Actually, I would love to talk about it, but I’m not going to! The Shared Conversations process began after lunch today, and we’re not talking about it while it’s happening. But the day started with some epic ceremonial in York Minster, where Synod traditionally attends the main Communion service on a Sunday, complete with fabulous choir, two Archbishops, and a procession a mile long.
As if the glories of the Minster, its music and it’s worship were not enough, we had a treat of a sermon from Archbishop Sentamu. Rather than just talk about the Good Samaritan, he had arranged for everyone to be given a card showing an icon from Taizé, on which was ‘written’ the parable.
She is still lying there…
He then expounded the well-known story in an entirely fresh way. The French icon-writer shows Christ at the centre, and around him six panels.The first panel shows the traveller being attacked on the road. Others show the priest and Levite passing by, and the man being helped onto a donkey.
“Did you notice the traveller is in white, like Christ?” we were asked. And, repeatedly: “He is still lying there! She is still lying there!
At the end, we see the Christ-traveller seated at the inn, eating with the innkeeper and the Samaritan. It’s a Trinitarian motif. And Archbishop Sentamu’s point was that we have a duty to help those cast aside, and that in doing so, we serve Christ himself.
Like many of the best sermons, you probably had to be there. But it was a bravura performance which pointed us to the global issues and to the cast aside and wounded in our own circles. A powerful message as we go into those Shared Conversations.
The service requires the Synod’s Officers to join the main procession, so Simon Butler and I were turned out in our most seemly formal Convocation robes. Hopefully this has persuaded one or two opponents that I can dress appropriately to the circumstances, and do not conduct worship in jeans…
The impact of Saturday’s debate about clergy vesture (catch up here) has been more than I expected. A number of people have come up to me with points of view. They will need to make them to the Revision Committee – and they have one month to do so.
The Mail on Sunday, to my surprise, had a reasonably unsensational report, though it could not resist the ‘manikin’ diversion. But still, it quotes a number of speakers and reflects the debate we actually had. Read it here.
The fringe: around the edges of Synod
Part of the joy of Synod at York is the way in which there is time to get involved in fringe meetings of various kinds. Some of them are set up by pressure and lobby groups. Others are simple information sessions about current topics. You can consume your buffet lunch while discussing arcane or vital topics with experts.
Then there is the ‘fringe corridor’, where well-meaning bodies set up stands and try to catch your eye and intercept you as you wander by. I was very chuffed to see the Church of England Clergy Advocates (CECA – the professional association for clergy) there staffed by my old mate Pete Hobson. He also ran a lunchtime fringe session, and you can learn all about CECA here. Pete is the man who oversaw the reburial of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral, and he was kind enough to give me a copy of the flyer about his book How to bury a King. Details are here.
There’s also committee work that happens in the breaks, causing diary conflicts.
- On Saturday I was at the House of Clergy Standing Committee when I might have been at CECA’s briefing lunch
- On Friday night I was at a session on the impact of the Goddard Enquiry on the Church of England so I missed the EGGS (Evangelical Group on General Synod)meeting.
And Saturday saw the Open Synod Group Quiz , a traditional break from the hard work. Despite starting at 10.00 p.m., it was a full house, and I regret to tell you the team I was in came a mediocre 4th equal. But those of you who know my interest in railways will not be surprised that I knew which station featured in the wartime classic film Brief Encounter. (It was Carnforth, should you wish to know.)
Because we were going into purdah after Saturday, in advance of the Shared Conversations, all campaigning ceased, and the fringe corridor was shut down.
Yes, but what about the Shared Conversations?
Oh yes, you wanted to know about the Shared Conversations. Well, other than that they have started, there’s nothing I can really say. We have all undertaken not to give a running commentary while the process goes on. However…
- The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood has a fairly well-informed piece here
- If you want to know more about how it works, there are publicly available documents here. (Scroll to bottom of that page to find them)
And we were really delighted to be given these prayer cards when we went to the Minster this morning. Feel free to use them between now and Tuesday. Thank you!
I spotted this name-plate while wandering round the campus to catch the bus to the Minster this morning. The building is named after a famous former Dean of York and writer, Eric Milner-White.
He was instrumental in founding the University in the early 1960’s. Nice that they commemorate him, though I suspect he preferred the soaring piers and arches of the Minster to the concrete panels of the University buildings.
I don’t want to talk about it Rod Stewart. Recorded 1975, a hit several times since then.