A national daily paper dated 10.9.92 reported that the Church of Rome
has commissioned a batch of confessionals with electronic aids from a firm
who call themselves 'Genuflex' (No kidding!).
This indicates that the time has come for the Church of England to reveal
its far-reaching plan for the Second Millennium, by which it proposes to
solve many, or most of its problems by dispensing with the labour-intensive
set-up which we currently enjoy (endure?). The Church accepts that it no
longer has the financial resources to employ a full-time ministry, nor to
maintain what are probably the least efficient and least cost-effective
buildings of any organisation.
It also recognises that there is no justification for the employment of
full time Parish Priests or for the human paraphernalia which clutters the
churches of this land. Temporary palliatives, such as 'employing more fully
the ministry of the laity' and the setting up of 'Minster Parishes' have
successfully bought time until long term plans could be brought to fruition.
The Church now recognises its need to embrace the two principal
characteristics of the decade, namely technology and privatisation.
As from the year 2000 therefore, the Church will, as a first priority,
set up a computer complex situated offshore in the Diocese of Sodor and Man.
This will effect a saving in tax. Each Parish will then be equipped with a
'cash dispenser' type of computer terminal which, initially, will be be
built into the walls of each Parish Church. These will be known as 'Godslots'.
As a result of the 'Decade of Evangelism', it is confidently anticipated
that coverage will later be expanded so as to provide outlets at suitable
sites such as supermarkets, post offices, football grounds, racetracks, and
tourist attractions such as theme parks and cathedrals.
Each of the faithful, who registers with 'Godslot (your flexible friend)
plc.' and who pays the Annual Service Charge (ASC) by direct debit,* will be
issued with a plastic card and a PIN number. On inserting the card, each
will be given a few words of comfort based on the 'theme' for the week, and backed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, by Madonna
singing 'Ave Maria', or the Harry Secombe single, 'Bless this House'.
Signed photographs of the Archbishop of Canterbury may be dispensed and debited to the
individual's account, if in credit. If not, suitable quotations from Dante
or 'Paradise Lost' would be substituted.
Those who achieve Confirmation after taking the necessary correspondence
course on disk or tape, will be issued with a 'Gold Card' enabling them to
receive the Sacrament either with or without a receipt.
Baptism will be administered by combining the dispenser with a
'Hand-Wash' machine as seen in many public 'facilities', but with a
Further refinements, available in a limited number of Dioceses, might
include a discreet whiff of incense for those so inclined.
Funerals offer no problem. Crematoria are already automated, so that all
that will be required is a chute giving immediate transfer to a disposal
unit developed on the 'microwave' principle. A 'Destination?' prompt will be
answered simply by pressing either of two buttons marked respectively
or ¯. (Press neither
Weddings will, of course be more difficult, since these are notoriously
'labour intensive' - especially prior to the event. Access to 'communal
space' and social intercourse will still be required, and it will therefore
be necessary for those concerned to obtain in advance the sponsorship of a
florist, caterer, car hire firm, 'Pronuptia' (sic) and Moss Bros. As these
are already regarded as the vital features of any wedding, no real problem
is anticipated. In cases of poverty, the computer will be programmed to
dispense a wedding certificate and a ring on the entering of a special PIN
number issued for the occasion by a Registrar. To avoid confusion, this will
be known as a 'BAN' number. Suitable music, such as the Widor 'Toccata' or 'Crimond'
would, of course, be available. Alternatively, provision will be made for a
prior recording of the bride's uncle singing a vocal 'gem' such as 'All ya
need is love, Baby!'.
The great merit of this system is that the only personnel required will
he a 'Service Engineer' for each area. These will be dressed in distinctive
purple overalls with cruciform I.D. badges and pointed safety helmets, and
equipped with Alternative Service Manuals. Maintenance work carried out at
night would mean that they would be almost as invisible as hitherto.
The 'Godslots' will require only a minimum of space, so releasing the
remainder of a Church building to be rented out or leased at considerable
profit as a bingo hall, or 'acid house', its thick walls making it
especially suitable for rave parties in built-up areas.
Commercial interests have already indicated their
interest in taking up a franchise or even a merger - there is already
precedent at Salisbury.
With the feelings of the recalcitrant in mind, old traditions will he
maintained by having an annual 'Clap and Stomp' on such public holidays as
Yule-Tide and Hallowe'en, sponsored by the publishers of
'Mission Praise', the 'Jolly Ho-Ho Card Company Inc.' of Baltimore, and
The next step will be privatisation. There is no doubt that such
progressive moves will attract healthy competition, the Church of Rome being
one obvious contender. The eventual use of advertising accompanied by offers
of free holidays to Euro-Disney or Lourdes is to be the subject of a
feasibility study in depth.
Within a short time share offers will be floated - the possibilities are
endless (seculae seculorum).
(* The Church reserves the right to modify this charge
without notice. Remember that in default of payment, your salvation may be
[Since the above was written, it has been announced in the
national press that the B.B.C. is to introduce a phone-in prayer service to
be known as 'A Ring and a Prayer'. This not only indicates that the age of
prophecy is still with us, but also underlines the urgency for the Church to
expedite this project otherwise market forces may acquire a prior interest.]
Preliminary reaction to 'A Plan for the Church' from a prominent Layman
of a Diocese within the Province of Canterbury whose advice was sought:
From his letter dated 21st. September.
"Many thanks for your interesting suggestions. I took these to the
Bishop's Council where members considered the ideas "exciting and positive".
A Working Group is to enter into dialogue with T... S.... (a well-known
electrical contractor) to discuss hardware requirements. The Council of
Mission is to appeal to Lambeth for funds to get up a pilot project in
partnership with Latin America. A paper is to be compiled to help the
Parishes "catch a vision", "unpack the issues", and, above all, "share
thoughts" about the possible implications.
Clearly, sacking 175 clergy in this Diocese will be a sensitive and at
times a painful issue, but much good may come from the tensions this could
create (in a real sense).
As a start, all recently-retired priests will lose 3 months' pension (see
our leaflet "The Joy of Giving") to help us create a 'launching pad' for
these forward-looking ventures."
[POST-SCRIPT. Re. 'Service Engineers - see above.. - (applicable after
The important theological dogma has now been promulgated ex
cathedra by General Synod, that there is now no difference whatever
between what were formerly called 'males and females'. (These terms,
emanating from the now obsolete Book of Genesis' (1.27), have been falsely
maintained by the grave errors of the Bishop of Rome and the grammar of
primitive languages which have yet to evolve to perfection as has English.)
This enlightenment will mean that service engineers will be recruited from
both former 'classes' of personkind. Unfortunately it has not been possible
to eliminate the need for an alternative 'cut' in the overalls to be worn.
There has also been some pressure for alternative colours to tone with hair
and lipstick. A working party is to be set up at Lambeth to investigate in
depth these and other minor difficulties. There is no doubt that with true
goodwill on the part of all concerned, we shall all be guided in the right
© The Estate of William John Green, 2004