The stationery cupboards are empty at the Church of England's administrative HQ, Church House, this weekend. Everything has been boxed up and driven to York, where the Church's General Synod is meeting. Next week everything will travel back to London, minus a few tonnes of waste paper and that all-important computer lead which will never be found again.
In other religions, the faithful make arduous journeys to holy sites. In Anglicanism (unless the York University campus has an innate sanctity of which I'm unaware), the holy relics are moveable ones, transportable to anywhere near a motorway, and consist of paper-clips, rubber bands and countless yellow order papers.
The summer pilgrimage is an object lesson in the way the Church of England does things. The Church has a perfect adequate debating chamber in the middle of Church House, used by the General Synod when it meets in the spring and the autumn. This has just been refurbished and is easily serviced from the offices of the support staff from surrounding corridors.
The annual visits to York began several years ago. The chief object was to make Synod members nicer to each other. Synod debates at that time, the mid-Eighties, had got very cross. Since these were Christians, it can't have been because Synod included rather a lot of cross people, somebody argued. It must simply be a result of . . . geography. Three or four sunny days wandering around the campus at York would help bring opponents together and heal old divisions.
In some ways it worked. It was hard to take an anti-women-priests slogan quite so seriously when, instead of being spat across the chamber, it was spread across an expanse of flabby T-shirted chest. And Synod members were too groggy at breakfast - especially if they had missed early-morning prayers at the parish church - to notice they were passing the toast to someone who took an opposing view on homosexuality (if it is possible to take any view on homosexuality at breakfast time). Synod members also have more time to pray in York. So it is, then, that the governing body of the Church of England has to move to a secular venue, with great difficulty and at considerable expense, in order to be …