Reading the Bible in Church

Don’t worry, here are some useful tips.

Almost anyone could do the readings. Almost anyone could do them badly and/or carelessly. But, with a little effort, most people could do them well. A little thought and a little planning can make all the difference.

Morning Prayer is part of the Church’s daily cycle of prayer: an ongoing engagement with God’s Word in Scripture and Prayer, whereas the Mass is not just worship solely led by the Priest. It is comprised of two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Sacrament.

In a Mass, both are equally important, as we cannot feed properly from the Blessed Sacrament unless we have been first fed by God’s word. The word is God is also incomplete until we have partaken in God’s Holy Sacraments; so through reading in Church you are undertaking a vital role in the life and worship of this Church. If you haven’t worked at it, don’t expect, miraculously, to do it well. God provides miracles when a problem is beyond human solution. This is not one of those.

First Things First

Clearly, you can’t just roll up on Sunday morning, stride to the front and begin reading. So to prepare: You get out your Bible, turn up the first passage and begin reading. Wrong!

The first thing you should do is pray.

At this stage, pray that you will understand the passages. You cannot read anything well if you do not understand it Spadework When you have prayed, read the other passages, including the Gospel. The three year Common Worship Lectionary chooses readings that are thematically linked to the season and ensure that the Liturgy of the Word is based on a common theme.

An RCL lectionary can be obtained from any Christian bookshop, and the readings for each day can be downloaded from the internet into your Computer (see . The readings are distributed to you at least a few weeks in advance before the service.

Understanding how your reading fits into the whole will guide you as to how to play this reading. Dramatise No one expects an Oscar-winning performance from you, but the most thrilling and momentous passages will seem deadly dull if they are read in a flat monotone. Pray about this, too.

Look for any direct speech and work out how it might be said. Is it a question? a command? Should it be said in an angry tone? or a comforting one? Is there a point at which a slight pause would be appropriate, perhaps to let some great truth sink in? If there is no speech you can try to convey the general mood of the passage. Does it record a happy event? or a sad one? Read through again, putting in these effects in your head. Try any difficult words out loud, to make sure you can get your tongue round them. More on this later

Sunday Morning

By now the passages should seem like old friends. Read them through again, either at home or, having arrived at church sufficiently early, sitting quietly in a pew. (Of course, there is a greater danger that you will be interrupted, if you choose the latter.)

This reading should also be accompanied by prayer. Pray that you will recall all the mental notes you have made and give thanks that you don’t have to do any of this in your own strength. God will calm your nerves too. I once had a friend, a gifted speaker, who told me that she was always very nervous before she began. ‘If I stopped being nervous I should stop accepting invitations to speak,’ she said, ‘because then, I would know that I was doing it in my own strength and not depending on God.


Except for when you are actually reading, you should be as unobtrusive as possible. Sit at the end of a pew so that you don’t have to disturb other people, and in a place where you don’t have to walk across the front of the church to get out to the lectern. Unless you have been told otherwise, the readings will be from the Jerusalem Bible, and are printed on the weekly service sheet.

Anticipate. Don’t sit in your place until there is a long silence. By the time the priest has finished the Collect you should be standing at the lectern, ready to begin, and by the end of each reading, the next person should be ready to take over almost without a pause.

Being ready and in position will give you time for one last ‘arrow’ prayer for support. Don’t worry about the microphone. You don’t have to do anything to it. That is not your responsibility. If there is a problem, someone will step in to assist you or make adjustments with the controller or mixing desk.

All you need to do is speak clearly and loudly, as the microphone is there to support your voice, not replace it. You don’t need to lean towards the microphone or touch it. At the front of Church people will be listening primarily to you and not the speakers. You need to speak loudly enough to be clearly heard over half the Church.

This is It

The service sheet indicates how the reading should be introduced in italics at the top. It usually takes the form “A reading from the Book of X” or “A reading from the letter of Paul to Y”. You should not read out the reference which sounds disjointed: the reading is in front of everyone so there is no scrabbling for it in a pew bible.

There should be a slight pause before beginning the text.

Give expression to your reading and make use of full stops, commas and speech marks to make the reading varied and interesting. Although there is no place for silly voices in a Scriptural Reading, one should be able to differentiate in texture between the narrative of the text and the spoken word. Remember that sometimes a dramatic pause can make all the difference to a reading, particularly after a key phrase.

At the end of the reading, again make a slight pause and say, ‘This is the word of the Lord’. The congregation will respond, ‘Thanks be to God’.

Responsorial Psalms when read in the Mass should introduce the response: “The response to the Psalm is…” followed by a short pause and then repeat the response itself, where the congregation will join in with you. You need to boldly repeat the response during the Responsorial Psalm so that the congregation knows to follow with you. Sometimes they do not have the words in front of them so they are relying on you to lead them, and it might not sink in first time. Say the Psalm versicles in the same manner as a normal poetic reading, and repeat again boldly with the congregation the response to the Psalm.

If you are leading the Psalm in morning prayer, you announce the Psalm with either the traditional “The Psalm appointed for today: Psalm X” or more informally “Psalm X”. The separate sheet with the Psalm on it will be laid out for congregational reading. The Odd-numbered lines are your lines, the even-numbered lines are in bold and are for the congregation to respond.

You will note that there is a diamond or an asterisk half way through the line. You should pause at that point for a moment (perhaps a count of 2, or ‘Hail Mary’) before the rest of the line. Even if the congregation ploughs on with their responses, we must gradually and gently teach the congregation to say the Psalm slowly and reflectively together, listening to each other. You will be able to model that for the Congregation. If the congregation is slow or reluctant to say their lines, lead them in saying the even-numbered verses as well.

At the end of the Psalm for morning prayer we all say together the “Glory Be”. At the end of each reading or Psalm there should be a momentary pause if you are continuing. If someone else is taking over from you, step away as the congregation makes their last response enabling the next reader to pick up with only a momentary pause. There should be a distinct gap between readings but not a long embarrassed silence. When you are back in your place don’t forget to thank God for His help. Now you can relax and enjoy the rest of the service.

Those Awful Hebrew Names

Most people don’t have a problem with New Testament names. It’s the unusual ones in the Old Testament which are difficult. Here are one or two pointers which may help. Since the Hebrew alphabet is totally different from ours, the letters are already transliterated so that the consonants can be treated just like English. These are not exactly right, but near enough. The problem with the vowels (a,e,i,o,u.) is that, in English, we make one letter represent a number of different sounds. The letter ‘a’ for example, can be interpreted in eight different ways. This doesn’t happen in other languages. Few of them have so many vocals and, in any case, the use of accents, or diacritics makes the pronunciation clear. Hebrew has very few vowel sounds. As a rule of thumb, except for familiar anglicised names, if you always pronounce a as in ‘pat’, e as in ‘egg’, i as in ‘chick’, o as in ‘note’ u as in ‘rule’ you’ll be about right. Double a as in ‘Baal’ is said as a long ‘a’ sound – ‘Baaaaal’. If you encounter a word which leaves you totally stuck, check with one of the Clergy or Readers.

The most important advice with difficult names or words is to do something and to do it with confidence. Even if the word is wrong to the ears of Hebrew scholars, we won’t notice unless you draw attention to it. So, when confronted with a difficult word, say it how you have worked it out and don’t look back.

Never stop and apologise. God doesn’t mind and nor should we.


To help you remember all of this, here are five ‘P’s;

  • Pray First and last
  • Prepare Thoughtfully
  • Practice Thoroughly
  • Position In good time
  • Pronounce Clearly

I hope you will enjoy reading the Holy Scriptures in Church. Your contribution is appreciated and valued.

Archbishop’s Digital Charter – a short reflection

The Archbishops have released a series of values intended to enable better, more Christian, Social Media interactions between people and groups. I think they should be congratulated for the initiative, and it certainly gives me, as an outspoken user of Social Media, some things to reflect on.

The Charter is as one would expect filled with good and sensible advice for Social Media use. As with all Christian calls, it will also e tough to live out.

The danger could be that it robs the Church of its sometime Prophetic role. There are times when the leadership of our Churches, and local leaders need to speak out for something, or against something and this, inevitably give someone offence: usually the invested powers which the teachings of Christ challenge. ++Justin is right to challenge Payday Loan Sharks, ++John is right to have stood up to the murderous and corrupt regime of Mugabe; but for ome shareholders and some political cronies, the Church will make them uncomfortable.

In the same way, should I not use Social Media to challenge Homophobia both within and without the Church, speak up for marginalised disabled people or the NHS? To do so will offend the holders of power; but I was not called to be a wet or fluffy priest like the All Gas and Gaiters Derek Nimmo and turbulent priests have always caused trouble (and got into trouble) when they spoke truth to power.

Now, the guidelines remind us that what is written on the Internet stays forever, and I am very aware of this. I made a big mistake a few years ago when the Labour Anti-Semitism row was just starting. At the time, I – because the bubble I lived in was not Anti-Semitic (although critical of the State of Israel) – thought it was an opportunist, right-wing smear. I said so. I was wrong. There is a deep, horrible layer of anti-semitism in the current Labour Party and it is one of the reasons I left (that and their pro-Brexit stance).

However, my comments (on a post by a relative of mine) were picked up by the Pseudoanonymous Archbishop Cranmer blog: a terrible right-wing Church and Politics blog by a man called Adrian Hilton, who is neither a priest nor an Archbishop but effectively hides behind this persona and is able to whip up a comments section of which every post would be in contravention of the Archbishops’ Charter.

Despite his claim that he always “asked politely”, Adrian and I exchanged messages which were full of veiled threats and the implication would be that he would turn me over to his attack dogs. Resignedly I said “bring it on then” – I suppose “Publish and be damned” would have been a better response, but then he’d have made much of the fact that a Clergyman has damned him.

The comments to his article were indeed horrible: vitriolic, homophobic, racist and protestant.

I fully accept that my assertion at the time about Labour Antisemitism was wrong.

That article on the Cranmer blog appears about half-way down the list when you search for me on Google. I have to live with that probably forever. My fault. I’m not going to link to it myself, partly out of shame and partly because his horrible site doesn’t deserve any more traffic. You can always Google it…

My bad. I have to live with this forever.

So, take my advice: be careful what you say on Social Media because it can and will come back to bite you. Sometimes I can be right on the button but no-one ever remembers these things, only the ones you get (spectacularly) wrong. I always say that I will only tweet what I would be prepared to say in a homily – and I will speak on Political or Social issues if I think the Gospel has something to say on the matter. I do not expect total agreement or compliance nor believe that I am infallible. I always say at all elections “I do not care who you vote for, but you MUST vote, you must make your voice heard” and that is all I say on parties, but Policies that affect the vulnerable in society, Antisemitism and Islamophobia, Misogyny, Homophobia, exclusion must be challenged because my Lord would have challenged them.

I will sign up to the Charter. I will try and abide by it. I will also not hesitate to speak out when the Gospel compels me to, and I encourage you to do the same.

Crowdsourced Recording – Help Needed

Many readers of this blog are aware of my Crowdsourced Psalms Project where we are creating a digital psalter with voices from around the world, all available for free.

I have a new task for you all… if you would like to make your voice a part of this Liturgy. You are invited to record your own voice on your smartphone and send it to me, so I can use it in an act of worship. It will then be available for everyone to use.


  1. If you have a phone like an iPhone or an Android, there is usually an app to record your voice – often called “Voice Memo” or some thing similar. I use a free Android App called ASR which can be installed for free from  If you have better recording equipment, then even better, but I have found that most smartphones are good enough nowadays. You can configure it to record at quite a good quality: I would suggest 192k in MP3 or MP4 format if that means anything to you. If not, just record it as it comes and I will do spooky mysterious things with it with electronics.
  2. iPhones will record in the very nice .M4a format. This is fine, but please try and set it to the highest quality you can.
  3. Read (nicely and in the highest possible quality) the whole text shown below. It would be great Click here to jump to the optimum settings in ASR…
  4. If you mess up don’t worry, just repeat the line, as I will be choosing from a lot of readings, just repeat it and then send the whole lot to me.
  5. After recording select “Share” (or similar) and email it to me at
  6. It would be really helpful if you named the file with your name and the psalm it is. This will help me collate them.
  7. I will cut it up with all the others and make these into the Gospel using the multiplicity of voices, accents, genders etc.
  8. Can you tell others and ask them to do it for me please so I get lots and lots of voices.

Thank you.

The Text (please record all of this)

Hear the Holy Gospel according to John
Glory to you, O Lord

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father,
I pray not only for these,
but for those also
who through their words will believe in me.
May they all be one.
Father, may they be one in us,
as you are in me and I am in you,
so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.
I have given them the glory you gave to me,
that they may be one as we are one.
With me in them and you in me,
may they be so completely one
that the world will realise that it was you who sent me
and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
so that they may always see the glory you have given me
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Father, Righteous One,
the world has not known you,
but I have known you,
and these have known that you have sent me.
I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known,
so that the love with which you loved me may be in them,
and so that I may be in them.’

This is the Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, O Christ.

The Coming by RS Thomas

And God held in his hand
A small globe. Look, he said.
The son looked. Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour. The light burned
There ; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows ; a bright
Serpent, a river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky. Many people
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs. The son watched
Them. Let me go there, he said.

The Nursery Rhyme Mass – a childish approach to worship

Fr Simon Rundell, Parish Priest, Parishes of Bickleigh and Shaugh Prior, Plymouth, Diocese of Exeter.

Worship with children, especially sacramental worship with children needs to tread a fine line between accessibility for the participants and authenticity to the faith which is manifest in worship. Within the canon of Fresh Expressions, there have been many innovative gatherings which have struggled to find this balance, and the challenges of Messy Eucharist for example[1] to move from gathering to sacrament have been well documented.

The Nursery Rhyme Mass[2] (NRM) is an ongoing, collaborative initiative to enable authentic expression of the sacramental but in idioms which are appropriate to children from pre-school to school year 6 (Age 10/11). By reinterpreting the liturgical structure of Common Worship and by reworking age-appropriate rhymes set to traditional nursery rhyme tunes, a new liturgy is formed which is identifiably Anglican and yet owned by young people.

Brian Ogden published a series of Nativity Plays set to Nursery Rhymes[3] and this provided the springboard for parish youth workers and priest to collaborate to create this liturgy[4]. The key challenge was in the representation of each individual element of the liturgical structure with a suitable rhyme, and then to find appropriate rhymes. Many of the rhymes simply fell together with little effort and then were modified in practice, either to improve the rhyming scheme or to enhance the theological message.

So in an act of penitence, set to the tune of “Ba Ba Black Sheep”, after absolution there is a resounding song of thanks to “If you’re happy and you know it…” which culminates in a powerful “If you believe that God forgives you say “We do…””  “WE DO!” They all shout. Such liturgical elements can be frequently reused in Collective Worship, which (much to the approval of SIAMS Inspectors) emphasises the connection of school Collective Worship to the wider worshipping community with full gathering songs, penitential rites, intercessions and Trinitarian blessings borrowed directly from the NRM. Although a whole Eucharist Prayer was written (to the tune of Kum By Yah) it is always replaced by initially the excellent Roman Prayer 2 for Children and now the Common Worship Eucharistic Prayer for Children once it had been authorised.

Coming from a distinctly Anglican sacramental tradition, the NRM unashamedly seeks to express this Anglican charism within its texts, speaking of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and evoking images and metaphors consistent with liberal Anglocatholicism. In an age when certain powerfully rich Evangelical strands can enforce their own spin on Anglicanism through their materials, this is a subtle, low-tech and under-resourced response. Churches uncomfortable with the praying of the Hail Mary during the intercessions may simply omit it, for this Creative Commons-released project encourages local adaptation and refinement which can feed back into the project and enrich it. No copyright is claimed on the materials and they are freely available on the website:

It can be employed with little or no additional resource. The songs are always sung acapella. As a priest quite comfortable with the use of multimedia, I usually used slides for the liturgy but as demonstrated when the school projector was out of action, the children quickly absorbed the words and demonstrated that they actually didn’t need the text. A screen is much more engaging than a printed sheet of rhymes and these should be avoided as much as possible.

The NRM is used weekly in a Church of England Primary School, and frequently as the liturgy of a Family Mass aimed at pre-schoolers. In school, in their own time, between 8 and 20 young people participate and communicate weekly. This is connected to a parish ethos which is more concerned with administering the sacraments of salvation than preventing access to them: a completely open table is practiced and all children, regardless of baptism, admission to communion or confirmation are invited to communicate. However, for safeguarding reasons, in school, communion is received in only one kind (the Host) unless a child has been formally admitted to Holy Communion. Other Churches in the UK, Australia and Canada have also adopted its use and contributions and refinements are received from far and wide.

The use of the NRM has greatly increased the decision of unbaptised children to seek Baptism of their own volition, for families to find deeper and lasting connection with the church following Baptism and for young people to further engage in Admission to Holy Communion and Confirmation (depending upon age). In my own Parish, children who receive First Communion are strongly encouraged to continue to participate in sacramental worship from that point onwards. It has been used successfully at All Age Masses with positive response from both adults and children communicants.

So, if we are to proclaim the Gospel afresh in each generation[5] then we should be prepared to use tools which are both authentic to our spirituality and theological expression but which are couched in language, metaphor and style which reaches the participants. I pray that it will continue to grow and enable even more young people to meet with Christ in his most Holy and Blessed Sacrament.


Fr Simon Rundell


Twitter: @frsimon




Fr. Simon’s books:

Please feel free to take any image from the website:

[1] Accessed 18th January 2019

[2] Accessed 13th January 2019

[3] Ogden B (2002) Nursery Rhyme Nativities, BRF. Oxford.

[4] Rundell S (2011) Sacramental Worship with Children Canterbury Press. Norwich.

[5] Common Worship Ordinal


Revelation requires both the willingness of God to reveal and the openness of humankind to be revealed to. This possibly explains that whilst the nature of God is unchanging, our understanding of the nature of God may change over time as our hearing and reflection on that Word becomes more nuanced. This becomes problematic when one ties theology to an unchanging document in changing times and the context of a concretely derived document such as Scripture is ignored and may even become a false idol itself.    

50 Clean Jokes (especially for Kelly’s Joke of the Week)


What’s the difference between in-laws and outlaws?

Outlaws are wanted.


I bought my friend an elephant for his room.
He said “Thanks”
I said “Don’t mention it”


I bought the world’s worst thesaurus yesterday. Not only is it terrible, it’s terrible.


This is my step ladder. I never knew my real ladder.


My friend asked me to help him round up his 37 sheep.

I said “40”


What’s the difference between a good joke and a bad joke timing.


I told my girlfriend she drew her eyebrows too high.
She seemed surprised.


I have the heart of a lion and a lifetime ban from the London zoo.



I have an EpiPen. My friend gave it to me when he was dying, it seemed very important to him that I have it.



I bought some shoes from a drug dealer. I don’t know what he laced them with, but I’ve been tripping all day.


Two clowns are eating a cannibal.
One turns to the other and says “I think we got this joke wrong”


My wife told me I had to stop acting like a flamingo. So I had to put my foot down.


What’s the difference between a hippo and a zippo?

One is really heavy, and the other is a little lighter.


I poured root beer in a square glass.

Now I just have beer.


My friend says to me: “what rhymes with orange”
I said: “no it doesn’t”


And God said to John, come forth and you shall be granted eternal life.

But John came fifth and won a toaster.


How many opticians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Is it one or two? One… or two?


What do we want?

Low flying airplane noises!

When do we want them?



Why did the old man fall in the well?

Because he couldn’t see that well.


Whatdya call a frenchman wearing sandals?

Phillipe Phillope.


What’s orange and sounds like a parrot?

A carrot.


What do you call a dog that does magic tricks?

A labracadabrador.


So what if I don’t know what Armageddon means? It’s not the end of the world


I went bobsleighing the other day, killed 250 bobs


A blind man walks into a bar. And a table. And a chair.


How do you get two whales in a car?
Start in England and drive west.


I’ve found a job helping a one armed typist do capital letters.

It’s shift work


Wife says to her programmer husband, “Go to the store and buy a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, buy a dozen.”

Husband returns with 12 loaves of bread.


Communism jokes aren’t funny unless everyone gets them


What did the pirate say when he turned 80 years old?

Aye matey


What do the movies Titanic and the sixth sense have in common.

Icy dead people


I used to be addicted to soap, but now I’m clean…


What time does Sean Connery go to Wimbledon?



Knock Knock

Who’s There?


Dishes Who?

Dishes Sean Connery


Have you heard about those new corduroy pillows? They’re making headlines.


I couldn’t figure out why the baseball kept getting larger. Then it hit me.


Two men meet on opposite sides of a river. One shouts to the other “I need you to help me get to the other side!”
The other guy replies “You are on the other side!”


Ever noticed that glass tastes like blood?


My friends say there’s a gay guy in our circle of friends… I really hope it’s Todd, he’s cute.


I’ve been told I’m condescending.

(that means I talk down to people)


Guy walks into a bar and orders a fruit punch.
Bartender says “Pal, if you want a punch you’ll have to stand in line”
Guy looks around, but there is no punch line.


Two drums and a cymbal fall off a cliff.


People in Dubai don’t like the Flintstones.
But people in Abu Dhabi do!


Why don’t ants get sick?

Because they have little antybodies.


How did the hipster burn his mouth?

He ate the pizza before it was cool.


What thinks the unthinkable?
An itheberg.


A dyslexic man walks into a bra


Before your criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you do criticize them, you’re a mile away and have their shoes.


What’s ET short for?

He’s only got little legs.


What’s the difference between a BMW and a porcupine?

A porcupine has pricks on the outside.

Beyond Lent Questions

What does Lent mean to you?

Lent is a time of preparation, of taking a season to reflect and prepare for the most significant week in the Christian Life: that is Holy Week – the Passion of Christ through to the Triumph of the Resurrection.

I think Lent is less about what you give up than what you take up. Dieting over Lent is… just a diet, something for my own benefit and my own vanity, whereas taking up something, some charitable act, some devotion or prayer ritual helps others and helps me also.

For me it is a time to pray more, for me quiet contemplation before the Blessed Sacrament, and the praying of the Rosary, to dwell on Scripture more, reflect more and even repent – I only go to make my confession a few times a year, but that act of reconciliation in the early part of Holy Week is so important to me, an opportunity to come to God in openness and honesty. It takes me all of Lent to build up to that, and to seek true reconciliation and a fresh start. In some ways, 40 days isn’t enough. But the feeling after that reconciliation: to be assured of God’s love and forgiveness takes me from the depths of Peter’s denial to his forgiveness on the beach.

What could you live without?

I could live without feelings of guilt, of self-recrimination, of doubt which undermines my self-esteem. If I was able to ditch those major thorns in my flesh that things would be a lot better, and I could adjust to flourishing as a complete child of God, but I’m not sure I can let those self-accusations go fully. Yet.

What does hope look like?

Hope looks like an empty tomb, which has let it’s occupant loose because it cannot hold him. Hope looks like the promise that he would be with us always. Hope comes in the visceral presence of God in broken bread and wine outpoured which transforms the broken and those who have it all together alike, Hope is the result of being assured of his return in Glory and the opportunity we have to make this world a better place in readiness for his return.

Gin, Lace and Backbiting

Some work on Ecclesiology and Ethnography led me to an essay by Fr Kenneth Leech “Beyond Gin and Lace: Homosexuality and the Anglo-Catholic Subculture” which can be found at

1 “Beyond Gin and Lace: Homosexuality and the Anglo-Catholic Subculture”. In Beck, Ashley; Hunt, Ros. Speaking Love’s Name: Homosexuality: Some Catholic and Socialist Reflections. London: Jubilee Group. 1988. pp. 16–27. OCLC 19881427. Retrieved 30th January 2019

In it (and it was written in 1988, before the ordination of women priests, and its language is strikingly of that we used in the mid/late 80s on Anti-Section 28/9 Marches, which seems a little problematic now), Leech explores the confusing relationship between the ready embracing of Anglocatholicism by (at the time) gay men and its bizarre simultaneously homophobic and misogynistic nature. Recently, letters have been written to the Bishops condemning the Pastoral Advice over the reception of the newly transitioned with a renewal of baptismal vows from not just the Conservative Evangelical but also the Anglocatholic, and my Twitter timeline is padded with expensively dressed youngish men who extol a fervid ritualism and an equally conservative approach to social policy.

Leech – a lifelong sacramental socialist – sitting on the fringe of Anglocatholicism appears mystified by this duality. To me, it feels like Stockholm Syndrome, where the captive develops empathy and then love for the thing that imprisons it. Without LGBT+ Clergy the whole church would fall, not merely as it would fail to represent the true body of Christ, but because of the sheer numbers of devoted, committed LGBT+ people in its clergy and in its pews. Why then, does the Church and the Anglocatholic Tradition therefore stand so condemnatory of its own?

I was a product of a Theological College where Names and Religion held sway: a nickname that put you in the opposite gender: Ruby, Minerva, Gloria, Mildred (we were all male ordinands at the time, and ordinand wives were given names like Steve and Bruce: I expect the female ordinands get them now) with all the arch-knowingness of a drag act. Straight or Gay (married, single or very single) these nicknames were pervasive and accepted, even celebrated. With it, came acceptance. Some Ordinands had girlfriends come to stay, some had boyfriends come to stay. They were all welcomed, accepted, celebrated even.

Most people in the pews now have a very relaxed attitude towards LBGT+ people, because they know them, are related to them, work with them. In a very traditional title parish, an elderly lady was set against women priests “Well Farv, I’d sooner have one of ’em ‘gay priests’ behind the altar than a woman” as I thought of the succession of my numerous predecessors who remained (to the parish) closeted and whose sexual identity was overlooked and ignored. I pray that as more women and LGBT+ people are in visible ministry such antipathy will diminish through familiarity, but with a self-defeating loathing, little appears to have changed. As Leech in 1988 concludes this dualism can be pathological and toxic

Certainly, some AC priests seem to operate on the basis of a rigid anti-gay position in what they say, combined with a very permissive attitude in what they do and in their pastoral dealings with others. The combination of public anti-gay rhetoric and private gay lifestyle is well known in some AC circles and produces curiously unpleasant manifestations from time to time. Statements by some leading AC bishops in recent months suggest that they too are living in two worlds, speaking in public as if “practising” homosexual clergy did not exist in their dioceses, yet surely knowing from their pastoral experience that this is not the case. The AC subculture seems to have promoted this kind of doublespeak and dualism, and encouraged its growth. It is not a promising basis on which to build a responsible sexual ethic.

If the nature of sacramentalism is only to force our true natures inside, in private, in denial of our incarnated realities, and Anglocatholicism (whatever that actually means – Leech’s historical pen portrait was simplistic but an interesting overview of wider general interest) engenders that dualism, then it is neither healthy nor realistic. With the advent of renewed anti-LGBT+ sentiment here in the late 2010s, we need to understand and at times challenge this self-loathing.