Sunday, June 13, 2010

Synod - a personal take

I spent the end of the week at the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church. You can read all about it here, where you can also listen to the speech from the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA (pictured, rather distantly, with my phone), and you can pick up more personal takes on blogs like Kenny's. I didn't take my laptop - too heavy, too uncomfortable to sit in the pews at the side where the bloggers lurk, and to be honest, too tempting to sit surfing in moments of tedium.

And there were such moments. It is my contention that no-one aspiring to address a hall full of people should be allowed to be boring, no matter what they're talking about. Balance-sheets, maybe - but there are interesting nuggets hidden away in there, like the average giving of each communicant in the church (quite shockingly low), or the discrepancy between numbers on rolls and actual bums on seats on the Sunday next before Advent. But I'm pushing a point here. I know there has to be a business-like approach to pensions and quota and all the stuff I find personally so daunting. However, we are all sent the papers in ample time to read them from cover to cover - and yes, we can all read. So why, in the name of charity, do speakers insist on putting up Powerpoint slides and then reading them out aloud? Or explaining maps that we're quite capable of interpreting?

And another thing. When is everyone going to realise that if they're going to read every word of an address, verbatim, from the paper in front of them, they will have to work hard to produce a paper in the register of speech? It is soul-destroying to sit, on an aching posterior, with a sore back and restless feet, listening to a monotone voice reading a written report which the speaker shows no signs of having mastered sufficiently to interpret in any way. Surely if someone has worked with a committee and laboured over its report, they can then set aside the written document and speak about the highlights?

I'd like to suggest a self-check for speakers: Are you enjoying yourself? Are you gripped by the thing you're saying, right now? Are you communicating that passion? No? Then think again. Try another tack. For if you're bored, or unable to convey the sense of that convoluted sentence without hesitating, what chance do your listeners have? In fact, what chance is there that they're still awake?

Of course there were great moments, witty speeches, ad-libbing and hilarity. But apart from the social aspect of Synod, I regard attendance at it as a kind of penance. And that's a shame.

On a brighter note, this morning I returned to the worship of my own wee church. Last week I worshipped with a bevy of bishops, a clutch of clergy, several dozens of delegates. The organ was loud and the singing confident. The liturgy was at times involving (though at times the reverse). But nothing happened. Not for me, anyway. This morning there was no priest - he was in Rothesay - and there was a congregation of about 15. The singing was gentle (but in tune!) and the organ is a computer (but in the hands of a fine musician). We received communion from the Reserved Sacrament.

But the magic was there, there in a way that reminded me of why I hadn't headed for the hills. Whew!

5 comments:

  1. Sorry I couldn't be there with you - I hear it was a gentle but super time!

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  2. "...no-one aspiring to address a hall full of people should be allowed to be boring, no matter what they're talking about. ...It is soul-destroying to sit... listening to a monotone voice reading a written report which the speaker shows no signs of having mastered sufficiently to interpret in any way."

    Once an English teacher, always an English teacher! I'm guessing that if the speakers were in your Standard Grade Class you wouldn't let them away with it.

    {The word verification code for this comment is "terse" - seems oddly appropriate.}

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  3. Heartily agree about dull presentations. If it is written elsewhere, DON'T repeat it here. And don't treat us as if we are idiots who haven't heard of your subject before.

    But didn't you think the young people brightened a boring Saturday? Passion, excitement at being Pisky, and enthusiasm. We could learn a lot from them.

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  4. Totally agree with you about presentations. Far too much droning on and wasting what could be valuable debating time.

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  5. Ruth, the rotten thing was that I had to leave just before what I suspected would be the most inspiring part of the proceedings. But can we not think about how Synod is put together for the future?
    I may return to this thought when I'm back from my latest travels ...

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