Thinking Anglicans

opinion

Andrew Brown writes in The Guardian How do churches get new bums on seats? Get rid of the boring old ones.

Ysenda Maxtone Graham writes in The Spectator Brace yourself for the real experience of going to a rural parish service on Easter Sunday.

Sarah Coakley gave a series of ten Meditations on Holy Week at Salisbury Cathedral.

Diarmaid MacCulloch in The Guardian asks Who is the antichrist? Not Obama. Not even Satan, exactly.

This week’s Church Times has two comment articles available to non-subscribers
Paul Valleley The complex web of global hunger
Jonathan Bartley Now is the time to be subversive
and this leader Blaming the poor.

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CynthiaDaniel LamontErika BakerRichard GrandRod Gillis Recent comment authors
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Father David
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Father David

What’s happened to the Guardian “Loose Canon” article by the next Bishop of Durham (or should that be Ebbsfleet?) that you usually put on the Thinking Anglicans Saturday Opinion slot?

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

The Spectator article reveals how many prejudices the writer seems to have-about rural parishes and people, non BCP worship, women clergy, “modern” hymns, etc. The vicar never had a chance, beginning with the description of her appearance. The negative, jaundiced views of anything but the writer’s own superior liturgical preferences make this article just mean-spirited. If you go to church with low expectations and a negative attitude and then find your smug attitudes confirmed, this says more about you than it does the congregation and the Christian faith. Too bad the writer didn’t get a fine (paid) choir with classical… Read more »

Peter Owen
Guest

The choice of articles for the weekly Opinion slot is at my absolute and inconsistent discretion. I link to Fr Fraser’s Loose Canon column roughly one week in two, so there is nothing unusual about its omission this week.

Those who wish to read all his columns will find links to them here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/series/loose-canon

They appear in the Saturday paper edition of The Guardian, and are usually added to the website on the previous evening.

Tim
Guest
Tim

Richard, there may well be here an easy target in the life of the rural church, and there are extremes in the article which have been used to make the point, but it does beg the question about two things: 1. The insane and often unsustainable patterns of ministry the church is creating, without any creative thinking of what ministry and therefore the product of that ministry might look like 2. There is a real issue about first impressions. The picture painted is sadly too often the case – and I for one dont think that it is good enough.… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re the article from “The Spectator”, let’s assume the article was written by someone who had something approaching the experience described there. You were guest at worship. Act like one, instead of putting on airs like a foodie for some faux urbane weekly. Be thankful for the opportunity to worship. Add something more to the “work of the people” than the attitude of a secret shopper.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Great article on “Blaming the Poor.” The article mentions the influence of a paper put out by “the churches,” The Lies we Tell Ourselves. Was CoE involved in this? It mentions the Baptists, Methodists, Church of Scotland (Presbyterian, right?) and United Reformed, but not CoE.

Pluralist
Guest

Sarah Coakley’s view of resurrection – die to self, turn and turn again via doubt and longing, and then see clearly sounds somewhat Buddhist – as three things you can do rather than impossible things to believe. But the difference is the impossible things to believe, and thus I don’t believe them. Same as her Friday talk on ‘it is finished’ – what is the mechanism that attaches any of my finished to that one individual’s? There isn’t one suggested. It’s all text and sleight of hand.

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/does-she-believe-it.html

JCF
Guest
JCF

“Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People: I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People : I will, with God’s help.”

Seen in this Light, the “Get rid of old&boring ‘bums in pews'” argument can only be seen as either 1) ludicrous or 2) Evil! (or both)

[I still *want* to see A Brown as indulging in an April Fool’s prank]

Anne
Guest
Anne

“For the occasional visitor – as leaders in worship – we must be on top of the game – offering the very best we can.” Tim: While I can see your point here, and would always hope I was doing the best I could in leading worship, I think it is unrealistic to expect that on every occasion, in every church, every worshipper will get what they want. There might have been all sorts of reasons why the priest concerned wasn’t top of her game (as well as the mere fact that the writer obviously had her own axe to… Read more »

Daniel Lamont
Guest
Daniel Lamont

I very much agree with Tim’s first comment. As an habitue of Gladstone’s Library (a plug here!), I have often rural clergy who are just exhausted from running united benefices of six to ten churches. It isn’t sustainable on any level and, as Tim says, we need to develop and new and innovative model of parish ministry rather than try to sustain a pale version of what was the norm sixty years ago.

Daniel Lamont

David Shepherd
Guest

With what I’ve seen of how clergy view themselves as the centre of the known moral universe in their respective churches, I feel little sympathy for the beleaguered ‘do-it-all’ team vicars. Team ministry may reduce the disparity of workload among clergy, but there are many capable, eager young committed Christians who are rejected by the officiating minister and Diocesan Director of Ordinands for any career in ministry or participation in the preached word. If ministers find themselves exhausted of energy and ideas, it’s because they don’t empower the laity to initiate anything. The clergy make a rod for their own… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

From the Spectator Article “The vicar is a rather exhausted-looking … team vicar of six parishes, [who] has probably …found the stone rolled away from the empty tomb twice and it’s only mid-morning” There are many reasons to give thanks for pastors who serve in the kinds of situations imagined. They planned, prepared, and provided leadership in several liturgies on Easter Day. They likely have done the same for a number of liturgies through-out Holy Week. No doubt they have also been bringing the sacrament to the sick, comforting the dying, consoling the bereaved, burying the dead. Quite likely they… Read more »

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

David Shepherd-where did that come from? There are kernel of useful ideas in your diatribe, but you seem to have an axe to grind. To Tim-I am extremely conscious of our need to put our best foot forward and make the best impression possible. But this also has something to do with the worshipper seeing him/herself as a child of God among other children of God, recognizing our needa dn imperfections and building up each other in love. Why disparage those who actually ARE doing their best-just not the best you want. As the priest of an ordinary parish with… Read more »

Old Father William
Guest
Old Father William

I think that the article in the Spectator is appallingly uncharitable. There are occasional expressions of sympathy for the limitations of the congregation,but, generally, an air of smug superiority prevails. It does, however, bring up two things which I, as an American, have never understood. Why do people in the Church of England sit instead of kneel? Why aren’t all the verses to hymns printed directly below the music?

evensongjunkie
Guest
evensongjunkie

The rural parish episode could have been much worse….a screen with the bouncing ball, rock combo and wall to wall carpeting to ensure crappy acoustics…and oh, “who do we have visiting today, please stand up and introduce yourselves…” to embarrass one during the announcements….
I’ll take wobbly old dears in the choir stalls any day. At least it’s genuine.

Gary Paul Gilbert
Guest
Gary Paul Gilbert

I agree with the Pluralist that Sarah Coakely’s Easter Day Sermon is short on details. The substitution of the death of the striving self for the death of Jesus does not necessarily support belief in the resurrection of Jesus. A different way of living need not imply belief in anything supernatural.

Or maybe the doctrine is merely a picturesque way of saying things.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Edward Prebble
Guest
Edward Prebble

I have two comments about the Spectator article and the comments it has generated. Thought 1. Why does Ysende Graham, or anyone else believe that the kind of Easter worship she describes is a new phenomenon, or indicative of recent decline, or for that matter peculiar to rural contexts? Daniel Lamont, my memory does not go back 60 years, but I can well remember an Easter service in the suburbs of Nottingham in 1981 that was very similar to her description. There was a congregation of about 30 in a building big enough for 200, there was a robed choir… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s piece in The Spectator is indeed highly critical of her rural Easter Day worship experience. However, she can take comfort from the Orthodox view that time spent in worship halts the ageing process (no wonder they have such long services). In the long run this will prove to be far more effective than any Olay moisturiser or Nivea Visage anti-wrinkle cream. If the dear lady gets to know about this minor miracle – she may even feel moved to pop along to her local fane on the Ninth Sunday after Trinity. Failing that – I’m sure there… Read more »

David
Guest
David

David Shepherd – I reflect that in the more dispiriting moments of frustrated initiatives in parish ministry I could write with similar frustration about the ‘laity’. But I would be no more ‘right’ than you. ‘Clericalism’ and ‘anti-clericalism’ are two sides of the same coin. But it is not the currency of the Kingdom. Perhaps, on that point, we agree.

David Shepherd
Guest

Richard, No axe to grind. I just have a very different take on the labours of the ‘hard working strung out members of an order of ministry’, when lay resources are often squandered. As Bob Marley sang, ‘in the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty’. I think the tone of the article is actually quite light-hearted, rather than purposefully malevolent. Admittedly, the unflattering comparison between Choral Evensong on Radio 3 and Sunday Worship on Radio 4 reveals a high-church bias. Equally, a prayer for the grace to speak in the name of the Trinity should not attract any more… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

Shame that the interesting piece on George Bell didn’t make the cut: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rl8n8

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re David Shepherd ” I just have a very different take on the labours of the ‘hard working strung out members of an order of ministry’, when lay resources are often squandered” I’d be interested to know what your take is based on, particularly is it is based on any experience is developing and mentoring lay ministries? After three and one half decades of direct involvement with encouraging, recruiting, mentoring, supporting, and training various lay ministries , I think the “abundance of water” you imagine is really a group of scattered small oases in what is otherwise an increasingly parched… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Cynthia asked if the CofE was involved in the report The Lies We Tell Ourselves. The answer is no, but as this article explains, that may well have been beneficial to the outcome

http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18277

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

Rod Gillis makes a good point. I have been a priest in a variety of parishes, rural and urban, in Canada for over 37 years. I have never ceased preaching about, recruiting, leading, “empowering”, and supporting lay ministry. So have many clergy, as well as our Diocese and national Church. Yet the situation is not much better than it was before we did these things. The tendency of people to be passive and leave it to clergy has not changed all that much, with the exceptions of lay people who want to run the show, who dislike the clergy, or… Read more »

Hugh Valentine
Guest
Hugh Valentine

Rod, I have sympathy for your frustration. Yet isn’t a possible clue here in the sincerely said “I have never ceased preaching about, recruiting, leading, “empowering”, and supporting lay ministry”. It does not seem to me very possible – as you have discovered – for clergy to ‘do’ this. Maybe what might work is the creation of a kind of vacuum, a gap, that able members of our eucharistic communities simply fill, uninvited as it were. I reckon something important is said in this footnote to an article by The Revd O A Dyson called Clericalism, Church and Laity in… Read more »

John
Guest
John

These are very complex questions. ‘Plant’ churches often do well, if doing well means getting a lot of people, but they are really only possible in urban contexts and they often base a lot of their appeal on a rhetoric of victim-hood. And, of course, from the perspective of many ‘thinking Anglicans’, they espouse a limited theology and – often – retrograde positions on gay people and even sometimes on women priests. So, although they ‘do well’ (in some sense), their growth is neceessarily circumscribed, and certainly they don’t plausibly address the crisis of Christianity in the 21st century. I… Read more »

David Shepherd
Guest

Rod, I wouldn’t dream of contrasting my lay preaching and mentoring experience with your more than three and a half decades of ordained ministry. It’s clear that you’ve established for yourself the cause of lay inertia. It’s unfortunate that the cure remains so elusive. Richard provides a startling dichotomy of lay participation: divided between passive lay members who ‘largely leave it to the clergy’ and the exceptions of those ‘who want to run the show, dislike the clergy, or feel that they know better and have agendas’. The happy medium to such a contrast would appear to be active lay… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re Hugh Valentine, the quote you provide actually belongs to Richard Grand. Re, David Shepherd ( and perhaps Hugh as well) and the alleged dichotomy, I don’t think there needs to be a dichotomy between clergy and laity. There are excellent and long standing theological resources on this issue. The radical and ground breaking work of people like Verna Dozier has provided great long standing conceptual tools for those of us passionate about the whole people. Notwithstanding, the ability to engage a critical mass of the baptized in the ministry of the Whole People, to move from theoria to praxis,… Read more »

Richard Grand
Guest
Richard Grand

David Shepherd said:”The happy medium to such a contrast would appear to be active lay members who simply do as they’re told.” How did he reach that conclusion? No, not at all and I did not say or infer that conclusion. Even the idea of a “happy medium” is not helpful. I portrayed two extremes to make a point. What the Church needs is lay people who are truly happy being “the People of God” and who understand that this is the primary vocation of all the baptised. Priesthood and ordained ministry grow out of our common Baptism. Such lay… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Just to provide a balance here, I have only ever worshipped in rural parishes and they all had thriving lay involvement, from licensed lay ministry down to the church cleaning rota. I have never been in a church where someone didn’t have a role if they wanted one and only very old or unwell people weren’t deeply involved in some activity or other. Not all the priests were equally good at letting parishioners get on with it and we did have the occasional very very stressed micro manager, but we never had one who had to do everything. To me,… Read more »

Daniel Lamont
Guest
Daniel Lamont

I think, Edward Prebble, you have misunderstood me. I was not referring to patterns of worship – I too remember services such as you describe – but to patterns of ministry; ie one church, one parson. The subsequent posts have offered interesting alternative patterns of ministry which are worth exploring.

Daniel Lamont

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Thanks Simon, the article was interesting. I’m not sure that I’m buying into the idea that the absence of CoE in the report was a good thing, but I’m better informed, thank you!

For the record, the Spectator article was dreadful. What a nasty, smug, arrogant, guest! I also prefer beautiful high church, but geez, variety gives more people the opportunity to be fed. The sexist, ageist remarks (I don’t care if they came from a woman) and assumptions were unnecessary – to say the very least.