A wing and a prayer

I don’t know if anybody else listened to the morning service on Radio 4 last Sunday – I think it’s probably unlikely. I think it’s probably unlikely that anybody ever listens to the morning service on Radio 4 on Sunday, unless the clocks have moved back and they think they’ve set their radio alarm for The Archers omnibus.

But it’s really a very good idea, because you see what it is, is church for people who can’t be bothered to get out of bed. Every Sunday, Radio 4 faithfully broadcasts every hideous detail of some church service, usually from somewhere with a very hideous choir and a preacher with an incomprehensible accent. (I was on it myself once, actually, playing the violin in Shine, Jesus, Shine – but that was back in the early nineties, when such things happened all the time I’m told.)

I mention last Sunday’s, because it failed to deliver what I would usually expect from the morning service. Instead of the usual frightfully amusing (or at least amusingly frightful) church service, what we got was the Rev. Dr. John Stott sitting on a cliff in Wales talking about birds, punctuated by recordings from the BBC’s “most unashamedly outrageous hymn arrangements ever” archive. How Great Thou Art as interpreted by Rogers and Hammerstein after a night out binge-drinking.

John Stott, we were assured, is a keen bird-watcher. This much was evident from the fact that he felt it was worth delivering a long, four-part sermon on his feathered friends. On national radio.

Actually, calling it a sermon is rather generous; this was frankly a bird enthusiast talking about his obsession, and pearls of wisdom such as “…and we all need a spiritual homing device” did nothing to conceal that. I mean, please – what next, “we all need a spiritual beak”? “We should all be, spiritually at least, flying around Trafalgar Square and shitting on tourists”?

Is this what I stayed in bed for? Is this any alternative to church? If that’s what it was supposed to be then I can’t see it catching on – it will take more than a few gay clergy to uproot Anglicans from their comfortable pews and make them sit shivering on a cliff top each Sunday morning to listen to camp hymn arrangements and bird watching enthusiasts.

Even Methodism’s better than that.

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