Prayers of Protestants were answered at the Sacred Synod evening prayer last month when Fr Brandie’s exuberant thruible set off the fire alarms at the Emmanuel Centre. The resolutely reformed technology cannot be shut down apparently and reacts to any outbreak of Popery in this way. In the event a chastened Fr B. was reduced to offering the Bishop of Beverly the incense boat for a quick sniff at the vital moment. The Blessed Beverly looked beatifically up to heaven where the smoke should have been ascending and the assembled college of clergy tried hard to envision the appropriate passages of Revelation.


Sacred Synod’s question time, ‘Ask the Bishops’, threw up some interesting answers about the liturgy. Arguments about the neutered Psalter in Common Worship and other problems with the drearily politically correct text were smoothed over by Bishop Burnham. The extraordinary thing, to all the loyal Anglicans gathered there, was that none of the Bishops would own up to using Common Worship for their offices. Obviously they’re all Prayer Book men.


Two priests coming disgracefully late to the Sacred Synod mistakenly went downstairs instead of up. They found themselves in a large room with pulsating rock music, people waving banners and a middle aged man doing a redskin war dance and rhythmically shouting ‘Jesus’ into the microphone. On stage was an elderly Chinese woman jigging about doing a passable impersonation of a chicken while ecstatic hand wavers and clappers surrounded a man ‘swimming’ on dry land. This was the Co E as they had never experienced it. Had Bishop Martyn’s charismatic style combined with Bishop Keith’s ‘Merseybeat’ finally got Bishop Andrew to loosen up and give us real ‘Common Worship’ that would relate to the culture? Sadly not. They had stumbled into the Westminster ‘Strategic Prayer School’ and had to be redirected aloft to their lecture on Catholic Social Theology. (Next year bring your own maracas!)


Arthur Middleton, our Patristics correspondent, traditionally begins his world tours, like the Rolling Stones, in Canada. This trip his erudition, on the lecture circuit, received an unlikely interruption. He was just warming up for his opening number, ‘I can’t get no valid sacraments’ (Hooker on heresy in a Pluriform church), when Bishop Tony Burton’s phone went off. ‘Hold it Arthur’, yelled the suddenly flying bishop, ‘my wife says she’s got a snake in the lounge.’

Being a true believer (Mk 16.18), and with long experience in Durham diocese, our Arthur was well able to handle this satanic intrusion.


A heated correspondence is filling the letters page of The Church of England Newspaper. The subject? Evangelicals’ reaction to Archbishop Rowan Williams. Is he really God’s choice or just that of the Crown Appointments Commission? A supporter of William’s legitimacy includes this rather extraordinary line in his letter:- ‘ I suggest that the Holy Spirit is at work in the church today in the replacement of Dr Carey, just as it was in Acts when the Apostles replaced Judas!’


Readers of New Directions will have enjoyed a sense of déjà vu on reading the recent Sunday Times scoop. That Archbishop David Hope wanted to spend a few post-retirement years assisting in a parish is no secret. The suggestion was first published in New Directions several years ago, when this column recommended he appoint an orthodox as the suffragan under whom he would be working in due course. It would be unfortunate if an ex-Archbishop were out of communion with his bishop!

But much more interesting than the story was the source. It was reported by Christopher Morgan. Morgan, a practicing Christian and lifelong chum of Rowan Williams, has been guiding the footsteps of the Chief Druid of Canterbury designate in his handling of the press.


American Baptist leader Jerry Falwell has apologized for calling the Prophet Mohammed a ‘terrorist’ on television. Falwell ‘sincerely apologized for any hurt caused’ and said he ‘intended no disrespect’ to the Prophet whom he had labeled ‘a violent man of war’. No doubt Mr Falwell was unaware of the ecumenical and charitable nature of Mr Mohammed and his followers, whose large scale fully armed transcontinental expeditions have brought peace and light to the darkest places of the civilized world. Modern day Christians in Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan and East Timor will certainly give Mr Falwell testimony as to how the Proph’s teachings have brightened their lives.


Not content with past glories Michael Turnbull has decided to go out with a splash. Announcing his retirement on Test Match Special, Dunhelm’s next photo opportunity was blessing the Bishop of Jarrow’s new bathroom. The brand new £330,000 mansion in the cash strapped diocese received the Episcopal sprinkle accompanied by prayers beginning ‘Don’t worry about your body’

It must have been a moment of irony, nostalgia and triumph for the man who so successfully reorganized the Church of England. After all, his last ‘bathroom’ outing (involving laying on of hands in a public utility) had almost prevented him from getting the job at Durham in the first place.