Thinking Anglicans

More about musicians and St Sepulchre

The Church Times today has a major comment article about this by the former director of music there, Andrew Earis: A dream that is dying in Holborn. Do read it all.

But it includes this:

…from early on, there were seeds of anxiety. In particular, there was unease regarding those music groups and concerts that, up to this point, had been welcomed with open arms, but were now being seen as less acceptable, owing to the new leadership’s interpretation of Chris­­tian teaching…

Another fact that has recently emerged is that among the musical groups which regularly use the church is this one: London Gay Symphony Orchestra.

Lorraine Cavanagh wrote this: If music be the food of love…

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JeremycryptogramWill RichardsCynthiaJames Byron Recent comment authors
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Stanley Monkhouse
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Surely the best thing is to do nothing. Let the beast show its true colours. Let consequences roll. If necessary, let another church be declared the Musicians’ Church. I wish one of mine could be – they’d be welcomed with open arms, hugs and kisses from me. Trouble is that Burton is a long way from London travel zones 1 and 2, though my wife tells me there are some good coffee shops (I’m a tea drinker).

James Byron
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James Byron

Which “beast”? This is, by most accounts, a scheduling screw-up by a new leadership team still finding their feet, one that’s relatively easy to fix. What possible good can come of allowing what could be a small misunderstanding soon gotten past to spiral out of control, creating resentment and recriminations that help no-one?

Cynthia
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Cynthia

Though I’m a hardcore, professional musician, I’ve been reserving commentary on this situation. I confess, I have wondered if part of the issue is that classical musicians tend to be liberal and probably more gay than the general population. Sadly, the article by Andrew Earis seems to confirm that homophobia plays some role here. Finally, I agree with Cavanagh’s description of this as spiritual “violence” and “colonisation.” After that, she loses me. I’m not sure that bad musicians playing bad music aren’t also serving, or trying to. Some music is better theology than others, to be sure. But I’d be… Read more »

Xas
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Xas

Perhaps no one should be surprised. The best that can be said is that at least it is an open declaration on the part of the vicar and the PCC that if you don’t subscribe (fully) to their views of what constitutes being a Christian then you are out. It ought to be a warning to other churches who may be considering a ‘partnership’ with HTB that in the end you will be forced out. It may be slowly, it may be with expressions of regret, it may be with apparently ‘good’ intentions or necessity but out you will go… Read more »

Bernard
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Bernard

To return directly to the issue in hand, the question is whether Xas or James Byron is right. Sadly the evidence suggests that it’s Xas. A pity, because the physical needs of HTB-ers and professional and amateur musicians aren’t altogether different–comfortable temperatures and no draughts, convenient and flexible seating, good lighting….

Richard Jones
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Richard Jones

“Surely the best thing is to do nothing” @Stanley Monkhouse. Yes, of course, it would be (relatively) easy to find another “Musicians’ Church” but why should they? Moving somewhere else would be making a profoundly disturbing statement. Does the history, the memories, and the accumulated worshipping experience of St Sepulchre’s, and its physical location, mean nothing? To the HTB plant it probably doesn’t, if they hold to a narrowly functional view of ‘sacred’ space. Have these so-called evangelicals actually read any Walter Brueggemann, for example, with his compelling recovery of the biblical roots of a theology of space, with an… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Xas may be right, Bernard, though I’m not sure what evidence there is that the HTB plant’s intent on driving out people unwilling to sign up to a narrow statement of faith. All I’ve seen stated in reports is that they want the space for church activities.

There’s a lotta assumptions at work, assumptions I may be inclined to share, but which can only fuel division. Example: an article inferring homophobia ’cause some musicians affected are gay.

If this is bigotry, not incompetence, I’d be first to condemn it, but why not wait until the facts are properly known?

Fr Andrew
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Fr Andrew

The October edition of the BBC Music magazine (published on Friday) has *two* articles about the St Sepulchre fiasco. Suffice to say neither are complementary about the HTB brand. Great PR for Auntie Canterbury.

Given that the free rein HTB is given to church plant (then destroy) must at least partly down to their financial clout, it’s rather piquant that St Sepulchre’s line in the Oranges and Lemons nursery rhyme is “When will you pay me?”

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Bigotry has no place in the Church of England – especially where it openness to ALL people is being threatened. Holy Sepulchre’s mission to the outside world – through its musical heritage – is an important link with an art form that has long been cherished by Christians throughout the world.

Will Richards
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Will Richards

@James Byron says this is just a little misunderstanding over scheduling and that he has seen nothing in any ‘report’ to suggest that this particular HTB plant is an exclusive and sectarian tribe that is determined to exclude those who are on the wrong side of their biblicist purity laws. Really? I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

David Runcorn
Guest

Will Richards Do you have any actual evidence for your claim? I am inclined to go with James.

Bernard
Guest
Bernard

James—given that they bill themselves as “The Musicians ‘ Church” can you explain in what way the musical events are not “church activities”? If this had been a simple mistake one would have expected an explicit reversal and apology within 24 hours. As it is, the evidence in favour of Xas’s view continues to build up. The timing of all this, after Bishop Chatres’ retirement, suggests they have been biding their time for this coup. If I’m wrong, then one way forward would be to balance the PCC by coopting a good number of amateur and professional musicians of the… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

Will, I’ve seen what’s relayed in the statement from St. Sepulchre leadership:-

“An increasingly busy programme of worship and church activities has led to ever higher demands on the church space, and the hire space is also shared with the church administration office.”*

Now, I’m more than willing to believe any ulterior motive you care to name. Nothing the church does would surprise me, which is why I’m regularly criticized for my so-called cynicism (which unfortunately has the habit of happening). But before I do, I would like some evidence. Beyond speculation and extremely loose inference, what is there?

* https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/23/uks-leading-musicians-fight-church-ban-on-secular-bookings-aled-jones-judith-weir

Iain McLean
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Iain McLean

James – the evidence is in the Earis article, as pointed out by Cynthia above. And note that Earis is named in the church’s statement as one of those involved in sorting this out. Odd.

Will Richards
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Will Richards

@James Byron asks ‘What else is there?’ when I questioned his apparent naivety over the debacle at St Sepulchre’s. James, have you read Andrew Earis’s piece in last Friday’s Church Times? It makes pretty disturbing reading, from someone who is not only an experienced professional musician, director of music at another notable London church and a BBC producer; but who has been personally and persistently involved in the ‘transition’ at St Sepulchre’s from the very beginning. Surely, Dr Earis’s perspective, which includes the observation that “those music groups and concerts that, up to this point, had been welcomed with open… Read more »

James Byron
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James Byron

I’ve of course read Earis’ article, but in case I’d missed anything, I’ve read it again, and haven’t been able to find any substantive allegations against the new team, let alone evidence to back them up. The reason given is the reason given in the ‘Guardian’ piece: “the church leadership explained that the current changes are to make space for an expanded programme of worship and church activities.” Moreover, some of Earis’ other complaints — that rebranding the Henry Wood room a 24/7 prayer room, and holding youth football on the premises are “deeply unfaithful to the legacy and history… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

I’m a professional musician, speaking out is a really big deal. I don’t believe that Earis would not have said anything if it wasn’t absolutely true. If anything, I suspect it is purposefully understated. The shift in policy was heavy handed. And certainly a shock to the ongoing members who loved the musical mission. Music is ministry. Even non liturgical music is. I could go on forever about that, and cite my Witness teaching music in Haiti, and in the US on 9/11, and conducting Shostakovich on inauguration weekend (of DT). The way St. Sepulchre’s did this is a spiritual… Read more »

Will Richards
Guest
Will Richards

@ James Byron, so “those music groups and concerts that, up to this point, had been welcomed with open arms… were now being seen as less acceptable owing to the new leadership’s interpretation of Christian teaching” is not making a substantive point about the HTB plant’s sectarian leadership? Obviously, I am so wide of the mark that black is obviously white.

cryptogram
Guest
cryptogram

Between the pages of a second hand book bought more than 60 years ago were some newspaper cuttings, among the two from the Times of 27 April 1946, giving details and two photographs of the dedication of the Henry Wood memorial at St Sepulchre’s, Holborn Viaduct. The window was unveiled by the Lord Mayor, dedicated by the Vicar, and an address was given by Lord Chancellor Jowitt. The choirs of St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey sang, as did the BBC Chorus, and an orchestra was drawn from members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra, and were… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Revd Ingall was quoted thus in yesterday’s Guardian:

“The decision to stop renting out space to musicians had not been easy, Ingall said, but added: “We have been conscious of the challenges of using a space dedicated to worship for non-religious hiring.”

So I think the issue here is not logistical, but rather theological. Which means that the “challenges” mentioned are self-created. It seems to come down to purity concerns and virtue signaling.