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Rules for Lacrosse Double Up As Instructions for Next Cantuar: Ernie Feasey


According to the official website for Lacrosse as it is played in England:

Lacrosse has a history that spans centuries and is rooted in Native American religion. It was often played to resolve conflicts, prepare for war, heal the sick, and develop strong, virile men. To Native Americans, lacrosse is still referred to as “The Creator’s Game.” Legend tells of as many as 1,000 players per side, from the same or different tribes, who took turns engaging in a violent contest. Contestants played on a field from one to 15 miles in length, and games sometimes lasted for days. Some tribes used a single pole, tree or rock for a goal, while other tribes had two goal posts through which the ball had to pass. Balls were made out of wood, deerskin, baked clay or stone.

The Creator’s Game

This seems an appropriately elevated title for the game of being an archbishop.  ‘Game’ in this context, of course, does not indicate a simple hand of whist, say,  but the game theory beloved of experts. The description (played to resolve conflicts, prepare for war, heal the sick and develop strong, virile men) seems to cover pretty well what we currently expect of the Primate of All England.   Although the original game was conducted on horseback, I see no reason why the next Cantuar should make a habit of this, although given the strife that ensues at most recent debates in the Anglican Communion, insisting that speakers only be ‘heard’ while mounted would at least ensure a quick, if undignified, exit.

It must be pointed out that, whereas the finest flower of British womanhood play this ‘contact’ game completely unarmed and with their womanly attributes protected only by a T-shirt, in other parts of the Anglican Communion (notably the USA) it is regarded as madness to enter the fray without full body armour: what we stiff-upper lip Brits call a ‘contact game’ is more accurately described on the other side of the Atlantic as a collision sport, with the concomitant degree of injury. British school girls are not ‘injured’ on the lacrosse field, merely inconvenienced by the odd (?mis-directed) thwack. Similarities with the Anglican Communion are too obvious to need pointing out: although both are under the impression that they are playing the same game, local variations in fact make the rules of the game played in one Province almost unrecognisable in another.


Job Description suggested by the Crown Nominations Commission (I paraphrase:)

1.  Diocesan in Canterbury (duties of diocesan normally devolved to Bishop of Dover).

2.  Metropolitan of the 30 dioceses of the province of Canterbury.

3.  Primate of All England – Chaplain to the Nation.

4.  Focus of the Anglican Communion (first among equals), Convener of the Lambeth Conference.

5. International Spiritual Leader (together with the Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch representing Christianity).

6. National and International Ecumenical Role.

7. Take a lead among leaders of other faiths, nationally and internationally.


The Rules of Lacrosse

 Lacrosse is a contact game played by ten players: a goalkeeper, three defence men, three mid fielders and three attack men. The object of the game is to shoot the ball into the opponent’s goal. The team scoring the most goals wins.


Ÿ  The Archbishop is part of a team of bishops who play the game of running the church on behalf of God and the Queen.  The prime objective is to preserve the status quo. His team generally plays defensively in all matters, and only goes on the offensive in matters of gender and sexuality. There are both defence men and attack men amongst the bishops but all play the game according to the Church’s interpretation of the rules.


Ÿ  The Archbishop normally plays the game for about  10, 15 or 20 years (variable) with an end time of 70 years.  The game is divided into 5-year quarters, when the Archbishop convenes the Lambeth Conference to mark half-time. Quarters have periods, of indeterminate length, but everything stops for a crisis. Such crises have included, either in reality, or in the planning department at Church House, the following:

  •  Ÿ  The Pope parking his tanks on the Lawn of Lambeth Palace.
  • Ÿ  Women forgetting subservience and expecting to play the game alongside men.
  • Ÿ  Gays asking for equality and disturbing the consciences of players.
  • Ÿ  The Church Commissioners investing unwisely, putting  clergy pensions in jeopardy.
  • Ÿ  A Royal Wedding or other major public event, preventing normal play.
  • Ÿ  An ethical public protest and attempt to occupy sacred ground, disturbing the business of  money-making in cathedrals.
  • Ÿ  An article written by the Archbishop creating public uproar.

Ÿ The Archbishop may blow the whistle at any point, according to conscience or whim.  He and his team then change sides.  Time-outs for consultation are permitted, after which the status quo is maintained, unless the Archbishop wishes the status quo to be amended, in which case it is amended.

The Archbishop may run with the metaphorical ball in his metaphorical stick or ‘crosse‘ as it is called. The intention is to keep the  ball in play, pass to one another and to continually defend the status quo without of course dropping the ball.   It is in this sense that it is a team game. Fouls are rare, in that it is almost always acceptable for the player to plead unintentional injury to the other player. Part of the gamesmanship lies in pushing at the boundaries of what is acceptable to each umpire. Of course, it may be advantageous at times to cry ‘Foul’ in order to disqualify a player on the opposing team.

The expression ‘moving the goal posts’ makes little sense in the context of lacrosse, since the lacrosse field has no boundaries and nothing is therefore out of bounds.

So there we have it.  Lacrosse for the Archbishop of Canterbury.


“The Brave Do Not Live Forever, But The Cautious Do Not Live At All’ (Richard Branson)

15 comments on this post:

Matthew Caminer said...

Not quite sure what to make of that, but it is very witty and very clever! I’m uneasy with the repeated stress on “defending the status quo” which feels a rather forlorn and half-empty way of saying what others might put as retaining the very best of tradition…. I say this not because I am for tradition for the sake of it – far from it – but because I am nervous of a current tendency (perhaps one that is always there in any age) to say we know better on the basis of a decade or two of experience, no more, and without a single thought throw out the past. It was on that basis that Victorian architects adapted (my word would be desecrated) many beautiful church buildings.

But thanks for another good and interesting article

UKViewer said...

Matthew, thank you for your welcome comment and taking the time to give a response.

This post started out as a twitter conversation that escalated, as Laura is pretty good at getting guest posts.

It was intended to be a light hearted look at the ‘competition’ that seems to have evolved for the selection of the next Arch Bishop of Canterbury which obviously is a serious matter. Lacrosse just evolved because Laura played it as school.

I didn’t know that much about Lacrosse when I started, and I’m not sure that I know much more now.

I played Hockey, so was quite familiar with their rules, but the recent Olympics has shown me how quickly we fall behind with our current ideas on a sport, it’s scoring and its tactics. I didn’t play at international level, but at a fairly local standard in the Army, but was awarded colours, which is a mark of recognition that I had done something for the game.

In some way, I wondered if a similar analogy could be drawn for the church?

I’m often told that it’s all about balance.

Keeping things in balance to me seems to mean working through God’s grace, but taking account of the context you are working in. The church of recent times seems to have been out of balance in all sorts of directions, and perhaps it has taken its eye off the ball.

By the ball, I mean God’s mission and purpose for sending Jesus to us, for the Church to be his body here in the world of his creation.

Have we lost something in the translation?

Mission seems now to mean worrying and fretting about internal matters, while allowing the world to pass us by.

These matters such as gender equality and human sexuality. The competition of who is to be the next Arch Bishop. The concerns about ethical investment, about maintaining ancient worship spaces and many others conspire to distract from the essential mission of the church.

This stuff gives those outside the church the perception of division, and disagreement rather than a unity of purpose in mission and service to God.

There are some great things going on. The current initiative on Child Poverty to name just one. I’m seeing the advertising, reading the blurb, but how many outside the church is it actually reaching? I wonder?

The aim of the post was to highlight in a way some of this internalising, with the injection of a little humour, perhaps I misfired?

I most certainly don’t think that we should throw the baby out with the bath water. Change needs to be gradual and acceptable to all. We need to resolve the issues facing us with grace and love and to move onto the real issues that face us all, not just the church.

If that means compromise of some traditions, so be it! The church at parish level will continue. But, the church isn’t just the parish church, it’s everyone living in the community where we are, whether they know or accept it or not.

They are our mission field, they are the ones we need to be reaching and serving, encouraging and bringing to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I suppose I’m airing a little frustration about how we tie ourselves in knots internally while everyone else just gets on with it. Why, oh why, can’t we?

24 September 2012 20:14
24 September 2012 17:05
Matthew Caminer said...

Why oh why indeed?! Actually we pretty much agree violently, as they say!

Matthew Caminer said...

My reply probably came across as hurried and unappreciative. I think humour is really important and I greatly enjoyed the picture you painted so cleverly. I only picked on one point to explore because, let’s face it, this is a fairly serious site and demands serious responses. I fully agree with the thrust of your reply to what I said.

Lay Anglicana said...

Up to a point, Lord Copper, I think. The site tries to be serious without being solemn, and to treat serious subjects (like the management of change and peaceful co-existence in the Church of England) in every way possible, both in straightforward reasoned argument and in satire. I have to say that by far the most popular posts are the satirical ones, proving once again the truth of the adage ‘Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone’. I think both laughter and weeping are appropriate reactions to the current state of the Church. And buried underneath all the accretions there is still Dame Julian of Norwich’s hazelnut.

Matthew Caminer said...

Had to look up Lord Copper – not sure it’s a compliment!

Lay Anglicana said...

No, not really a compliment, but not unkindly meant. For those who do not know their Evelyn Waugh, Lord Copper was a fictional press magnate (probably based on Lord Beaverbrook). His minions could not say ‘no’ to him, only ‘Yes, Lord Copper’. If they wanted to disagree, the most they dared say was ‘up to a point, Lord Copper’ – hence the shorthand!

25 September 2012 19:35
25 September 2012 17:18
25 September 2012 08:32
25 September 2012 08:10
25 September 2012 06:37
Nancy Wallace said...

I both enjoyed this post and found it painful. I too played lacrosse at school (without protective clothing)and it took me straight back to the school playing field which is now in my imagination peopled not by girls in T-shirts and shorts but by senior and male members of the House of Bishops in full canonicals. Anyone able to draw a cartoon on this theme?

Lay Anglicana said...

Oh Nancy, it sounds as if we had the same upbringing – life on the lacrosse field in February surrounded by girls who enjoyed nothing more than thwacking the poor ‘Point’ (I think that was what my position was called, the poor chump standing there to protect the goalie, and regarded as fair game). Great preparation for life, as my father used to say, because nothing else will ever be as bad again. And, do you know, he was right!

25 September 2012 08:27
25 September 2012 08:10
Matthew Caminer said...

Hockey wasn’t a barrel of laughs either, played on hard lumpy frosty grounds with so many bumps the ball could bounce in any direction – usually my shins,fingers or, er, other areas. I think in life I have learned to wear metaphorical shin-pads most of the time.

Lay Anglicana said...

The difference between hockey and lacrosse, as we saw it, Matthew is that in hockey any injuries are likely to be below the knee, whereas in lacrosse any vital organ is fair game!

25 September 2012 19:33
UKViewer said...

Matthew, I played lots of Hockey in Germany, in the main on tarmac pitches. I don’t know how may teeth I had loosened by miss hit balls hitting me in the mouth. The worse game to play was against women (we had some mixed teams) who knew exactly where their hockey stick could accidentally do the most damage (ouch!!).

I loved the game so much that when I had slowed down to much to be any use on the field, I became an Umpire. It was good for a while, but gamesmanship came in particularly in games played in civilian leagues. I gave up in the end, frustrated by its resemblance to football at the time.

Still, I had the honour to umpire in an Army Cup female competition and I have a miniture of the trophy awarded as a momento of it.

I think of Laura as a little like a stroppy hockey player. Seeking to stretch the rules to the limit to see the reaction of the umpires – it’s working as she is now famous, although she won’t thank me for saying that.
I’m more the supporter cheering her on from the side lines.

Matthew Caminer said...

Funny, I was only meaningfully injured three times playing hockey, twice against women, and all three time above the waist!!!

Not sure I would want to cross a “stroppy” Laura as a hockey opponent, though no doubt absolutely charming in the bar afterards!!!

Lay Anglicana said...

Still stroppy, but my days as a physical Amazon are over, you may be relieved to hear!

26 September 2012 15:09
26 September 2012 11:18
25 September 2012 20:51
25 September 2012 17:12
Joyce said...

I went to a common-or-garden state secondary school in the fifties and sixties where our knowledge of lacrosse came from readng Girl,Bunty,School Friend and Girls’ Crystal. They also played lacrosse in the children’s fiction about boarding schools where we all wished we could go. There were no independent schools – the home of lacrosse for the most part – within twenty or thirty miles,if that.The free-for-all sounded fun but we never got the chance to see it.
Nevertheless, ways were found of having us run after balls up and down freezing fields or concrete in short,sleeveless garments resembling tennis-dresses called ‘tunics’ or in aertex shirts and shorts while the staff wore warm track suits,gloves and scarves. On the coldest days – the staff,not the thermometer, decided what the temperature was – we were allowed to wear school cardigans for the first five minutes.
Reading this thread reminded me of something long-forgotten. I don’t know whether what we wore for PE, gym and games can be used as a lesson for choosing PTB for the the Church, but memories of our childhood response suggested to me that it might be a useful type for something.
At our school the girls who had failed the eleven plus and attended the secondary modern classes were issued free of charge not only with pretty P.E. tunics in house colours and with black plimsolls but a locker to keep them in. Those of us who were alleged to have passed the eleven-plus, and therefore attended grammar school classes in the same classrooms taught by the same staff, had to buy our own aertex white shirts, navy blue shorts,and white plimsolls. We had to take them home and remember to bring them to school on the right day on pain of something we never dared find out. PE,gym and games were the only lessons in which we,the ‘S’ stream, took part with the ‘A’ stream girls of the secondary modern. That’s because boys were split from girls and the class would have been too small otherwise.
At first we took the differences in sportswear plus the cost as just another way of showing our form we weren’t welcome at the school.Our form was the first guinea-pig grammar school stream to be added to what was a former secondary modern school. Six schools took part in the scheme.Fifteen boys and fifteen girls didn’t exactly turn ours into a comprehensive.We were accommodated rather than integrated. There was a general atmosphere of jealousy against us in our early years there from older pupils and from staff that we never quite understood,especially as we were the ones given less and were even taught fewer subjects.
With the hindsight of having worked in local government I later guessed it was something to do with financing. Throughout the Education Authority’s area, secondary modern pupils had everything but their swimming costumes provided for them free of charge,from plimsolls to pens and pencils.Uniform was optional.
In grammar schools the pupils had to provide all their own equipment including pens and ink,and uniform was compulsory.The Education Committee probably continued the policy across our school and the other five in the experiment, meaning that the headmasters got less money for us.
Across the city, in families where the budget was strained,mothers used to go back to work if their chidren ‘passed’ so that parents could afford to let them go to grammar school. It was one of those things never explained,just accepted.
At our school,as we grew and needed new clothes,we also got old enough as eleven and twelve-year-olds to wonder if there wasn’t another side to the coin – something like snobbery going on. I don’t know what happened re football strip, boots and so on at the boys’ end, but one or two of us ‘S’ class girls, partly through wanting to look prettier and be slightly warmer,partly not to be singled out as show-offs,but even more so wanting to protest against visual discrimination in the eyes of the public passing by the fields,rebelliously had tunics made when our shirts and shorts got too small. Also,some of the parents of the ‘A’ stream girls went to the expense of kitting them out in shirts and shorts like ours. If the staff didn’t like it they never said so. Probably couldn’t put a finger on what school rule we were breaking. Soon it wasn’t possible to tell by looking at us who was who.
Not quite as blatant a skirmish as a lacrosse match,but a small victory on both sides.
For the rest of the timetable the divisions remained.

25 September 2012 19:35

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