Stale Mate with a Bishop

Stale Mate with a Bishop

No, this isn’t a post about chess – although I can set up the board in the correct order, know a couple of terms and that the horsey knight moves in an ‘L’ shape, I’ve never learned to play. It requires more effort and brain power than you all know I’m capable of!

Instead, this post is about my encounters with clergy last week, when our school had a visit from a VIP. We’ve been waiting for his holy presence for some time – it was arranged, then cancelled due to having some more ecclesiastical duties to perform.


But eventually, the day came for us to entertain Dr. John Sentamu – who is no ordinary bishop but the Archbishop of York. Second in command to the Canterbury chap and a very important person!

I’ll start off the tale by pointing out that I do not follow a faith. Religion interests me, I pray… and that tends to be (in my head) to an older, beardy bloke that most people would recognise as a Christian god. And I wear a St. Christopher. Because it belonged to my Nana. But as far as organised religion goes, I don’t partake.

Our school isn’t a designated faith school either – it follows a mainly Christian syllabus when it comes to assemblies and the local vicar comes in fairly frequently (to read his sermons from his iPhone!) but all faiths are covered in R.E. and this is about as far as it goes. A far cry from when I worked in a Catholic school and we attended Mass everyday, after several Hail Mary’s recited at registration.

Anyway, I digress. So, Archbishop Sentamu decided to pop in as he is apparently working his way around all the schools in the region, I guess to make himself more accessible to the youth sector.

We knew he’d be doing a walk-around, taking our assembly and was open to questions from the children. We all just had to act normal…


When he arrived, I spotted him in the Head’s office and I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Wearing a simple purple jumper and trousers, he didn’t look at all official. In fact, his chauffeur looked more the part. At least he was wearing a dog collar!

I carried on with my jobs, not really thinking more on the matter. That was until, as I was sending a child back to class after their play therapy, I heard voices down the corridor…

“Let me introduce you to our Behaviour and Well-being  support…”

Oh bugger, that’s me. Our head teacher’s voice was getting closer and I quickly searched my brain for something intelligent to say to describe my job, panic starting to surface in a similar fashion to if an Ofsted Inspector had just materialised out of the ether.

I spun around with a smile, as the head introduced him as the Archbishop, which was kind of obvious as out of the three people in front of me, he was the one wearing a long purple cloak with an elaborate cross on the front. Still no pointy hat, but at least he’d made more of an effort!

“Hello, pleased to meet you,” I gushed. The Archbishop simply nodded. And then stood there, staring at me quite intently. It was really very unnerving, not helped by the fact that everyone was silent. Stale mate…

What to do? How could I break this uncomfortable silence? Ask him if he’d heard any good prayers lately? Or whether he knows when Jesus will be back?

Obviously, neither would be appropriate or respectful, so I went with the tried and tested route, that I was always taught to use when meeting someone new – I thrust out my hand to shake his.

What happened next, seemed to occur in slow motion. At first, I was left hanging, but then slowly, his hand moved out from beneath his robe and edged towards mine, before finally…

Waggling my index finger a bit.


My brain went into overdrive, which hopefully didn’t register on my face. Did I do something wrong? Was he like the Queen and not supposed to shake hands? Should I have bowed / curtsied? Had I just committed a sin?

I tried to remember any tidbits of information I had about greeting clergy (making that sound like I have a specific, more-than-one-entry, area for it in my head), and I kid you not, I had the wild notion that I should have licked him…

Babbling about my role and how I support children with a range of issues, to help their mental health, I tried to brush over the awkward interchange and was pleased when the Archbishop’s assistant asked some questions. I was thanked for the work I did to help and then they all moved on.


At lunch, I frantically asked other staff if they had shaken his hand (they hadn’t) before bemoaning to our head that he should have given us etiquette lessons first! Everyone seemed to find it quite funny…

But how does one greet an Archbishop? I feel this should have been a question for James Proclaims and his fairly new section of James Explains. However, I didn’t have time to wait and see if I was going to be struck down by lightening for a huge faux-pas, so I did a Google.


And this is what it told me…

Address an Archbishop. During a formal introduction, an Archbishop should be introduced in the same way listed above for a Bishop. However, in some parts of Canada, especially in the West, it is common practice to address an Archbishop as “His Grace”. In this case, during a formal introduction, an Archbishop could be introduced as “His Grace, (First and Last Name), Archbishop of (Location).” He could be directly addressed as “Your Grace” or “Archbishop (Last Name),” – or, on paper, as “His Grace, The Most Reverend (First Name and Last Name), Archbishop of (Location)”. Note that, as with a Bishop, you should stand when he enters a room (until he invites you to sit) and again when he leaves it. Remove your hat in his presence, and you may kiss the sacred ring during both the greeting and the closing. If he is your own Archbishop, you may kneel when kissing the ring (though bowing at the waist is also acceptable); however, do not do either if the Pope is present.


Okay, so;

  • I didn’t call him His Grace
  • I didn’t remove (my non-existent) hat
  • I didn’t kiss a ring (I think this is where I got the licking idea from)
  • I didn’t kneel, or bow.
  • The Pope was not in attendance, so I pretty much failed.

Except, I didn’t because…that’s for a Catholic Archbishop and Dr. Sentamu is Anglican.

Oh my word, it could have been SO. MUCH. WORSE.


In the end, I didn’t feel too bad about my actions. I went on to hear him talk to the school in assembly (we’ll quickly skim over the child who said he thought Nelson Mandela was “that man in the White House before Trump”) and put it down to experience.

And seeing as he talked to some of our youngest children about the merits of using dark ale, rather than light ale to make a good pork crackling, I doubt I have much to worry about!

Still, he seems a very nice chap. 🙂

Have you ever had to meet a very important person and completely messed up? Let me know in the comments!

IMAGE CREDITS:, and giphy.

Did you know you can follow the Bobbins on Twitter , Instagram or Facebook? Come and say hi!

8 thoughts on “Stale Mate with a Bishop

  1. When I was around 16/17 Prince Charles came to visit the training school that was part of the large engineering firm I worked at. I took a days holiday. Not because I was nervous of meeting him, tho whether any of the students got to actually meet him I’ve no idea, but because prior to his visit the whole training school was painted, and as our office window looked out on to the main road I noted how all the white lines on the road were newly painted and flower planters were put out along the island that divided up the dual carriageway. It got right up my nose that they’d do all that for royalty but never dream of tarting up the area up for us mere peasants so I thought well I’m not bowing and scraping to him and booked a days holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, well I’m sure it wasn’t poor Charlie’s fault!! And hopefully, the planters weren’t removed immediately after the visit, so the ‘peasants’ still benefitted. Councils do some peculiar things though!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As I read your story, I did think about kissing a ring (not because I’m religious, because I’m not, but because I’ve seen movies), but, you not being religious either, that probably would have been blasphemous — or at least wildly hypocritical. I think licking, when appropriate, is to be applied to the VIP’s boots.

    My worst celebrity meeting happened in 2008, outside the California Democratic Party Convention. I had done some volunteer work with the local Obama campaign organization (led by paid national campaign staffers), painting signs, canvassing neighborhoods, and helping to write a policy statement that covered issues our group thought were important.

    The day of the convention, about 30 of us demonstrated outside the building with our signs, and the staffers told us there might be a chance Obama would meet with us for a few minutes at the end of the day. They had us form a U shape around the door he would come out of if he had time before he had to leave, and I ended up next to one of the staffers, right next to the door. Then some other staffers came out to set up the crowd-control poles connected by ropes, and for some reason I will never understand, they put it behind me and the staffer so we were on the inside of the U.

    When Obama came out, he shook all the hands he could reach (mine included), thanked us, let us take pictures while he gave us a little pep talk, and then reached to shake hands with someone behind me. Well, I had nowhere to go because of the rope, so when he leaned over me, I *hugged* him. Two thoughts occurred to me in that instant: 1. Hugging might not be appropriate, especially since I’d already shaken his hand, and 2. The man should eat a sandwich. (He was skin and bones.)

    But I didn’t stop there.

    I’d read his book, The Audacity of Hope, and brought my copy — and a Sharpie — along in my bag, just in case. So just before he and his little entourage started back into the building, I pulled out my book, flipped open the cover, and uncapped the pen. As he stepped away from me toward the door, I called out, “Senator?” (that felt so cool!) and when he turned around, I held out the book and pen and asked, “Would you please sign my book?” What else could he do? But I harbor some suspicion from the look in his eyes that he might have felt compelled out of fear that the crazy lady who had just hugged him might turn dangerous if he didn’t sign.

    Two days later, they assigned the candidates Secret Service protection.

    I did better the time I introduced myself to Pete Conrad (one of the astronauts who walked on the moon) after he came out of an airplane’s bathroom. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank goodness! I’m worried now that this silly idea of mine may fester in people’s brains and come out at an inopportune time! Disclaimer: I will not be held responsible for any future, incorrect licks of VIPs!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Glad you didn’t ask my advice on this one, I’d have had no idea. I don’t even think it would have occurred to me to tell you not to lick him, although to be fair the advice you found doesn’t strictly prohibit licking so maybe that would have been OK. You get better visitors than we do in my school – we’ve had the joy of the local MP on occasion and I always have to remind myself not to hurl abuse at him…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I’m sure I would have been removed unceremoniously (from
      both building and post), if I had gone in with a lick!
      He’s the most interesting we’ve had, unless I count the archaeologist. But then we paid for him!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s