Peter Rhodes on pipers, dancers and a £100 million headache for the Church

The dazzling march of technology. A reader whose smartphone has a voice-recognition information app, describes a curious conversation. He wanted to know why the person he was calling “can hear me but I can’t hear her.” Quick as a flash, his phone replied: “Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria.”

And who's calling the tune?
And who's calling the tune?

The Church of England, having been telling us for the past century how hard-up it is, has suddenly found the means of creating a £100 million fund to make amends for its historical involvement in the slave trade. Very noble. However, I foresee a problem.

For a start, who says £100 million is anywhere near enough? The Church has assets of about £9 billion, producing about £1billion a year. The proposed £100 million fund is barely as much as the Church has invested in woodlands.

It’s probably too late for the Church to offer any defence for its past sins. But it might be worth pointing out the embarrassing old fact that, as far as the Bible tells us, neither Jesus nor St Paul ever condemned slavery. A curious oversight.

British universities might shudder at the Church’s offer. Many unis have links to slavery. Some think they can make amends by “decolonising” their courses. How will they react when the slavery-ravaged nations of Africa and the Caribbean get their act together, do their sums, settle on a figure of many billions and say: “Stuff your decolonising, we want hard cash.”?

I have no idea how long the expression “He who pays the piper calls the tune” has been with us but it as relevant today as ever. Especially when we hear this month of MPs and political parties accepting donations from big business, charities and assorted individuals. Whenever we hear a new melody being played in Whitehall, we should always ask who’s requested it.

And talking of music, the late Sandie Wood of Bristol requested something special at her funeral. A dance troupe duly emerged from the pews and gave a rousing performance of the Queen hit, Another One Bites the Dust.

I am reminded of a Black Country lady some years ago whose coffin left the chapel to the strains of that charming anthem from The Wizard of Oz: Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead.

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