This made me smile and laugh and cry a little with the joy of it all.
If you want to believe there is still some hope for the Church of England, YouTube has the evidence right here: a video of the Rev Kate Bottley leading her congregation in an exuberant and joyful disco dance routine in the middle of an otherwise strait-laced wedding service.
It is one of those things that makes you feel good to be human. It’s a celebration of ordinary, lumpy people that manages to reframe without snobbery or affectation the Betjeman verse about a couple of lovers in a Bath teashop: “She such a very ordinary woman / He such a thumping crook. / But both, for a moment, little lower than the angels / In the teashop’s inglenook.”
This matters not because it shows the Church of England being “trendy” or up to date or anything like that. Few things could be further from London’s Hoxton than disco dancing in rural Nottinghamshire. But it does show that there are bits of it which can still connect with the people around them. This matters. The median age of Anglican congregations is now 61. That’s nearly twice the age at which most women in Britain get married.
The couple in this video were not churchgoers, and had lived together for years before they got married. They only went to a church after it was suggested by the stately home where they held their reception. But they managed to get a ceremony there that did both solemnity and joy, which are things that weddings need.
I doubt that Bottley will ever become a bishop. At the moment she is not even a full-time parish priest. She works three days a week looking after three rural churches, and two days a week as a chaplain. But it isn’t bishops who will keep the church of England going. In fact it’s largely bishops who have screwed it up over the last 30 years. Ordinary people doing unglamorous jobs like part-time vicaring are the ones who will keep it from appearing entirely as a sour and self-obsessed sect – the ones who know it is much better to be silly than self-important, and much better to be provincial than pompous.