Who needs Radio 4 or the BBC when we have such illustrious, imaginative and informed people living nearby? Our panel of Canon Julie Gittoes (residentiary canon at Guildford Cathedral), Michael Buerk (he of the 600+ episodes of the Moral Maze), Professor Paul Sellin (well, somebody has to like Physics) and Rt Revd Christopher Herbert (on too many House of Lords Committees to mention). Together, using humour, intelligence and experience – and not a little deliberate provocation – they had the 130 or so listeners on the edge of their seats.
And tribute to those who asked pre-selected questions, too. What a range of issues came up – assisted dying, the definition of life, universal benefits, fundamentalism, Sir Keith Joseph, Richard III, Galileo (don’t ask!), challenges to the Church, science and faith and biblical interpretation.
None of our panellists would share their speeding points with a spouse, all struggled with ‘gay marriage’ (whilst being content to support a person in a civil partnership becoming a bishop), all liked to escape with a novel and clearly all had thought through their positions on just about everything.
A humorous starter question was which name they would take if they, rather than Francis I, were the next Pope: Pope Julian (of Norwich) because it sounds like Julie, Pope St Michael because I could get a discount at M & S, Pope Alfred the Great – patron saint of scientists and Pope Hazel (no sensible reason given). More serious was what they would say to Archbishop Justin on the morning of his enthronement – summed up by the Bishop who suggested that he should look to society, be outward looking and engage with the world rather than being sucked into internal, church matters all the time. If only . . .
We all resonated with Michael’s recurring phrase ‘I find myself conflicted’ because we realised that Nick Whitehead was right when he said in his introduction, ‘For every problem there is an answer which is simple, uncomplicated – and wrong.’ Thanks to the catering team, sound man, furniture movers and hamper-makers – as ever – and a resounding thank you to our 4 panellists for providing such an exciting evening.