MILLENNIUM EXPERIENCE

 

MY GOODNESS ME, what a lot has been going on! So much that I hardly know if I shall have space this month to tell you about the Millennium Chasuble!! Poor Stephen Lynas! Poor George! And then there's David Hope.

First, the archiepiscopal misnomer.

I have to say that I am almost speechless! The Archbishop of York is turning into a professional Millennium Pooper - and we have enough of those already.

This time it's condoms. 'Archbishop's fury at Dome condom deal.' Who does he think he is - Basil Hume? At 'personal comfort' kiosks around the dome all sorts of ordinary everyday requirements, like paper tissues, nappies and headache pills will be available. And in a modern forward-looking world, of course, condoms will be available with them. Condoms are ordinary everyday requirements! What all these clerical single men have got to come to terms with is that technology has rendered sex recreational, and liberated it from the sterile moralising of the past.

Avanti! I say (which incidentally is the name of the Durex in question). Appropriately enough there will also be Millennium duvet covers on sale; and as Joe remarked, the real hope must surely be that, in the new era which is upon us, there will no longer be posses of prurient prelates pontificating about what goes on beneath them!!

But George is having a rough time, too. Not enough kiddies for his Millennium bunfight 'The Time of Our Lives'! Apparently they have had to cancel the Wembley Arena and put up a tent in the Lindy Runcie Memorial Garden. Of course, I wish the whole project well - children are the future of our Church, as Brigitta is always saying when people complain about noise at the Family Service - but I can't help thinking that this little fiasco has something to do with the image of the thing. I mean, just look at the application form: it contains more words than most kids read in a year! You need a degree in form-filling just to understand it! And the quotes on the back are a dead give away. Ali from Watford (designated multi-ethnic) thinks it's 'Brill!' (which is rather dated of him); and Archbishop George thinks that it is 'one of the most exciting things I've been involved with since becoming Archbishop' (well he would, wouldn't he? - and not difficult, say some!).

And then it's from condoms to candles - if that is not too naughty! Apparently the candles won't fit the holes (which is even naughtier!) - they won't go through letterboxes, that is. Can I be frank? I was never much taken with this Millennium candle thing myself. The idea of thousands of drunken revellers setting their hair alight and burning down their homes while searching for their copy of the Millennium resolution has always seemed pretty absurd to me. But someone with shares in Charles Farris & Co. has pursued it to the bitter end - which is roughly where we have reached. Not that I object to candles. Our Hildegard of Bingen Group always conducts its ecumenical concelebrated eucharists by the light of a single enormous candle. But one can carry things too far.

Now for news more local and domestic! Brigitta is taking on Alpha!! I suggested an Alpha Course for the parish and she sent for the bumph. She was not a very pleased Vicar, I can tell you! Where, said Brigitta, is the feminist input? The whole thing is Bible-based, and we know what that means - Patriarchalism. So - isn't this exciting? - we are writing our own Alpha. 'More Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza and less dead semitic males!' cried Brigitta as she attacked the keyboard.

Now we have set up a parish focus group to ask what women really want in the new Millennium. What is Good News for women? Just like the Archbishops' Council, our Alpha Course is going to be consumer-led! I am excited because the whole project will be so useful to me in my Dome work. What I need to be able to communicate by our worship services and in our counselling techniques is the way in which Christian Faith is adapting itself to the requirements of the modern world. And it is clear to me that thundering on about the Bible (about a whole bunch of long-dead kill-joys) is not the way forward. 'The Episcopal Church is at variance with Scripture,' said Presiding Bishop Griswold. Right-on Frankie! And that goes for our parish too!

You will also want to know about the vestments. They are gorgeous!! I can imagine all the jokes you unreconstructed traditionalists have been making about two domes on the front and two domes in the rear; but nothing so Vivienne Westwood, I assure you! Here they are at last, and not a dome in sight!

Worked by a disabled women's commune in Sri Lanka, the chasuble is in green Thai silk, representing the earth, and the lining is a glorious sky-blue. Across the front and back (also in blue, but deeper this time) runs the course of the Thames as it passes through London. From shoulder to hem a great gash of gold delineates the Greenwich meridian. We have tried to keep it simple, of course, and we have been successful, I think, in producing a striking design which encompasses the theme of the occasion whilst avoiding any overt religious symbolism. Someone rather unkindly remarked that it reminded them of the title credits for Eastenders - and that gave me a brilliant idea! As I walked home, humming the tune, I realized that it would make a marvellous 'Gloria' for my Millennium Mass. Now Joe (the Hildegard of Bingen de nos jours) is taking time off from rehearsals ('Pope Joan' is going really, really well, by the way!) to adapt the Neighbours theme as a 'Sanctus'.

I shall finish, if I may, with a tiny confession. I have finally met Nigel McCulloch! Ever since I saw that winning picture of him that they keep putting in The Times I have been just a little smitten. He is, as Joe says, a sort of ecclesastical Robert Redford, one big red-blooded hunk of a bishop! The Missionary Bishop of Wakefield! A bishop for the Millennium!

And now there he is, in full colour, under a Past Times fridge magnet in my own kitchen!

A daily inspiration to yours truly!!

 

April Heavisides is Archbishops' Chaplain to the Millennium Experience, a job which she shares with Sr Immaculata ISRL. She is a Canon of Southwark

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