Friday, 1 September 2017

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…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 1 September 2017 at 2:10pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

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).

Posted by: Stanley Monkhouse on Friday, 1 September 2017 at 3:36pm BST

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?

Posted by: James Byron on Friday, 1 September 2017 at 5:25pm BST

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 loathe to completely write off whole genres. After all, Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is sacred and amazing theology, though not liturgical, and not the Hallelujah of Handel.

Posted by: Cynthia on Friday, 1 September 2017 at 5:51pm BST

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 one way or another. There is no room for alternative views on Christianity either in the(ir) church nor in the Kingdom of God.

Dr Earis has raised valid points that need to be taken seriously. It is to his credit that he has spoken out and brought the matter to our attention. He will doubtless incur the wrath of the those who believe that the charismatic, evangelical way of being a Christian is the only way. Perhaps now we will watch the ambitions of HTB and others with more care than hitherto.

Posted by: Xas on Saturday, 2 September 2017 at 10:16am BST

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....

Posted by: Bernard on Saturday, 2 September 2017 at 9:16pm BST

"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 emphasis on land, temple and pilgrimage?

The HTB people must come out of their comfortable, self-assured bubble and engage with a wider theological and ecclesiological perspective. They must be told, whether by those to whom they owe canonical obedience, or by the musical community at large, that St Sepulchre's is not their property to do precisely what they like with, and from which they can exclude anyone whose face - and faith - doesn't fit. They need to be told that the Church of England is not an exclusive sect: it's the national Church and serves everyone. Presumably, someone there has taken the 'necessary oaths' prior to being granted the Bishop of London's licence? Was he (and I guess it's he) calculatedly lying?

This is not going to go away, and it's fascinating to see how HTB are really not up to engaging constructively, generously and imaginatively when challenged by people who have a much broader understanding and experience of Anglican Christianity than they have.

Posted by: Richard Jones on Sunday, 3 September 2017 at 1:49pm BST

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?

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 3 September 2017 at 3:09pm BST

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?"

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Sunday, 3 September 2017 at 8:51pm BST

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.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 4 September 2017 at 1:59am BST

@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.

Posted by: Will Richards on Monday, 4 September 2017 at 8:58am BST

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

Posted by: David Runcorn on Monday, 4 September 2017 at 10:35am BST

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 kind who have traditionally used the church.

Posted by: Bernard on Monday, 4 September 2017 at 12:38pm BST

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?


Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 4 September 2017 at 2:21pm BST

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.

Posted by: Iain McLean on Tuesday, 5 September 2017 at 9:58am BST

@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 arms... were now being seen as less acceptable owing to the new leadership's interpretation of Christian teaching" leaves me (and quite a lot of others) in no doubt that this is rather more than the "scheduling screw-up" you would like us to believe it is. In the light of this, I hope you will also understand why I stand by my view that what is happening at St Sepulchre's is blatant sectarianism - and is deeply at odds with a generous Anglican vision of mission. I hope +Pete Broadbent is making (or will make) that point to the leadership at St Sepulchre's with considerable vigour.

Posted by: Will Richards on Tuesday, 5 September 2017 at 10:23am BST

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 that had been inherited" -- point to a brand of traditionalism that may be coloring his judgment.

As I said, I'm willing to believe anything, but not on the basis of innuendo and assumption. Proceeding on those really would be naive.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 5 September 2017 at 2:36pm BST

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 violence.

Posted by: Cynthia on Wednesday, 6 September 2017 at 5:52am BST

@ 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.

Posted by: Will Richards on Wednesday, 6 September 2017 at 7:45am BST

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 conducted by Basil Cameron. The list of the great and good in attendance is itself fascinating. The photographs show the window in detail, and a view of the congregation.
As is so often the case, the cutting of the service details has an extraordinarily interesting story on the reverse - an account of Julius Streicher opening his defence at the Nuremburg Trials.

Posted by: cryptogram on Wednesday, 6 September 2017 at 3:48pm BST

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.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 29 September 2017 at 1:07pm BST
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