A view backstage at Beverley Minster

I’ve seen the future, and it’s an Apple

Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford shares a brainwave
I would love to claim the following idea as my own but, in all honesty, I admit it’s the result of a brainstorming process that took place in the Virgers’ Vestry. Still, at least I was in the room when the brilliant flash occurred and so, in a few years time, I may be able to annex the entire concept as my own in the same way that Al Gore, the well-known hot air balloon, claims to have invented the internet.
Like any member of the Church of England who has an interest in the future of the planet (i.e. anyone who isn’t actually in a box) we were moaning about the amount of paper we use on a weekly basis. This environmentally-sensitive thinking was prompted by the sheer number of different booklets we’re giving out to everyone these days. This particular week seemed likely to set a new (and ethically-dubious) record due to changes we were introducing in regular worship.
We’ve had one particular form of words and ceremonial music for a good few years now and produced our own books to make life simple. When the Minster welcomed its new vicar and musical director back in 2009 we expected different thoughts about the accepted pattern of services. Unsurprisingly, they have now decided to make some changes and the congregation needs to know about them.
Environmentally speaking it’s not unreasonable for us to be producing new books which incorporate these alterations as the old ones didn’t have much life left in them – they are fragile and frayed around the edges. However, we haven’t got them yet. Consequently every week the Minster is handing out a veritable committee meeting-worth of sheets to all comers. This was worrying us.
To move the conversation on someone (it may even have been me) suggested: “To save paper, perhaps we should go back to having a screen with a bouncing ball”. The world waited, trembling, aware that something momentous was about to be said………..
“I think we should give everyone iPads,” came the response and, BANG! there was the answer – not only to this problem but also TO ALMOST EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM FACED BY THE MODERN MINSTER!
You think I’m exaggerating? Ha! Let me list just a few of the radical benefits:
Hymns and changes to weekly services instantly on view – no need for virgers to stretch out and put up numbers on the high boards or get a hernia carrying boxes of books. Copying costs slashed;
Graphics available to illustrate heart-rending tales or provocative thoughts of preacher and add punch to delivery – say no more;
Clear sound – no need to keep constantly tweaking, replacing or servicing our irritating sound system – headphones also available for hard of hearing;
Clear view of preacher – no need for extra pairs of spectacles, therefore less pairs of glasses left to be collected/thrown out from virgers’ vestry;
Illuminated screens – means we don’t need to provide light for reading hymn books so we can save big money (and the planet) by switching off our football pitch-style floodlights;
Digital money transfers – no need for collectors or counters to risk infection from 2p pieces or the (occasional) piece of dirty paper. Instant money credits, simple to gift-aid, which make giving so much easier (and quicker).
Additional subscription applications available – for a small fee we’d let you have live updates of football matches, F1 races, Top Gear etc. Extra revenue to church.
Interactive format – leave messages, prayer requests for vicar in case they’ve got to belt off straight after service (email facility disabled during sermons, of course);
Rent out units to receive services at home – less dangerous travel in bad weather, thus prolonging the average life of congregation. Downloadable so busy Anglicans can access service at a convenient time – and fast-forward through the boring bits.
We could even pipe in very important messages at critical moments, such as “The virgers politely ask you to replace your kneelers after use – thank you”. This would save time after services and reduce the exorbitant Sunday double-time wages paid to the virgers (oh, hang about, they’ve already done that).
It’s brilliant – I can think of so many other areas where this would help as well but I’ve run out of space. I may well return to the subject in future columns.
First published March 2011


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