A man was arrested yesterday morning (Sunday) after two people were assaulted at York Minster. You can read about it on most UK news websites (but if you’re particularly discerning you can read my report for the Church Times here).
An unusually high number of journalists were inside the Minster when the assaults took place because the General Synod is meeting in York for its annual July “group of sessions” (as their meetings are called) and this annual service is one of the key worship highlights for the Synod.
Most of the reports I’ve seen are fair and accurate; but the account in the Independent caught my eye for describing the incident as an “embarrassing security failure” and a “worrying breach in security”.
I can’t see that any of these descriptions is valid. York Minster is not a high security prison; it isn’t the Houses of Parliament and it isn’t even the General Synod chamber: it is a Christian church.
Members of Synod or not; church regulars or not; devout Anglo-catholic or not; fanatical evangelical or not; doubting atheist or not; residents or York or not: the Minster – and all Christian churches – are open to all for their worship services.
So what is this embarrassing security failure? What is the worrying breach in security? The Independent doesn’t say. The only assumption that can be made is that the paper doesn’t realise that these services are open to all.
A man attending the service responded with violence when he was asked to wait until the formal procession had taken place. A steward and a member of the Archbishop of York’s staff were assaulted but the man was overpowered, detained and then arrested.
The service was disrupted for a few minutes by the noise of a commotion, but it went ahead without any delay. All in all, I would say that was a job well done by the stewards, security staff, the Minster Constabulary and North Yorkshire Police.
And if the Independent thinks that a security breach took place it shows a significant lack of religious literacy in not knowing that the church services are open to all.