Wednesday 9 July 2008

Desolation, death and York

I like Obituaries. That may appear weird but goes with painting family vaults - I guess. But for medieval man they would have their "momento moris " - a reminder of their mortality. A healthy attitude to one's coming demise is a great leveller.

There was a fascinating Obit in the Guardian recently; Michael Marland, a visionary London headteacher who wrote the seminal work "the craft of the classroom"

He wrote:

"The craft won't work without a spirit compounded of the salesman, the Music Hall performer, the parent, the clown, the intellectual, the lover and the organiser, but the spirit won't win through on its own either. Method matters. The more "organised" you are, the more sympathetic you can be."

What a brilliant summary of the job of a charity CEO too! It encapsulates what I wrote about in my CASS lecture; the need for passion and professionalism. No CEO is any good without vision and passion. No CEO will last long without professional staff and keeping an eye on the bottom line either.

I did not have lots of sleep this weekend. Puppies may be lovable frolicking in the grass down by the Charlbury Mill stream but frolicking on your bed at 3am is not quite so amusing!

So a relief of sorts to be on the train to Manchester acevo North was launching the recent Nita Clarke Report on Trades Unions and the Third Sector; "a reet good read written with a Yorkshire accent) as a speaker put it. We are now establishing an acevo working party to look at how to progress the recommendations in the Report. And I am speaking on it at the meeting of the Public Services Forum (a government-employer-third sector Forum) on Monday.

Then it's off to York via the Trans Pennines Express - a marvellous train journey through the hills and dark satanic mills of the north. I am going to see Julia Unwin of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Julia has one major claim to fame in the third sector (I'm sure there are more he hastily adds ) and that is she was the original inventor of Full Cost Recovery! In 1997 she wrote "who pays for core costs" for acevo. And the rest, as they say is history! She was also the first Chair of the Adventure Capital Fund and set it off on its journey - with the mantle now passed to me!

I get to York in time to go to a concert of early music in the Chapter House of York Minster. York is the national centre for early music; a brilliant third sector body as Julia tells me. The acoustics in the medieval building are stunning and the opening sequence led by a full throated counter tenor sends a chill down the spine;

" Domine libera animam a laliis iniquis et a lingua dolosa " Deliver me O Lord from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue,

Exactly, I think.

Of course the CoE Synod is meeting in York I am getting increasingly irritated by the media coverage which describes the evangelical wing of the church as "traditionalists. Bah humbug. I'm a traditionalist. I love the catholic tradition of the Church, the magnificence of the King James Bible, the soaring cadences of the Cranmer Book of Common Prayer and the glorious choral tradition of the church which the English have kept alive.

From what I have seen of Evangelical churches they are full of chattering and pop songs, Vicars in turtle neck sweaters and I suspect they would not recognise an Early English Mass setting if they were hit around the head with a tambourine. Now nothing wrong with that, but what I object to is the barely disguised homophobia and misogyny. I may be a lover of tradition but have strong liberal views on morality. The attitude of some in the church to sex, differing sexual orientations is often offensive and more so by being disguised in the cloak of their own literal (and selective)version of the Old Testament. And here I exhibit the same intolerance that they often show to others. What is it about religion that does this - a point I have debated with the Director of the National Secular Society (an acevo member).

But enough of the rant. I feel deeply sorry for The Archbishop (he is speaking at an acevo lunch in December) who has a house in Charlbury and who I have occasional worshipped with at the 8am BCP Communion in the Charlbury Parish church. The role of the CoE in our national life is important. The parish church is often a real centre of community activity. It is especially true in rural areas. And often it is the Church that plays a crucial role in our most deprived communities where practically the only professional left living in the area is the Parish Priest.

As well as a visit to JRF I have time to go to the market and pick up some toys and treats for Sparkles. Our new puppy! Oh, and tea from the incredible Betty's Tea Rooms. And even pop into some of the great medieval churches of York. One in particular I like - Holy Trinity. It's now run by the Churches Conservation Trust. Its CEO is Crispin Truman - an active acevo member and a talented and amusing guy.

But back to The Chapter House of York. And the glorious music of the 17th century The evening's programme is unremittingly about misery, desolation and death. The burden of the chains of sin and the glowing coals of hell fire. It's all most agreeable.

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