Comments: opinion

Re: Canon J John's open letter:

People and their institutions are complex.
As the Christian scriptures (New Testament) note, we all fall short of the glory of God. So, too our institutions.
So, too, Christianity in England. Christianity has united the English people, but also divided them. Religion was used to discriminate and marginalize Roman Catholic believers in England itself for centuries. And, there was more than one cause of the animosity between the Irish and the English peoples, for example, but religious differences between Christian beliefs was certainly one of those. And, for four hundred years, Christians barred Jews from even living in England. After that, it took a few hundred more years for Jews to receive full civil rights and inclusion.
Did the Wesley brothers try to make the English (upper classes) people more aware of their far less fortunate brothers and sisters? Yes. But, 19th Century Great Britain had great income inequality. It could be argued that, along with exhorting people to come to God, the Jewish scripture (Old Testament) prophets’ greatest message was warning about the evils of income inequality.
Decades after the Wesleys, was Charles Dickens, in his novels’ plea for social justice, motivated by his Christian beliefs? If so, it is interesting that “A Christmas Carol”, with its powerful invoking of what Christmas is about, its appeal to a generosity of spirit, only occasionally mentions Jesus, often without using his name.
In fact, I’d argue that the rise of the secular state has led to a more democratic society, more freedom, and greater opportunity, in England, Europe, and elsewhere. Although the secular state, also, can be oppressive and abusive.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Saturday, 13 June 2015 at 5:31pm BST

Years ago I read a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. At the time there were two biographies on offer. (I think I read the less "academic" one). I'm now thinking I should read some of Bonhoeffer's work. Joel Miller's article is an encouragement.

Posted by Pam at Saturday, 13 June 2015 at 11:10pm BST

If you lob a grenade into a cathedral close you might reasonably expect a reaction, if only the attendance of the local fire brigade. Richard Moy (in his Dear Deans open blog of June 3) is known to me from my former time on General Synod. His ministry is infectious. We need more priests, male and female, who have his passion for the gospel and the re-evangelisation of England. I think he is starting a period of study leave (per his Facebook posts) so may have been feeling demob happy when he decided inter alia to trail round the country visiting cathedrals. By the same token I am a cathedral lover and know a number of deans, whose ministry I also hugely respect, St Albans, Ely, Salisbury and St Paul’s among them. However, not only did the fire brigade not turn up but only two deans put their heads above the perpendicular architecture and their chapter meetings to respond, namely Durham and Liverpool. Both have made convincing defences of their cathedral ministries. The rest are either not fazed by the upstart or, more likely, are not sufficiently social media savvy. Having re-read Richard’s blog the point he is making is that preaching has huge impact, even to visitors who may think they are only on a heritage trip. Are cathedral chapters really focused on preaching to visitors in their congregations, rather than to their faithful regular congregations? My own experience of visiting cathedrals (and let’s face it Durham must be most people’s favourite, quite apart from its World Heritage Site status, and the sheer size of Liverpool takes your breath away) is that they do awesome well. Who cannot be overwhelmed by the Lindisfarne Gospels or the odd edition of Magna Carta? And that’s without the worship. Who has not been transported to heaven and back by the choirs of a Christ Church or Winchester? But have our cathedrals, and indeed other beacon parish churches, really embraced intentional evangelism? Are they really taking full advantage of their privileged status? Have their tourism marketing consultants been instructed to ensure that a crucial part of the way they curate their cathedrals is to mount attractive displays explaining the Christian faith and the ways in which all can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? And of course, might a short homily be added to Evening Prayer (despite the BCP ending abruptly after the Collects) to leave visitors with a word, phrase or take-home message? Who knows what effect that could have on their lives? That is what I think Richard Moy was getting at.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Sunday, 14 June 2015 at 8:53pm BST

I wonder which cathedral will be the first to be subject to an HTB Church Plant and be overseen by the Bishop of Islington? Please God that it won't be Durham.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 14 June 2015 at 9:56pm BST

"We need more priests, male and female, who have his passion for the gospel and the re-evangelisation of England...the ways in which all can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?"

At THIS time, many if not most people CANNOT "have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ": the history and experience of people who DO *claim* that relationship, is TOO TOXIC for people who don't.

...which is exactly why the cathedrals should NOT have that purpose. If they can exist, in their beauty and mystery, merely to give a space for people to see (hear/touch/taste/smell) a side of Jesus which is NOT personally *repulsive*, that is enough (for the remainder of the 21st century, at least).

It astonishes me to encounter Christians who don't understand how (JUSTLY) hated they are! Kyrie eleison...

Posted by JCF at Monday, 15 June 2015 at 3:17am BST

Anthony Archer is fond of kicking cathedrals and imposing his rather myopic take on what constitutes mission and evangelism in these distinctive churches. Richard Moy's blog was a rather crude report of an equally crude survey of midweek worship in less than half a dozen cathedrals. As an HTB-type Evangelical, he appears not to realise that there are an infinite number of levels at which 'the Gospel is preached' - and simplified, lowest-common-denominator Christianity is not always the best way to do it. Cathedral worship with its commitment to intelligence, beauty, wonder and humanity is equally compelling and effective as an evangelistic tool. As for preaching, I challenge anyone to find preaching in parish churches which matches what we hear in Salisbury, Chichester and Winchester, for example, with its imaginative depth and its rigorous commitment to Scripture, Tradition and Reason.

The problem with Richard Moy and people like him is that they are so convinced that their pattern of talk, talk and more talk is the only way to do it. There are many more of us who want space, silence, music, symbols and intelligent discourse which prompts reflection and action.

One aspect of Richard Moy's report, however, does need addressing: the lunchtime Eucharist in St Paul's. It really is quite dreadful with the tills still ringing and a lack of proper visitor management during the Eucharist. I agree it is vital to have it under the Dome. But, please, Dr Ison and colleagues (a) go and see how they do it at Westminster Abbey because it is done in the Nave there with far less of a feeling of being in a zoo; and (b) advertise the fact that this service is happening a bit more candidly. Too many visitors I know have queued, paid and then entered the building on to realised they could have attended the Eucharist.

Posted by James A at Monday, 15 June 2015 at 10:33am BST

I am reminded of the incident way back in 1969 when the (then) recently revived West Riding Cathedrals Festival - Sheffield, Wakefield, Bradford - was held in Bradford.

There were AA signs leading to the Cathedral. A canon complained "the AA don't ever put up signs when I'm preaching". The riposte from one of the cathedral organists was "that tells you everything".

Of course, the Festival had had to pay for the signs to go up.

Posted by John Roch at Monday, 15 June 2015 at 11:55am BST

It's not correct that only the deans of Durham and Liverpool cathedral have responded. Others also responded in the comments to Richard Moy's article.

Posted by Alastair Newman at Monday, 15 June 2015 at 2:04pm BST
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