Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A Sketch of Synods

From 1976, I came across this anonymous report while perusing back copies of "The Pilot". It was sufficient to wake the Dean out of his reverie in the next edition to counter the notion that Rectors and Constables really didn't work together much.

I'd love to know who penned it, someone with a terrific sense of humour. I suspect Reverend Terry Hampton might be responsible, but I don't know. Please drop me a line if you do.

You do not need to really know much about the Church of England, any more than a casual acquaintance with "All Gas and Gaiters" to appreciate the way the Church in Jersey is portrayed here, with warm-hearted tongue in cheek good humour. I defy anyone not to chuckle as they read it. I had a few glances in my direction in the Reference Library, where mild expressions of mirth are not really appropriate!

On a more pertinent note - re-organising and reducing clergy were on the agenda back in 1976, and moving forward just as fast.

A Sketch of Synods
Going back in time, there were two Jersey Deanery Synods within the space of a fortnight. The Synod of March 23, specially convened for the Bishop of Winchester's visit, was reported fully in the May issue of the PILOT, as was the report of the General Synod, held at Church House, London.
The Synod of April 6, however, was not reported, but, in response to many requests, we are pleased to include a sketch. (Do not overlook the fact, however, that, in between, the assistant editor has included in recent editions reports of the Diocesan Synods. Good gracious me, how many more do you, want? Sometimes, the PILOT omits articles, letters, and reports to prevent the Church of England making a fool of itself in the eyes of the public.)
Well, here we go! The Synod, held at Church House, St Helier, on Tuesday, April 6, 1976, was due to begin at 8 pm. After much shuffling of papers, and furtive exchanges of words at the top table, the meeting began precisely at 8.07 pm.
The Dean (always a trick up his sleeve) called upon Canon Hibbs to open the Synod with prayer. The good Canon was apparently taken completely by surprise. His neck was very red (I was sitting just behind him), but, of course, this may not necessarily have been embarrassment, but the outcome of basking in the Winchester Diocesan sunshine). However, he rose manfully to his feet, and said an extemporary prayer. He then invited the members to join him in the Lord's Prayer.
Immediately, liturgical differences were apparent. Some said, `Which art', others said, `Who art'; some said, 'in earth', others said, `on earth'; some said, `forgive them', others said, `forgive those'. The Canon stopped short at the doxology. The Dean, however, took up the doxology, with the result that those faithful to the Canon remained silent, while those faithful to the Dean staggered half-heartedly to the end.
The Dean then asked for `Apologies for Absence'. Voices shouted out from right, left and centre. It seemed that each member present had a buddy who had asked for his absence to be apologized for. Since nobody had asked me to convey an apology, I felt out on a limb. Not to be outdone, I shouted out `Charlie Chaplin', but no one took the slightest notice. I doubt if they heard.
Compared with the attendance at the previous Synod, the numbers were down. This may have been due to the exhaustion of the first Synod, or maybe the Bishop had set such a high standard in his over-long speech of two weeks previously, that many members felt that they could not live up to the requirements he had laid down, and had retired defeated, from the struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Be that as it may, the Dean then called upon the treasurer, Mr P. de C. Mourant, to read the minutes. The latter complied with difficulty, not because he is illiterate, but because he could not read the handwriting of the secretary, who should have been reading them. However, the secretary was not there: he had just resigned, so the Dean said, but no reason was given.
In fact, the first item of business was the appointment of a new secretary. The proposition came from the Chair. The Dean proposed the Rev. Barry Giles (St Peter) A seconder was soon forthcoming, and Mr Giles was unanimously elected. In fairness to the Dean, he did faintly ask for further nominations, but no one dared challenge a proposition from the Dean himself. (In any case, nobody wanted the job.)
Mr Giles is already secretary of the Lay-readers Association, the Jersey Church Schools' Society and-is Chapter Clerk. We shall follow his gradual elevation to Canterbury with interest.
Then followed the weary rigmarole of election of officers to a multitude of committees. The Rev. A. C. Granger, Trinity, was proposed for one of them, but he declined on the grounds that he would shortly be a rector no longer. (Not to worry: he is not being unfrocked, merely retiring). On being assured by the Rev. L. F. M. Helleur, formerly of St Lawrence, now honorary priest of St Luke's, that anyone holding the Bishop's licence to officiate - as opposed to the Bishop's permission ( a bit complicated, this) - could hold a synodical office. Mr Granger consented to stand, and was duly elected at the ripe old age of 77. (Church militant?).
The Rev. M. Halliwell was also proposed to serve on one of the committees, but he declined on the grounds that he already had too many cares (presumably `communi' ones).  Shortly after this he left the House. (Surely he was not going to attend to his affairs at that time of night, some of us wondered?).
There was some difficulty in filling vacancies for the Legislation Committee. However, on being reassured by the Rev. C. P. Harrison, St Clement, who had sat on the committee since pre-historic times, that he had been called upon only once in the past three years, the bears pulled out, and the bulls were in, to employ a metaphor which I believe originates from the Stock Exchange.
Then came the piece de resistance, item 5. "To receive the report of the working party on Pastoral Reorganization." Shall I be the first reporter in history to condense an hour's argument and a multi-page script into a few sentences?
The provisional ideas were:  (1) St James to be united with St Luke, under a vicar and curate. (2) St Helier to be united with All Saints with St Simon, similarly staffed. (3) Gorey to be re-united with St Martin, or with Grouville, or with both. (4) St Matthew to be reunited with St Lawrence, and part of the district to revert to St Peter.
This certainly set the Town Church cat among the Royal Square pigeons. Not unexpectedly, a churchwarden of St James constantly rose to his feet, and questioned the Dean closely. Poor Dean: it was not his doing. The Dean, in turn, fell back on the Lieut.-Governor, who was alleged to have said that the Parish Churches would not `be touched'. They formed an integral part of the civil community.
For example, the churchwardens of the ancient Parish Churches were elected by popular vote of the rate-payers. The Constables and the Rectors worked together agreeably. (Had that nosey-parker from Mars poked his head round the door at that particular moment, he would have formed a false impression of the Church in Jersey. Churchwardens being chaired round the parish after their election, Constable and Rector walking down the nave, hand in hand). Whereas, what is the truth? The churchwardens are usually elected by half-a-dozen sad-faced parishioners, while the Constable and Rector, if not at logger-heads with each other, would scarcely engender sufficient mutual warmth to heat a French-worker's shack.
In the ensuing altercation, the word `we' kept arising from the top table, so much so that Mr H. C. A. Wimberley, St Mary, rose to his feet and demanded to know who was `We'. No satisfactory answer was vouchsafed.
There was a tinge of black humour when the Dean suggested, in mitigation, that the problem might be solved by natural wastage, such as death or retirement. The Rev. Peter Newby, Gouray, one of the ecclesiastical districts directly involved, compared his packed church with certain ancient ones, not similarly packed. Why should he, for example, be subjected to the guillotine? The Dean re-iterated the theme of redundancy and asked Mr Newby how he felt, health-wise. Mr Newby felt very well, thank you very much, and was prepared to `carry on ministering' for many years to come.

One member proposed that the officers of the `District Churches' should get together and discuss their unenviable situation, and present the result of their deliberations at the next Synod.
Many other matters were discussed, the which if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the minutes that should be written.
However, your reporter had had his fill for one evening. As I laid my hand on the exit door, I took a last look over my shoulder. There, in a corner of the, House, I saw, huddled together, the officers of the district churches in earnest conference. I felt rather sorry for them. I was reminded of the words, `whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.'
Synod convened and held on Thursday, July 15. Duration one hour twenty minutes. London Synod representative said: `Business could have been conducted in half-an-hour'. Only five rectors present and four district men. 71-year-old Vicar of St Luke's elected to Diocesan Synod. Was there a quorum? Secret ballot puts women top of the poll. Powell (not Enoch) out. Giles, Synod secretary, wearing red shirt. Halliwell shyly excusing `communicare'. Usual C of E 'shilly-shallying'. .

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