I’ve had a strange experience this week – a throw back to my teens. I’ve been doing an MA module in Theological and Practical Reflection at Cranmer Hall, and this week gave my seminar. We spent 3 days listening to each other reflect theologically and practically on a variety of fascinating and weirdly diverse subjects. Neither giving the seminar nor listening to others was in itself the strange thing. No – the week was strange because I was the only woman in a group of men.
That might not be odd for your circumstances, but for me, working in an all woman team and in the company of far more women that men, it was strange to go back to challenging gender stereotypes. Not that the other students were patriarchal, or discriminatory. I did not feel at any time that I was being patronised or excluded (can you imagine anyone trying?), but it was strange that I felt I needed to represent woman-kind!
When I was in my late teens at university I was an assistant deputy chapel warden (yes, really – I meant I covered the early morning communion services for the important chapel wardens), and discussions on chapel committee centred on inclusive language. The church has moved on from that discussion (at least a bit) but how interesting to be right back in the classic “stroppy cow” Dana mode! I was very good and well behaved on the whole, but it was fun to have something so easy to push against.
What do you do when you get bored? I day dream, or fiddle with something. If I’ve got a pen, I doodle. One of the best meeting I ever went to happened over 3 days in Belfast, and the American animator provided clever magnet plastic shape things, which stuck together in fantastical and absurd patterns. I concentrate better and work harder if I’ve got something to fiddle with! Having only just passed my maths O level, I’ve never been drawn to a mathematical doodle, but Adrian does.
While he is listening to the sermon (yes, even mine!) Adrian creates statistics about our church. Apparently, a few weeks ago, 18% of the congregation in the nave were men, average age 48, and 82% were women, average age 62. In the sanctuary 41% of the leadership (including choir) were men, averaging 61, and 59% women, average age 69. Therefore, apparently, the average age of the congregation was 63. Not sure what all that means, except I was in Junior Church. I guess I could have radically altered the statistical shape of the church, if I had been there!
Heaven fore-fend that I should suggest that church is ever boring, especially when I have a vested interest in the splendour of Church of England liturgy. But I am allowing myself to acknowledge that there can be meeting-boredom, even when I am chairing. So I have a very useful tool in my dairy that I bring out at ‘those’ moments. It gets me through…
THINK EVIL THOUGHTS!
The Times suggested this week that bishops “represent a pre-modern for of Christianity, rooted in nostalgia for a powerful, authoritarian Church” (Theo Hobson). They have doubled in number over the last 100 years, while Church attendance has shrunk by 50%. For any Episcopalian, they are a sign and symbol of unity. I wish!
Three weeks on, and I’m still angry about the aftermath of the debate on women bishops at General Synod. As I see it, the House of Bishops brought a motion to Synod that they had voted for by a majority of more than 2/3s. I have always understood that when something is debated and voted upon in committee, it is a matter of honour that those present keep some integrity about supporting the decision made in that meeting.
Not so for the bishops. They seemed to be having a dog fight on the floor of Synod during the debate, quite unable to support each other (or trust one another). And when Synod voted for the motion supported by the majority of the House of Bishops, one bishop told us we should be ashamed of ourselves, and another told us that he thought Synodical government was inappropriate for the church, and we should be led by the Bishops!
This week they meet at Lambeth, and most people, church going or not consider that to be irrelevant. What a mess; no visible unity (though there may be behind closed doors). And while the Church eats with the Queen, avoiding at all cost talking about sex and gender (though the press still thinks that’s all we, the Church, talk about), millions around the world are suffering. Relevance?