vestryview

A view backstage at Beverley Minster

A class act

Life is full of surprises – some of them pleasant.
It finally and, after many years of fighting the inevitable, suddenly happened last weekend. I formally became middle-class. And, frankly, it was as unexpected as it could possibly be and yet so strangely comforting at the same time. I suddenly realised I had seen the light, as witnessed by millions of people – and I’d just been among thousands of my fellow converts.
After years of encouragement and recommendations from friends, my family and I finally found ourselves inside IKEA and emerged, several hours later, as the slightly battered owners of some new bookshelves.
We have now completed a rite of passage, from uncommitted to firmly categorised. We accept that the vaguely sexless, oh-so-reasonable and surprisingly-clever wood pulp structures that are stacked in a huge warehouse down the M62 are for us, and we might as well throw away all lingering doubts and just furnish our entire house in a single visit.
We believe, we have succumbed, we are converted, we have handed our critical faculties over to another – and we now believe that everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) looks better with the occasional random dash of bright red near it.
What is the point of wandering around many different retailers when you can buy the kitchen sink, the coloured glass, the table and the kitchen wardrobe on one visit, thanks to the mighty IKEA!. (Kitchen wardrobe? Sorry, getting a trifle confused now.)
We’ve even applied to become members of the IKEA Family.
And what, you may reasonably ask, has this to do with my week at the Minster? Well, it’s made me re-examine the whole way in which we work and present ourselves to the outside world and, frankly, I think the Church of England has been getting it wrong for a long, long time.
I mean, yes to the eternal verities; yes to the unending and unchanging God-inspired gospels and all that (subject to modern, scholarly interpretations, obviously). Yes to everything that was accepted as gospel back in Good Old Emperor Constantines’ time in the 4th century. But…..
But it’s got to be presented properly in a modern context and, quite frankly, we’re not making it as easy for people here at Beverley Minster as IKEA is doing a mere 60 miles down the motorway..
I’ve addressed the issue before, but I feel my thoughts and conclusions weren’t given the attention they deserved, so I make no apologies for returning to it with considerable emphasis: it’s all about car-parking.
There’s no excuse for making it difficult for the modern, mobile, middle-class generation to motor almost to the very doorstep. Goodness knows how many people didn’t come to us over the Christmas period because they were afraid of getting inconvenienced by the prevailing conditions. Sorry, a slightly tortuous sentence there. Let’s rephrase it: how many people didn’t want to get cold and wet so stayed at home?
The answer, from our attendance figures, is: “A Lot”. So let’s make it easy for them.
We’ve got plenty of green space around us, after all. I see no good reason why that wasted redundant churchyard to the west of our two towers shouldn’t serve as a splendid drop-off and short stay facility – say for 40 minutes for anyone attending the simple communion service on a Thursday morning – an hour, maximum. Okay, if you want to stay for coffee afterwards then park a little further away, across the road in that big field we own to the south.
I know it’s the other side of Keldgate but it’s (possibly) not going to be many more years before our shiny new bypass allows the council to convert that stretch into a local-access only road and then we can make the journey from car park to dropping off/short stay area and entrance even more seamless.
It’s brilliant, so simple and bound to succeed.
We’d pull in the worshippers from miles around – after all, with the magnificent architecture of the Minster, coupled with the magnificent quality of service (and services, hahahahahaha) we couldn’t be beaten. I also see several hundreds of thousands of non-worshippers coming for the Minster Experience every year: “stuff York Minster, that’s really difficult to get to and the car parking is expensive. Let’s go to Beverley Minster again, it’s so simple to park there.”
Oh, I can’t see any objections from sensible people – but I’m prepared to argue my case with all the zealous enthusiasm of the new convert to anyone who disagrees.
I could happily say so much more but I’ve got to rush. I’m just off up the M62 to do some more shopping. There are some floral settees in the IKEA catalogue that would be just fabulous in our vestry – and I believe they’d also brighten up our north transept beautifully.
You know, Beverley Minster would be just perfect if we started serving meatballs after our Sunday services.

First published January 2010

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