THE Church of England and popular bakery chain Greggs are going into partnership in what is described as a "mutually beneficial" multi-million pound tie-up.
The official Church of England logo featured on all papers, web pages and publicity will now appear with the slogan "More than just the bread of life – with Greggs".
Details of the agreement have been kept confidential but the lead bishop for culinary affairs, Rt Revd Julia Benson, is reported to have let slip that Greggs will be paying a "seven figure sum" into church coffers over the next few years.
Under the deal, congregations will soon see a regular supply of some of Greggs' most well-known products shipped to their buildings ready for after-service refreshments each Sunday.
At the same time, the Church of England will be making its presence felt in hundreds of the much-loved bakers' stores as an exciting range of new products brings a touch of the sacred to the sugar-soaked consumables.
This will include "Ten Commandment Doughnuts" with variously-coloured iced rings emblazoned with verses from the Old Testament.
However, the Scriptures will be given a bakery-themed tweak with slogans like "Doughnut Steal", "Doughnut Covet", and "Doughnut Commit Adultery".
The C of E will also be introducing an annual "Greggs Sunday" as part of the liturgical calendar, during which congregations will be encouraged to pray for and "raise awareness of" Greggs. Special prayers and readings will be commissioned, and each diocese will appoint a "Greggs Champion" who will oversee the introduction of "discreet" Greggs logos on clerical wear, for example on the bottom of chasubles.
A spokesman for the bakery chain said: "This is a natural fit for us. If you look at our logo with its four white squares on a blue background you will see the shape in the middle forms a cross. So this is an obvious next step."
Meanwhile, Archdeacons are to train Greggs staff in how they can offer over-the-counter spiritual advice inspired by phrases popular with Anglican clergy, such as "I'm so sorry to hear that", "It sounds really difficult for you", and "I'm sure it will all work out alright".
In response to news of the deal, a spokesman for the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) said: "The CEEC will be producing a suite – or should I say 'sweet' ha ha – of videos to explore some of the issues raised by this tie-up.
"We want congregations to think both about the questions that arise and indeed the answers. And if anyone figures out what either the questions or answers are, do let us know."
Happy April Fool's Day!
David Baker is Contributing Editor to Christian Today and Senior Editor of Evangelicals Now www.e-n.org.uk in print and online. He writes here in a purely personal capacity.