The Team Rector of Wickford and Runwell Team Ministry, Philip Kearns has been wrestling with a serious problem. What courtesy title to use for his women priests.

He notes, ‘The title “Father” does not sit easily with a woman priest because, under other circumstances, namely when used to address a male parent, it is a gender specific term.’

Well spotted, Phil.

The great mind then goes on to dismiss ‘Mother’ as ‘not appropriate’ (the liberal term for ‘wrong’) as ‘this is the title used for a Mother Superior in a convent.’ Quite so.

The problem did not arise with the former Team Rector, apparently as she could be called ‘Canon’ Christine but with the advent of team vicar, Tara, the circle must be squared.

Bravely and illogically our Phil instructs the bewildered flock to call her ‘Father Tara’.

Why? ‘To recognize and mark our equal status and to honour the traditions of this particular parish’.

With such perceptive ways of honouring Catholic traditions it’s just a matter of time before it’s ‘Canon’ Phil.


The new Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight is Dr Trevor Reader. Whatever other gifts he may bring to the establishment of the Diocese of Portsmouth (proprietor ‘Cuddly Ken’ Stevenson) and the salvation of the Church of England, his educational background will be invaluable. Reader’s doctorate (Portsmouth Polytechnic 1972) is in parasitic diseases.


Enthusiasts for Church unity will have been delighted by the recent a conference at St Alban’s Abbey, ‘May they all be One’. The three speakers, Archbishop Rowan Williams, the Reverend Elisabeth Welch (URC Moderator) and Cardinal Walter Kasper (President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) bent their minds to circumnavigating the thorny theological and institutional stumbling blocks that have largely stalled the great ecumenical progress of former years.

It would, no doubt, have gladdened the heart of the late Dr Peter Moore, former Dean of St Albans, who originally opened the cathedral to regular worship for Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans and Free churches – a privilege they have now enjoyed for almost 20 years.

However, there is an irony in all of this. While the Church of England is putting on its best ecumenical face for its guests, all is not quite as open, tolerant and affirming in the diocese. By the summer, five of its remaining seven C parish priests will have left. The final straw, for many, has been the private acknowledgement that the diocese has no intention of operating the Act of Synod or Bonds of Peace justly. No doubt the fate of Anglican Catholics will not be high on the list of things to discuss with Cardinal Kasper.


While the Church of England is agonizing about the future of its theological colleges and priestly formation, a go-ahead layman in the Diocese of Peterborough has come up with a simple solution. No need to cut the theological colleges to two and homogenize the teaching tradition when you can get uniformity in the pulpit!

Bob Austin, a professional writer and reader, has launched a website lastminutesermon.com. For only £8 the overworked priest can download a ‘pulpit-tested’ homily that ‘steers clear of extremism or doctrinally controversial views.’ Add a couple of local or personal references and a week’s work is done. If every CofE preacher could be persuaded to subscribe (parish expenses, of course), we would literally all be singing from the same hymn sheet. Think of the saving in clerical stress and the miserable Saturdays formerly dominated by Father’s Pre-Matins Tension (PMT).

‘You come to the end of the week and you think, “Good heavens, I got a sermon to preach on Sunday”’, says Mr Austin. How well he understands the reality of priesthood.


Marco d’Aviano, a seventeenth-century Capuchin friar, was beatified by Pope John Paul II during Easter week. D’Aviano is credited with being the inventor of cappuccino coffee and therefore very much a saint for today’s society. However the Pope may have had deeper gifts in mind.

D’Aviano took sacks of bitter coffee and sweetened the resultant brew with honey and milk. The coffee belonged to a huge army of Ottoman Turks besieging Vienna and it was a prayer meeting, led by our Marco, that inspired the heavily outnumbered Christian army to rout the invading Muslim hordes. Without that victory it is highly likely that most of Western Europe would have become part of the Islamic empire and we would now be loyal residents of Anglistan. Next time you’re in Starbuck’s you might raise your mug to Marco.


Alan Bookbinder, agnostic head of BBC religious broadcasting, is in despair. Contributors to ‘Thought for the Day’ are dull, monotonous and need voice coaching apparently. Private sessions have been duly arranged, no doubt at licence payers’ expense. Trying to make Tom Butler, Jumbo Thompson, Angela Tilby and Christina Rees sound interesting will not be cheap.

Bookbinder avoids the obvious solution of course. Why not put on people with something to say about the faith rather than the interminable PC liberal whine that emanates from

Broadcasting House?

As the corporation hates orthodox religion almost as much as it hates the Conservative Party, listeners should not hold their breath.


For a mere £4 Vatican tourists can buy a rather special souvenir calendar in the surrounding shops and market stalls. Twelve of Rome’s best looking young priests smoulder from the pages in various states of overdress. Gorgeous Fr May stares at us through gold rimmed specs while Fr April is a ‘biretta babe’. Swarthy Fr February is in a sexy soutane and soup plate hat while Fr December sports a beard and hairstyle that give him a passing resemblance to Mephistopheles.

Pope John Paul II is said to be less than amused.