Women can wear dresses too, says CofE

The CofE is to allow women bishops. Excellent.

The saddest part of the Beeb’s report is the line “although supporters were celebrating a breakthrough, some traditionalists had left the synod chamber in tears.” Well, of course, and that was the teeth-grittingly inevitable bit that had to come. This was not going to happen without a lot of people feeling that the church they love has slapped them in the face. Sadly, the nature of that love is not the fully-featured bi-directional give and take of a proper loving relationship. It’s the love of a stalker for their victim; of Mrs Van Hopper for the future second Mrs De Winter; of Michael Corleone for his family. It’s a love that says “I give you so much because I love you, now you must respect that love and do exactly what I say or else you don’t love me in return.” In any such relationship, for the secondary partner to have a future they can can only tear themselves away, maybe in tears themselves, knowing that any damage caused is only by the first partner refusing to let go and is not their fault.

Don’t let the door hit you as you process out in all your finery.

I remain utterly baffled why anyone who would consider conversion to Catholicism over this issue isn’t a Catholic already. What does the future hold in the eyes of these people from Planet Trad? Especially the ones with wives and kids? I’ll tell you.Palpatine Benedict will regard them as used goods and his open arms of welcome will at the same time usher them into a securely guarded enclave of the church behind several firewalls where they will be second-class citizens forever more, but they won’t mind, because like the denizens of Hell in CS Lewis’s The Great Divorce, they are in a fool’s paradise of their own making. And because the most important thing to them is the absence of women bishops, they will never notice.

On Planet Trad, the whole Reformation was just friends agreeing to disagree; Martin Luther’s Thesis no. 1 was “women clergy now!” while the other 94 were just nitpicking over details; Bloody Mary would have been Lovely Mary if only Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer hadn’t insisted on such dangerously liberal issues as letting women read the Bible in English. (Thankfully they will admit that more sophisticated avenues of dialogue have evolved since those days.) Whereas in the fantasy world that I live in, the whole ministry of Jesus Christ might be seen as instituting the salvation of all humankind in a manner equally applicable to every nation and everysociety of every part of the world in every era of history (and that includes the utterly unimaginable future), in actual fact it was to set up an exclusive, male-dominated, highly ritualised church based heavily upon the rites and practices of an extinct pagan empire.

I don’t have a theology degree but I’m suspecting the divine purposes ran deeper than that.

So, three cheers for the synod, and just don’t get me started on Jeffrey John.

Bijou Arkette

And if you can’t tell what it is just by looking, you’re not my target readership.
While the rest of us were singing “Come down O love divine” with the pauses in all the wrong places, the kids were having fun. Compare it with the original assembly instructions:
10 “Have them make a chest of acacia wood—two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. 11 Overlay it with pure gold, both inside and out, and make a gold molding around it.12 Cast four gold rings for it and fasten them to its four feet, with two rings on one side and two rings on the other. 13 Then make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 Insert the poles into the rings on the sides of the chest to carry it. 15 The poles are to remain in the rings of this ark; they are not to be removed. 16 Then put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you.
Having the rings dangle freely on the poles misses the point a little, but we’ll let it pass. The manual goes on to say:
17 “Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide. 18 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. 20 The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover. 21 Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony, which I will give you. 22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.”
Okay, there’s only one cherub. This is a high-speed Ark of the Covenant for the modern age, with no time for that fancy wandering-in-the-wilderness-for-40-years malarkey. We intend to take the Promised Land before tea time and a backwards facing cherub wouldn’t be aerodynamic.
Next week: advanced tent making.

It’s not just about calendars

The best queue I ever stood in was for Lenin’s Tomb. It snaked around one and a half sides of the Kremlin but it kept moving. The Russians did not approve of dawdling. 40 minutes in and out to see the old wax work and then get on with our lives.

Yesterday’s queue was 45 minutes stationary in a medieval cloister, but that was expected. We were told to be an hour early for the doors opening to Salisbury cathedral’s candlelit Advent service. At T minus 45 minutes, when we got there, the queue already reached round two sides of the cloisters. Before too long we were being asked to squeeze forward as the cloisters were full and people were standing out in the rain. And they were still coming in from the rain when we finally got to go in. (Showing, I thought, a slight lack of initiative: the cloisters are quite wide enough for the queue to coil at least once.)

The people in front of us were well organised, with flasks of mulled wine and Tupperware boxes of mince pies and a large packet of Tyrells crisps. One of them came up with a throwaway line, “When I was on Ark Royal we organised our own Welsh male voice choir …” Yes, we were in line with the right sort of people.

And how worth the wait it was, even with the extra 50 mintues after we actually took our seats before the service began. I had brought a book – Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin – but thought it would be better just to sit and absorb the atmosphere.

The cathedral is plunged into darkness with just one candle lit at the west end. Light spreads throughout the cathedral – very slowly, candle by candle. (In fact we were all probably standing for about five minutes after the order of service decreed emphatically “The congregation SITS” because of course at that point in the service no one could read the order of service …) The choir comes in and splits up, going down either side of the cathedral into the darkness while the trebles throw the chorus back and forth from side to side, as if someone is playing with the balance settings.

The light stops at the transept – the east end and the altar stay in darkness. But the choir heads off into the dark, all the way to the Trinity Chapel right at the far end, their singing now slightly muffled but sending back sound signals to plumb the depths of the building. Little stars of light move around as candles are lit with tapers. The east window starts to glow. Light has reached even that far. Utterly magical.

By the end of the service there are upwards of 1000 candles all adding their little flame to the overall illumination. I wondered if the service was tailored to the burning time of a 12 inch candle, or if the candles were ordered in to suit the length of the service. Either way they got it exactly right. And then we sung the outward processional hymn, “Lo, he comes with clouds descending”, and I have never meant the words of the last verse more wholeheartedly than last night. I see why the first thing any self-respecting cult or alternative religion tries to do is knock Jesus of his throne, because it’s all about him. It was helped by a two minute bridge played on the organ before the final verse, to give the procession time to proceed, during which it got louder and louder and more and more triumphant. But even so:

Yea, amen, let all adore thee,
High on thy eternal throne. (Yea! Sing it!)
Saviour, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for thine own. (Darn tootin’! Take it! Take it!)
Alleluia, alleluia,
Thou shalt reign and thou alone. (Abso-fragging-lutely! Thou alone!)

And not a word about doom. Marvellous.

As I get older I find I require more and more aesthetic satisfaction. The world is so much more than the sun of our five senses but the fact is we have five senses and they require fulfilment. Why cheat them out of it?

My student self would barely recognise me sometimes, but that’s his loss and my gain.