Thinking Anglicans

Back to Church?

The Bishop of Reading Stephen Cottrell got a lot of media coverage this week when he said, in a Church of England press release:

“Even today I meet people who think you have to be highly educated or suited and booted to be a person who goes to church. That’s so frustrating. How did it come to this, that we have become known as just the Marks and Spencer option when in our heart of hearts we know that Jesus would just as likely be in the queue at Asda or Aldi?

See reports in the Guardian, Times, Telegraph, and Mail, not to mention International Supermarket News.

And this on Cif belief.

The Church Times had a leader column about it, see Where would Jesus shop?

Heresiarch wrote a perceptive blog article, More tea, vicar. Not so much rap.

This in turn caused Andrew Brown to write Snobbery with godlessness.

As for Back to Church Sunday, which is what this was originally about, George Pitcher critiques that in Patronising bishops want ‘ordinary people’ back at church.

Paul Bayes’ podcast (mentioned by George) is here.

A Church Near You is here.

30
Leave a Reply

avatar
3000
30 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
16 Comment authors
Fr MarkDavid KeenFather Ron SmithFord Elmsjohn Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Sue
Guest
Sue

Speaking of Jesus. You dont really think that Jesus, or any other radiant saint, would be welcome or even recognized at St Pauls Cathedral. Or at Westminster, or the Vatican, or even at your local church, or at the various “divinity” schools attached to the universities. After all Jesus of Galilee was executed with the connivance and approval of the then religious/ecclesiastical establishment, because he was a threat to their worldly power and privilege. Take th recent installation/coronation of the current pope. All of the our benighted “leaders” were in attendance (some very fresh from making war), As were all… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

I thought he and his mate got a new job at Aldi.

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2009/09/bishop-gets-new-job.html

Fr Mark
Guest

Sue: the current Pope wasn’t crowned. Indeed, since Pope Paul VI, none of them has been, precisely because the Vatican wanted to make a break with the aesthetics of its monarchical past. For the same reaon, Pope Benedict uses a mitre rather than the traditional tiara on his arms. Unfortunately, however, what now obtains in the RC Church is an organisation deprived of the aesthetics of monarchy, yet retaining the exercise of absolutism. Personally, I’d much prefer it the other way round, as we have with the British (or indeed, where I live, the Danish) monarchy: what’s wrong with keeping… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest

on Bishop Stephen’s point: “Church: it’s definitely not about how you look, what you do, how you sound, how well you sing. Just come as you are. Come with a friend. All are welcome. Churches are still where best friends are made. And where people can be just as they are” … much as one agrees with his sentiments here, unfortunately the truth is that we all know the C of E is screaming out a very loud “you are NOT welcome!” message in its handling of the gay issue at the moment. It is saying loud and clear to… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

“Marks and Spencer … Asda or Aldi?”

Clarification for Yanks?

I know Marks and Spencer from visits to England a [long] while back and reading murder mysteries. I have a M&S wool sweater that is in lovely shape after 30+ years [wish I could say the same for me].

But Asda or Aldi?

Whatever they are, we don’t have them here in the wilds of the Shenandoah Valley.

Robert Ian williams
Guest
Robert Ian williams

I shop at ASDA and it is exceptional value..what a generalisation.

The real poverty in this mation is the breakdown of the family and spiritual values.

H. E. Baber
Guest

Ya wonder how we got this complete inversion in the US: a politically conservative, highly religious working class and a secular elite.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

ASDA is now a subsidiary of Wal-Mart. It’s a major supermarket chain here, which emphasises low prices.

There are over 1,000 ALDI stores in 29 states of the USA, but it’s originally a German supermarket chain, which although huge internationally is relatively small in the UK. It also emphasises low prices.

It’s main direct competitor in the no-frills supermarket segment is Lidl, which curiously didn’t get a mention from the bishop. Perhaps they don’t have any stores in Reading.

choirboyfromhell
Guest
choirboyfromhell

What do you mean “where would Jesus shop?”, In addition to M&S, I should hope Nordstrom’s, Bergdorf-Goodman, Brooks Brothers and Talbot’s. The bread from Westpoint Market in Akron or Whole Foods. And he’d get his music from Brian Jordan’s in Cambridge. Scarves from A.E. Clothiers. All made in either USA or EEC at living wages.

Nothing but the best for the Best.

David Keen
Guest

It’s very difficult for the church to be as accessible as Jesus. Jesus walked around. He didn’t have large stone walls, and a giant oak door with a Biblically proportioned key to keep people out. As long as the church is defined by its buildlings and meeting times, and not as a community of people, we will continue to look forbidding. That’s why Back to Church Sunday is only part of the solution. It clearly does work for a few people, but for the majority, the church’s challenge is to equip Christians to live life day to day in such… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“The real poverty in this nation is the breakdown of the family and spiritual values.” R.I.Williams

You wouldn’t be an advocate of the Religious Right would you Robert? The same one that, in the US, doesn’t want the poor to be given free health care because they might want free abortion when they have an unwanted pregnancy – because of poverty and the lack of proper sex education?

Families might just suffer more breakdown when they have more children than they can afford to nourish and educate. And what ‘good’ does that do spiritually – for them or for their nation?

BillyD
Guest

David, I don’t think it’s the buildings that keep people away. Here in the States, I sometimes go to Mass at the local RC cathedral when I can’t make it to my parish church on a feast day. There is always a better socio-economic mix there than at most Episcopal churches I have been to. I’ll bet the same is true in the UK.

David Keen
Guest

BillyD our building is surrounded by dead people, which is off-putting enough in itself!

For most folk, going into a strange building/place where you don’t know the ‘rules’ (pub, betting shop, weighwatchers meeting) is pretty intimidating. I’ve heard of people who literally had to be forced through the door because they were afraid to go inside a church.

BillyD
Guest

Then why, David, does the RCC do such a good job at attracting all sorts and conditions while we do not, I wonder? Is it that they hold onto their members better than we do? Are we too concerned about attracting the sort of person who is “properly” sophisticated – sort of an intellectual snobbery combined with class consciousness?

mynsterpreost (=David Rowett)
Guest

In response to BillyD’s comment about the socio-economic mix in RC churches, I’ve always bewailed the lack of sociological awareness in the Church. The nearest I came to it was rabbiting on about industrial society (just before mrs T destroyed it).

But sociology presumably would ask questions about culture and such things. What are the cultural presuppositions of the RC set-up? I mean, does it, for example, serve as a place of group identity reinforcement (as it did with Irish arrivals in the UK). It’s a fascinating question which isn’t necessarily just about CofE plc being tres snob.

Gerry Lynch
Guest

I do nearly all my shopping at Asda. I pretty much always wear a collar and tie to church.

I’m confused as to whether this makes me a good Christian or a bad Christian.

john
Guest
john

I think BillyD raises a serious question. The C of E (also) is far too middle-class. I think it’s something to do with our churches having been ‘establishment’ churches (in England, Scotland to a degree, Ireland certainly, the US in some sense) and never having much bothered to expand ‘downwards’. But we jolly well have to!

toby forward
Guest

My heart sinks when I see a post that says ‘our building is surrounded by dead people, which is off-putting enough in itself!’. For a start, it isn’t true. The building isn’t surrounded by dead people. It, presumably, has a graveyard, which is a cultural resource, a witness to the faith of past generations, a link with the community that used to be in that place, a sign of the continuity of the church and society. To say it is ‘surrounded by dead people’ is to simplify it beyond truth. Most people understand this, at some level. It’s only apologetic… Read more »

David Keen
Guest

Toby – I take your point, but it’s still the fact that some people find a) the graveyard and b) the strangeness of the church off-putting.

I agree that worship should be challenging, but we need to take care that people are challenged by the right things, and not by things that stop them coming through the door in the first place.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

toby forward, thank you, thank you, thank you. Also, the “graveyard in the Churchyard” is a strong reminder of the communion of saints, that death is not the end and doesn’t divide us from each other. To see it as a church “surrounded by dead people” is to miss the symbolism entirely, and to miss something that is one of the great ideas of the faith: we are not, ever, cut off from each other. It also misses the opportunity for a bit of catechesis when someone from outside comments on it. I have gone to Orthodox churches where I… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“we need to take care that people are challenged by the right things” So, someone comes up to you and says something on the lines of “Your church is right in the middle of a graveyard, and that creeps me out.” You have a couple of options. You COULD take the opportunity to explain the symbolism and teach a bit about what we believe about things like eternal life, the Communion of Saints, about how NOTHING separates us from God and by extension from each other, etc. You could explain the real health concerns that forced us to stop the… Read more »

BillyD
Guest

It’s certainly easy to overdo the welcome, I think. When I was looking for what back in Texas we call a “church home,” I visited several area Episcopal churches, including a parish in a nearby community. It was warm and friendly, and I thought about returning, but I started getting so many phone calls from them inviting me back that I almost felt that I was being stalked.

john
Guest
john

We sophisticated liberals are turned off by ‘excessive’ welcome and we expect people to be prepared to ‘work at’ what is alien to them. All the same: (a) too often in the past, and sometimes even still, there’s a deficiency of welcome; (b) we have to recognise how radically alien our stuff now is to most people, and do things about it; (c) our churches generally aren’t doing well. (b) can hardly be exaggerated: only a tiny minority of my students (certainly not more than 5%) know ANYTHING about the Bible. So Alpha, Emmaus, etc. (much as I dislike them… Read more »

David Keen
Guest

Ford – I didn’t say the practice should be jettisoned. Of course if people asked what it was all about I’d try to explain it, but there are some people who think the church is so alien they wouldn’t even want to ask about it. In the UK, roughly 40% of the population and rising have no church background. They are very unlikely to come to church, and they can’t come back to church as they were never there in the first place. The challenge of reaching them with the gospel can focus us again on the nature of the… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

I think another thing we need to do is embrace the alienness of our worship to the wider world. This is an overwhelmingly Christian culture, but even here, where religion is not something one chooses, but an attribute of who one is, like hair colour, we have a generation in their early 20s whose parents rejected the Church and who therefor have no contact at all with even the stereotypes that my generation laughed at, let alone all the traditional religio-political baggage that goes with being a Newfoundlander. I was speaking to a group of 20 somethings a few years… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“The challenge of reaching them with the gospel can focus us again on the nature of the church as a body, as people, rather than as a historic building.” Of course the Church is a body, not a building. All the trendier clergy since Vatican 2 have been telling us that. It’s been done to death. We’ve spent the last 40 years loudly proclaiming the Church is people, not buildings. Isn’t it time we turned our attention to who those people ARE? One of the attributes of the body is that we have received a 2000 year old Tradition. That… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest

David Keen: “In the UK, roughly 40% of the population and rising have no church background.”

Do you think the figure is as low as 40%? If I think of my schooldays, I don’t suppose as many as 10% of my classmates had a history of contact with any kind of church at all – and that was in suburban South East England in the 70s-80s.

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

On this subject – of ‘Coming Back to Church’, especially when some may never have darkened the doors – I do think it is the unselfconscious way of welcoming both the churched and the unchurched that can have an almost subversive influence on other people. In a good way, of course! Recently, after marrying our non-church-attending son, to our lovely non-church-attending R.C. daughter-in-law (to the joy of both families), we acknowledged that the R.C. part of our joint families ought to have a turn when it came to the Baptism of their first child. So, Little Father Ron (mentioned in… Read more »

David Keen
Guest

Fr Mark – the 40% figure comes from Richter and Francis ‘Gone but not Forgotten’ who break it down as follows: Regulars (monthly or more at church) 10% Fringe 10% Dechurched (once members/attended as children, but left) 40% Of these half would be open to coming back, the other half had such a bad experience of church that they wouldn’t return. Unchurched (no church background) 40% Steve Hollinghurst of the Church Army puts the ‘unchurched’ figure much higher, at 65% http://issuu.com/thesheffieldcentre/docs/dfill6 see chart on page 5. So maybe that 40% is optimistic, and it’s increasing every year. TEAR fund did… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest

David K: 65% unchurched, 5% attenders in England sounds a bit more realistic, in my experience, and I would imagine the figures are very much weighted generation-wise.