Thursday, 28 September 2017

Statement re St Sepulchre from Bishop Pete Broadbent, Acting Bishop of London

Updated Friday

We reported on the row over the policies of the Church of St Sepulchre Holborn, in London, here and here. Today the Acting Bishop of London has issued a statement on this particular matter and the more general issue of booking space for musicians. The full statement is copied below the fold, but here are two extracts:

Major flagship concerts and rehearsals in preparation for these concerts will still take place at St Sepulchre, and the PCC is developing a wider programme of music which they will be announcing soon. I am pleased a new album from their choir will also be released shortly.

and

The Diocese has a role to play in facilitating and encouraging stronger relationships between the Church in London and the musical community, including making it easier for musicians to access rehearsal and concert space. The wide coverage of these matters has convinced me that we need to improve access to churches which are willing and able to provide such space. So, as from 1 November, we shall be launching a website – www.musicianschurch.org – that will provide easy access to hire space and booking options for musicians in London, as well as be used as a tool to promote concerts and events. I do hope this will also allow us to help support and encourage new musicians, as they form ensembles, and bring together family, friends and the wider public to enjoy the creativity and celebration of God-given musical talent.

I am confident that these steps, along with a clearer programme of activities at St Sepulchre, will start to rebuild confidence in our partnerships and focus our minds on growth. Growth in the work of the church, growth in the use of our buildings, and growth in the music performed in our churches.

Update

The rector of St Sepulchre’s has issued this undated statement about music on behalf of the PCC. Since it refers to the above statement it must have been issued today (Thursday).

Press reports

Church Times The ‘Musicians’ Church’ goes virtual as St Sepulchre’s sticks to its guns

Harriet Sherwood The Guardian London church rebuffs bishop’s efforts to get it to remain concert venue

Statement re St Sepulchre from Bishop Pete Broadbent, Acting Bishop of London

There has been much discussion in recent weeks about St Sepulchre, in the City of London, and its recent decision to suspend its external hire programme.

I am grateful to the Rector and PCC of St Sepulchre for being willing to engage with me and other diocesan colleagues about their decision. In that engagement I have repeated and re-inforced the role the Church of England plays in the communities it serves. The Church of England is called to be a welcoming, inclusive, and engaging church. I have re-emphasised the importance of this to all those at St Sepulchre.

In the Diocese and particularly in the City of London, serving our communities is central to the life of the Church. We are proud that our own work and partnerships, whether it be with youth based charities, heritage bodies, 12-step groups, international communities, homeless agencies, mental health, counselling, and legal advice, really do impact on, and change lives. Innovative use of our buildings, aided by a great network of volunteers enable these activities to happen. It is these ‘Partnerships in the Gospel’ that help define the Church in London today. We are proud of proclaiming afresh the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and proud of serving our communities, and demonstrating through that service our love of God and neighbour.

I recognise that the hiring of space in churches, and in particular providing space for musicians to rehearse and perform, need to be balanced with all the activity that a parish and community wants and needs to take place. It is sometimes not an easy balance to strike.

Major flagship concerts and rehearsals in preparation for these concerts will still take place at St Sepulchre, and the PCC is developing a wider programme of music which they will be announcing soon. I am pleased a new album from their choir will also be released shortly.

Across the City Churches, we have many places of worship with a wide variety of ministry to musicians, providing space for concerts and rehearsals. This has always been the case and although St Sepulchre has for many years been the spiritual home of the National Musicians’ Chapel, and will continue to be so, many of our churches can rightfully claim to exercise a role as a musicians’ church.

For example, we have an active and successful hiring programme and children’s music outreach programme at St Anne and St Agnes, in partnership with the Voces Cantabiles Music Foundation, that reaches over 25,000 children every year, and exciting plans in partnership with Sir Roger Gifford, former Lord Mayor, and Dr Clare Taylor, director of the City Music Foundation to establish a new teaching and performance space at St Bartholomew the Less. This is in addition to the concerts and rehearsals that take place in almost all of our 33 churches of the Square Mile.

The Diocese has a role to play in facilitating and encouraging stronger relationships between the Church in London and the musical community, including making it easier for musicians to access rehearsal and concert space. The wide coverage of these matters has convinced me that we need to improve access to churches which are willing and able to provide such space. So, as from 1 November, we shall be launching a website – www.musicianschurch.org – that will provide easy access to hire space and booking options for musicians in London, as well as be used as a tool to promote concerts and events. I do hope this will also allow us to help support and encourage new musicians, as they form ensembles, and bring together family, friends and the wider public to enjoy the creativity and celebration of God-given musical talent.

I am confident that these steps, along with a clearer programme of activities at St Sepulchre, will start to rebuild confidence in our partnerships and focus our minds on growth. Growth in the work of the church, growth in the use of our buildings, and growth in the music performed in our churches.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 28 September 2017 at 9:52am BST | TrackBack
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Comments

Nifty footwork, Bishop Pete. And if it leads to a one-stop booking service for musicians wanting to use City churches, all might gain. As I said on an earlier thread, I would be v happy if gigs that used to use St Sepulchres could use the acoustically similar St Andrews Holborn circus 400 yards away

Posted by: Iain McLean on Thursday, 28 September 2017 at 12:38pm BST

Nevertheless it is notable that there was no dialogue (as far as I know) with the people who launched the petition and campaign about this.

Posted by: Bernard Silverman on Thursday, 28 September 2017 at 4:22pm BST

Well done. This looks very positive and win-win if it opens up more space around the diocese and helps publicize the concerts.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 28 September 2017 at 7:46pm BST

The following statement has been published:

From Dr Andrew Earis:
My statement on the St Sepulchre’s situation:

Over recent weeks I have been privileged to have been invited to work with Bishop Pete Broadbent, Archdeacon Luke Miller and others in the Diocese of London to seek a resolution to the situation at St Sepulchre’s.

It is regrettable that the Revd David Ingall and the PCC of St Sepulchre’s have not changed their position despite huge pressure from the musicians’ community, the Diocese of London and the wider Church of England. Whilst they have offered positive proposals towards a more significant in-house music programme, they have confirmed that the church will be closed to outside hirers. Church rules mean that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to overrule this decision.

I have seen at close hand how tirelessly Bishop Pete, Archdeacon Luke and others have worked to encourage a change of direction. I am distressed by the damage that this is doing to the Church of England and its wider growth strategy. Church partnership done well is a good thing. This decision was not made by the Church of England, the Diocese of London or Holy Trinity Brompton. It was made solely by St Sepulchre’s, and is a decision which, in my view, is doing irreparable harm to the Church as a whole.

As Bishop Pete says, the Church of England must be a welcoming, inclusive and engaging church. Over the past few weeks it has been heartening to learn the extent to which the Diocese of London supports the musical life of our churches. It is critically important to distinguish between the decision of one church to shrink its music offering, and the huge and still growing programme of music mission and outreach throughout the Diocese.

If St Sepulchre’s is unwilling to honour its role as an open and inclusive National Musicians’ Church, then now is the time to re-define what the Musicians’ Church means beyond St Sepulchre’s. I’m very excited to be a part of the Diocese’s new initiative to create a thriving Musicians’ Church operating across a number of churches in the City of London. There are two key elements to this: an annual programme of worship and concert activity, and increasing access to hire space for rehearsals and concerts across the City of London. This offers huge opportunity to grow music making in the churches of the City of London and beyond. It it an important step forward. Over the coming weeks there will be wide consultation leading to a launch event at the beginning of November.

I look forward to helping to create a new Musicians’ Church that welcomes all and is a place where all can thrive.

Dr Andrew Earis

Director of Music at St Martin-in-the-Fields, and former Director of Music at St Sepulchre-without-Newgate
28th September 2017

Posted by: Bernard Silverman on Thursday, 28 September 2017 at 9:13pm BST

St John's College, Oxford is the Patron of the living of St Sepulchre and therefore would have presented Mr Ingall for appointment to the benefice. When I wrote at the request of the organiser of the petition to suggest that St John's could possibly exert some influence in this matter, this was the response I received:

"Thank you for your email. Mr Robbins has, in fact, already been in touch with St John’s on this matter, and, on behalf of the Chapel and Patronage Committee, I responded that whilst St John’s is the patron, and is aware of the PCC’s decision, this is a decision in which we have no involvement, and therefore we cannot comment."

It is extremely disappointing that an institution like St John's College, which prides itself on its inclusivity and its support of music and the arts, should take this narrow view of its responsibilities.

Posted by: Bernard Silverman on Thursday, 28 September 2017 at 9:20pm BST

I was astounded to read, in the 'Services' section of St.Sepulchre's website, of the infrequency of the Celebration of the Eucharist. Here is the news:

"Communion at St Sepulchre’s:

We celebrate Communion on the 3rd Tuesday evening and 1st Sunday of every month".

This does not sound to me like an Anglican Church - with only 2 Celebrations of the Eucharist per month. Is the Pulpit taking the place of the altar in this church?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 28 September 2017 at 11:51pm BST

Several weeks ago Dr Andrew Earis wrote: "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…"

And now Bishop Pete, Revd David Ingall, and Dr Earis all emphasize inclusivity--yet the hiring program remains cancelled.

Reading between the lines, it is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that what is going on here is not a matter of scheduling, but rather is a matter of (misplaced) doctrine.

Or to put it more bluntly, of homophobic prejudice and exclusion.

I would be glad to be (accurately) contradicted on this.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 29 September 2017 at 2:32am BST

Jeremy How on earth do you find homophobia here? Come on. Why not this? That in a welcome reverse of so many other situations where churches have emptied and been turned into gyms, art galleries and community centres etc here is a church re-discovering its primary vocation as a place of worship, discipleship and mission. We might rejoice in this in such challenging times. This has inevitably meant revisiting the other (very significant) commitments in its history. Fair enough - though this was very, very badly handled in the event and there is no disguising that. But with +Pete's initiative I would like to think that the final outcome may be a gain for music in churches across London - as well as avoiding this sort of unhelpful mess happening elsewhere.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Friday, 29 September 2017 at 9:21am BST

So, let me get this right. The Bishop, Archdeacon and notable musicians such as Dr Andrew Earis have been in discussion with the Rector of St Sepulchre's; and the bottom line is that, despite the positive statement from the Bishop and the Rector, groups of musicians are still being excluded from this church? Have I got this right or have I just lost the plot completely?

If I have got it right, how on earth can this be a 'win, win' situation, when any Church of England priest and PCC is excluding people on allegedly doctrinal (and, one suspects, other) grounds? Ok, it's great that a larger network of facilities for musicians in London's churches is being developed. But the fact remains, St Sepulchre's is still an exclusion zone and will, consequently, remain a blot on the cultural landscape of the capital.

I've no doubt that +Pete and the Archdeacon of London have given hours to this (hours that could have been constructively spent on other things) and all credit to them for coming up with a creative solution. But I suspect the nasty taste from St Sepulchre's will linger for a long time to come. Yes, there will be other churches ready to welcome the excluded musicians, but how does this feed in to a theology of a sense of place, with all its accumulated history and experience? The theological reductionists clearly have the upper hand this time.

Posted by: Michael Mulhern on Friday, 29 September 2017 at 11:22am BST

David Runcorn, please read Andrew Earls's statement carefully. Especially the litany of those who exerted pressure, and those who were not party to the St Sepulchre decision.

In addition please note that despite the polite and constructive tone of the petition that was signed by many thousands of people, St Sepulchre's made no attempt, to my knowledge, to respond directly to those who wished to find a way forward. Things would have been different had the church plant group made it clear at the outset that they would seek to terminate the very substantial musical activity by outside bodies at St Sepulchre's (which by the way got a lot of people in through the doors, who would all have seen the leaflets, displays, etc that were there). As it is, the impression left is that undertakings and promises were made, perhaps implicitly, that have now been broken. I know from personal contact what a sour taste this has left in the mouths of the sorts of people who are, like it or not, the core Church of England constituency. The elderly lady my wife met at a bus stop is an example.

As for what is the primary purpose of a church building, serving the wider community (which in this case was a large number of choirs, orchestras, and musical groups) is in my view part of that. On that, David, you and I will have to agree to differ. There was no reason that an agreement could not have been reached to use the church building in a both/and way, but (so far) that was not to be.


Posted by: Bernard on Friday, 29 September 2017 at 11:22am BST

My parish is in what seems like a permanent vacancy, and I am struggling to find clergy available to allow us to have celebrations of the Eucharist on Sundays. (Don't mention Christmas Day!!)

Unlike some (it seems) we know that we are part of the Church of England and subject to Canon B14.

Posted by: John Roch on Friday, 29 September 2017 at 12:13pm BST

David Runcorn, please read this:
https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2017/1-september/comment/opinion/a-dream-that-is-dying-in-holborn

In the second report on this issue, dated Sept. 1 and linked to above, Simon also wrote, "Another fact that has recently emerged is that among the musical groups which regularly use the church is this one: London Gay Symphony Orchestra."

You disagreed in that post too with the suspicion I describe. But do you have any first-hand knowledge? If not, then your posts are simply an extended "Surely not!" and may be treated accordingly.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 29 September 2017 at 12:54pm BST

Jeremy I have read that piece. You ask me for first hand knowledge. Let that cut both ways. Suggesting a significant link in policy shift to the London Gay Symphony Orchestra is itself speculative without seeing evidence. I also note that although music has been the dominant concern the London Fashion show was booked there this month. So their 'non religious' hiring commitments have clearly been very diverse (and surely very demanding). I do not support the way they have proceeded but I agree with +Pete when he writes “I recognise that the hiring of space in churches, and in particular providing space for musicians to rehearse and perform, need to be balanced with all the activity that a parish and community wants and needs to take place. It is sometimes not an easy balance to strike.”

Posted by: David Runcorn on Friday, 29 September 2017 at 5:46pm BST

'This does not sound to me like an Anglican Church - with only 2 Celebrations of the Eucharist per month. Is the Pulpit taking the place of the altar in this church?'

Ron, you have just un-Anglicanned much of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Friday, 29 September 2017 at 10:51pm BST

So they are kicking out the London Fashion show as well?

Obviously Church spaces are for holy people only.

Not those Others.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 30 September 2017 at 12:50pm BST

Now I am becoming fearful for the glass commemorative window and other special features of historical interest and also importantly engaging people's affection and hearts.

There is no knowing where this process underway will stop, or what more will be destroyed, now is there ?

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2017/1-september/comment/opinion/a-dream-that-is-dying-in-holborn

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Saturday, 30 September 2017 at 9:44pm BST

A small point is that David Ingall is not the Rector of St Sepulchre's (despite making the claim on the church's website). He in the priest-in-charge. That means the Bishop of London (or the Acting Bishop for the time being) is, legally, the incumbent of the parish. That gives the Bishop, whose Licence Mr Ingall holds, rather more muscle than might otherwise be the case.

I recognise that +Pete will want to choose his battles (only a fool would go to war without reasonable certainty of winning), and upsetting the HTB brand has potential financial consequences for the Diocese of London. But, surely, a Bishop is entitled to say, in this case, that the adopted policy is deeply at odds with the intention of the Bishop's Mission Order.

In the meantime, for musicians, St Sepulchre's remains what Walter Brueggemann calls a 'storied place' and you can't simply drive people away and then say 'but here's somewhere else.' It does not have the same memories, resonances and physical associations. This is how church buildings take on a sacramental dimension, and the PCC of St Sepulchre's, with their reductionist, puritan theology, are behaving like a 1960s town planning committee rather than a thoughtful and sensitive Christian community with a keen awareness of what has shaped the place.

Posted by: Will Richards on Sunday, 1 October 2017 at 3:49pm BST

The distinction that Will Richards draws may explain the timing of this move--during the post-Chartres interregnum.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 1 October 2017 at 8:00pm BST

He's the Rector. He was instituted in September 2016. And he's not under a BMO. So it's the Rector and PCC who make decisions in this case.

Posted by: Pete Broadbent on Sunday, 1 October 2017 at 10:16pm BST

Yes Tim, but over the last 150 years Church of England parishes have moved to a weekly celebration of holy communion as the current canons require....and as Cranmer wished...It's a pity it seems to me that the "newer" evangelicalism seems to sit more lightly to liturgy and sacraments...

Posted by: Perry Butler on Monday, 2 October 2017 at 9:51am BST

Perry Butler I too regret the loss of sacramental focus in contemporary evangelicalism. It is, within its own stated priorities, oddly unbiblical. But whilst accepting weekly communion was part of a longer term development I wonder if it is more accurate locate the trend towards weekly communion to the 'Parish Communion Movement' in the 1930's? It was not then a reaction to the evangelical tradition which was a marginalised minority for the first 50 years of that century. But weekly communion became the general pattern, beyond the AC churches, from the 1960's. It suggests to me there is an ebb and flow to this in CofE worship history. It is also worth noting that where churches (such a presbyterian or free church) celebrate the eucharist infrequently is has often been because out a greater reverence for the sacrament not a devaluing of it.

Posted by: David Runcorn on Monday, 2 October 2017 at 12:33pm BST

Just to reinforce David's point, it was Daniel Wilson who introduced a weekly early celebration at St Mary's Islington in (IIRC) 1828, some five years before Keble's Assize Sermon, and in a church which is hardly a stronghold of Anglo-Catholicism.

Posted by: cryptogram on Monday, 2 October 2017 at 3:44pm BST

My childhood and teenage experience of the Brethren, was that the Breaking of Bread was held Sunday by Sunday without fail, and all who knew the Lord were expected (& expected themselves) to be present at the Lord's table.

Anything else was, and is, unthinkable, in that Christian context; and surely in other Christian settings where the Bible is known, loved and acted-upon....

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Monday, 2 October 2017 at 10:27pm BST

Perry, by no means am I an opponent of weekly communion (we have it in our parish). But I'm against a revisionist interpretation of Anglicanism which labels as 'un-Anglican' something that was the norm for large parts of our history. In 2017 you can assume that most Anglicans (in the western world at least; I have no knowledge of Africa and Asia) would take it for granted that a weekly communion was desirable. I suspect that would not have been the case even as recently as 1937.

Statements such as 'is the pulpit taking the place of the altar in this church' are not helpful. 'We shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'. We are fed in the Eucharist and we are also fed by the word of God that comes to us through the scriptures and is expounded in the preaching ministry. One is not higher than the other; they belong together.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Monday, 2 October 2017 at 11:25pm BST

Re. the weekly Eucharist, I'll be something of a devil's advocate. A friend now in her late 60's who was brought up Anglo-Catholic told me they did not have a weekly celebration when she was young. The Parish Communion Movement may well have taken several decades to spread throughout the country, and in some areas the tradition of a weekly celebration is less than a century old. That century has not, on the whole, been one of conspicuous growth in the CofE. Several who do not now attend have told me they miss Matins/Morning Prayer as the main service, because for one reason or another they are uncomfortable with taking Communion. Of course, they may just be making excuses. But Communion is, after all, a service for insiders, the initiated and committed.

I grew up in nonconformist churches both here and in the US, and I don't remember any of them having a weekly Communion service. That didn't mean they valued the Eucharist less than weekly or daily communicants. In some of them people would put right any quarrels or misunderstandings they had before taking part, as the scriptures instruct us to do. I can remember notes of apology being passed along the pews, and people abstaining from Communion because there was something to put right before their conscience was clear. That is an attitude I have often missed in my 37 years in the CofE, where the Eucharist is often taken quite casually.

Those who benefit from weekly or daily celebrations are of course valid Anglicans - but so are those who follow a different, and rather older, tradition. Neither group should look down on or unchurch the other.

Posted by: Janet Fife on Tuesday, 3 October 2017 at 3:09pm BST

Janet, I just want to thank you for expressing something I feel very deeply.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Tuesday, 3 October 2017 at 5:57pm BST
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