The casual synod strictly adhered to the occasions on the first zoom assembly
There was belting of the loins and gritting of teeth when the members of the General Synod tried very hard on Saturday not to show how much they would have preferred to be in York for four days and have their morning coffee on the steps by the lake to bask. Ah, those golden days from when few members of Zoom had heard.
"Peace be with you, thanks to the mute button"
The opening of worship online served even more to remind them of what they had lost. The Canon Precentor of Ripon and Chaplain of the Synod, Rev. Michael Gisbourne, struck a lonely figure in a quiet and empty Ripon Cathedral, without their music.
A flawless room 3 at Church House in Westminster was the control center for online operations: something like a classroom on vacation when the billboards were removed and the chairs were placed on the desks.
The power to mute and unmute contributors lay with the platform party, and a power that turned out to be. Canon Sue Booys of the Business Committee, who spoke of a tent-like structure covered with tartan and gently rippled by the breeze and sunshine, made no bones about a likely pleasure from the start. "They'll all be muted. If you go on and on and on you will be cut off. "
And they were. The day belonged to the Dean of Southwark, dear Andrew Nunn, who led two long question and answer sessions. At 131, the number of questions submitted was unprecedented. Written answers had been distributed three days earlier and additional questions had been submitted for an oral answer. However, there was also a license to submit additional non-submitted supplements, and contributors had to "raise a blue hand" to ask one.
The Dean admitted that he would see them in his sleep; but the hands never appeared on the screen; so the spectators could only imagine this blowing blue forest.
He was a headmaster every inch. No shows – "Angus, are you there?" – were checked off after a moment in the class register when he tapped his fingers on the desk in front of him and turned his pen between them. You can imagine the stragglers who couldn't reach Zoom rushing into the classroom to clear up the excuses: "Sorry sir. I lost my PSA bag."
York's dress code is usually relaxed. It was not available here. Some of the bishops and clerics actually appeared in spiritual clothing; Laymen wore everything from jackets and ties to jeans and polo shirts.
Backgrounds were the thing. The sight of Canon Rosie Harper in an alpine valley was a breath of fresh air after a series of dark interiors. The ubiquitous Sam Margrave rocked with additions to additions on a variety of subjects and appeared one minute from his wing chair, the next from a ruined castle or college chapel.
There was a hint of Rousseau over the ferns and the mossy rocks of the garden of the Bishop of Penrith. I wonder how many others idly turned to Google Translate to find that the colorful sign on the wall of the Bishop of Durham that reads "Imana Ni Urukundo" means "God is love".
When the Synod Secretary General, William Nye, appeared in the Church House auditorium against a familiar backdrop of the Synod meeting, it was a painful reminder of how unusual it was to do it online.
The questions were, as always, far-reaching, from the closure of churches (a long, sometimes tired, sometimes temperamental defense by Archbishop Welby to a flood of critical questions) to protection.
There were many questions about the likely constitution of the Archbishop of York's new task force. What criteria should be used? Would each member's profiles be provided? The archbishop was certain: there would be a tendency towards the boys for which he did not apologize; and a really strong BAME representation.
And that need was obvious. Viewing individual members on the screen and not physically in bulk only served to highlight the population of the current synod. In the later stages of life there was a tired overweight of male speakers and a lack of BAME faces: When a young black member, Anderson Jeremiah, spoke, Archbishop Cottrell said fervently: "I have learned so much from you."
There were carefree moments. Dean Nunn's question: "Can anyone mute the Archbishop of Canterbury?" brought a quick reply from Archbishop Welby: "People have tried a lot in the past few weeks to do that."
Cut and thrust were inevitably missing, and it was tempting not to see any reactions or movements. It was not a seamless operation and there were technical problems from time to time, but the Church House deserves credit for the way a complex process was managed over a six-hour period.
Canon Gisbourne concluded at the end: "Sing our faith song to another tune."