Comments: Opinion - 19 August 2017

The great Hensley Henson used to say that a well run and decently ordered parish doesn't need a Parish Mission - I suppose that also goes for Mission Statements as well? We might add to that - does a well run and decently ordered diocese need a Diocesan Strategy?

Posted by Father David at Saturday, 19 August 2017 at 12:39pm BST

Can't a well run & decently ordered parish be decently ordered & well run facing in and serving only itself? When all of the resources are for the benefit of its constituents, there doesn't seem to be a mission at all.

Posted by David Allen at Saturday, 19 August 2017 at 3:40pm BST

'Great'? ... hmm ... and a model for parish ministry today is Henson at St Margaret's Westminster in 1900?

Posted by David Runcorn at Saturday, 19 August 2017 at 5:41pm BST

"Marginalising LGBT people all day, every day" would be one option for the CofE, I suppose.

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 19 August 2017 at 8:07pm BST

Well, the Episcopal Church ha s taken care of the mission statement business: "The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." (BCP page 855)

Posted by John-Julian, OJN at Saturday, 19 August 2017 at 9:33pm BST

"and a model for parish ministry is Henson at St. Margaret's Westminster in 1900?"

and a model for parish ministry is Jesus and the Twelve in Galilee and Jerusalem in 30 AD?

I reckon that more attended Westminster Abbey, Hereford cathedral and Durham cathedral in Henson's day than they do today.

Maybe HHH might just be able to teach us in the sophisticated 21st century, something about mission?

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 6:46am BST

Father David Might he? - well no I doubt it. And of what relevance is speculation about numbers of people attending three cathedrals in 1900 to this discussion? And no, I do not find Jesus teaching models of parish ministry in AD 30. Your point being?

Posted by David Runcorn at Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 9:50am BST

I rather think that as it lacks a cathedra Westminster Abbey is not a cathedral but a Royal Peculiar.I further think that so much emphasis has been placed upon growth in the contemporary Church because of the serious decline we have experience since HHH forcefully preached God's Word in former times
They who forget the past and where they have come from haven't much of an idea where they are going in the future. They who dismiss the ministry of Jesus and its relevance to the 21st century mission of the Church have completely lost the plot.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 12:04pm BST

In over 40 years in ministry I have seen many models of ministry come and go, and none has halted decline. I would echo my namesake's plea for a return to the past, when the Church of England had stature and grandeur. Today it's become a superficial entertainment played on guitars and drums.

Posted by FrDavidH at Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 4:35pm BST

Who is in , and who is out has been a preoccupation with Christians through the ages, in spite of the Gospel message of Jesus that we all belong.
This morning I listened to a visiting preacher from Clapham, in St Mary's episcopal cathedral Edinburgh. At one point he gave us a long list of the nationalities in his Clapham congregation, sounding like a United Nations. Then at the end added, oh some English as well. How hurtful to those English folk who have been coming to the church through the generations.
Its rather like the welcome sometimes heard at the begining of our Mass. A welcome to the church, especially those visiting.
Yes we need to be inclusive, but gentle aware of those who have been with us through the years, and not let them be taken for granted.
The Cannanite woman was made welcome, but Our Lords disciples remained central to his ministry. Just as in many congregation the regular members are central to the life of the church.

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by Fr John E Harris-White at Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 5:21pm BST

I think it might go something like this - to make sure everyone in the parish/sector/circuit has heard the message of salvation, to love your neighbor as yourself and treat them accordingly and so on to living your lives as a Christian witness. If people wish to say no to the offer, that's their decision, accept it and keep the door always open.

The rest is targets and goal setting.

Posted by Lavinia Nelder at Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 5:27pm BST

OF course Jesus is white..not Northern European, but southern Med variety. He is not negroid, mongoloid but caucasian.

Posted by robert ian williams at Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 8:08pm BST

Bp Henson was, by all accounts, a wonderful mass of contradictions who knew his own foibles and shortcomings. He got many things right, and some spectacularly wrong e.g. His contribution to the 1928 Prayerbook debate in the Lords was a disaster. He refused to have a telephone in the house, yet insisted his chaplain carry a bag of pennies ready to run to the phone box in the village. A man of his time, yet not with It insight - one of his published letters berates an incumbent for poor numbers at Confirmation, yet in another to a friend he suggests the game is up for the c of e now that churchgoing is no longer a necessary criterion for those wishing to be seen as respectable.
His advice to a young ordinand to be regular in your religious observance, work steadily and never worry, play games still works for me. Great ? He would have said no, greatness belongs to God alone. Fascinating, certainly. So let's be kind to his memory, and raise a glass next month on the 70th anniversary of his passing?

Posted by AnotherFrDavid at Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 11:06pm BST

I rather like this take on mission statements by evangelical small-church pastor Karl Vaters.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 21 August 2017 at 5:47am BST

Can there be really two Father Davids who have a high regard for HHH, there surely can. I very much agree with Another Father David's view of Henson. His autobiographical Retrospect of an Unimportant Life was a master class in self concealment. Owen Chadwick's "Hensley Henson - A Study in the friction between Church and State" managed to a certain extent to remove the mask and shew us something of the real Henson - a man of many contradictions. I greatly admire the conclusion to Chadwick's book which records a final meeting that Gervase Markham and his wife had with the great man towards the end - "The pugnacious warrior had been sublimated into a gentle saint.....We crept out as from a holy place". I shall certainly raise a glass to his memory next month but, on which day? Chadwick states that he died on "28th September 1947" but "computer says no!" it was 27th September. I hope it was the former date and that he died, on the Eve of St. Michael and All Angels Day when we are reminded that, there was war in heaven.

Posted by Father David at Monday, 21 August 2017 at 10:59am BST

FrDavid, AnotherFrDavid,FrDavidH ... can't resist adding my name to this growing list (Fr too incidentally). Surely this all means the first requirement for a 'well run and decently ordered parish' is to be a priest called David?

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 21 August 2017 at 11:38am BST

Never mind, boys and girls. The Diocese of Derby clearly must have an admirable mission statement if its priorities on the website are anything to go by. Philip North, eat your heart out:

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Monday, 21 August 2017 at 5:13pm BST

Thank you David Runcorn for your most perceptive comment that the prime requirement for a "well run and decently ordered parish" is to have a priest called David but does the same principle apply when it comes to dioceses? If so, I can only think of two current diocesans who are blessed with the Biblical and saintly name of David - Birmingham and Manchester. Suffragans do rather better - Basingstoke, Grimsby, Huntingdon and the Suffragan Bishop in Europe. Mercifully none seem to have gone down the path trodden by Mike, Nick, Tim and Pete - surely Bishop Dave would be an anathema!
My great worry is that after being a popular name for generations David is no longer in the top hundred names given to boys. I hardly ever baptise a David except when it is a given second name - so are we heading for extinction?
Perhaps we Davids ought to stick together and maybe form some kind of Clerical Club offering seminars on well run and decently ordered parishes. I even have the perfect name for it - "The Beloveds"

Posted by Father David at Monday, 21 August 2017 at 7:18pm BST

I agree with Fr David that we Davids should provide seminars to lead the CofE towards glory. Personally I would prefer to be addressed as The Blessed.

Posted by FrDavidH at Monday, 21 August 2017 at 10:16pm BST

Fr. John Emlyn mentions that the special welcome given to visitors discriminates against regulars. It can also alienate non-regulars. People from other parts of the world, or country, may appreciate being welcomed as visitors. Those who live locally but attend infrequently, or have just decided to start attending frequently, may be put off at the insinuation they are only visiting, when actually they have as much right to be there as anybody else. We are all guests in the House of God. Nobody belongs there more than anybody else,

Posted by T Pott at Tuesday, 22 August 2017 at 12:27am BST

Stanley, thank you for highlighting that. It's dreadful, and speaking as someone who deals with access to higher education, dreadful in a way that the church should be aware of. There is a huge class divide over higher education access, in large part because A Levels (and to a lesser extent, because it's so rare, the IB) are seen as a gold standard and everything else is seen as tarnished. This is toxic, because working class children are channelled away from A Levels. Although what are in the trade called "selective universities" (ie, those with more qualified applicants than they have places - the antonym is "recruiting universities") pay lip service to accepting students with BTECs (in particular), in reality they are very reluctant to do so and structure courses around assumptions about A Level which mean that BTEC students, even if accepted, are disproportionately likely to not progress.

Praying for A Level students, while ignoring everyone else, simply adds to the marginalisation of people who are in many cases already educationally excluded. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by Interested Observer at Tuesday, 22 August 2017 at 7:54am BST

Good to see that you are up for it FrDavidH - the fight back begins to restore Doxa to the C of E. "The Blessed" is indeed a good alternative and fits in well with The Beatitudes, which is the best Mission Statement that I have ever come across. Makarios - to be given the name David is to be supremely blessed, fortunate, well off and happy, even though the name David means "Beloved".
He was, of course, called Richard but the wife of the last Bishop of London often referred to her husband as "The Beloved". The great prelate when beginning a sermon often addressed all members of the congregation as "Beloved" - so in a curious kind of a way he was calling them all "David". However, that's taking things a tad too far and is a bit like that Monty Python Australian sketch when everyone was called Bruce.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 22 August 2017 at 8:20am BST

I don't want to pierce the Fr Davids's bubbles, but the best run and most successfully outward focused parish I've ever worshipped in was run by a Jane.

Posted by Erika Baker at Tuesday, 22 August 2017 at 1:47pm BST

For myself I always began the mass/service with the simple words' Welcome, In the Name of God; who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit'

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by Fr John E Harris-White at Tuesday, 22 August 2017 at 1:49pm BST

Well done Jane - "Better Together" - we proclaim the Good News and extend the Lord's Kingdom.
In the meantime I shall continue to sing - "I'm forever blowing bubbles".

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 22 August 2017 at 3:01pm BST

Lots of comments about mission statements.

I thought Julian Francis's article was much more significant.

Posted by Alan Gadd at Tuesday, 22 August 2017 at 3:33pm BST

IO: dreadful indeed. In Ireland (republic), where the equivalent of A levels is the Leaving Cert, it is much much worse among the prosperous luvvies of South Dublin (I lived there for 16 years so know). There is war in heaven. It is surely time for the C of E, and the C of I of course, to concoct a "liturgy of comfort and blessing" for student disappointments. Light a candle, hold a stone, ritual burning of notification, pin charred remains to a cross ... it's what Jesus died for, after all. See this wonderful spoof:

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Tuesday, 22 August 2017 at 3:40pm BST

Stanley, you may cite a spoof, but the sentiment is being expressed by people who have an apparently straight face, too.

"“If your sister got a string of A*s and you’ve been told you’re just as bright and you get 7s and 8s, you’re going to feel pretty miserable,” said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders"

This isn't the blog to unpack and debate that proposition, but really, it's pretty silly.

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 23 August 2017 at 10:44am BST

Was Jesus white? Robert says yes, Ruth's article says of course not.

In the earliest depictions, he seems rather Middle Eastern. Ancient frescos and whatnot vary, but tend to lean in complexion that is somewhere in the middle, between white and black. I've always liked that, He belongs to everybody. Culturally, claiming Him as white is problematic - and that is the understatement of the century.

I'm going to ask some of my Byzantine art historian friends about the early mosaics. The artistic desire to create a magical "shimmer" may not be the best way to determine skin color.

Some sociologists suggest that race is more in our minds than our skins. But African Americans rightly call out white people who claim "I don't see race."

For what it's worth, in the US in the South in the mid 20th Century, my Greek immigrant family was not fully accepted as white. I get pretty dark while in Haiti, sadly, I lose it pretty fast when I return, but now I'm regarded as solidly white - 70 some years after the struggles of my grandparents. And I wonder about the reception of folks from India in the UK. It seems that perceptions change over time, even within memory. And if it is a sort of "colonization," then we definitely need to own up in order to truly love our neighbor, see Christ in ALL people, and do justice. I can't think of a better justice than teaching children to love and accept all people, as Jesus loved ALL of us.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 23 August 2017 at 6:56pm BST

I encourage people to read what Julian Francis and Ruth Harley have to say and discuss the issues raised in your own churches.

Posted by Vasantha at Wednesday, 23 August 2017 at 9:46pm BST

For Cynthia, if you are in London (I now realise that maybe you are not) go look at the mosaic of Christ [probably] in the BM from Hinton St Mary, Dorset.

Posted by Dion at Thursday, 24 August 2017 at 9:05pm BST

The Hinton St Mary mosaic in the British Museum can be seen at (the previous link doesn't work).

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Friday, 25 August 2017 at 10:39am BST

As for colour, I suppose it partly depends on how broadly you define the term "white". My closest work colleagues are an Iranian, a Greek and an Italian. All would pass without notice as "white". Another is Indian -- they would not. Where would Palestinian Jews of the First Century be likely to fall on that spectrum?

Posted by worker at Friday, 25 August 2017 at 10:44am BST

"Where would Palestinian Jews of the First Century be likely to fall on that spectrum?"

Probably somewhere between the Greek and the Iranian. It's worth remembering that, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, people from the eastern Mediterranean were not treated as "white" by most in the United States...and that, during the Gulf Wars, once of the epithets used against Arabs was "sand nigger" (apologies for the use of that word).

Posted by Pat O'Neill at Friday, 25 August 2017 at 11:33am BST

Thanks Dion, and Simon. The mosaic is amazing and I'll look forward to seeing it on my next trip to the British Museum (we're in England a lot, though on hiatus this year).

My main point is that since race is kind of an artificial construct, the "dividing line" is fluid. "Of course He was white!" Is really problematic. In today's world, maybe, maybe not. Depending on whose army is invading, I guess. Like the parables, it's cause for reflection. If Jesus was Middle Eastern and his family were refugees, what does this say about loving our neighbors who are POC (people of color) and refugees? The person of Jesus and the message, the Good News, come together here.

In Bristol, I once took the "slave trade walk" that was recommended in the Guardian. It took me past those wonderful Georgian houses, built on the profits from the slave trade. Half of my family was on the receiving end. Obviously, my father was Greek, but my mother was from a very old Virginia family going back to the founding of the US in Jamestown, Yorktown, and Williamsburg. I came to the conclusion that we, the British and the Americans, are brothers and sisters, arm-in-arm in the horrific sin of enslaving people in massive numbers for profit. That walk talked about how Barclay's Bank and Lloyd's gained significant wealth, as did the plantation owners and the New England bankers. It went on for centuries. I've come to believe that the pain of that is so screaming loud that it makes it hard to hear and truly love "the other." But that the church is called to carry that pain and do whatever is possible to bring God's healing light to it, and to do our best to bring about reconciliation.

This is very philosophical, but that's where we are, as the church in the US right now. In Bristol, I went to a "Black Lives Matter" rally. I was ready to hear speakers unload on us Americans, but they mostly didn't, because they had a lot to say about their own experience in England. So I don't think it's too cheeky to suggest that we really are in this together. Trying to work out our salvation as conquerors and colonizers.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 26 August 2017 at 6:11am BST

Jesus's identifying feature was that he was human. That should be the same for us all. The colour of someone's skin is so obviously not a measure of that person's humanity, kindness, hatred, intelligence.

Of course, life experience of people can be significant, as can historical backdrop and context. In Jesus's case, I don't think his skin colour was remotely significant, but perhaps the fact that he lived in an occupied country was.

Of far greater significance was the way he could open to love and to God; could live alongside others with huge compassion; could share experience, and rejoice, and weep.

In my opinion, the exact hue of his skin was probably completely irrelevant - and should be. It should be when we think of *any* human being. Perhaps the 'inbetweenness' of his skin colour makes him accessible to all.

At the very least, I would be extremely uncomfortable if 'white' people appropriated Jesus as 'one of themselves'. Jesus of Nazareth was not white, British, from the ruling class, nor is there 'an English heaven'.

Jesus was human. Period.

But rather, "being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being fond in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross."

I don't think skin colour came into it at all.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 26 August 2017 at 3:38pm BST

Amen, Susannah.

What is at issue, on our side of things, is that elements of white society absolutely co-opted Jesus. While both of our cultures are rather supremacist, there are some brazenly attacking minorities in the name of Jesus. This is a blasphemy that the church needs to call out.

Hue isn't the issue at all. But getting some people to truly understand the Jesus came for all people is quite a struggle. The Incarnation came to bring the Good News to all people everywhere. I don't know why it's so hard for some people to rejoice in that.

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 27 August 2017 at 4:34am BST
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