Comments: Opinion - 13 January 2018

"By contrast, fewer than five per cent of adult respondents below the age of 35 — in effect, their grandchildren — said the same. Of those, fewer than a quarter said that they attended church at least monthly. For every 100 people in England aged 18-34, only one is an active Anglican."

Posted by CRS at Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 11:43am GMT

"When asked what was especially important for children to learn at home, just 11 per cent of people who identified themselves as Anglicans put “Religious faith”. On average, people who considered themselves Anglican seemed unconcerned about passing faith on to the next generation."

Shudder. Campbell really thinks faith can be learned or taught. No wonder the church is struggling when a youth and children mission consultant has such a poor understanding of faith. Yes, church attendance can be learned but talk to people who were taught that and they will say they weren't really Christians.

Faith is a gift, freely given. It isn't taught or learned. We just have to ask. And the churches which have that understanding of faith do rather better at youth "mission" that the poor old CofE which has come to believe it can teach the next generation to be Christians.

Posted by Kate at Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 1:49pm GMT

Kate: "Faith is a gift, freely given. It isn't taught or learned."
One can argue "cause and effect" or "correlation", but research in the US indicates that parental attendance relates to retention. Parents who send their children to church, but don't attend, won't see their kids continue as adults. Parents who both attend regularly with their children find that the majority continue to attend as adults. Oddly, if only the father attends regularly with the children, these see the greatest level of retention.
Of all the variables, regular parental attendance seems the most influential. Consequentially, as adult attendance drops, so does retention of children into adulthood.

Posted by Tom Downs at Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 4:32pm GMT

"Faith is a gift, freely given. It isn't taught or learned."

That sentiment is almost a bombproof way to accelerate what is an obvious decline.

Posted by CRS at Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 4:55pm GMT

The best youth recruitment tools I have ever seen in the C of E are well-run choirs. This has recently been referred to in the CT. They provide a discipline – which young people respond to. They inculcate a pride in standards – which young people respond to. They give a sense of purpose and enhance self-esteem – which young people respond to. They intrigue through a growing sense of the numinous – which young people respond to. What has happened to them? They have been disbanded or allowed to fall into desuetude, often in a misconceived quest for “relevance” or so-called anti-elitism. A choir of 20 or more people, more than half of them children, has likely given way to a handful of young crooners with neither musicality nor talent, or – worse by far, and more common – by middle aged scruffy hipsters who are stuck in adolescence. I’ve recently become an air cadet padre. In those twice weekly – yes, twice weekly – sessions young people learn about standards, discipline, quality, companionship, mutual support and a whole host of other qualities that used to come with choir membership. Young people are queuing up to join. Why should they join a church? What is there for them there? In a previous thread someone wrote that people will never come to church because the message is not sufficiently compelling. End of. I’ll get my coat.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 5:04pm GMT

"Faith is a gift, freely given. It isn't taught or learned. We just have to ask. And the churches which have that understanding of faith do rather better at youth "mission" that the poor old CofE which has come to believe it can teach the next generation to be Christians."

Staggering in, charitably, it's naiveté. First, there are many components or aspects of faith. Faith is spoken of as gift, and task, in the NT. And there is a long history of thoughtful reflection on its many dimensions. In Keeping The Faith, an Anglican work from maybe the 90's, Stephen Sykes as I recall lists more than half a dozen to bring out, wonderfully, the breadth of what is included in "faith" in the NT which includes the passionately seeking and whole-self-involving aspect AND the content of the faith, and more. Preaching and teaching, of course, were prominent in Jesus' he taught something.

But second, no grasp of here of "that which is believed" and the central importance of that for thousands of years, and countless believers. The faith can be taught, is taught, has been taught. Anti-intellectualism in this quote, forgetfulness that we are reflective beings made for truth, and, speaking on the American side of the pond, Christian colleges do a great job (as far as we can tell this side of heaven) of teaching the faith, keeping young folks committed to the church, and passing the faith on to future generations. That the UK just doesn't have places like Wheaton, Biola, Calvin, Gordon, and scores of others --or doesn't have them in numbers--has to have, I would think, some role in the decline over there. More knowledgeable people of both cultures can weigh in on this.

IMHO there are many things required of the church, and many things in an age of the cultural decline of Christianity, but there is no replacement for the slow, patient unpacking of the faith--teaching, let's say. And I and I am glad to have received so much of it, not least s I have had to work through the problems posed by suffering, epistemology, the Enlightenment, and on and on.

Could it be that the pride some (emphasize, some) Anglicans put on not doing theology generations ago--and which still lingers in some places-- has had a part to play in church decline? (I think Anglicans of the last generation FWiW are some of the best going, but they don't parrot this kind of stuff) And/or could it be that the tasks of making gospel truth/the Christian world view known in its fullness on the parochial level, in the contemporary world outside of the academy and church--the skills of a gifted communicator with theological depth--haven't been cultivated by many, or by enough to make a difference in the current generations? I'd explore these lines of inquiry.

Posted by William (Bill) Paul III at Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 6:41pm GMT

I applaud Ali Campbell for reminding us of what the scriptures make abundantly clear-- that it is primarily through the 'passing on' of faith that the Church is formed. This was true of the ancient people of God, Israel, who were commanded to circumcise and dedicate their sons (Gen. 17), not to hide the works of God from their children (Ps. 78), but to teach the Law to their offspring at all times (Deut. 11). It is no less true of the NT Church who are enjoined to bring children up in the admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6), to recall what they have been taught by their parents and grandparents (2 Tim. 3), and to hold fast to the deposit of faith passed down to them (2 Thess. 2). Other instances of this joyful duty could be enumerated. That we have failed to do this, perhaps because some mistaken presumption that God will give faith in the abstract with no instruction, has resulted in a faithless nation and empty churches. It's high time we got down to the task set before us and practised evangelism where it is most natural- in our own homes.

Posted by Evan McWilliams at Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 6:46pm GMT

For my part I continue to find Bernard Lonergan's perspectives on these matters extremely helpful.

"It used to be said, Nihil amatum nisi praecognitum,Knowledge precedes love."

He goes to note, "But the major exception to the Latin tag is God's gift of his love flooding our hearts. Then we are in the dynamic state of being in love. ...Our love reveals to us values we had not appreciated, values of prayer and worship, or repentance and belief." (Method in Theology. p.122).

For Lonergan faith is knowledge born of religious love.

One must distinguish between the notions of faith and belief.
Lonergan notes that, "To appropriate one's social, cultural, religious heritage is largely a matter of belief."

I would add that one must distinguish genuine education (which always has an element of freedom) from indoctrination (especially of youth) which threatens to shut freedom out.

Christian formation, which is the mentoring of the existential person of faith is crucial as well and depends in part on participation in family and/or the Christian community.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 8:30pm GMT

"That the UK just doesn't have places like Wheaton, Biola, Calvin, Gordon, and scores of others"

The reasons why the UK has no tradition of liberal arts colleges would fill a book. But the Anglican church was supremely uninterested in universities - it had Oxford and Cambridge, after all - until London got its charter (1829? Something like that) and then took part in the conservative fuss that created King's College London. I think I'm right in saying that KCL is the only non-ancient university with even a hint of church involvement.

After that, universities which opened in the 19th century and the pre-Robbins 20th century were almost exclusively one or both of engineering or medicine in origin. Indeed, pretty much the sine qua non of a "Redbrick university" was having a medical school, and it's noticeable that the aspirational post-Robbins universities are marked by their moves into medicine (York, Exeter, Warwick) in order to gain a perceived gravitas. The Anglican church was utterly indifferent to this: no son of the manse was ever going to go to Manchester, my dear, the very thought of it.

It's hardly the fault of anyone other than the church itself that the church wasn't interested in getting involved in upstart provincial universities. That's why there is no chapel at Birmingham, Manchester or, Bristol, and certainly not at Warwick, York, or Exeter (to pick pre-war redbricks and their post-war plate glass counterparts). These universities were established by engineers and scientists. If the church had wanted to get involved, the option was open to it. They didn't.

Posted by Interested Observer at Saturday, 13 January 2018 at 10:49pm GMT

There is certainly a chapel at Exeter University, I have visited it. According to the website, it's been there since 1958.

Posted by AGoody at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 1:16am GMT

IO: odd, then, that Lancaster, part of the 60s expansion, has a chaplaincy centre with two chapels constructed early in the life of the campus. I'm surprised that other universities of the same period don't have that. Or are you meaning chapel in a more esoteric sense.

I would also mention that while the CofE's interest in universities waned, it still had its finger firmly in the pie of teacher training colleges.

Posted by Jo at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 8:03am GMT

I don't think there is disagreement that discipleship can be taught, just as Jesus himself taught discipleship. Had Campbell talked of teaching discipleship, or how to follow Jesus, he would have been on solid ground. But he didn't. He talked of teaching faith and John 6 is very clear that neither are we taught nor do we learn faith - faith is something bestowed by God.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 8:21am GMT

And one of the Bristol Halls of residence has a chapel at which the assistant chaplain was based. At York where I was the chaplaincy was based around Heslington parish church..which was on campus.And those C of E colleges of education are now universities.

Posted by Perry Butler at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 9:32am GMT

On the matter of youngsters I agree with Stanley about choirs. In the 60s my parish choir went on to produce 4 priests including me.
But now the change in Sunday is the real much school sport happens on Sunday morning and families are more mobile.I agree though that we need to help parents to have more confidence in passing the faith on.

Posted by Perry Butler at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 9:37am GMT

Just to add to comments by others that there was and continues to be plenty Anglican commitment to newer universities. I was chaplain at Keele for several years - the first post-war university, and one with an enormous chapel at the centre. The church still maintains full time stipendiary chaplains in most (all?) English universities. Chester, Liverpool Hope, Winchester, Roehampton, and others all have church foundations.

Posted by Charles Clapham at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 2:31pm GMT

"One must distinguish between the notions of faith and belief." - Rod Gillis

I am very much in agreement with you.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 2:33pm GMT

IO - Exeter in the late 80's had two (paid) chaplains, one on each campus, and Durham started off in 1832 with quite heavy Church connections - my college was housed in the old Bishop's Palace - and the Newcastle uni website states 'the School of Medicine and Surgery, established in 1834 [and] Armstrong College, founded in 1871 for the teaching of physical sciences... formed one division of the federal University of Durham. The Durham Colleges formed the other division.'

Even in my day most colleges had a (paid) chaplain, admittedly usually shared with one or two other colleges. I suspect the picture's not quite as neat as you suggest.

Posted by David Rowett at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 4:13pm GMT

Choirs - definitely the way ahead! We have two: the robed choir and the all age choir. They are both highly inclusive. Age range 80 years. Choirs get children involved and give their parents a reason to attend. Singing is something that people love to do (witness the sheer number of pop up and community choirs). My church has one of the largest choirs in our diocese and paradoxically I am the least musical of all priests.

Posted by Andrew Lightbown at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 4:49pm GMT

Re: Kate, "...discipleship can be taught, just as Jesus himself taught discipleship. is something bestowed by God." I agree with Kate that there is an insight here that ought not to be dismissed.

I grew up in Roman Catholic parochial school during the baby boom. There was daily religion class, first communion and later confirmation prep, the march across the glebe for confession, holy day masses, parish clergy visits to the classroom, all supported by faithful family life in homes. In terms of faith outcomes it all collapsed like a black hole in space. Education regimes in Protestant and Anglican churches had similar outcomes.

Several cultural shifts account for this; but vectors included concentration on belief content, an anti ecumenical polemic, and guilt as motivator. Developing and nurturing a faith based on the gift of Divine love was not on the horizon.

I've linked two articles. The older one by Father Frederick Crowe SJ talks about Lonergan's notion of God's pure gift and what it does to consciousness.

The more recent article (2014) by Christopher Friel on Faith and Feeling States ( n.b. intentional states of feeling) has an interesting section on Lonergan's faith analysis (p. 148) and the distinction between "the reasonableness of faith and the supernaturality of the divine gift."

Posted by Rod Gillis at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 5:07pm GMT

Manchester university has a chaplaincy centre and a variety of chaplains. Durham colleges have chapels and of course a Canon Professor in the Theology Department. And then there's Common Awards....

Posted by Charles Read at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 11:25pm GMT

As a fellow numbers person, I am very grateful to David not just for his article but for all the work he's done in this area over many years. To maintain the numbers you'd have to have nearly perfect generational transmission, or else have a sea change in what happens in "none" families. Failing all that, the established church (in particular) needs to plan for the time when it is a much smaller remnant than it is now, populated largely or wholly by those who make a positive choice to take part. So, in the terms of other current writing, there needs to be a third way---not denying this is happening, not panicking because it is, but perhaps being more sanguine about the way it is going and planning for that.

In such circumstances one can imagine a completely different parish system; none of the trappings or claims of establishment; if we are sensible a diverse church (or churches, if, as I suspect, we can't stay together) of different "franchises", as Linda Woodhead has put it, and so on. The kind of narrow doctrinal "unity" which the current House of Bishops seems to be bent on will have to be replaced by a much broader vision of solidarity within a much looser network of more or less independent groupings.

What is behind the phenomenon David identifies is a deeply culturally seated demographic mechanism that has been going on for a number of decades. A very long time ago, religious identity was taken for granted and passed down in families (rather as it is in countries like Greece even today). But for more than one generation, to put it mathematically, the probability that a child of religiously affiliated parents themselves remains religiously affiliated is about 50%. On the other hand, to a first approximation, if the parents are "nones" then the children are almost certain to be. So (in mathematical terms) this means that "noneship" is what we call an absorbing state, and that over generations the population will drift inexorably towards that.

Everybody will have their own theory as to what keeps even as many as 50% affiliated, and why the children of nones remain so, but that is a very settled pattern now. Of course it's true that choirs engage children, that universities are very well provided for with chaplains and chapels (and in the case of Bristol a "University Church", just to clarify), as well as very active Christian Unions for those who prefer that sort of thing, but one suspects these are all just part of hanging on to the "50%".

Posted by Bernard Silverman at Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 11:40pm GMT

Having a chapel and a chaplain is all very well, but what difference does it actually make? I'm wary of extolling the virtues of things that we did more of in the good old days, without seeing the evidence that they actually worked. We have had choirs and FE chaplaincies for generations, and yet here we are. Is that because we didn't do these things well enough, or because they were only ever a minority sport (for those who could sing, or for people who already had a faith when they got to college/university)?

Posted by David Keen at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 8:18am GMT

Rod, thank you. I am finding the second rather difficult, but that might simply be tiredness on my part. The first, though, I really appreciate.

For me the most important part was that religious experience transcends science and cannot, adequately, be put into words. At a personal level that is definitely something that I have experienced, and understood. I hadn't formalised that knowledge though and, consequently, until now have failed to take the logical step: to the extent that the Bible describes religious experiences, it MUST be incomplete (which is different to saying that it is inaccurate). That's a significant revelation for which I am grateful, thank you.

I definitely want to read both again slowly when I am fresher because I suspect there is more in there.

Thank you so much.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 9:36am GMT

Good questions, David Keen. My feeling with regard to choirs is that in many cases their importance was not realised and they were allowed to diminish in size and quality over time and/or were killed off by vicars seized of the conviction that they were old fashioned or that sung liturgy put off newcomers who didn't know the tunes. When choirs aren't nurtured a weekday evening choir practice combining a rehearsal of music for the coming Sunday with the introduction of new material becomes a run through 45 minutes before the service becomes bumbling through hoping memory is enough to get through the service. No prizes for guessing which of those three choirs was attracting and retaining young people in the church.

Posted by Jo at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 10:02am GMT

I think this discussion has become sidetracked. Most young people don’t go to university. Most young people aren’t in church choirs. David Keen makes the ‘minority sport’ point but it doesn’t seem to me that he makes it firmly enough...

Posted by Cassandra at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 12:38pm GMT

Stanley Monkhouse and Andrew Lightbown have it spot on. Where there are choirs with children in churches, there are young families coming to worship. It's not rocket science. Except that the C of E has spent its collective energy over the past three or four decades doing its best to diminish choirs (and those who invest hours of their time nurturing and directing them) as either elitist or a barrier to 'authentic' worship. Which is one reason why many people have been abandoning parish churches and flocking to cathedrals in the meantime.

I have to say that the Royal School of Church Music (currently embarking on a second round to recruit a new Director) could do much more to give a stronger voice to the work that organists and choir directors are doing, and being less apologetic about its support for traditional church choirs. There are many examples of good practice where music is a primary vehicle of evangelism.

We don't flinch at paying the professional rate for architects, accountants and solicitors in our churches; but we think it is morally acceptable to pay musicians, often the very people having the greatest impact on growth in local churches, a derisory sum for hours and hours of dedicated and painstaking work. There needs to be a fundamental change of culture, and the resourcing of music given the same weight as 'yoof' work. Then we might begin to see a real difference.

Posted by Simon R at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 1:09pm GMT

"Most young people don’t go to university."

Around 50% of women aged 18-30 have been to university. That's not "most", I suppose, but it's hardly to be dismissed. The overall figure is lower, because of the wide disparity between women and men. But the number of families in the next generation who have at least one graduate parent will probably be well over 50%.

And every young person is taught, 35 hours a week for 40 weeks of the year, by people who have been to university. Yes, there might be a small number of teachers nearing retirement who have Cert Eds, but the vast majority of teachers have degrees.

Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 1:49pm GMT

an Exeter graduate writes...

not only is there a chapel, but the university started life as a college of art...

All these scientists and engineers made I have to say very little impact on a university that was determinedly (until the last ten years or so) far more of an arts and humanities one.

Not *that* much plate glass either!

Also, the establishment of a medical school is rather more to do with the quantum leap in grant funding available than "gravitas"...

Apart from that IO, I think I get what you were trying to say, but you certainly missed the mark using Exeter as an example. Can't really speak for the others, although my impression has always been that York is also more arts than science FWIW.

Posted by primroseleague at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 2:53pm GMT

Cassandra, Thank you for your comment, which I agree with.

As a boy with low to middling musicality, I attended school which educated one of the Oxford college choirs. The school had excellent music standards, but that experience has left me a 40 year legacy of insecurity relating to my own musicality, and a feeling that music, especially church music, is not for me. There are issues around elitism, and a them and us mentality.
Even now when I attend a service in a parish church with a strong choir I struggle to feel included within the service.
Church Choirs may have many excellent qualities, but there is a shadow side to think about - how the existence of a church choir can affect the experience of non musicians within the church. And please do not asssume that the effect is always positive.
Musicians love to quote the phrase that "he who sings, prays twice". Sure, but what does that phrase say to somebody who cannot sing? Are their prayers less valid?

Posted by Simon Dawson at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 3:30pm GMT

Re: Kate, Frederick Crowe (the older article) was a student of Lonergan's, a graduate of the Gregorian, and went on to become one of the most knowledgeable Lonergan scholars of his generation.

The second article by Christopher Friel deals with a treatment of feelings that goes beyond the common sense way feelings are often popularly understood, hence my nota bene.

I'm no Lonergan scholar, just a Lonergan enthusiast, for decades. Following Lonergan's analysis ( which was dynamic and evolved over his career) unpacking arguments by Lonergan scholars and critics alike, and trying to appropriate Lonergan's sources (e.g. Newman, Grammar of Assent) is difficult going; but one I have found very much worth the effort.

I suspect that everyone who posts here belongs to a particular tradition, that is to say, not just a denomination or a religion, but a theological/cultural tradition within one's religion and within which one stands in an effort to make sense of things.

Lonergan and transcendental Thomism ( a term I'm told Lonergan did not care for) are part of mine. I reference him not simply to advance an argument but because I have found his analysis makes sense of things at a foundational level. Others may find it so as well.

Engaging folks who stand in a different tradition is both the challenge and the reward of participating in comment boards like TA.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 3:42pm GMT

I agree with Stanley Monkhouse's comment about choirs in the sense that choral music including choral music for young people is a lovely and meaningful thing. Two qualifications though, first music is cultural and culture is diverse. I wouldn't be too hard on 'hipsters'. Secondly, choirs may teach a love of music. That does not mean that participation in one will necessarily lead to a love of God. There is the further question of why I am here (at worship) in the first place?

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 3:52pm GMT

My first comment which people read as being about choirs was at least as much about things that compete with church, in that case the air cadets. I didn't write clearly enough Church has always been a minority sport that appeals only to particular personality types and/or people with particular neuroses. Looking back, what kept me in the club was a fascination with 'The Divine' (theos) rather than anything that Jesus said or did. That followed when I became more adept at self-examination. That's why I suggest intriguing young people with notions of The Divine rather than Jesus as scout leader, or whatever, which would have repelled me at that age. It's difficult to know what to do for the best, but youth workers seem to be poor value for money: "when young people were asked who or what influenced the way that they thought about faith and religion, 73 per cent who believed in God said their family. Just nine per cent said youth workers."

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 4:09pm GMT

Re: Stanley Monkhouse, "Just nine per cent said youth workers." I don't doubt it.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 5:40pm GMT

"Just nine per cent said youth workers." - Possibly because so few churches have them. It's hard to be influenced by people you don't have access to. My limited experience of having a properly trained, paid youth worker who has a vocation to this ministry (not the only 20 something left in the church) has been pretty positive.

There are plenty of churches where youth and young adults go - they go to churches where they are included and empowered. We have to offer more to the young than the choice between a choir cassock or a server's cassock.

Posted by Rev Paul at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 6:32pm GMT

Interested Observer, it’s possible that you are conflating ‘going to university’ with the criteria used for data such as

What the government counts are those who spend 6 months or more on a course lasting 6 months or more. Not the same as the numbers doing the 3 yrs full-time equivalent of a degree.

Posted by Cassandra at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 7:49pm GMT

"What the government counts are those who spend 6 months or more on a course lasting 6 months or more."

The current non-completion rate is about 20% [1]. That's counting from a starting position which I think (I can't immediately check) is shorter than six months: I think it's "80% of people who enroll and stay past the end of the first term get degrees". So OK, 40% of women rather than 50% (80% of 50%) if you want to work it from "get degree" rather than "have an HE experience".

The key demographic shift is that in 1963 36 000 people started university, and in 2015 that was 463 700 [2] [3]. That's 12-fold increase. Given the proportion of women has gone from 25% to 56% [2] [4], it's a 29-fold increase in women. Yes, it's misleading because of teacher training being out of the 1963 number and in the 2015 number, but even then the number of people in university plus teacher training has increased about eight-fold.

That means the chances of a child born in the next ten years having a graduate parent are hugely, hugely greater. That is bound to have an effect on social attitudes.


[2] Appendix 2(A) of the Robbins Report, page 27.


Posted by Interested Observer at Monday, 15 January 2018 at 11:27pm GMT

I agree with Stanley Monkhouse. If you apply a Welbyesque business model to youth workers, and measure their collective 'productivity' against their pay, they are simply not delivering the goods.

In the church I attend, there was a youth worker (shared ecumenically with the Methodists, URC and Baptists) and paid in the region of 25K (the professional rate, I assume?) while our excellent organist was on less than 4K (as recommended by the Royal School of Church Music, no less). The growing discontent with the youth worker led a new, incoming incumbent to withdraw the parish's commitment to the youth worker. Interestingly, the numbers of young people involved in the church rose considerably, not least because the choir became the focus for our outreach to families, schools and youngsters. But guess what? Despite the marked increase of investment in time and energy (around 10 extra hours a week) the organist is still paid the same! Somehow, I can't see a solicitor, architect or youth worker standing for that.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Tuesday, 16 January 2018 at 9:48am GMT

InterestedObserver, what I’m concerned about here is the way this thread on ‘passing on the faith’ went off into a discussion of university chapels and chaplaincies, without a complementary discussion of the many young people who wouldn’t be touched by these even if every HE institution had one.

Posted by Cassandra at Tuesday, 16 January 2018 at 5:28pm GMT

There are of course churches that do very well at reaching children and young people. My brother attends one such church in Manchester - vaguely Pentecostal, I believe. They don't appear to have any difficulty attracting and hanging onto kids.

If the Church of England as a whole is doing such a poor job of discipling its kids, maybe it's time to see what can be learned from other traditions who are doing better at it?

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Tuesday, 16 January 2018 at 8:47pm GMT

@Michael Mulhern, well, exactly. The RSCM could be seen as one of the countervailing forces against more equitable conditions for organists and church musicians generally because their pay recommendations are premised on the musician having other work -- thus entrenching a highly amateurish model of engagement on people who might be rather more serious than that.

Part of the problem is that music is not part of the formation of the clergy. It's one thing to have sung in a choir as a child or young person -- however powerful the experience might have been for many nascent clergy -- and quite another to understand the practical and cultural and even **theological** implications of a musical culture. This in an era when people are more exposed to music than ever before. This seems to be missing a very important cultural dynamic that may even be relevant to doing mission more effectively.

One of the fruits of this is that very few clergy actually understand the ministerial side of being a church musician (although I'm sure Fr Monkhouse will have some insight). So instead of using the framework for a stipendiary lay minister the musicians end up being put on what amounts to a gentleman's agreement and RSCM rates by clergy who don't really know how to imagine a better way of going about things.

Posted by Victoriana at Wednesday, 17 January 2018 at 11:03am GMT

Thank you Victoriana. Having been church musician for 50 years and more, and now priest, I KNOW that musicians have immense power to make or break liturgy and atmosphere. l treasure my good musicians immensely, we discuss, we work together and I expect great things from them - and I get them. The sad fact that PCCs are willing to pay properly youth workers, roofers, plumbers, electricians, etc, but not musicians, is a cause of great grief. As far as some PCC members are concerned, all I can say is 'where there's death, there's hope'. I pray that there will be a renaissance in due course, but it will take a generation or two for the legacy of abuse scandals to work itself out. I can't see the inverted snobbery and anti-musical attitudes of some clergy easily dealt with. I've never been convinced by the RSCM, and these days it seems useless as anything other than a club for nostalgics. Still, we must KBO (unfortunate usage perhaps in this context).

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Wednesday, 17 January 2018 at 12:35pm GMT

Leaving aside the point that faith cannot be taught and even before we determine how best to teach discipleship, the Church needs to widen its engagement with the community. That means the community needs to feel empowered and not looked down upon and certain Shibboleths stand in the way of that.

A typical family has a different Sunday routine than they would have had a generation ago, and that is having a major impact, but I don't think that is the biggest factor at work here. Much more relevant, I suggest is that society has become less deferential, more egalitarian, less class-oriented. The church however loves its hierarchies and deference to puff up that hierarchy - "Your Grace", "Father", "Minister".

All the arguments about gender and sexual orientation are deeply damaging. To insiders it is about who will be admitted to, and promoted through the hierarchy - although you won't find many sufficiently honest to admit that - but outside that just appears like increasingly desperate attempts to retain hierarchy, class and deference in a society which is moving away from those things. If the Church wants to increase engagement, it is going to have to deal with the Shibboleths which stand in the way.

Jesus wasn't paid, isn't it bizarre that organists, youth workers and ministers expect more pay than their Master ever received?

And 99% of the time we address our master, refer to our master, simply by his given name, Jesus. Is it not even more bizarre that many in the church expect to be addressed as / referred to as Father, Bishop, Choirmaster etc?

The problem with engagement is very basic: there is no significantly less humility in the church than there is in general society; and there is significantly greater equality in society than there is in the church.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 17 January 2018 at 12:38pm GMT

Kate: 'Jesus wasn't paid'. But humanly speaking he had to support life somehow (like ministers, youth workers etc). I don't think the gospels tell us how.
'99% of the time we address our master . . . simply by his given name Jesus'. I'm not sure that 'we' includes everybody, but in any case in the gospels he seems usually to be addressed by such honorifics as 'Lord', 'Master', 'Rabbi'. Is he ever actually addressed simply as Jesus?

Posted by John Scrivener at Wednesday, 17 January 2018 at 3:19pm GMT

"The church however loves its hierarchies and deference to puff up that hierarchy - "Your Grace", "Father", "Minister". @Kate

Though it would be difficult to argue that 'Your Grace' wasn't being deferential (though as far as I am aware only Archbishops and Dukes get this amount of grovelling), it is common for Father, Revd etc. to be used as a designation of a particular role / job.

Presumably you don't feel you're being uncomfortably deferential if you call your GP 'Doctor' Finlay (or whatever). Why then feel oppressed if a member of the clergy is 'Father', 'Mother' etc.?

I'm content for people to use whatever designation of me in my clerical role as they wish, and there is almost as much variety as there are people to have a preference. Sometimes it's easier to use something like 'Father' or 'Revd' to establish the capacity in which you may be contacting someone. I'm not interested in puffing myself up, 'priestly dignity' or the rest of it. Not all clergy are looking for self-aggrandisement, promotion, status etc. Not many clergy are in it for the money.

There's an amazing amount of bowing and scraping in Anglican liturgy (prayer of humble access anyone?) and we do more often than not call our master 'Lord' or indeed 'Christ'.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Wednesday, 17 January 2018 at 4:26pm GMT

"Presumably you don't feel you're being uncomfortably deferential if you call your GP 'Doctor' Finlay"

I get very annoyed when I call my doctor Doctor Surname, and they call me Interested. Mr Observer will work, thanks, or if we're playing titles bingo, Dr Observer. Leaving aside the petty academic snobbery of whether people with MBChBs should be called Doctor at all (they've got two first degrees, right?), then a doctor's consulting room shouldn't have a power dynamic, and either it's given names for everyone or "Title Surname" for everyone.

So whether I feel calling my GP Doctor X is overly deferential depends on what they call me. Being addressed as Interested by someone half my age who insisted on being called Doctor X (not my GP, a hospital setting) was I thought simply rude. Medical staff are now supposed to ask for, and use, your preferred name.

Posted by Interested Observer at Wednesday, 17 January 2018 at 4:50pm GMT

Stanley Monkhouse and Victoriana (and others) are saying what many of us have been thinking about the RSCM for a long time. In particular, the clergy musical training issue is ripe for attention. I think it will prove to be an 'own goal' in the long run that the RSCM has allowed the Cof E clergy training syllabus to ignore musical and liturgical formation by attempting to provide it themselves. The appointment of a clergy training officer, which seems to have gone for the lowest common denominator of ticking all the boxes possible, rather than focusing on theological and musical rigour, is not actually helping anyone. Let's hope, with the second attempt at appointing its next Director, they will invest in their core constituency and stop trying to be 'all things to all people.' It isn't working.

Posted by Douglas James at Wednesday, 17 January 2018 at 6:02pm GMT

"'Jesus wasn't paid'. But humanly speaking he had to support life somehow (like ministers, youth workers etc). I don't think the gospels tell us how."

At least two of the gospels say that Jesus was "provided for" by "women." Matt. 27:55; Mark 15:41.

Posted by dr.primrose at Wednesday, 17 January 2018 at 7:16pm GMT

Actually, my conversation with my doctors is likely to start, "Hi Stuart, how have you been?" Likewise, nobody I know would call our local MP by anything other than his /her (it recently changed) bare first name, and more would they ever suggest anyone did.

The Lord even told us what we need to do to engage, "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth." It's easy for the church to teach that but it seems to be hard for the church to live it.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 17 January 2018 at 8:03pm GMT

Douglas James: Anyone who hears tales of what the RSCM was like in its heyday under "Auntie" Gerald Knight - I am old enough (67) to have heard and witnessed - will have come to his/her own conclusions. All this helped the RSCM establish for itself a reputation that is - I am trying to be charitable here - questionable, and that in the long run has done the cause of church music no favours whatsoever. If I were a theological course principal I would pay RSCM no heed. The answer must lie elsewhere. Disband RSCM and go for some "proper" music - plainsong! It's easier. Now I've said enough on this interesting thread and shall say no more. I could write my memoirs of life as a parish and cathedral musician. "Auntie" Gerald examined me in my RCO choir training diploma and approved of me. Should I feel ashamed or delighted? On balance, the latter I think. Adieu.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Wednesday, 17 January 2018 at 8:17pm GMT

@Kate (17 Jan 12.38pm GMT), that's a bit of a mixed-bag of observations.

My choirs have always been run in the expectation that people will encounter Jesus through their journey in the group. I've studied theology and have no hesitation in talking about the spirituality of the music we sing. Prayer is part of every rehearsal. And there's a fair amount of theological reflection around the group about the choir's ethos and our collective desire to share that to new people. I think that sounds like music being mission. And the runs are on the board in my current choir -- 15 people, 12 completely new to the Church -- after the group was disbanded in a destructive period of parish conflict three and a half years ago.

"Jesus wasn't paid" ah yes, but wasn't he supported by a number of women who had means at their disposal (cf Luk 8.1-3)? What does this mean for an institutional shape of ministry that claims the name of Jesus? Surely the labourer is worthy of his hire, and an institution that dares to speak of an abundant God could afford to be a little more reluctant to treat people to not only poor pay, but often defective employment conditions. Jesus is no argument against equity. Isn't it bizzarre people seem to think otherwise? I uphold the RSCM in its British and Australian manifestations as exhibit A of this tendency.

And you're right about titles. But what lies under that contention is more important. My vicar is a self-taught pianist. I have higher degrees in music, along with later studies in theology and quite a fair bit of academic engagement with liturgy. Yet my vicar doesn't include me in any conversation about liturgy or music, and allows me to receive a copy of the annual Ordo to rub the point in. He treats me like an internet ordering setup. And he's very energetic about telling me when things go wrong, and useless at saying more than a grudging thanks even when the standard is excellent.

What's underneath all of this is an issue of **authority**. I have authority because I have submitted to the processes of professional formation by going to teachers and being assessed. Most people don't see this because of ethereal attitudes around musicians who just happen to be good at their craft.

My vicar's idea of authority amounts to positional power in the hierarchy, and this seems like a very brittle style of leadership. I'm a naturally collaborative person who gets fed up with having to feed hints through so the vicar can magically come up with an idea I'd like to try. I question the positional power in the way it's currently exercised because it reflects the limitations of a vicar who's never really had to work with people who aren't swept along by his publicity. And the question of money? That involves negotiation, which doesn't seem to come naturally. He's got a big hat and a title, you see.

What does all of this have to do with mission? Well, you can't expect people to starve for the Kingdom. Jesus fed people and healed their ailments before telling them the Gospel. Too often the Church gets sidetracked by the internal political games around sexuality, gender, or whatever. And we stop feeding people and healing their ailments. And we scratch our heads when they reject the Gospel we try to share because they see the way we beat the workers we have called to labour in the field...

Posted by Victoriana at Thursday, 18 January 2018 at 10:02am GMT

A light-hearted but true contribution to the church music debate:

In 1967 I was stationed at RAF Sharjah, where my (army) RC oppo was both bitterly anti-RAF and anti-Anglican. He tolerated me, I think because I paid my round and didn’t regard him as an enemy (nearly all Anglican RAF padres were C of I). “C’mon, Mike”, he said one day, “I’ll show you how the Catholic Church works.” Apparently a passing frigate out in the Gulf had requested an RC padre. The whirlybird deposited us on the foredeck, where we were met by an apologetic Lt Cdr: “I’m awfully sorry, padre, but there aren’t any takers for Mass . . . but there are a few C of Es who’d like a Communion service.” I snatched his portable communion set without a word. One nil to the Reformed Church.

The only snag was that there wasn’t a single BCP to be found. Some locked away perhaps, but none visible. The liturgy was OK – my generation knew all the main services by heart, and I could remember a Collect – but what about the readings? For the epistle, I chose Phil 4:4: “rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice . .”. The gospel was a little more difficult, but I got through Jn 1:19ff “this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites . .” well enough. If there had been an OT lesson, it would have been 1 Kings 8: “I have surely built thee an house . . and the Lord said to Solomon (stoomph, stoomph, stoomph on the organ pedals)”.

The moral? Anthems were written in order to ram verses of scripture into our memory banks, unlike those today, whose purpose seems to be more motivational, and less successful, imo.
I may be wrong, but are there relatively few anthems based on verses from the gospels? Apart from those by the matchless and incomparable Tallis, of course (“Verily, verily”, “If ye love me”, “A new commandment”). But then he was a Catholic.

[PS: the anthem at the re-interment of Richard III’s remains should have been Wesley’s “Cast me not away from thy presence . . . that the bones that thou hast bro-o-o-ken may rejoice,” rather than that utterly tuneless Tavener piece.]

Posted by Michael Skliros at Thursday, 18 January 2018 at 11:43am GMT

Lovely story, Michael Skliros. (I once sang in a choir).

Posted by Flora Alexander at Thursday, 18 January 2018 at 1:54pm GMT
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