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Acts and Omissions –Catherine Fox

August 13, 2015

AAOI really liked this book. It picks up all the issues that were topical in the small world which is the Church of England – women bishops, food banks, gay marriage, lax child protection procedures in some dioceses and the heavy-handedness that wounded many in its aftermath – the difficulty of preaching forgiveness while realising that the protection of children is paramount.

You get to like the characters and their foibles.

The author knows the quirks of the Church of England very well (though she also makes many gaffes). I almost wonder if she has been lurking in this diocese since so much is familiar. We even had our own Father Wendy. And what of evangelical bishops who inherit their predecessor’s liberal suffragan and go on to appoint their own ‘stooges’ to senior posts?

I loved the bit where the bishop’s wife found a bottle of poppers in her husband’s pocket.

I doubt that there’d be as much merriment in a cathedral community as she portrays when gay marriage is legalised. Yes, some lay clerks are gay but they are not as closeted as the clergy.

However, the author is very empathic about the issues faced by many on Mothering Sunday.

Why does it always snow at Christmas in her books?

And she’s bought into that modernish notion, invented by the Liturgical Commission in the late 1980s: Candlemas approaches: the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Here we turn our backs on Christmas and set our faces towards Jerusalem.

And I don’t think she’s right that evangelicals take on things for Lent rather than giving them up. That’s liberals. Evangelicals tend to ignore Lent altogether.

The Dean presides at the Chrism Eucharist. I’ve never heard of that before – it’s an occasion for the bishop to preside, surrounded by his priests. Then again, the author is one of the most evangelical of diocese and perhaps they do things differently there.

Her archdeacon seems to be have been modelled on the one in the TV series ‘Rev.’

A new bishop would not be ‘posing with his brand new mitre and crosier on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, with the then archbishop of Canterbury’ – because bishops wear rochet and chimere for the occasion. Also, Episcopal appointments are always announced on Tuesdays, never Fridays.


but we can have a naughtier time without him, because he is an Evangelical. We can drink more than we ought, tell cruder jokes, be cattier about our colleagues

we will busk our way through ‘Auld Lang Syne’, not quite knowing the words.

He is so far back in the closet he’s in Narnia! Always winter and never Christmas

‘You can’t say that, Jane! Asian is Jesus! Every time you say that, an innocent Evangelical dies!’

Dominic holds the office of bishop in high regard, even when he does not entirely like or esteem the individual holders of that office.

In common with most people his age, Freddie’s conversation is composed almost entirely of like, questions? He uses the word ‘literally’ metaphorically. He adores children and mountains. He prefers presto to largo. He is incapable of refusing a dare. He does not have Common Prayer on his iPhone. He has Grindr.

Curates all over the diocese are racking their brains for myrrh-based all-age worship or Messy Church activities (flash paper? Any way I can use flash paper?); while in Quires and Places where they sing, they are rehearsing ‘Three Kings from Persian lands afar’, or perhaps To, star-led chiefs!’, music by Crotch.

Why is he wearing a black shirt? Because he detests the symbolism of purple, with its connotations of imperial Rome.

`Is this Fair Trade, Gene?’ asked the precentor.

`Certainly not.’ Gene had the fabulously snooty accent of someone who grew up in South Africa. He crossed to the fire and placed another chunk of last year’s cathedral Christmas tree on it. There was a brief roaring crackle. ‘It’s Monsooned Malabar?

`Oh good,’ said the canon chancellor. ‘Because I really hate that un-monsooned crap

I’m told that the school chaplain snatched up his biretta owl left for another job, lamenting ‘the creeping protestantization of the Church of England’. Ah yes! Creeping relentlessly up on us since the Act of Supremacy in 1534.

Precentors need to be full-time professional pedants and control freaks. It’s in the job description. They are born and bred in the briar-patch of the English cathedral choral tradition.

He tends, I fear, towards the robin redbreast physique. By the tune he’s fifty he will need a ‘front measurement’ taken when he has a new cassock fitted. You can see him in his stall at evensong with his Greek and Hebrew Testaments, like a mage scowling at ancient runes.

One by one the retired priests totter up to the cathedral door, eyes watering, noses pink with cold. The day will come when their old bodies can no longer get them to church, but their souls will attend until their Nunc Dimittis on life’s last evening. The habit of faith has worn a groove in their lives. Where else would they go? I have been young and now am old; and yet saw I never the righteous forsaken. Yet never. Yet never. They lean on the heavy door — dear me, this implausible frailty, this affront of elderliness that has come upon them! — and stagger into the warmth and shelter, where the memory of myriad candles lingers in the air. They pull off their furry Russian hats, their leather gloves, and wipe their noses on pocket handkerchiefs. Then begin the long walk up the south aisle to the chapel of St Michael

and All Angels.

Everyone has an opinion. Or at any rate, a gut reaction. How many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb? Ah, if only it were that simple! What sort of bulb are you talking about? Furthermore, we need to discuss the whole concept of bulbhood — is it timeless, can it be contextualized? Who decides, and on what basis? After des of anguished debate the C of E is more or less OK with -in as well as bayonet fittings — for table lamps, that is. When it comes to overhead lights, bayonet remains less controversial; but so as it’s shining, most good-hearted folk won’t insist on scrutiniz­the packet it came in. In theory we can even use screw-in bulbs chandeliers — provided the screw-in bulbs aren’t ever actually wed in.You’re asking me how many Anglicans it takes to change light bulb? Thousands. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands. Millions, maybe. And how long does it take? God only knows. In meantime, it’s night; and from the outside it seems for all the world as though the Church is dark and closed.

Life is not a vicarage tea party. It’s a pilgrimage up a steep and rugged pathway. There may be cookies along the way, but they are only food for the journey.

The Community Choir comprises about ninety keen amateurs who can hold a tune and read music. Or at any rate, can follow the contours of the musical landscape with a finger, providing they are standing next to someone confident.

Timothy begged him to sing tonight, because they are woefully short of decent tenors. But Freddie suffers from perfect pitch, and so dude, he’d rather piss on an electric fence than stand within ten feet of Roger.

Mothering Sunday is always hard. She has two so who will remember to send a card and ring for a chat. She has ten-month-old granddaughter, Poppy, who will come to the phone and gurgle to Granny. But there will always be a Laura-shaped hole. Wendy will never be mother-of-the-bride, never see Doug walk their daughter down the aisle, never hear her daughter’s daughter gurgle on the phone…. Oh, how full the churches will be of absent children on Sunday. The ones who have died, the ones whonever managed to be born, the far away, the out of touch. And abs mothers, too. The ones now over on the far shore, the ones who failed, who abandoned and ran….Mothering Sunday costs the dean a pang, too. Marion has no children of her own. Last year after the Eucharist she looked out over the congregation and thought: your mum died last week; and your mother is wandering in the wastes of dementia; and you, and you, have lost your son is in prison; your daughter is anorexic; you are unhappily single; you are dealing with infertility. And there’s my Gene, whose wife died, leaving him to mother three little boys. You should all be given daffodils today. This is why this year is going to be different. Everyone will be able to collect a posy when they come up for communion whatever reason they might have.

The bishop has a Growth Strategy. (Lindchester: A Missionary Dio­cese!) Everything must be strategically lined up behind mission: all the systems, the finances, the processes, every parish, every appointment. And the cathedral must become a missionary cathedral. I will now permit you a fastidious shudder, followed by a short interlude of hand-wringing. Ready? Off you go:

Gene’s prepared to deviate from the law that you don’t waste vintage champagne on Evangelicals.

it all about difference? Why does nobody think marriage is about sameness? Yeah, coz why did Adam go, ‘Here at last is bone my bone, flesh of my flesh’? Unless Eve was someone like him?

choral sex

They have slain the fatted sausage roll for the bun fights church halls later. Posh frocks will be donned, fascinators deployed. Teenage boys will be scolded out of trainers. Middle-aged men will perplexed to discover that their best suit trousers have shrunk.

about use as a chocolate thurible

Where will this madness end? Brazilian? Oh lordy, lordy, do blokes expect that nowadays? middle-aged ones, surely? No, middle-aged blokes are perfectly happy with your basic traditional lady-sporran. Unless they watch a lot of porn. Which archdeacons don’t, presumably_ Or do they?

Will you shut up? We’re talking about a walk and a not a dirty weekend, for God’s sake….

So,’ said Jane. ‘What’s your view on Brazilians?’

Equally unsurprisingly, there was another silence. I’ve gone comp­letely mad, she thought.

`Well,’ said Matt, `I’m an admirer of their free-flowing fast-paced style of football.’

Dominic is sitting among cardboard boxes in his study. Spragg’s of Lindford are moving him. Of course they are. Clergy are moving in the diocese of Lindchester are required to get quotes, one of which must be Spragg’s Haulage of Lindford. diocese will then choose the cheapest. Which will be Spragg’s Haulage of Lindford. Old Mr Spragg, young Mr Spragg, and the boy. Dominic is terrified that old Mr Spragg will have a coronary while attempting to lift something. He will be found crushed and lifeless er Dominic’s pastel green Smeg fridge. Yet if this is what it will e before the diocese allows its clergy to use Pickfords, then old Spragg will not have died in vain.

He is packing his books himself, because he doesn’t trust the raggs to do it properly. Young Mr Spragg had looked at all the elves for a long time, ruminating. In the end he said, ‘You’ve got lot of books, your reverence.’

Lord, have mercy. How many vicars have you moved in your career? Yes, we do tend to have a lot of books.

We do genuinely love one another, even though we find the Peace an awkward business.Ah, how much easier Holy Communion would be if the priest said, ‘Let us offer one another a piece of flan’!


Stir Up Sunday, the Sunday next before Advent…..the day on which good Anglicans traditionally order their luxury Christmas puddings from Fortnum and Mason.

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