Comments: Opinion - 16 September 2017

The parish offers a religious presence in, and backdrop to, 'community'. In that sense, it reverberates with God's nature in the Holy Trinity... community, sharing, and relationship.

It also offers 'continuity'. A continuity of presence and Christian expression over the generations. That is something fantastic and trembling with grace: the material and servant presence of the church over the centuries, set in the natural environment of the place, and reflecting the eternal and not just transient nature of God.

It also offers a place which people, including non-Christians, can turn to when they hurt (which we frequently do), when we're in crisis, when we want to rejoice and celebrate. A place local people can feel a kind of ownership, even, because it's their community's church - a place to turn to in need, in sadness, in loneliness, in sickness. Because the very nature of God is compassion and love.

And, if a parish operates right: a place of welcome, of the friendly greeting, the recognition of an individual at the local and small level of church life, the drawing in, or the accepting distance - because God, by very nature, beckons, invites, welcomes, is open and hospitable.

These are huge calls, and a priest's calling is a huge responsibility, along with the sharing of lives and tasks in church community.

I am a strong believer in a Church for the nation, whatever the peaks and troughs of attendance. I believe in a Church for the nation, a presence at local level across the land, and the challenge is how to live out God's call for community - not in exclusion and insular membership behind walls, but in living and working alongside the whole community, in expressing the presence in tiny daily acts of love and service, alongside the physical presence of the church, its roots in history and community, even in those days when some would say... "the Word of the Lord was rare, when there were few visions, and the eyes were becoming weak" (1 Samuel 3:1)... and yet "the lamp of God had not yet gone out."

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 11:36am BST

Pray forgive my upstartedness, Archdruid, but might I dare to suggest you have overlooked one of the most dire phenomena in church music: namely, the choir master/mistress or music leader who decides it would be a great idea to repeat the final verse and chorus, when the song has already been faltering, nay has died a death... and the great strain placed on weary vocal chords when the congregation tries to drawl out the last verse one more time, gradually petering out into a despondent groan.

And the one occasion burnt, nay fused, into my brain, when the cheerful music leader beamed, even after just such a debacle, and proclaimed: "And let's sing that verse one more time" (that is, a third time) at which point, I truly feared I would never escape the dismal place, and despair fell like a pall about my head, and all hope was lost.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 16 September 2017 at 11:59am BST

The Church Times article is flawed in that every single respondent was a Church of England clergy person working in the 'parish' system.

In order to provide balance, it should also have included interviews with clergy of other denominations, asking them about the goals of the parish system, whether they shared them (whether they felt it would be appropriate for them to share them), and if they did, how those goals were lived out in their own congregations.

In the Anglican Church of Canada we speak about our 'parishes' but of course we don't see them in quite the same way as our colleagues in an established church. But I would strongly assert that we are a congregation that 'seeks the welfare of the city where God has placed us' (as Jeremiah writes). We do so in partnership with Christians of other denominations, in our own geographical area, in the non-geographical networks that all modern people live in, and in the wider world.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Sunday, 17 September 2017 at 3:04pm BST
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