How strange is the Church of England? Don't answer. I'm going to tell you. Imagining myself as a stranger to the system, even though I am friend of the family, I went to the Cathedral Church of St Andrew in Wells for the Licensing, Collation and Installation of the new Archdeacon of Bath on Tuesday night. Name any other major event which happens at 5.15 p.m unless so arranged by SKY Sports?
Wells Cathedral is a beautiful building totally spoiled by the modern addition of a huge and ghastly organ in the middle, blocking the view of the far end. The decision to hold the bulk of the archdeaconing ceremony on the other side of the organ so the guests, apart from a select few, could only hear but not see, was remarkable. At one point a voice gloated, ‘You can’t see me but I can see you.’ My neighbour told me it was Vincent Price. Hanky in mouth time.
I am not a great fan of organ music apart from a bit of early ELP and spent most of the service longing for the noise of bass, drums and electric guitar (not just the music of my youth but the music of my life) or the clever use of a small choral sample with a break-beat. The PA system forced every speaker to communicate slowly and made most of them sound like a Bond villain; ‘Take the archdeacon to the sanctuary – see that some harm comes to him’.
On arrival I had failed to observe a walking stick leaning against the back of the chair I chose. The stick fell over when I sat down. Jesus heals the lame but this guest knocks over their sticks.
I would have liked a bit of explanation from time to time. Why was the Archdeacon given true, actual and corporeal possession of his seat and what would have been the disadvantage if he had only received two of the three things? When was the Titular Prebend of Yatton annexed and by whom? Do you want us to get them back? What was the Prebendary Ball and could anyone have a kick? Why did the two Bishops choose that precise moment (the first line of Crown Him with Many Crowns) to put their mitres on?
Would it have been so very hard to do the ceremony where we could see, explain what was going on and have some responses in with which we could join (as the C of E might put it)?
Later I was able to observe two Bishops discussing the weight of their pectoral crosses (look at the size of my medallion missus).
Anyway, great evening out and the new Archdeacon managed a West Brom reference in his sermon so he’ll be OK, but as ever a reminder of how far removed from reality my church is at its ceremonial worst.
The Archdeacon has now been in meetings for two days. Luckily he is a meetings person. When will we learn that any non-meetings person will vote for anything to end the meeting if it goes on more than two hours? How will bishops ever get advice off non-meetings people?