lovely photos are the giveaway.

A radiant thirty-something bride bursts out of the cover (Bride of Christ = C of E?). Significantly, all the men and boys in the photograph have turned their backs.

A church school class is shown – six black children, one Chinese and one white girl.

We are reminded of the key role of bishops in the House of Lords – who are well into organizing regional assemblies for Euroland, but can seldom agree on which way to vote on moral issues and matters of faith (no mention of this latter, strangely).

The Church Commissioners are shown caring for a derelict looking farm – presumably signifying the large-scale abandonment of the countryside by the urban obsessives governing the Church.

A harassed male priest (badly dressed) pushes a supermarket trolley, weighed down by a baby and a doughnut-grabbing toddler while his priestess wife (also badly dressed) looks on and adjusts her handbag.

There is a huge centrefold in colour to show us how well Holy Trinity, Brompton is doing – always cheers the clergy up to know their congregation has gone somewhere.

We are reassured on numbers, finances, pensions etc, etc, etc. The quicker these glorious Technicolor comforters get round the parishes the quicker everyone will know that ‘all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’. Worth every penny.


Keep sending those knit-your-own-liturgy booklets. The most recent contribution contains a ‘dialogue creed’ straight after the Collect for Purity! Presumably you only assent to the bits you agree with. What a good idea!


Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali and his committee on women bishops are working away, unaware that events have overtaken them. The timetable is already agreed.

2004 Clergy Compensation Measure runs out. Last of the awkward squad depart.

2005 General Synod debate and agreement.

2006 Parliament agrees.

2007 Decent pause – candidates of quality sifted.

2008 Provost Vivienne Faull is consecrated. ‘Princess’ Viv will be 53.


A Crematorium order of service from a left-footer’s farewell has arrived on the desk at 30 Days. Apart from the wonderful array of misprints including, ‘Where is dearth’s sting?’ and ‘Chris, Our Lord’, we are invited to ‘to ask God’s forgiveness for all her deeds.’ Did the poor woman not get anything right?

But the pièce de resistance must surely be the lovely modern hymn, unknown to the fuddy-duddies on the editorial board, which has a second verse:

‘When the fire is burning all around you

you will never be consumed by the flames.’

In the event Gas Mark 8 was enough!


When bishops start taking spiritual matters seriously, revival must surely be just around the corner! While Graham Dow (Carlisle), recently liberated from the confines of Rose Castle, emerged to find the cause of Foot and Mouth in a large cursing stone ball, the Bishop of Oxford and all his workers have been far from idle in sniffing out Old Nick.

Oxford football club got in ‘Bomber’ Harries to exorcise the place from a gypsy curse. Those of a certain age will know that Harries has the country’s best-known expert on these matters in his team, the Bishop of Reading, Edward Walker. ‘Dominic’, as he is known since his days in the Bishops Ball’s hand-knitted Community of the Glorious Ascension, told us all about his psychic speciality in a glorious Technicolor spread in… wait for it… SAGA magazine!

True soccer psychics will know that Oxford United is really haunted by the ghost of its former owner – triple agent and part-time fraud, Robert Maxwell. They never recovered from his time in charge.


Evangelists Stewart Henderson and J John have brought out a little Christmas confectionery. A booklet entitled The Sweet News of Christmas tells the story of the Nativity in pure saccharine, incorporating the names of as many chocolate bars as possible.

For example, the Kings had a ‘Marathon’ journey on ‘Crunchie’ roads over ‘Toblerone’ mountains. King Herod is full of ‘Black Magic’ etc, etc.

The Angel greets the shepherds thus: ‘Time’ out lads. Stop being a pathetic bunch of ‘Munchies’. Brilliant news… happy bouncy news…. a Saviour in a stall, God in a shawl. The news is making me rhyme. Anyone fancy a ‘Dime’?

You get the picture.

It takes ‘Allsorts’! No mention of His ‘Mar’s’ prayers of course. 30 Days asks how such a ‘Galaxy’ of talent could end up sounding like a couple of ‘Newberry Fruits’? Traditionalists probably feel the authors deserve a good old-fashioned ‘Punch’.


What better way to celebrate the centenary of St Deiniol’s Library than with a feast of great Christian teaching. The library, the gift of the most significant Christian Prime Minister (after Mr Blair) William Ewart Gladstone, is noted for the imaginative programmes of its appropriately liberal Warden, Peter Francis. Regular readers will recall the unforgettable weekend on ‘Effing the Ineffable’.

Now, to help us celebrate Easter we will be able to enjoy the wit and wisdom of none other than the Heresiarch of Hoboken, John Shelby Spong. Those familiar with Spong’s writings, including those on a porno website, can expect little to remain of the ‘Christian myth’ other than a chocolate egg and an Easter Bunny.

Never mind, there’s always Christmas!

Oh no, there isn’t. Spong is back to demolish that as well and, just for good measure, he is doing a course on prayer to the god who doesn’t exist called, ‘Prayer in a non-theistic world’.

The Centenary Sermon will be given by the world’s first Girl Guide Archbishop.

The Trustees of Gladstone’s Heritage are to be congratulated on finding in Warden Francis such a sympathetic custodian of the Grand Old Man’s intentions.


Overheard: the following conversation between two waiting mourners.

1st Woman: ‘Was she the one who is tall and flat-chested? Never smiles. All blonde with black roots. Left her husband for that weird bloke in the Postal Department. You know – no dress sense – miserable cow?’

2nd Woman: ‘No, that’s my sister-in-law Pauline, but I’ll tell her you were asking after her.’