Friday, 8 May 2009

We All Got Out Alive

This week saw 200 or more ordained people crawl snail-like unwillingly (if they had any sense) up the M1 to the Triennial Clergy Conference. Overall it wasn't quite as horrendous as the first one I attended, as a result of which the Diocesan Training Department came to the conclusion that I was mentally ill on the grounds that I wasn't very talkative; clearly not wanting to spend more time than necessary talking to Christian clergy is a sign of suicidal depression. Anyway. The speakers were excellent, including even the environmental scientist who helped us a good way along the road to the self-same suicidal depression with his take on climate change, and there was a wonderful atmosphere of hysteria. The conference had begun with a joke about prison camps and escape tunnels being filled in. On the first evening the Dean, following the theme, introduced the Bishop as the 'camp commandant'. 'Camp yourself, Mr Dean', replied our diocesan, a statement followed by a 'did-I-really-say-that-out-loud' look passing across his horrified face. That evening we'd been encouraged to renew our baptismal vows at an act of worship which was quite the gayest I'd been to since theological college. We all walked across a film of swirling water projected onto the floor while the bishops doused us with water using gigantic fir fronds which could only be wielded in a way that would have made Arnold Schwarzenegger look limp-wristed, let alone two middle-aged ecclesiastics in pullovers. I had to leave early to take a funeral (of a longstanding parishioner whose last act of service to the Church was to die at the right time to release me), so I missed the final Eucharist. Apparently during the course of this the (very Anglo-Catholic) Dean, standing next to the vicar of one of the big evangelical churches in the diocese, chose a rousing hymn as the moment to raise his hand aloft just as they might do in that very church. The evangelical vicar starts to giggle. The little phalanx of Catholics opposite, including Il Rettore, begin to giggle. Luckily the hymn ends before the entire event dissolves. The chapel, for some bizarre reason, sports a gigantic wickerwork parrot hanging from the roof (people tried to convince me it was an eagle). I hope to God the visitors from our twin diocese in France don't think the whole of the Anglican Church is like this.

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