On one side of the coin, the CofE faces a pensions crisis, with between £18m and £36m extra needed if clergy pensions are not to face serious problems in the future. On the other side of the coin, Auckland Castle still houses the Zurbaran paintings. These were purchased in 1756 by Bishop Trevor of Durham for £124 and are now worth at a conservative estimate some £20m, a church asset which produces no income but which if sold might, with some financial juggling, go a good way towards meeting commitments to retired clergy.

Eighteen months ago Bishop Tom Wright of Durham made an impassioned plea that bishops should continue to be able to live in the style to which they are accustomed. In contrast Bishop Cassidy of Southwell and Bishop Packer of Ripon and Leeds have both reportedly indicated that they would be prepared to move into more modest accommodation. What matters most to the Church of England – palaces, paintings or parsons?

Bishop super-grass

Anders Wejryd, Bishop of Vaxjo in southern Sweden, who has been elected the next Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, speaking to the Dagens Nyheter daily newspaper after his appointment was announced, said he would not hesitate to report male priests who refused to work with female priests to the police. Today, Sweden: tomorrow?

Forward again?

The former Archdeacon of York was fascinated to receive a letter from a Piers Huntingdon-Smythe inviting him to become the Northern Provincial Secretary of the National Society for the Preservation of Litany Desks. Unfortunately this fascinating job offer came on the 1 April, so he was immediately suspicious and of course deeply disappointed. The Society’s address was given as 1 Amen Court, Westminster, SW1A 3JZ, the post code of 1 Millbank, of Church Commissioners’ fame. And Amen Court is not in Westminster but in the City of London and occupied by the Canons of St Paul’s, with no.1 the abode of Canon Lucy Winkett. She was apparently thrilled to be a suspect but knew nothing of the letter (or the Society). Who else received such an interesting offer and who on earth is Piers Huntingdon-Smythe? Austin suspects someone in Forward in Faith.

The camera cannot lie

30Days was fascinated to visit the ever-up-to-date website of WATCH recently and see a report and photographs of the WATCH 2004 AGM. One picture was odd, though. A head count of the membership listening to their guest speaker suggested that only about two dozen people were present. Another report was about a ‘Northern Regional Conference’ and the image attached to that seemed to have just 39 people in shot for what appeared to be a group photo. What on earth can it mean?

Underneath the arches

Coming soon from Soft Skull Press, Inc. of New York City, Going to Heaven by Elizabeth Adams; sub-titled The Life and Election of Bishop Gene Robinson, it is already being offered by Blackwell’s online for just £11·99, although Amazon’s price of £6·59 might be closer to the true value of what will no doubt be the publishing sensation of a day or two during the summer. Readers who cannot wait until the June publication date might like to fill in the time by browsing Soft Skull’s backlist, where they will find such gems as Homewrecker: an Adultery Reader, Animal Rights and Pornography, Manstealing for Fat Girls and Surfing Armageddon: Fishnets, Fascists, and Body Fluids in Florida.

Job application

The BBC’s head of Religion and Ethics is to leave his job this summer after five years in the role, reports The Church of England Newspaper. Readers will recall that there was controversy surrounding Alan Bookbinder’s appointment to the post back in 2001, with critics upset that he had no religious faith. Bookbinder, who describes himself as an open-hearted agnostic, commented, ‘After 25 richly stimulating years in the BBC, the last five of which have been full of enjoyable and memorable times in charge of religious output, I’m keen to turn my skills and energies in new directions.’ 30Days waits with baited breath to see how Fr Turner will respond!

Through a glass darkly

When members of the congregation at the church of San Romero de Las Americas in New York City receive Communion, the altar looks like any other – except for a glass bowl full of condoms sitting next to the corporal. So much more useful than a glass bowl full of flowers!

Pen y Bonk

Under the headline ‘Christians launch online sex shop,’ Good Friday’s Daily Telegraph reported that ‘an Anglican couple have launched an online sex shop that dispenses spiritual advice as well as sex toys and chocolate body paint.’ The couple, Stella and Stan Hegarty, say that they have the backing of their vicar in Bridgend. 30Days could only spare some four and a half hours to examine the Hegartys’ website and so regrets to say that it has not been possible to track down the identity of the refreshingly open-minded parish priest of the thrusting young entrepreneurs but, having checked out the Bridgend Deanery in Crockford’s, we can only hope that they might live in the parish of Coity.

Comic Worship

Many thanks to the 30Days reader who passed us a copy of his invitation to the Licensing of his new Area Dean, in which it was suggested that each of the churches in the deanery should ‘bring up a symbol of our distinctive contributions to mission – perhaps an organ pipe for beautiful music, or a tea tray for a community café, or an onion for an environmental project.’ Suggestions, please, on a postcard, preferably by email, for other such symbols for this innovative rite; a bottle of Forward in Faith champagne for the best (printable) suggestion.