Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 17 June 2017

Anne Richards writes about the Mystery Worshipper feature in Ship of Fools: Getting a visitors’ eye-view of church
“How can churches welcome people so they don’t end up feeling invisible and lonely?”

Ted Harrison reports for Church Times from a 100-year-old Anglican community in the tea plantations of Sri Lanka: The cost of a cup of tea

The Episcopal Café is up and running again so this article is now available: George Clifford For such a time as this… an electronic prayer book?

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Pat O'NeillMary HancockSimon KershawCynthiaJim Pratt Recent comment authors
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Susannah Clark
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First responses to the Grenfell Tower tragedy include:

The Bishop of Willesden (and acting bishop of London):
https://www.london.anglican.org/articles/grenfell-tower-fire-ad-clerum/

The Bishop of Ely:
http://www.elydiocese.org//article?id=2225

Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster:
http://rcdow.org.uk/cardinal/news/cardinal-vincent-offers-prayers-for-victims-of-grenfell-tower-fire/

Pope Francis:
http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/Home/News/Pope-Grenfell-Fire

This a terrible human tragedy, and also a profound and challenging reflection on the kind of society we live in.

Simon R
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Simon R

Anne Richards’ piece is interesting for all kinds of reasons: not least that the C of E’s National Adviser in Theology and Mission assumes that, primarily, everyone wants to belong to a ‘friendly’ and ‘welcoming’ church. I am one of many who do not. When I go to church I want to worship; and, primarily, have a transforming encounter with the living God. That is the foundation for all ‘mission’ and ‘theology’ and those churches that invest seriously in this aspect of their life are the ones that seem to be growing. I won’t bang-on about cathedrals, because I find… Read more »

Fr DavidH
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Fr DavidH

As a retired priest with PTO, it is my joy and privilege to occasionally lead worship at a nearby Church where I always receive a warm welcome. People are particularly pleasant when I shake their hands on their way out after mass. On the weeks when I am not officiating, the same people hardly speak to me! It is useful as an ordinary worshipper to experience how non-clergy are sometimes treated, and to feel unwanted and ignored.

Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

Thank you, Simon R. I thought I was alone in thinking like this. I absolutely hate going to churches and having faux hospitality imposed on me – usually by the clergy – only to be left at the mercy of the ‘regulars’ who are not in the least bit interested in anyone but themselves. If only churches would get back to what they are there for, and make ‘doing business with God’ their priority. Come to think of it, I am almost tempted to start a campaign to stop coffee after services. It would be interesting to see where (in… Read more »

David Rowett
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David Rowett

I confess to being rather unpopular when I suggested that Compulsory Instant Coffee and Digestive Biscuits after the united Holy Week Services here rather detracted from what we were supposed to be doing. Mandatory Fellowship doesn’t do it for lots of people, and for all sorts of good reasons.

Father David
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Father David

At present I am on Sabbatical leave and so I have a rare opportunity to visit and worship at other churches. My experience, to date, indicates that I receive an enthusiastic reception at The Peace but once the service is over – NOTHING!

Interested Observer
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Interested Observer

A Ship of Fools mystery worshipper happened to write about a service I had been present at. It was one of the more notorious put-downs, and sparked a lengthy debate on their forums, from people who knew the minister in question better than I do. The service was, indeed, something a car-crash, with an attempt to do something a little different foundering on the conservatism of the aged congregation and if we are honest, the basic idea being a bit rubbish and an experiment not to be repeated. However, I suspect that the writer’s sympathies were more formal that the… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Interesting to see people’s perspective on being “welcomed” and “staying for coffee”. The Church is surely (amongst some other things) a social gathering, using the word “social” in a rather technical sense. It’s about hospitality and relationships and forgiving each other; it’s about breaking bread together and recognising the presence of Christ — and together becoming the body of Christ, built up and strengthened by the Spirit and by each other as a generous community of people trying to live in God’s kingdom where not only is there reconciliation and social justice but also food for everyone, physical and spiritual.… Read more »

Mary Clara
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Mary Clara

Our TEC congregation, after the main Sunday service, serves real coffee (plus decaf and hot water for tea), cold drinks in the summer, and usually much more than biscuits to go with the beverages. Different committees and ministries take turns supplying and serving the food, which may include cheese and crackers, sandwiches, fresh fruits, savory treats such as chips and salsa, spanakopita or samosas, as well as cookies, cakes, pastries and other sweet things. One family regularly (about once a month) prepares and serves a complete hot lunch as their gift to the community. Nobody is pressured to attend, but… Read more »

David Hunter
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David Hunter

“It’s about hospitality and relationships” @ Simon Kershaw. Really? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together, famously insisted that, when the community comes to worship, before anyone else, it is the risen Christ who is to be greeted. Surely, the purpose of worship is to be brought into the presence of the living God, and to be nourished by word and sacrament (not coffee and biscuits). Too much emphasis on ‘me and my friends’ is what makes worship a travesty. And it is no surprise that the consequent so-called ‘hospitality’ after worship is so dysfunctional in many churches. I am one of… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

The problem isn’t tea and coffee afterwards but that the Eucharistic rite focuses on the celebrant and not upon real communion. The essence of communion is absent.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

David Hunter: Thanks, I wrote “breaking bread together and recognising the presence of Christ” and you wrote “the risen Christ who is to be greeted” and that we are “to be nourished by word and sacrament”. Sounds like quite a lot in common, and I certainly don’t suggest that “coffee and biscuits” replaces this, or indeed that this socialising and making friends in a cosy club is the be-all and end-all of the Church’s mission (or anything close). The gospel is much more radical than that, challenging us to work for reconciliation and social justice for all people — the… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

As others have noted, perhaps it’s a question of differences in US and UK style, but I have never felt that having a period of fellowship and greeting after the service (and in our parish, we also do it BEFORE service once a month) in any way detracts from the service itself. If the only time you greet your fellow worshippers is during the peace, then I don’t think much of the “community” you are in. Yes, there are those who prefer to be more private in their worship…and no one’s forcing them to stick around (or come early) to… Read more »

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

“The C of E’s descent into congregationalism”. This is due to many factors. It would be worth teasing them out.

Mary Clara
Guest
Mary Clara

Further to my post upthread: Most of us throughout the week are working or studying in settings where there is no recognition of the principle that we are all made in the image of God and that we should seek and serve Christ in all we meet. During the Eucharistic service we are not only instructed about that theological principle but immersed in the experience of it. Proceeding directly to the parish hall after the service to share coffee and food, the experience is still fresh, we haven’t had time yet to put up defenses against the reality of our… Read more »

Jim Pratt
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Jim Pratt

I tend to agree with Simon R, that my primary reason for attending church (as opposed to presiding or being present out of obligation) is for an “encounter with the living God”, for which the liturgy, music and preaching are essential components. However, I find a wonderful liturgy can be undone by the attitudes and conduct of the people — snooty ushers, regulars who glare when you sit in “their” pew or look down their noses at your appearance, or an overly saccharine and insincere welcome. The people too are part of the encounter with the living God.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

Hospitality is a major theme of both the OT and the NT. Most of the theologians that I’ve read come to the conclusion that we work out our salvation in community. I love the biscuits and generally take the tea over the instant coffee. Perhaps this is not part of everyone’s belief system, but we are the Body of Christ and we are his hands and feet in the world. We encounter the Risen Christ in one another, in sharing, in works, and yes, in the poor. I suppose this can play out in many ways, but I find that… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

A quick sidenote:

Why the constant references to instant coffee? Can’t anyone brew real coffee in the UK?

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Re coffee: my experience growing up in the UK in the 1960s and 70s is that real coffee was extremely rare in this nation of tea-drinkers. “Cona” filter coffee could be found in cafes and some other places. Churches and the like would invariably serve instant coffee, Nescafe if you were lucky (until they were boycotted over formula milk), cheaper brands if you were unlucky. Or stewed / over-brewed tea. I’ve brewed my own coffee since acquiring a Cona machine in 1980, but decent real coffee did not become more widely available until the last 20 years, co-inciding with the… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Serious question, in response to this hospitality discussion. Is the kingdom of God about personal spirituality, or is it about changing the world?

(Possible answers: one, the other, both, neither. Hopefully not “neither”.)

Mary Hancock
Guest
Mary Hancock

Many years ago I was given a fridge magnet that reads ‘Life is too short for bad wine’ – a sentiment I also apply to coffee. Thankfully the two churches I look after who regularly provide coffee after the service, or during Café Church, provide real coffee. The beer and cider aren’t bad either!
I can’t say much about the other magnet given at the same time: ‘If you can’t be a good example, you better be a bad warning’.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Serious response:

If the kingdom of God is only about “personal spirituality,” then what’s the point to evangelism at all?