Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fiddling at Synod?

Oh dear. I've been remiss in my blogging - but I've been away. Not more continental junketings, alas, but at the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church. I seem to have participated rather often in this gathering over the years, but realise it's because I was a diocesan alternate before I was chosen as a representative ... but I maunder. Don't expect an official or exhaustive take on proceedings, however - you can find that here - my impressions are very patchy this year.

This is largely because I missed quite a chunk of things, including the task of facilitating discussion - I'd been looking forward to that - because I was no weel. Quite apart from my scheduled trip to Glasgow to have a small bit of me removed, I suffered horribly from our diocesan dinner and missed a whole morning on Mission; by the time I returned I realised I felt the way I used to after an absence from school: you caught measles or somesuch and when you went back you found out that everyone else had learned to do long division and you were totally lost.

And it's hard to get back into things in those circumstances. I was led to ponder how vital it is that individual speakers engage with their audience - it is so easy to switch off and let the mind wander as some voice drones on about ... but if I'm specific I shall pinpoint the offenders, and it is not my intention to wound. Rather I would beg that speakers are instructed in the art of eye contact, tonal variation and register - indeed, in the whole art of public speaking that they would have learned in Standard Grade had they been in my classroom. Maybe there's a job there for a certain bishop on the verge of retirement: having muttered resentfully about the boredom of one address, and having been rebuked by a more charitable neighbour on the grounds that this was after all the graveyard slot, I found myself once more engaged - and amused - by said bishop in his follow-up comments. Graveyard? I reckon he could make the dead laugh ...

Just to show that I'm not all girns and detachment, I should add here how much I enjoyed the break from traditional tedium offered by the indaba process. I was in a feisty group which in the end had to agree to disagree, but it was such a relief to be able to test responses on others rather than one's unfortunate neighbour or the twitterverse at large - though I had the feeling, confirmed later, that the twitterers had been somewhat discouraged while I was away being poorly. Someone had got it into their head that to tweet meant to be insensitive and crass and that it had therefore to be spelled out when tweeting would be inappropriate. I fear that is what happens when a spontaneous activity becomes respectable ... and I'm glad I didn't know about it, for that would have made me much, much worse.

But you'll be glad to know that my old friend the complacent male was at Synod. This was a cunningly camouflaged wee dinosaur, but his message was the same: it's a waste of time - in fact, it's navel-gazing - to fret about gender imbalance in church matters. He said it so quietly, slipping it in after one of the more mind-numbing exegeses, that we were onto the next item before I'd clocked it and got my hackles working - I told you I'd been no weel - and I was left frustrated. I shoulda said something. But then it was pointed out to me that his comment had been met by a wall of silence.  And it was suggested that I should perhaps think about this silence. What did it mean? Well for a start it sure wasn't applause - and we'd had plenty of applause for other speakers, so people were by no means apathetic. As a teacher and speaker, I know there is nothing more disheartening than silence - for I take silence to show indifference or apathy, or perhaps that everyone has gone to sleep. So maybe I wasn't needed after all - maybe the church as a body is getting past the Mesozoic age (I had to look that up) and his remark was indeed seen as crass by the majority of those present. Maybe my more normal kneejerk reaction would have merely confirmed him - and others, for I'm sure he's still not quite alone - that women (or other excluded groups) are only interested in their own causes and don't care that creation burns (see pic). The silence on the part of all the Saturday Synod survivors might even have taught him that he really shouldn't say these things. (It may be too late for him not to think them - he was not in his first youth)

But I feel I'm going on a bit. I shall finish with what, after cooling down slighly, I tweeted as my last word on the Synod:
The day a woman stands up and says we should not fuss about gender balance, all will be well. #pisky #secsynod


  1. Here! here!

    Trying not to show my total ignorance but what is the hashtag #pisky all about.

    I quite like the sound of the word but have never heard it before.

  2. Pisky is what Scottish Episcopalians call themselves in whimsical moments - or when "Episcopalian" seems too much of a mouthful!

  3. Good- at first I thought it was something like a little annoyed at something but the context didn't (always) fit.