Thinking Anglicans

Bank Holiday weekend opinions

Giles Fraser asked in the Church Times How should children behave in church?

Mark Vernon wrote about Humanism in Face to Faith in the Guardian.

Earlier this week A C Grayling wrote The rise of Miliband brings at last the prospect of an atheist prime minister.

Christopher Howse wrote in the Telegraph about Cardinal Newman’s miraculous bones.

Peter Townley wrote in The Times about The value of William Temple’s vision in a cynical world.

Susan Jacoby wrote at the Washington Post’s On Faith site about Saddleback Church Forum: A Religious Test For The Presidency. Other opinions on this topic here.


  • Pluralist says:

    What a difference between the artificiality of the Obama and McCain religious test, and all that expectation, and the clarity regarding interests that someone like atheist Miliband would (or a Kinnock would have) give to politial office. Of course there are arguments about a traditional thread in society helping to bind it together, etc., but government is instrumental and has to deal with competing interests. I’m in full agreement with A. C. Grayling.

  • Wilf says:

    Oh, but isn’t AC Grayling boring….

  • Pat O'Neill says:

    In re: Giles’ “problem”–

    While it behooves parents who bring small children to church to control them, it is a poor Christian (to my mind) who cannot accept that small children are still small children and not animals to be tamed.

    We brought our two boys to church with us from the very beginning, including on days when one or both of us were participating in the liturgy (as server or reader). Our solution was to sit them right up front–first of all, it meant fewer parishioners would be around them; second, it meant, when we were at the altar or the lectern, we could observe them and make the appropriate subtle gestures of reprimand.

    No child is going to be perfectly behaved all the time; perhaps those who object so strenuously should think back to what they were like at that age.

  • Jon says:

    Grayling’s article sounds more like wishful thinking to me. If you really want someone totally neutral towards religions, you want an agnostic, one that holds emphatically that he or she neither knows nor cares about religious subjects. Atheists, in so far as they have a definite position on the religious question “Does God exist?”, cannot be genuinely neutral towards those who believe God does exist. Actually, I have seen far more atheists convinced that they’re cleverer than all religious folks than humble atheists.

    Additionally, what is Grayling proposing the State do to eliminate the CoE’s control of 80% of primary education and a hefty chunk of secondary education? With only 2% of the population in attendance weekly, it seems like the CoE must provide a good education for so many to prefer CoE schools. It seems rather reckless to me to change the leadership of the schools if and when the schools are doing so well.


  • Cheryl Va. says:

    Fraser’s article reminds us a truism “You can make some of the people happy all the time, all of the people happy some of the time, but you can’t make all of the people happy all of the time”.

    Church communities are always dealing with paradoxes and managing tensions. Provisions are made to address reasonable needs, but at the end of the day every church community involves a certain amount of compromise (just like any family). We all know souls who believe that the world should bend over for them, and with the exception of the few who think this is their “right”, the rest of us know they are spoilt self-absorbed souls to be tolerated and occassionally rebuked if their behaviour becomes too abusive.

    Vernon’s reminds us what is good about humanism. There are some Christians who are “nit-pickers”, who once they find one fault, use that to justify dismissing a whole person’s writings or a paradigm. Sensible Christians are more generous, we don’t hide from or deny the world and its learning and endeavours. Rather, we look at what is good and useful in any and everything and look at how to integrate.

    Some read the bible to justify rejecting this world and its occupants. Others read the bible to see how to engage and integrate both divine and mundane.

  • choirboyfromhell says:

    Susan Jacoby’s article should be a wake-up call to the rest of the world of that what is happening in the U.S. is not Christianity, but a virulent form brainwashing of anti-intellectualism posing as such; a panacea for a nation that is cracking financially and declining intellectually in a dangerous parallel of another nation of Europe in the last century.

  • John Bassett says:

    Hmmm. Miliband as Prime Minister? Last polls I saw suggested that the Conservatives would clobber Labour no matter who the leader was.

    And as far as the wonders of an atheist as leader of a country, hasn’t that been tried already in the former Soviet block countries and China? Didn’t seem like atheism made those guys so wonderful.

  • Robert Ian Williams says:

    I admired Peter Tatchell in the way he stood up against Robert Mugabe, but feel he is wrong as regards Cardinal Newman. There is no evidence that he was gay ( just as there is non for the ladies of Llangollen who lived down the road from me)..Newnam’s first love was the Lord and His Church..and he would happily submit to re-burial if that was her commnad…and even if he had homosexual temptation he would never of acted it out.

    “And I hold in veneration, fir the love of Him alone,
    holy Church as his creation, and her teaching as his own.”

    Howverr if I were the Church authorities, I don’t see why St John’s body can’t go with him as well.

  • BillyD says:

    I’m not sure why young children are expected to attend the main church service at all. In my parish (as, it appears, in Giles Fraser’s) there’s Sunday School for kids during the Liturgy of the Word; they then join the adults for the Liturgy of the Table. Frankly, they don’t seem to get much out of it, and are often (admittedly mildly) disruptive. The only reason for insisting on their presence seems to be sentimentality. Why not have them join their parents at coffee hour, instead, if there are childcare workers and teachers available?

  • BillyD says:

    Jacoby is not alone in her horror at the Saddleback Church Forum. That both candidates took part in it did nothing to improve my opinion of either of them.

  • Pat O'Neill says:

    Oddly enough, my parish does it almost exactly the opposite. Our youngest children attend the main service through the OT and Epistle readings. Then the priest calls them all up for a “children’s sermon”, after which they process out (led by one bearing a miniature cross) to the sequence hymn and go to our “children’s chapel.”

  • Malcolm+ says:

    Having the children leave for Sunday School after the liturgy of the word used to be pretty standard in these parts. Ironically, that had them sit through the part of the service the least accessible to them.

    The more common practice I now see is the children joining the rest of the community at the peace, just before the offertory. At the cathedral parish where I am normally canonically resident (though not at the moment), they have gone so far as to reject the “Sunday School” label in favour of “children’s liturgy.”

    From the peace forward, you have a series of active moments that are more accessible to children. You have the presentation of the gifts of bread, wine and money. You have the recitation of the eucharistic story, you have the act of communion and then you have the closing prayers. These are far more accessible to children than many of the lectionary readings (wife of Uriah, anyone?). And it permits the children to be with their families for communion – important since children as communicants is now the more common practice in these parts.

  • Giles Fraser says:


    The reason they join the adults in church is so that they can receive the Eucharist together with their parents – or, for the under eights – to receive a blessing.

  • Ford Elms says:

    “I’m not sure why young children are expected to attend the main church service at all.”

    It’s all in the attitude. The Orthodox Church never separated the Confirmation part of Christian Initiation from the baptism part, so Orthodox children receive from their baptisms, or I guess, their weening. So, as they say, their children cannot remember a time when grace as limited for them, when they didn’t receive. So, children are expected to be participators in the Litugry, as best they can, like everyone else. What’s wrong with that? Rather than have children fidget and not pay attention to the liturgy, we send them away so they can fidget and not pay attention to something else. I wonder if the reason is that we get frustrated because they’re fidgeting, a poor reason to instill in children the idea that the Eucharist is something so tedious, we don’t really expect younger people to tolerate sitting through all of it. Maybe we need to get over the idea that it is somehow intolerable for a child to be making a fuss in the middle of Church. After all, we are in our Father’s house having our main Sunday meal as a family. You have to expect the young ones to be a bit boistrous.

  • BillyD says:

    Ford wrote: “It’s all in the attitude. The Orthodox Church never separated the Confirmation part of Christian Initiation from the baptism part, so Orthodox children receive from their baptisms, or I guess, their weening. So, as they say, their children cannot remember a time when grace as limited for them, when they didn’t receive. So, children are expected to be participators in the Litugry, as best they can, like everyone else.”

    I used to be Orthodox, and what you say is true in part. On the other hand, I’ve been to celebrations of the Divine Liturgy where the ONLY people receiving Communion were the priest, and babes in arms.

    I’d be interested in knowing the effect PECUSA’s practice of communicating children has on them later in life. Does it result in young adults who are more rooted in the life of the Church?

    My fear is that this is a practice that means more to the adults involved than it does to the children (hence my reference to sentimentality above).

  • Ford Elms says:

    “I used to be Orthodox”

    As someone who would have gladly swum the Bosporus at one point in my life had a parish been available here, and who still considers it, I am fascinated that you swam the other way! What attracts me most is the attitude towards God, worship, community, indeed pretty much everything. That and the clear understanding that public worship is NOT something done for the “worship experience” of the “audience” but an actual entering into the presence of God by people who are doing something they know how to do. There is no compunction to give an explanation of things we have done all our lives, an understanding that liturgical education is something to be done outside of the liturgy, NOT while we are celebrating the Mysteries, and a general rejoicing in mystical things that is, for the most part, lacking in Western Christianity. It’s this understanding of Liturgy that so strikes me, actually, and underlined for me how our clergy just didn’t seem to get it. Liturgical reform in the West, for instance, contained the idea that Eastward facing celebration produced a separation between priest and people that was antithetical to the idea of the Liturgy, it was seen as causing some great divide. I even heard one priest praising the Orthodox for not having that separation, since at many points in the Liturgy the priest faces the people. When I pointed out that an iconostasis was a far more physical separation than a priest’s back, but no Orthodox would think in terms of being separated from anything as a result of its presence, he had no answer. I know there are also huge problems, but I’m interested to know why you left.

  • BillyD says:

    Ford, I was an Episcopalian who joined the Orthodox Church back in the 1980’s not out of dissatisfaction with WO or the new BCP (as so many Episcopalians did) but because I was convinced that the EOC was the original Church of the Apostles. I was also deeply conflicted about my sexuality, and my conversion was part of a process of trying to re-invent myself as a straight man, or at least a celibate gay one.

    A couple of years later, in a different city, I came back to the Episcopal Church. I suppose you could say that I came back because I was somewhat burned out and disillusioned. The air up there was a little too rarified for me. And my romantic view of the EOC as the unchanged successor of the undivided Church didn’t stand the test of time, or the realities of parish life, very well. If you want to discuss the subject, email me at billydinpvd at gmail dot com.

    My time in the EOC still informs my spiritual life. Sometimes I miss it — but not enough to go back.

  • Malcolm+ says:

    Of course, what attracts us to some place else – ecclesiastically or geographically – is often an idealized version of what that other place is. Ford is (like me) attracted by an idealized sense of what Orthodox Christianity is – a sense which is probably true, more or less, in theory, but less so “on the ground.”

  • Mark Bennet says:

    How should children behave in church?

    Like children. More to the point:

    How should children of God behave in Church?

    The church service is where the Family of God meets together – all of it, else it isn’t a proper symbol of the Kingdom. If you are lloking for quiet space, meditation etc – that’s different. Too much expectation loaded on a single event, pretending it’s something other than it is …

    Will you persuade people of this? Never.

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