The archbishop’s expensive friend… and that Covid-19 memorial wall

AS any atheistic fool knows, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven; or something.

Quite where this cautionary parable leaves a ‘critical friend’ to the Archbishop of York being paid a fortune is another matter.

The job advert mentions a “competitive salary in the region of £90,000 a year”. This appears to be more than archbishop Stephen Cottrell earns himself, according to the ‘clergy pay and expenses’ section of the Church of England website.

There it suggests that the second most important churchman earns £71,470, although I am happy to be corrected if the archbishop happens to be near, although not many archbishops loiter on this ledge.

Seeing that job advert, I wondered for a minute about passing my own lack of religion through the eye of that needle. It does stipulate in the advert that you have to be a Christian, but times are hard for those of us without religion, too.

It’s an awful lot of money for an archbishop’s friend/chief of staff. Did no one think to say that this won’t look so good from a church that’s supposed to be big on modesty; did no one splutter out their milky afternoon tea or choke on their digestive when such a stupendous sum was mentioned?

Also, did no one remember that the previous archbishop, Dr John Sentamu, once said that top executive salaries “weaken community life”?

Speaking in November 2011, Sentamu criticised high salaries in the financial sector, saying: “Among the ill effects of very large income differences between rich and poor are than they weaken community life and make societies less cohesive.”

It is true that he was talking about company executives who wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning for £90,000 a year. But in the ordinary world of ordinary people shuffling by York Minster on whatever they can manage to earn, 90 grand a year is a fortune.

Small parish churches left to survive on a relative pittance may also be surprised that keeping the archbishop company is so handsomely remunerated.

Robert Beaumont, an old friend to this ledge, can be heard making this sensible point in articles for YorkMix and the York Press. As well as being an occasional lunch companion, Robert is churchwarden of St John’s Church in Minskip.

“Being brutally honest, I feel this is terribly ill-advised as some churches in our Boroughbridge Parish, including ours, are really struggling to survive and paying a massive Parish Share each month,” Robert says in those reports. “The C of E is weighed down by bureaucracy and has, I feel, got its priorities all wrong.”

Something else to discuss when that pandemic-delayed lunch rolls around. Perhaps we should ask the archbishop’s mate to pick up the tab.


SOMETIMES a cartoonist says everything you are thinking. So it is today with Ben Jennings in The Guardian.

His cartoon draws attention to Boris Johnson waving the flag as a distraction from the Covid-19 death toll. It shows the prime minister pulling a union flag over the memorial wall on which those who’ve lost loved ones have been drawing hearts.

The National Covid Memorial Wall, near Westminster Bridge, is a very affecting sight, thanks to the massed repetition of a simple heart symbol.

Thousands of red hearts have now been painted on this wall opposite the Houses of Parliament. A perfect memorial to those carelessly lost to Covid before the government got its head together. Now we are supposed only to talk of the relative success of the vaccination programme, putting the shocking toll of dead out of mind somehow.

This brilliant wall corrects the imbalance. If anyone spies a dishevelled blond man with a tin of white paint, call the police. You’ll probably find them guarding that statue of Winston Churchill, as they seem to prefer that to any other job.

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