Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 15 October 2016

Church Times is running a series of articles on Renewal & Reform.
Ethnicity falls behind gender in vocations project Hattie Williams looks into the C of E’s bid to increase ordinations.
High flyers’ training proves popular but can’t escape flak Tim Wyatt discovers perceived gain and loss from the Green report’s outcome. [This one is behind the paywall.]
Shake-up in lay ministry aims to elevate the laity’s calling Hattie Williams talks to the people behind a forthcoming C of E report on leadership.

From the Church of England Communications blog
Sarah Thorpe, Dementia Support Worker for the Diocese of Lichfield, How and why to embrace those living with dementia in your church
Revd Peter Wells, Lead Chaplain at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, ‘None of us is the perfect image of God. We meet each other knowing that no one is perfect.’ How chaplains and the Mothers’ Union support dementia patients in hospital

Simon Jenkins The Guardian There is one sure way to save our ailing churches – give them away
And these letters in reply from Richard Harries, the former bishop of Oxford, and others.

Andrew Lightbown Management, Leadership, Renewal & Reform

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Froghole
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Froghole

I have occasionally found the views of Sir Simon Jenkins tiresome. I feel that he often strikes a contrarian pose simply for its own sake, or perhaps from a mildly adolescent urge to shock the conventional wisdom (of which he is not altogether unaware he is generally conspicuously a part). Sometimes this approach works; at other times – as with his somewhat Marie Antoinettish (and inaccurate) belief that housing has always been extremely expensive and must therefore remain so – it comes across as being simply crass. In this case he has fallen into the second category. I find it… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

Lots on “Management” and the C of E plc but still nothing yet on the pastoral disaster currently being played out at York Minster!

Kate
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Kate

How can the Church Times run an article on the demographic of vocations and keep a straight face while ignoring disability, sexual orientation and gender identity? And age-related funding is simply abhorrent but gets surprisingly little criticism.

Cynthia
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Cynthia

I appreciate Sarah Thorpe’s writing on a dementia friendly church. My mother (RIP) suffered with it for 7 years, that were dysfunctional. For awhile, hymns were just great. Eventually though, she couldn’t engage in much of anything and with that came the social isolation that Thorpe describes.

Ministering to those with dementia and their care givers is great.

Pam
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Pam

Make no mistake – we can encounter Jesus in the local library or supermarket equally as much as in the local church. Out worship has many facets. I love historic buildings for their beauty, their history and their relevance to the present day. And, I’m sure, there are many people who spend time in the supermarket on Sunday mornings who agree with me. What’s more important, though, the people or the building?

Kate
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Kate

Pam In answer to your question, the priority is building over clergy. One only has to read the OT to appreciate the significance of a building dedicated to the Lord. Indeed, if we have given a building to the Lord for His uses can we take it back? For me a church is a spiritual battery. Between and after services it continues to praise the Lord, pray to Jesus and glory in the Spirit. That’s true in even a festival church. I can feel it happening. For me it is very real. Surprisingly, Google turns up very little about the… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

I think Simon Jenkins’ article is quite insightful (apart from his desire to see the local churches ‘secularised’ and handed over to ownership outside the Church). I’ve long felt that, as sublime ancient monuments and heritage, the state should finance the maintenance of the fabric of church buildings. We do that for castles, so why not churches too? Where I agree with Simon Jenkins, is in his case for church-community alliances, opening up largely vacant churches to socially-beneficial community use: offering location for day nurseries, health provision, local societies, and social entrepreneurship. (Admittedly, for all these, heating would be a… Read more »

Anne
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Anne

Church Times “But the report was not an all-out criticism of current relationships between the clergy and laity, which were largely healthy, one member of the Task Group, the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, said on Tuesday: rather, it was an opportunity to foster a “culture of change” in the way that the laity were perceived” Interesting that it is a clergy person in the form of Philip North who gets to say that relationships between clergy and laity [are] largely healthy. Not in my experience. How about a lay person offering their perspective? As a lay… Read more »

Pam
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Pam

Thanks, Kate, for your reply. I am guessing that the words of Acts 17:24-29 are not as relevant to you as the temples of the OT. I can well understand the attachment to a place of worship. However, the God we are worshipping hangs out in the unlikeliest of places. And it’s worth going there.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘What’s more important, though, the people or the building?’

In New Testament terms, the people every time. And everything essential to being the church is doable in a living room.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

The Church of England is talking out of both sides of its mouth.

On the one hand we have a report that’s going to say that clergy need to treat laity better.

On the other hand we have the shining example of The Very Rev. Vivienne Faull, Dean of York Minster, who in an excess of management zeal has just axed the Minster’s 30 bell ringers.

Watch what i say, not what I do?

Kate
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Kate

“Thanks, Kate, for your reply. I am guessing that the words of Acts 17:24-29 are not as relevant to you as the temples of the OT. I can well understand the attachment to a place of worship. However, the God we are worshipping hangs out in the unlikeliest of places. And it’s worth going there.” He does. And even in the OT a portable altar sufficed – and I agree even that isn’t necessary. That for me though is separate to the situation where a building has been set aside by dedication or consecration. Once that has happened, I don’t… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“the state should finance the maintenance of the fabric of church buildings. We do that for castles” Actually, we don’t. Most English castles that are still standing are in the care of English Heritage, who are now self-financing from membership and commercial activities. It remains to be seen how this plays out long-term (they inherited a large maintenance deficit which the government have paid) but the days of the national collection being maintained on the books of the Ministry of Works are unlikely to return. The balance are in the hands of the National Trust and of some private owners… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Interested Observer is right and even then most castles maintained by English Heritage are ruinous or part ruinous and have few practical uses other than tourism. In contrast castles like Hever, Lancaster, Arundel, Windsor, Warwick etc which are largely intact remain in private hands or are self-financing. Indeed the reason Buckingham Palace started opening to the public was to pay for the restoration of Windsor Castle after the fire. The better comparison is with country houses. There’s a Wikipedia on the wholesale destruction of English country houses during the 20th century – it’s a tragic loss of our cultural heritage.… Read more »

Steve Lusk
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Steve Lusk

“He that cares not though the material church fall, I am afraid is falling from the spiritual. . . .He that undervalues outward things in the service of God, though he begin at ceremonial and ritual things, will come quickly to call Sacraments but outward things, and hold Sermons and Public Prayer but outward things in contempt. Beloved, outward things apparel God, and since God was content to take a body, let us not leave him naked and ragged.” (John Donne, Sermon CXVII, Christmas Day, 1621)

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“There’s a Wikipedia on the wholesale destruction of English country houses during the 20th century” There’s also probably a PhD in the reasons behind it. Various interests would point variously to universal suffrage, death duties, the the 1937 National Trust Act, the rises in real wages after 1918, the rises in real wages after 1945, the 1944 Education Act, the 1945 Labour government, the ending of overt sex discrimination in access to higher education, the motor car, the end of National Service, reports by Beveridge, Robbins Plowden and uncle Tom Cobley and all, and any number of other societal and… Read more »

Pam
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Pam

I like the John Donne quote and have a book of his sermons and writings, which I haven’t read for some time. I persist (if that is the correct word) in attending public worship, even though I do not regard myself as a ‘churchy’ person. The core of my relationship with God does not depend on ceremony but on honest, and continual, prayer. Wherever that occurs.

Froghole
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Froghole

The remarks of Interested Observer and Kate (both, as always, acute) about English Heritage/Historic England remind me of the fulminations of the late Sheppard Frere (the archaeologist S. S. Frere) in an essay ‘Roman Britain since Haverfield and Richmond’ (History and Archaeology Review, 1988, v. 3, pp. 31-36): “it was one of the great and unforgivable political misjudgements of Michael Heseltine [formerly secretary of state for the environment] to abdicate the State’s responsibility for Ancient Monuments [from the old Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, a quango within the DOE, in 1983]…the passage of responsibility has been a catastrophic disaster…even the… Read more »

Froghole
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Froghole

@ Interested Observer. Many thanks for your latest comments. This site is fairly comprehensive: http://www.lostheritage.org.uk/ The main works on this topic are currently: David Littlejohn, ‘The Fate of the English Country House’ (1997) Peter Mandler, ‘The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home’ (1995); Mandler is currently president of the Royal Historical Society Michael Sawyer, ‘The Disintegration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections, 1979-1992’ (1993) Sir Roy Strong, Marcus Binney and John Harris, ‘The Destruction of the Country House’ (1974) The last book was based on a famous V&A exhibition held in 1974 which alerted the public to… Read more »

David Emmott
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David Emmott

Interested Observer states optimistically, ‘the houses of parliament no longer assumed that what was good for the rich was good for everyone.’ !!! As if!!!

Susannah Clark
Guest

It appears I was incorrect to use castles as an analogy for the state support I believe should be given for the maintenance of churches as buildings of historical importance. And now it’s triggered a conversation on country houses that I did not anticipate! One way or another, our heritage really matters, but specifically referencing churches, I don’t think it’s desirable that they are secularised, even if (as Froghole suggests!) my call for state funding is ‘delusional’! The churches of our land are a deeply embedded witness, in themselves, of the continuity of faith. They are places that bear testimony… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Susannah – we agree! If we let churches go now, they are gone for ever; if we reduce the number of stipends, that affects this generation only. Seems an easy decision to me.

Froghole
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Froghole

Susannah: I am sorry to have strayed onto other topics. We already have a system where aid is provided on an ad-hoc basis, but often in an oblique manner (through the Lottery, for instance). Even this funding seems to provoke the ire of many secularists. Mention has been made of France. The French system was a creature of the loi de separation, under which each commune took title to its parish church, and would then be responsible for its maintenance, the central government taking charge of a number of cathedrals and other prominent churches. Since the communes were (for the… Read more »

Froghole
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Froghole

Continued: Since de facto disestablishment after 1830 the Church has been tolerated by much public opinion in part because it has not, commuted tithe aside, been a charge on the taxpayer. If the Church were to plead against that quid pro quo (especially in view of the substantial assets retained by the Commissioners) there is a risk that the current Church/state settlement might be disrupted. That is why I feel state aid is implausible. However, I too am passionately opposed to closures and the privatization of the stock. Even where church buildings are converted to community centres, it is essential… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest

Froghole: Thank you for the insight. You are incredibly knowledgeable. This is where Thinking Anglicans gets really helpful. Insights like yours (I have no idea what your field is) or Anthony Archer’s on Church appointments. My worry is that we live in a society, much of which seems dazzled by the media, and the latest sound-bites, but which also seems historically myopic, with historical perspective ‘dumbed down’ to the level of Horrible Histories and a few costume dramas on telly. It just seems so obvious that our heritage (regardless of faith or denomination – the same should apply to stone… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

I stayed a few nights a couple of years ago next door to one of the redundant churches on Romney Marsh. Not quite redundant – there is an annual service. In this case it is perfectly understandable that it is not used more regularly: the associated village was destroyed in the Black Death. Until recently there were just two remaining houses and a nearly farm – but a third house was built. The Church is open – or rather everyone knows where to find the key. The feeling is one of waiting. Anticipation that one day, perhaps many years from… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“I believe in supernatural presence and the numinous nature of God.”

Which is fine, but expecting the state to subsidise that is going to be a fruitless struggle.

Cseitz
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Cseitz

In the Essonne pastoral secteur– a rural region — there are three good sized parishes and perhaps another dozen. (We live in the presbytere of the parish in Courances). Three priests have Sunday main service in the three main centers and take an earlier 930 service on a rota so that the others continue at least once a month. The distances from one to the other small village can be only a few kilometers. So it is quite a feat to keep them open. Our commune loves its parish church and would be loathe to let it collapse even if… Read more »

Froghole
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Froghole

Susannah: Thank you for your characteristically kind comments. I (and I am sure many other users of TA) very much appreciate the high calibre and thoughtfulness of your contributions. Kate: I am probably getting carried away with myself on this thread (apologies!). I have attended services at almost every church in Kent as part of a pilgrimage I have been undertaking throughout much of England. The church to which you refer is, of course, Snave, and I did attend an annual service there. As you may know, it was vested in the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust – an organisation… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

Froghole, it is of course Snave and I am not surprised that attendance is thin across the Marsh.

John Swanson
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John Swanson

So, viewed in heritage terms rather than worship terms, how many churches or stately homes do we need to preserve? Is the argument that anything that anyone built more than a few hundred years ago must always be preserved for evermore? Or, in heritage terms, is it sufficient to retain a sufficient sample so that future generations are able to savour and understand their heritage, but only a sample?

Pam
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Pam

John Swanson’s comment caused me to think of the quality and quantity of cultural riches contained within English parish churches. This is religious art which, if lost, would diminish the authenticity of place in English cities and towns. Surely, more than enough reason for government to become involved in preservation. This is not just about the temple but the heritage of the whole nation. (This comment from a dinky-di Aussie).

Froghole
Guest
Froghole

@John Swanson: Leaving aside the principle articulated in the prayer of ‘St Chrysostom’, I think that the question you pose is best stated as “how many churches do we need relative to the current and projected numbers of professing Anglicans?” I have now attended services at more than three thousand parish, collegiate, cathedral churches and chapels across more than thirty dioceses. Not all of the services I have attended are representative of the ‘health’ of any given Christian community. However, I have attended quite enough main Sunday services in inner cities, suburbs and the countryside to come to the conclusion… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

“So, viewed in heritage terms rather than worship terms, how many churches or stately homes do we need to preserve? Is the argument that anything that anyone built more than a few hundred years ago must always be preserved for evermore?” You must have heard an archaeologist’s tirade against metal detectorists and how removing items from their context, without fully recording it, destroys much of the historical value of the objects. So the same applies, I suggest, to historic buildings. If they are fully recovered with a laser scan then maybe they don’t all need to be retained but otherwise… Read more »

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

“So the same applies, I suggest, to historic buildings. If they are fully recovered with a laser scan then maybe they don’t all need to be retained but otherwise they are all valuable” In order for a building to get to being 200 years old, it has to pass through being 50 years old. Your logic appears to be that no building should be demolished, because it might be interesting later. So (for example) cities which are centres of former car manufacturing should leave all the factories, empty, unused, no jobs, maintained from public funds, just in case industrial archaeologists… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Listed building criteria for England and Wales address this point…

“All buildings erected before 1700 that “contain a significant proportion of their original fabric” will be listed. Most buildings built between 1700 and 1840 are listed. After 1840 more selection is exercised and “particularly careful selection” is applied after 1945.”