Don’t panic!

Disaster was averted time and time again at the General Synod in York last month, when eagle-eyed security personnel prevented members of the Church entering the public gallery armed with a startling array of weapons; amongst items safely detected were laptop computers, bottles of water and, most shocking of all, two pork pies. Imagine the scene on the floor of the synod if the security had been lax: ‘Oh, no! Look up there! He’s got a pork pie!!! What will we do if he eats it???’ Panic would be certain to ensue, leading to the risk of all sorts of crap decisions.

Curtains for Windows

Actually, the ban on laptops in the public gallery is interesting. For, of course, there are laptops all over the floor of synod, in the press gallery, on the platform. So why not allow ordinary members of the Church (who, after all, pay for all this nonsense) to take, or perhaps even use, their laptops up there?

Luckily, at the beginning of the opening session, Annette Cooper, the Archdeacon of Colchester, explained that it was a requirement of the University of York that laptops should not be taken into the public gallery – so that’s alright then.

Except that one young member of the Church made a point of asking a member of the University staff why such a bonkers rule had been applied – only to have it explained that it was nothing to do with the University, but rather a requirement of the General Synod of the Church of England. All of which unaccountably brings pork pies to mind again ….

Media hell

Still, if security at General Synod was extraordinary, it was as nothing when compared with that at the Lambeth Conference a few days later in Canterbury. And, predictably enough, it got Ruth Gledhill, of The Times, into a strop. Whilst her photographer struggled to take photographs of Rowan Williams through a ten foot high fence (presumably erected to keep out any passing newly-wed (sic) American bishop), she fulminated about the press facilities: ‘The facilities in 1998 were nothing to shout about. This time they appeared unspeakable. We are closeted in a tiny room, up the top of a concrete miserable staircase, about as far as possible from any bishop or archbishop as it is possible to get on Kent University campus. There’s no tea, coffee or even water to keep us going. We’re in the garden of England but on this miserable patch of insultingly hideous 1960s concrete there are no birds singing, just lots of crows croaking.’

A couple of days later, though, she seemed more cheerful: “… this morning I was given a banana so I suppose that is something. . .’ Given that in 1998, she complained that all she had to eat in three weeks was a croissant and half an orange, she may of course have spoken too soon.

Escape in the nick of time

Three members of Forward in Faith in Canterbury for the circus – you think we jest, but the bishops are meeting in an enormous blue big top – took themselves into the city for dinner the night before the bishops arrived.

Led by instinct to an Italian restaurant hard by the Cathedral, they were waiting to be seated in the nearly empty salon, when they spotted Canon Jim Rosenthal, the head of the Lambeth press operation, sitting by himself, nursing a glass of plonk.

Naturally, they demanded to be seated at the next table, so that they could dig the dirt on what was really happening behind the scenes. Sad to say, he was spectacularly discrete, so they learned not a thing, before he was joined by friends (real friends!) who insisted on taking him to another table out of earshot.

It was suggested by one eye-witness that his desire to move away from our three intrepid reporters was so intense that he upset an entire bottle of water on his table as he got up but, frankly, 30Days simply can’t believe that…

Hot and bovvered

Fr Len Black managed to drop in to have a look inside the enormous blue big top before the security got too tight, though. (About five minutes before it got too tight, as those who were some yards behind him were turned away.) He chatted to a nice security man who seemed unaware of the grave breach that Fr Len represented.

When asked whether it might not get intolerably hot when it was full of bishops (it was already pretty unpleasant whilst it was empty) his response was shocking: they had had to remove the air conditioning from the plans because it was simply too expensive and they couldn’t afford it!

For crying out loud! Why didn’t someone say? Whatever the cost, the people of England would have risen to the challenge, paid up without demur, and made sure the air con was provided. After all, we know only too well what a dangerous quantity of hot air just our bishops are capable of – imagine the effect of several hundred….

Roll up, roll up

Imagine too the effect of several hundred bishops in a queue. The registration process for the Lambeth Conference seemed, to dispassionate observers, to be more than a little chaotic and several bishops unwittingly told 30Days that they had been queuing for more than a little time.

Then it seemed that the length of the queue had finally entered the consciousness of those in charge; tables were hurriedly erected outside the registration building and staff tried to persuade jet-lagged bishops to start a new queue if their name began with a letter between T and Z, or whatever. Still, at least it was all taking place at a university, rather than a brewery.

Copy for 30 Days should reach FiF office by the 10th day of the month:

30days@forwardinfaith. com