After the momentous Synod vote allowing women bishops, how is the Rev Geraldine Granger embracing the news?
This article was first published on 19 July 2014 and has been republished after it was announced that a Vicar of Dibley special will air for Comic Relief
So there we are, finally. The stained-glass ceiling has been shattered. You, Lord, must also have seen that front-page photograph of the woman in tears at the Synod’s vote this week, as it at last made way for the consecration of women as bishops in the Church of England. I got a little teary, too, once I’d dismissed unworthy concerns about water-proof mascara. It’s been like bishops in chess, hasn’t it? Two steps forward, one step sideways… But we’ve made it. It’s Geraldine here, Lord. Your long-serving and much-loved Vicar of Dibley.
And thank you, Father, for sending us the boy-Archbishop Welby to shake some sense into them all. It needed someone from outside the firm, a deal-making City-lad unstifled by the dead weight of tradition, to bang their heads together. How illogical was the situation, after all? Women priests have been around for a generation, more Synod against than sinning. One third of the clergy we now number, and we’re making, might I say, a jolly good fist of it.
Some (David Horton, of course, excepted) have suggested that we make rather better parish priests than men. Women have been running this whole Anglican show for donkey’s years. Flower-rotas, cleaning and so forth. The Church of England is built not so much upon the Rock of Saint Peter as upon Victoria Sponge. But not allowed promotion into the senior ranks? I mean, even David Cameron has had a bit of a light-bulb moment as far as that’s concerned.
Mind you, we’ve always made fabulous priestesses, ever since the Delphic Oracle sat on her tripod, uttering cryptic pronouncements while emitting smoke from her ladybits. Show me a man who could multitask like that.
We’ve made conspicuously successful saints, too. Joan of Arc, whom Alice thought was Mrs Noah. Theodora of Constantinople? She went from tambourine-playing sex-worker to Ruler of the Known World. Catherine, on her wheel: now there was a girl who knew how to make an exit. And Teresa of Avila swooned into more ecstasy than I do with a family-sized slab of Cadbury’s on the sofa and One Direction on the telly-box.
Frankly, Britain’s always been historically at her best with a woman in charge. Good Queen Bess, Victoria, Her Thatcherian Majesty, Her Current Majesty. So who was objecting to our consecration? Saint Paul? He never actually met your son, and his remarks were rather taken, as Jeremy Clarkson would say, out of context. The Anglo Catholics? Censer-swinging drama queens to whom Tallulah Bankhead so memorably observed, “Darling, your handbag’s on fire…” They’re just jealous, surely? Or those who want (half a millennium later, mark you, and after all the trouble that Henry VIII went to) to reunite us with Rome? In the light of recent episodes, I’m not convinced that as far as the laying on of hands is concerned, the Catholic Church is the soundest judge.
Don’t stop me now, as Freddie Mercury would say. Where’s next, after all? Bishop of Dibley? It would be lovely to remain here, but for all its tranquillity, it is not a see. A diocese? Could I be Bishop of Oxford, just up the road? Oxford is uneasy turf, always has been, ever since the Oxford Movement. Bit High Church to accept the first female bishop. But of course, they’ll have the right to object if they’re really unhappy with me. To an ombudsman, apparently; or, let us pray, an ombudswoman. Like you can about bank charges. Hopefully, with about as much effect.
I’ll have to work out what the best thing would be to wear. The cassock has always been a failsafe for the fuller-figured women, but those mitres won’t do. I’d look like a door-stop. I’ll ask Philip Treacey for a bit of a Princess Beatrice bagel, perhaps. The shepherdess’s crook, too, is a problem. Look what happened to Marie Antoinette when she started carrying the things. I could get Galliano to cheer up the vestments, maybe: he’s always been keen on a bit of religious iconography. Vivienne Westwood could do something unexpected with a chasuble. Move over Kate: there’s a new style-icon on the runway.
Actually, Lord, why stop at just Oxford? I’m not some student coach on the M40. Why not aim for the top job? Canterbury? The boy-Archbishop may Welby with us for several decades yet, but even popes these days eventually retire. Tell you what. Lambeth Palace could do with a makeover. Whoever it was decided to live there never had to do any dusting. All that gloomy panelling! The Gothic needs a bit of Kelly Hoppen de-cluttering, I reckon; a few more neutrals. Out with the Pugin, in with a nice sprigged print. Oh, and a Cath Kidston-themed kitchen; and while we’re at it, let’s swap those beeswax chapel candles with something lovely by Jo Malone. With bergamot and lime and things.
It’d be nice to say, “I’m doing the Coronation”, and not mean the chicken for the Harvest Supper. Or, “I’m marrying Prince Harry”. (Nearest I’ll ever get: I’m not asking for miracles.) Of course, I’d be a celebrity, wouldn’t I? With a London riverside pad like that, I could have whomever I’d like over for nibbles. Sir Tom Jones? (He’s just released a religious album, Praise and Blame, in case you thought I was going to chuck my knickers at him.) Kanye West, singing Jesus Walks while I hob-nob with his lovely new wife Kim Kardashian? Spreads in the shleb mags? “Hail Geraldine, full of Grazia”? Papped on the steps of trendy restaurants? The Galvin brothers could hardly tell me that there wasn’t a space for me at La Chapelle. And I’d show Madonna a thing or two. After all, I’d be on speed-dial to the genuine article.
Now that the vote’s gone through, Lord, it really does seem to have been a great deal of fuss about nothing. Jesus himself wasn’t anti-women, after all. If you think about his own life, the girls – Martha, Mary, Magdalen – come out of it pretty well. It was the boys – Herod, Pontius Pilate, Judas – who gave him all the grief. Always have done, always will.
Perhaps the Church will now realise how embarrassing it is that it should tear itself to shreds over something that the rest of society has accepted for decades. Gay marriage? I must remember to ask Alice how she feels about gay marriage. Trouble is, I think she’d construe it as a proposal.
Kit Hesketh-Harvey was one of the co-writers of 'The Vicar of Dibley'
The Telegraph; 12 January 2015
© Kit Hesketh-Harvey 2014