Our Autumn Gathering had its funny side. Two of the bishops whose names are attached to the Society of St 'Inge and Bracket had been booked to present the proceedings of the Northern Synod which, apparently, so warmly backed this initiative of Johnny Hind and Chums. But they both subsequently discovered that their diaries contained entries which, after all, precluded their attendance. Those inclined to give some support to the Society and who were physically present seemed strangely muted in their praise of it. It appeared to be a truth universally acknowledged that nobody knew what the rationale of the Society was, or what it is for. One much loved priest commended the bishops involved for being prepared - after all these years of sneering at action groups - to do something; he suggested that it might be called the Society of Awakened Episcopal Ostriches. Another felt that it was important to give the Society a fair wind, although if, as he clearly suspected, the sponsoring bishops were not prepared to act illegally, it would be worse than useless (his hilarious peroration included a stirring rallying cry to Stink). With friends like these, how can the Society need enemies?
It was suggested that the Northern Clergy are different in type from us Southerners; since we were also told that a thousand of them had signed up blindly to the Society without knowing what it would turn out to be, I felt that this was a rather ambiguous piece of praise for those sturdy, sensible, no-nonsense lemmings (Lemmus Borealis?) up beyond the Humber. All the Nigerian Widows who so regularly email us could have a field day among the clergy of the Northern Province. We were told that quite probably the legislation for women bishops would fail next time to secure its necessary Synodical majorities ... so that it would keep coming back at regular intervals to prevent us from getting slack and bored.
But the moment of supreme bathos came with the suggestion that all was actually rather well; the Calvinist Conservative Evangelicals would save every last bit of our bacon by deploying their financial clout. That the Catholic Revival, the Movement of Pusey and Newman and Keble, the spiritual descendants of the heroic Non-jurors and of the martyred Laud, should come to this ...
Don't get me wrong. There were plenty of speakers, particularly among the young, who realised that we have clutched at so many straws and for so long that there is no thatch left on the roof to keep the rain out. There was real enthusiasm for Dr Ratzinger's New Deal. I just thought you might like to hear ... yes, the funny bits.
Oh, and yes, Bishop Edwin did tell us that the game was up.