The Listening Day – the way forward

One little detail from Saturday’s Listening Day made me pause for quiet meditation. It was the name badges.

Did anyone else who was there notice that most of us simply bore badges with our names on, some people had their title and diocese too? Yes, the bishops got the full works whereas the rest of us had stark names. Now, I don’t mind wearing a label with just my name on it. I never see my own pantomime title without having to supress a happy snort of derision anyway.

Perhaps they were their labels for Lambeth to ensure that they they get returned to the right diocese at the end of the process. I found myself wondering whether the bishops’ labels had printed on the reverse, “Please look after this bishop, thank you” in the manner of Paddington Bear.

None of this particularly bothered me though I wondered how that little decision came about.

However, it did get me thinking about other inequalities of the day and that in turn got me thinking about the way forward.

What do we do next was the cry? That the listening day was too little and too late was obvious to many (everyone?) but what comes next?

It is fairly clear to me that similar exercises might be carried out in localities around Scotland. Similar listening days in dioceses, areas/regions , congregations. Of course, we need to be clear that these days come at a high cost to some with a very low investment or risk from others.

However, let us not forget the inequalities of those badges. What can they teach us?

The model that the Listening Process offers is not the only way in which we might be dealing with these issues, but it seems to be the only show in town. Where does it lead us next?

Seems to me that there is more listening needed and there is a need for that listening to be mutual.

Thus, we need a Listening Day where we hear the experience of those who feel themselves to be out of kilter with the perceived majority view. We need a day of Listening to the experience of Evangelicals who sometimes express a great deal of hurt about they way in which they believe themselves to be treated.

What else? Well, a day of Listening to the Provincial Youth network dealing with sexuality issues is obvious, isn’t it? Or do we older Episcopalians think we know what they would say?

I think that we might need a day listening to the experience of clergy who have been divorced. That is one of the things I heard on Saturday that I was not expecting to hear.

And the bishops. Yes, if this Listening Day method has any currency, there has to be a mutuality about it which was curiously absent in those name badges. We need to have a day of Listening to our Bishops as they wrestle with all this, possibly both before and after Lambeth. It is not difficult to imagine the structure of this day – a serving bishop, a retired bishop who was at Lambeth before, a spouse of a bishop, a daughter of a bishop, a son of a bishop.

Hmmm. Yes.

We are a small church. There were plenty of people willing to carry this process forwards. We can do this as urgently as we need to. Can’t we?


  1. Hi Kevin. Regarding title and diocese badges…here’s another angle which I hope is not too patronising! Were these things not simply of a practical nature?

    At university I would assume a certain respect for the knowledge of someone with the title “professor” over “doctor”. Indeed, if I was engaged in conversation with someone who had a large responsibility, I would hope I would be smart enough to tailor my conversation appropriately. By knowing a bit about a person, I can avoid “putting my foot in it”, dumbing things down too much or discussing things “above” their area of specialism. So for them to share their title with me can be a practical act of kindness.

    Using a title is not always about showing off, rather it can (and should) be for the benefit of the interlocutor, not the badge-wearer. It can equally say “this is who you are talking to: I am not in disguise”.

    Mutual humanity is not expressed through the wearing of badges but in the very manner, the words and expressions, by which we communicate with one another.

    I’m sure no Archbishops would have a problem with another person approaching them for a conversation, but it might be a missed opportunity if you only talked about the weather, or when lunch might be served.

  2. I was thinking about these badges too. I deliberately didn’t use “my” bishop’s title when I asked him for his thoughts – but he did, two seconds later, when as requested he introduced himself before speaking. I wondered at the time if that was a tiny slap on the wrist, or if to think so was paranoia on my part. But there’s a whole lot more to be unpacked here – and you’re right: much more listening to do. I’m happy to help.

  3. I found myself wondering whether the bishops’ labels had printed on the reverse, “Please look after this bishop, thank you” in the manner of Paddington Bear.

    I love it! They do need looking after, after all …

  4. Ryan Dunne says

    “Kevin”?! Your pedestrian St.Silasness is showing Greg ;-).

  5. One of the games clergy sometimes have to play is ‘how do I address the bishop today?’

    With a certain bishop, I use the wineglass test. If no one is holding one, then assume you should be formal.

  6. Kelvin ooooooooooooooooooops. How incredibly rude! Sorry. You may refer to me as “beast” if that evens the score;-)

  7. If your bishops are anything like ours, they do spend an awful amount of time away from their dioceses and the priests they are supposed to be looking after. So perhaps the badges are there as a reminder for themselves of where they live.

  8. Thank you all for your comments. Don’t worry Beat Attitude these things happen. (But it does make an ‘ell of a difference).

    Those name badges seem to be what is catching the attention. Seems like there is no dissent from what I was proposing as a way forward, which was really quite important.

    Can I take it that we are all agreed then?

  9. yes, it seems good (‘to the Holy Spirit and to us’?)

  10. I’m with you on that one. As long as the ‘right’ people organise it this time.

    Can you say more about the ‘divorce’ issue?

  11. Yes I agree with most of that. Certainly for the bishops, the act of attempting to articulate the tensions and difficulties might help to clarify them! And yes – I am tending to worry more about post-Lambeth than about Lambeth itself.

  12. pam r says

    there were many good things about the listening day, but I felt curiously depressed afterwards and think one reason was because of that very lack of mutuality which others have remarked on. This kind of listening seems as if it should be the way forward, and yet something is missing. Perhaps, as you say, Kelvin, it was very costly for some and not costly enough for others. What was missing? passionate debate? realness? determination to love and endure with those with whom we cannot agree?

  13. Sorry to be late with this comment – I did write it a week ago but never finished it; Life is hectic at the moment. I have to say I didn’t notice the Bishops’ badges but it doesn’t surprise me. I did notice that all the badges were printed in a very small font and, given the mean age at the Listening Day must have been over 50 years and therefore many participants were likely to be suffering from some form of visual impairment (self included!), this was not very sensitive to people’s needs. In itself this is a minor criticism but coupled with the lack of a hearing loop, no signer and the steps up to the main entrance of the venue, it suggests that the SEC as an organisation doesn’t take equality issues in relation to disability seriously, never mind sexualities. It’s about the culture of the organisation.

Speak Your Mind