I am not much of a concert goer. In fact I think before tonight the last mainly musical evening I went to was the folk concert I went to last year by fellow blogger Tim Chesterton, visiting his old home of Essex from Canada where he is an Anglican priest.
Tonight I have been to a musical evening which had a lot in common with that last one. Again the performer was a solo singer with acoustic guitar. Again the venue was a church building, this time the one I attend. And again the performer was an Anglican clergyman associated with the Dengie peninsula where Tim grew up. Tonight’s performer was the Bishop of Bradwell, Laurie Green. Bishop Laurie’s association with Bradwell on the Dengie is purely nominal, because it is the site of an ancient church building. He is in fact a suffragan (assistant) to the Bishop of Chelmsford, and is my local area bishop.
I have come across Bishop Laurie a number of times when he has visited my church, most recently for a large confirmation service. I think he finds our very informal style rather hard to cope with because his own inclinations are “smells and bells” Anglo-Catholic. But I have always liked what he says and how he says it.
Tonight the bishop visited my church again but for a rather different purpose, to offer An Audience with Bishop Laurie, an evening of musical entertainment in a variety of styles, interspersed with stories of his life going back to his childhood in the East End of London. He really is a good guitarist, and a good stage performer. Among the songs he sang were the East End folk songs of his own childhood, including one he learned while working in a jellied eel factory about why the winkle turns to the right when it goes to bed! And while there were a few explicitly Christian songs there were also charmingly irreligious ones like Sister Josephine by Jake Thackray.
Towards the end there was a chance to ask questions. I resisted the temptation to ask a difficult question about, say, the Lambeth Conference, and instead listened and admired the wise way he answered the sometimes difficult questions others put to him. This was a good evening for the mostly mature audience, many of whom are not regular churchgoers.
I thoroughly recommend him to other churches in the area. Not all bishops are bad!