This weekend I travelled to see some friends who are social media refuseniks. So I can’t tell you anything about my visit because they are strict with information. All I can say is that I was in or around Chipping Norton, the stamping ground of our Prime Minister and his ilk. My hosts informed me that I missed a glimpse of Rebekah Brooks speeding past in her car because I had bent down to photograph a snowdrop.
On Saturday I visited a church which one of my hosts had repaired. Obviously I can’t tell you which church or where it was. I photographed it and was proud of my shot framing but I can’t show the photograph either. So today’s cartoon is my artistic impression of a church which looks a bit like it. Suffice to say that it is a very old church.
My hosts’ child scampered around inside the church looking at the seats and so on. When she got to the stairs to the pulpit, she readily ascended them. A few steps up and she was in the preaching position. “What’s this Mummy?” My friend explained that it was a pulpit, from which a vicar would talk about God. By way of further explanation, she said, “You’ve got one of these, haven’t you Duncan?“
“Yes,” I replied, “but mine is outdoors and considerably larger.” An elderly couple in the church had wandered close by us at this point. These remarks caught their attention. Later on I noticed them scrutinising me curiously. I don’t suppose they’ve seen so many clergymen looking like me, with an army great coat, shaved head and a generally menacing look about them. Perhaps they went home and looked up outdoors pulpits on the internet. Or perhaps not. Sometimes it is better not to know.
Anyhow, it gave me an idea. I rarely step inside churches. Our Society has surely evolved far beyond the point of Engel’s description of their role as the opium of the masses. Mostly they are irrelevant to our modern concepts of sin, morality, heaven and hell. As my most attentive followers will know, I am shortly about to publish a book on moral philosophy, to put everyone straight.
As they stand, our churches do provide a social service of sorts for a particular sort of person. In many instances it is fairly specific sort of person. All of them wish to recruit from there wider community. I’m part of that community too! So from here on, for the next few weeks, I’m going to visit a different church every Sunday, incognito, and publish my report here.
Despite my reputation as a militant atheist, I will offer up my words of wisdom with the attitude of constructive criticism and, where appropriate, praise. Actually, I’ve already visited one such church, where my welcome was warm. Rather too warm, as it happened. Not what I’d expected from the Church of England. More of that in future weeks. When this Archbishop goes to church!