Many of you will have heard the story of the Methodist superintendent who looked in at a service being taken by a probationer. Pausing in the porch, he asked the verger, `Has Mr Snooks finished yet?’ He have, Sir; was the reply, but he haven’t stopped a-speaking yet:

The verger may have shared with Shakespeare and St Benedict the belief that brevity is the soul of wit, a belief that has few followers in modern political or ecclesiastical circles. Try reading an EU Directive or an episcopal statement; even many coming from the catholic constituency: Most Methodist local preachers would have warmly appreciated the verger’s view. Short sermons allowed for long lunches, provided by chapel officers, the visiting preacher’s perk.

From the pulpit to the press. A Biblical 666 is the word count for my ‘Church of England Newspaper’ column. Less than half that number of words has constituted my ND rants. Because FiFers are quicker on the up-take — or because they’ve a better sense of aim?

Yet brevity and wit don’t necessarily go together, as Stephen Fry’s tweets demonstrate. However, you only have to compare the BCP’s brevity with the verbosity of Common Worship or the modern Roman Rite and put yourself in the position of the man or woman in the pew, to realize why the ‘shampoo crouch’ is replacing kneeling in today’s Anglican and Roman parishes.

Greater even than the gratitude Benedict XVI should receive for his rescue of the Tridentine Rite, the Pope Emeritus will be eternally thanked for establishing the principle that there is a time to give up a job as well as to give up speaking. He has given a new, glorious meaning to the ancient concept of Christian resignation.

So readers, after many years serving my 330-word menu (too many years, many will say), I have decided it’s time for me to leave the NEW DIRECTIONS stage. ‘Good night, ladies and gentlemen’ (Blessed Max Miller).

Alan Edwards, Pontificator Emeritus