Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 5 May 2018

Martin Sewell Archbishop Cranmer Why is the General Synod of the Church of England so poor at holding Bishops to account?

Andy Salmon Are the Evangelicals taking over the Church of England? Only if the rest of the Church give up!

James Alexander Cameron Stained Glass Attitudes Why are some churches locked?

Robert Beaken Church Times It is time to rethink the purpose of godparents
“Canon law is out of step with parish reality”

Sam Wells Church Times What does it mean to be a godparent? Singing God’s song when your godchild forgets how it goes
“In his introduction to a collection of letters written to his son by Stanley Hauerwas, his son’s godfather, Sam Wells, reflects on what it means to be a godparent”

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Kate
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Kate

I find it very sad when churches are locked. Allowing people in only for services (or worse charging for entry) is for me a failure to understand how central universal and unrestricted access to the Presence of God and to his altars is to Christianity. I understand all the practical challenges and the risk to things we regard as costly or precious. The “sensible” thing is often to lock churches at night or even during the day. But Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey wasn’t sensible. He didn’t just risk something utterly precious (his life) but knew it would… Read more »

andy gr
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andy gr

My only caution is that some churches in isolated situations don’t have offices, and therefore staff members sometimes work in them on their own (whether youthworkers, administrators, musicians or others) – it’s important that these people are not, or do not feel, unsafe.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Martin Sewell’s piece put into perspective for me the puzzling fact that lack of CDM statistics from York had not been questioned at Synod. I hope the oversight will be put right in July; judging by Martin’s article, it will be.

But the response to my request for my clergy file from York doesn’t lead me to hope that much transparency will be the result. Synod have got a job on their hands – and may the Lord give them strength, courage, and persistence.

Kate
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Kate

“My only caution is that some churches in isolated situations don’t have offices, and therefore staff members sometimes work in them on their own (whether youthworkers, administrators, musicians or others) – it’s important that these people are not, or do not feel, unsafe.”

Oh how far Christianity has come. By repute (although admittedly the historical facts might not support it), almost all the Disciples were martyred; now we worry about people feeling unsafe because a door is unlocked.

Another FrDavid
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Another FrDavid

Why are some churches locked? Because if they weren’t they would not be there. How is locking a church building equivalent to denying people access to the Presence of God? Since when was God confined within four walls and a roof? I kept my first parish church in a very deprived and troubled community open between Morning and Evening Prayer. We had regular, minor vandalism and theft but we accepted it until one day coming in for Evening Prayer discovered damage and sacrilege I can’t describe politely. We came close to closure through the cost of the repairs and clean… Read more »

David Keen
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David Keen

Andy Salmon’s piece is much more worthy of wide circulation than the one that inspired it. Jesus intended his message to spread and gain followers, the disciples were specifically commissioned to carry this out, and the closing words of 3 of the gospels clearly reinforce it. The CofE is in many places more at home in the closing words of Mark “they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Long ago I was a colleague of Andy Salmon’s in inner city Salford, and sometimes took services for him. One morning I turned up at St. Ambrose and commented on the smell of burning. Overnight someone had pushed a wheelie bin against the rear door and set it on fire. What would have happened if they could have pushed the wheelie bin inside? The damage would have been much more extensive and the church might have been destroyed completely. There would have been no service that morning. My next job took me to a very troubled Manchester overspill estate, where… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

“Because if they weren’t they would not be there. How is locking a church building equivalent to denying people access to the Presence of God?” I am Anglo Catholic by training and inclination. Like many from that tradition I will always bow to the main altar of a church on entry and usually whenever I cross the centre line. I am also likely to bow to side altars. I do it because I can feel the Presence. God is everywhere but in some places the veil between human and divine is more porous. Many Anglo-Catholics believe in the real Presence… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

“Would you leave your front door open so that anyone could help themselves to your things, or make it uninhabitable for you because Jesus had nowhere to lay his head so it must the thing to do?”

My view is that you should not dedicate/consecrate/bless an altar/church unless you are prepared to meet the full responsibilities of that action which includes allowing open access.

Michael Skliros
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Michael Skliros

Critics of Angela Tilby’s deploring of the ‘evangelical takeover’ need reminding of her comment some time ago, to the effect: “C of E . . doing a great job . . food banks . . good schools . . visiting sick . . building community . .”, though ending “but is it all *TRUE*?” My take is that it’s because evangelicals are not proclaiming the truth that she is critical. That’s not to doubt for one millisecond their energy, devotion and sincerity, but it may need some unpacking. Today, there are only two recognised ‘wings’ of the C of E:… Read more »

Bernard Silverman
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Bernard Silverman

I’m interested in Martin Sewell’s piece. Synod is a bit cognate to Parliament, and the ABC to a Minister (or perhaps the Prime Minister), so if I may pursue the analogy a bit further: 1. Parliamentary questions are only part of the way that Ministers are held to account. There is also freedom of information legislation. So before asking a PQ, an MP will often have done a lot of homework and will know exactly what question to ask. Now, for good or ill the C of E is not subject to FOI, but wouldn’t it be good if they… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

“We are custodians of our churches and responsible for ensuring, as far as possible, that they are available when needed. It’s very sad that that means they often can’t be kept open and unattended, but that’s the reality.”

Then when you lock the church, move the altar to the porch and leave that unlocked.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

‘Then when you lock the church, move the altar to the porch and leave that unlocked.’

Kate, that assumes a) that every church has a porch, and b) that every church has an altar that can easily be moved by whatever (possibly elderly) warden, sacristan, or priest who turns up to prepare the church for any service.

And even then, you’d have to be prepared to find knickers and used condoms on top of it; and joints, takeaway remains and broken bottles around it – if it hadn’t been torched.

Kate
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Kate

“Kate, that assumes a) that every church has a porch, and b) that every church has an altar that can easily be moved by whatever (possibly elderly) warden, sacristan, or priest who turns up to prepare the church for any service.” You are raising practical objections to something which should be a matter of theology. In the Old Testament only the High Priest come come into the Presence – the Holy of Holies and only once a year. Christ changed that. He walked among us. The Eucharist and the Spirit extend that Presence to all of us. It’s one of… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Dear Kate, any one who calls themselves Anglo-Catholic – in my long experience – would never doubt the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist – whether on the altar or Reserved in appropriate places. Needless to say, this does not guarantee freedom from acts of desecration or burglary if an unattended church building is left unlocked.

The living Jesus was not immune to acts of violence when among us in his Incarnate life, so why should his presence in the Sacrament be any different?

Kate
Guest
Kate

I don’t doubt the Presence during the Eucharist – I only am unsure about reserved host. I am told it retains the Presence, and presume it does, but without touching I think it would be wrong for me to offer personal testimony. But, anyway, I was taught that although the sacraments can be assaulted, the Presence protects them from desecration. “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty”. By the Creed, the Presence in the Eucharist is almighty, omnipotent, inviolate. And I genuinely do not get why people on this thread believe the Presence to be some fragile thing. And… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘Locking churches so that the minister can use them for services but not everyone else whenever they want, rolls back those changes that Christ brought it.’

Churches are not essential to Christianity. for our first three centuries we largely did without them. This did not stop people experiencing the presence of Christ in their hearts, and in their gatherings in living rooms and other places. That was another thing Christ changed. Because of him, every place is a holy place.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Kate, Christ is indeed present in the Eucharist – but he is not confined to it. He is available to all of us, everywhere, all the time. St. Paul talks about Christ being formed in us; he also said that ‘in him we live and move and have our being’. St. Peter, after his vision of being told to eat ‘unclean’ foods, went to Jaffa and preached to the Gentiles there, and they were filled by the Holy Spirit. They weren’t in a place of worship at the time; they were in a private home. No one is prevented from… Read more »

NJ
Guest
NJ

Kate, You seem to want to have your cake and eat it. Your argument for the special nature of Presence at the altar and in consecrated buildings is an Old Covenant argument. In your latest comment you observe some of the changes Christ brought, but stop short. In the New Covenant Christ redeems the curse on the earth in Genesis 3 so rather than nowhere being a holy place (the common evangelical mistake) the whole world becomes holy to the Lord. But in that case the bookies’ shop is just as much a place of the Presence of Christ as… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Guest

The church porch and the bookies might become homes for machines dispensing the consecrated elements. Like candle stands where the “candle” comes on when you put money in the slot. It’s always struck me that people who need the sacrament daily must either be extraordinarily wicked to require so frequent a spiritual top-up, or have uncommonly strong digestive juices that dispense with the body and blood so soon after ingestion.

John Bunyan
Guest
John Bunyan

I am not a daily communicant nor these days even a weekly one (Matins, derived ultimately from our Lord’s other own – synagogue – service, a personal favourite), but Stanley Monkhouse’s comments I think are rather offensive. And I should just complement Kate’s comment by noting that Jesus and his early Christian Jewish followers worshipped in the Temple as well as attending the synagogue, and that one of our Homilies is about the need for great reverence in what it calls the “house of God” and “temple of the Lord”.

Kate
Guest
Kate

«Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”» Yes, God is omnipresent, but who here can see Him? Jesus understood that allowing Thomas to *experience* the reality of his risen body was experientially different to omnipresence. Similarly the real presence in the Eucharist is experientially different to omnipresence. A metaphor might be that the omnipresent God is 4 dimensions but in the Eucharist, He, as Christ, is projected onto 3 dimensions so that we can apprehend Him. The point, however, is that… Read more »

Richard
Guest
Richard

Stanley Monkhouse, Re: “People who need the sacrament daily” — what is the optimal dosage? Christmas & Easter?; once a month?; every Sunday?; daily? Is it a “need”? A longing? A comfort?

Kate
Guest
Kate

Just to be clear I am mainly talking about the Biblical exhortation to “draw nigh to God” by physically approaching the reserved host or altar. Putting aside our own convenience is a fundamental of offering welcome. Telling people they can only approach the Presence of God at convenient times is NOT Christian welcome. Put another way, how would we feel if we prayed to God and He replied, “I am resting now but if you come back on Tuesday at 6pm I can fit you in”? But people should be able to partake of the host too if they think… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘Similarly the real presence in the Eucharist is experientially different to omnipresence.’ Well since we’re talking about experience, I have been a praying Christian for forty-six years. I have experienced the sense of the presence of God in times of prayer and worship (alone and in company of others). I have experienced ‘my heart burning within me’ (as the Emmaus story puts it) when the scriptures are opened up to me. I have experienced the closeness and majesty of God hiking in the mountains and under the vastness of a prairie sky. None of these experiences have been in any… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Kate, God is always available and isn’t limited to the consecrated host, as I said earlier. We can come into his presence anytime, anywhere we want to. Nor are the doctrinal objections based on the minister as gatekeeper, as I also said earlier. Holy Communion is supposed to be shared with other believers, and taken part in only after careful and thoughtful preparation. That’s why we embed it in a service which includes opportunities for confession, absolution, and hearing the Word of God. You may not agree with this doctrine, but it is a proudly scriptural one. It’s present in… Read more »

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

Just to be pragmatic, what about when someone is looking for a quiet space just to think/be/pray/come close to God/find some peace. If the church is locked what would people suggest? (It is an effort to track down keyholders for something that might be spur of the moment)

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer
Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Sarah, outside the church (churchyard, garden porch) might be a possibility. Or another outside space such as a park or garden, or garden shed. Or take a long bath (very good for quiet reflection). Public library if you still have one. Sit in a parked car, preferably with a view if you can find one. Museums are often quiet.

I’ve done all these.

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

IO, the link doesn’t work. Can you re-post the link?

ED: Link included in next TA article.

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

Janet, I’ve done quite a few of these as well, and many of them work for me (not sure about the public library!). However I would choose an open church over all of them. I think my own take is that so many people I know are looking for that kind of space and it is something that would be good for the church to offer. Even if it’s only occasionally with the church open and manned…

Kate
Guest
Kate

I really feel strongly about this. Had the local priory church not been open after school, I would probably have committed suicide decades ago. In times of crisis, I am sure that I am not alone in needing an open church. I wonder how many lives these locked churches cost?

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

Kate I’m sorry to hear t hat you had such a difficult time as a child, and so glad you could find an open church when you needed one.

I have a friend whose life was saved by his being accidentally locked into a church.

Ideally most churches could be kept open at least part of the time, with a couple of people keeping watch if need be. Sadly it isn’t always possible.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Re. Andy Salmon’s piece, I find it interesting that while some are calling ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ an evangelical takeover plot, my Twitter feed is full of people praying it with icons, rosaries, candles, and crucifixes…!!!