Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 13 September 2023

Mark Clavier The Living Church A House-Going Parson Makes a Church-Going People

Sorrel Christian ViaMedia.News Young Christianity Today

Colin Coward Unadulterated Love Is Christianity losing its sense of morality or finding new vision?

a member of the Anglican Survivors Group ViaMedia.News Are Churches Safe?

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David Hawkins
David Hawkins
8 months ago

“We ask, as survivors ourselves, one simple question. If YOU were 10 years old and trying to report abuse, could you?” Please read this article from the Anglican Survivors Group if you are a member of the Church of England it is vitally important. I was a member of our Church Council in a German Anglican Parish and consequently had to undergo basic training in Safeguarding and I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that Church of England “safeguarding” is actually all about protecting the reputation and finances of the Church. After training I raised what seemed like the most… Read more »

Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller
8 months ago

Mark Clavier wants clergy to do more visiting, but although there are many clergy who work hard, there is no accountability for lazy work-shy clergy who do almost nothing, let alone pastoral visting.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Oliver Miller
8 months ago

Justin Lewis-Anthony’s “If you meet George Herbert on the road, kill him: Radically Re-Thinking Priestly Ministry” is worth reading here. The writer claims that inherited patterns of pastoral ministry place unrealistic expectations and eventually lead to burn-out; and I’ve watched good, conscientious colleagues who have been formed in the tradition of ‘the visiting parson’ – and every parsonage occupied – do just that. As a curate my incumbent felt it vital to my priestly formation that I visit everyone who hadn’t been seen in church lately. It worked, for a Sunday or two, before they again went AWOL. Much later,… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Oliver Miller
8 months ago

‘there is no accountability’. I can assure you there is. No diocese wants to waste its resources funding infective clergy.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  David Runcorn
8 months ago

“infective clergy”, surely such should be better funded, David?

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

Not sure what you mean Allan? (ineffective – excuse typing)

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  David Runcorn
8 months ago

Infect with the good news of Christ perhaps?

Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller
Reply to  David Runcorn
8 months ago

Can you give any example of any clergy who’ve ever been fired for doing no more than the bare minimum?

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
8 months ago

Re: The Living Church article; the 1950s called. They want their mojo back.

Rev'd John Harris-White
Rev'd John Harris-White
8 months ago

now nearly ninety;my two main memories of my ministry is giving Holy Communion especially to the sick and house bound; and visiting the good folk in their homes.

Fr John Emlyn

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
8 months ago

Given the busy lives most people live today, with both spouses working, kids with after-school activities, and weekends spent with social lives and necessary errands, when exactly does Mark Clavier think parishioners will be home to play host to their parson?

Borderman
Borderman
Reply to  Pat ONeill
8 months ago

Can not pastoral encounters occur outside of the home? Perhaps on the street walking the dog? Or at the local shop picking up milk, or a bottle of wine for the evening? Or at a cafe or pub? Maybe watching a local sports team? I have come across several Priests whose idea of a Sunday is take the morning service(s) then go home, have lunch with the spouse and do family things. Ditto any evening that doesn’t involve a meeting. The idea of hanging about and lingering in those public places where people are somehow always conflicts. And as an… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Borderman
8 months ago

The sense I got of Mark’s article was that he expected the local clergy to spend one or two days a week simply walking through the village, rather like the TV version of “Father Brown,” stopping in to visit parishioners. I don’t know about you, but when I’m on my errands, I’m usually in a hurry and stopping for a “pastoral encounter” (if it is truly to be “pastoral” and not just “Oh, hi, Father Jack!”) is an intrusion on my plans.

Borderman
Borderman
Reply to  Pat ONeill
8 months ago

A clergy widow introduced me to the idea of ‘ministry of interruption’, by which she meant that a phone call or knock on the door would waylay plans and delay practical tasks. Whilst I might not welcome an intrusion to my plans I have to be mindful that busyness is the most surefire way to blind myself toward God and that my errands are not necessarily always of greater importance. I still remember someone knew when a student, responding to my hello with, ‘I am too busy to stop.’ Not a ‘Hello’, or ‘Keeping well?’ It stuck as rude and… Read more »

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Borderman
8 months ago

I think you reversed my meaning. It is not the clergyman who would resent the intrusion in his planned day, but the parishioner.

Borderman
Borderman
Reply to  Pat ONeill
8 months ago

Most likely I have.

However to assume that possible intrusion results in resentment is as bad as assuming folk will always welcome pastoral guidance. The question is, do you try and deal with the consequences, or do you stay silent in fear of creating upset? I would suggest the latter contributes to the impression that clergy only care about the select and are aloof. Reading people and situation, which involves error, is surely the better path.

Tim Chesterton
Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Borderman
8 months ago

‘I have come across several Priests whose idea of a Sunday is take the morning service(s) then go home, have lunch with the spouse and do family things.’ Since clergy families routinely complain that the clergy person is busy evenings and weekends and they never get much time with them, I make no apology for starting my sabbath after lunch on Sunday. Although, many of my colleagues should be so lucky. In one of my parishes, I drove 150 miles, took services in three communities (10 am, 1.30 pm, 3.30 pm, home at 6 pm) and then led the youth… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
Reply to  Borderman
8 months ago

When I was ordained in 1980 our retired assistant priest said to me “Be seen”. A piece of advice I always took, though my parishes were urban/ inner-city so walking about, shops, pubs etc wasn’t difficult .

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Pat ONeill
8 months ago

That sounds to me like an utter cop out. There are plenty of lonely, plenty of elderly, plenty of housebound etc in any parish. What is more there are people who would welcome their parish priest, especially if he was known to be a visitor, a support and a pastor. We have to minister to ther strong and not just the weak. There plenty of excuses for not being the parish priest but the facilitator of those who belong to the ‘church club’. The model of Anglican pastoral ministry to the parish is still valid. The issue is some poor… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
8 months ago

SA, I’m not sure what you mean by contrasting the ‘Anglican pastoral ministry to the parish’ with the ‘holy club facilitator.’ Are you assuming that all Anglicans belong to an established church in which the vicar is seen as the pastor of the whole community? Just a reminder that the majority of Anglicans around the world don’t live in that situation. I’m the pastor of a parish of 120 families. They are my parishioners because they have chosen to be so. They are not a holy club looking out on the great unwashed. Many of them are involved in volunteer… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by Tim Chesterton
Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
8 months ago

Of course. I was writing from a Church of England perspective as much of the matter being discussed relates to England.
Canada is a very different issue.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
8 months ago

I realise that, but the term you used was ‘THE model of Anglican pastoral ministry’, not ‘A model of Church of England pastoral ministry.’

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
8 months ago

Ok….post colonialism ….slack thinking.
Your point is scored

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
8 months ago

‘Canada is a very different issue’ – how so? As Tim points out he is describing the shape of ministry for the majority of global Anglican communion. More to the point it may well be modelling something for an emerging CofE in our own changing transition, whatever our treasured memories of how it used be. I am very grateful for Tim and other voices from ‘outside’ who engage here. They do not always feel welcome. But we need them.

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  David Runcorn
8 months ago

Fr Chesterton seems to think they are different in Canada.
I was attempting to be polite and not get involved in silly church ping pong…again.
I don’t know why you have stepped in.
I feel further patronised. Semper eadem on this site at present.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
8 months ago

Dear SA. I apologise if I have unjustly projected onto you, as an individual, a rather common attitude I see on TA. According to this attitude, true Anglican parish ministry involves the clergy person being in a pastoral relationship to every single person within the boundaries of their parish. Thus their primary responsibility is to be visible and available for baptisms, weddings, funerals, counselling, and practical help to strangers (as well as regular attenders, of course). I know this approach well because it was my dad’s philosophy. One of the reasons he struggled when he ministered in Canada in 1975-78… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
8 months ago

Let me add this story. A few years ago the mayor of Edmonton (not a Christian) accepted an invitation to be the guest speaker at a fundraising dinner for our Anglican university chaplaincy. The dinner was attended by a couple of hundred Anglican laity and clergy; many of those laity are very active in the Diocese but also in the life of our city. When the mayor began his speech, he admitted that he wasn’t really a person of faith himself, but then he looked around the room and said, “I’m surprised—and I don’t know why i would be—to see… Read more »

Struggling Anglican
Struggling Anglican
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
8 months ago

Tim, I get your point and it is clearly very valid in Canada and has a significant traction over here. I have been a priest for over half a century and was schooled in the trad parish model which I have valued greatly. I have also ministered for a few years in the USA where clearly the trad parish model would be absurd. As an English Anglican of a relatively conservative style I still find myself valuing this model along with ante-diluvian things such as full time residential theological colleges and a theologically educated clergy. Others have differing and different… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
8 months ago

‘I have been a priest for over half a century…’

Thank you for your faithfulness, SA. You’ve got a few years on me. I began-full time parish ministry in 1978 as a Church Army officer, and continued it after ordinations in 1990 and 1992. I passed my 45th anniversary this past June 1st.

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Struggling Anglican
8 months ago

‘I don’t know why you have stepped in.’ This on a discussion thread about the lost art of pastoral visiting.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
8 months ago

Matthew 25 sets the standard for the clergy to visit. I found visiting hugely helpful in terms of building relationships but also personally rewarding. So many people in modern life are lonely; spending 50 minutes with them drinking tea, looking at pictures of the grandchildren and often talking about existential matters was time very well spent. I often squeezed in a pastoral phone call between appointments. Too many clergy don’t feel they have the time for pastoral care but that’s because they prioritise pointless committees and diocesan initiatives over the bread and butter stuff.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Fr Dean
8 months ago

I agree. Only once in a long ministry did I have a door slammed in my face. It was soon quickly opened , and an apologetic parishioner explained she’d rushed inside to retrieve her dentures. People don’t like to appear in front of the vicar without their teeth.

Ex clergy
Ex clergy
Reply to  Fr Dean
8 months ago

My mother worshipped at her church for fifty years and sung in the choir. The vicar never visited her in the seven years before she died and was never interested in her.When she did her funeral she obviously didn’t know her and we made a huge effort to make sure that the vicar did very little. I mentioned to the vicar that there were aspects of our family life that were best not referred to and she didn’t know what I was talking about. I think pastoral work is important not just for funerals but showing a heathy interest in… Read more »

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Ex clergy
8 months ago

I was once asked to talk to a class in the primary school about my ‘job’. As they were little dots I ran through the tangible details of services, writing sermons, saying my prayers and the occasional offices but I finished by saying that one of the most important things I did was to listen to people. As to be expected this was a little above their heads; but above their heads I noticed that the teacher and the teaching assistant were blinking back the tears. Pastoral care is subtle and nuanced; you may think you’re achieving X but Y… Read more »

Just sayin'
Just sayin'
Reply to  Ex clergy
8 months ago

Similar story with my own parents, who worshipped at their parish church for the 60 + years of their married life, took part in serving coffee, cleaning rota, building maintenance, helping organise and run the various summer/Christmas fair etc etc and had a regular standing order for their contribution. When in their mid 80’s they both succumbed to illness and were unable to attend they were not visited once by the clergy. When I tried to book a funeral in church for one of them I was told by the parish administrator that there was ‘no availability’ at that time.… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Fr Dean
8 months ago

The reference to the allegory of sheep and goats and acts of compassion and mercy that may under pin pastoral care makes an equally a good point of critique for the theme of the article “ house going parson makes a church going people.” My experience has been that many of the people with which I had pastoral encounters in a variety of settings, in my office, at my rectory door, in their homes, hospital or care home, or otherwise ‘off site’ did not have nor would they ever develop any meaningful pattern of church going. Their lives were often… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Rod Gillis
8 months ago

I agree with all of that but I don’t think all ministers have those skills, and I don’t think we should expect it.

People are unique. Ministers too. They have a unique set of strengths and weaknesses so their approach to ministry is likely to vary. I think we should recognise that – celebrate it even – and trust that the Lord tries to call the right minister to any particular place. (It doesn’t always happen because we aren’t always good as listening.)

Mark Andiam
Mark Andiam
Reply to  Kate Keates
8 months ago

Thank you Kate for this helpful reminder of our diverse humanity and thus ministry, which tallies with Jesus’ assurance that ‘in my Father’s house there are many mansions’

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Kate Keates
8 months ago

While aptitude varies from person to person, the whole point and purpose of training is to equip people with the skills they do not yet have but will require for their scope of practice. Demonstrated ability should be required before practitioners are put in front of vulnerable people. There is an authority that comes from education and competence. It’s not magically obtained by the laying on of hands without adequate formation. There is continuous conversation on this site about clergy abuse. Perhaps it is worth considering that a lack of seriousness on the part of the church with regard to… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Rod Gillis
8 months ago

The CofE’s record in this respect has been patchy. In the 1980/90s some dioceses followed the corporate world and adopted Myers-Briggs “to help prevent square pegs from ending up in round holes”, as one director of ordinands put it (M-B was damned by Ken Leech as “astrology for the middle-classes” and “salvation by technique”). Would it not be better to start by asking ourselves (particularly if from a tradition where sadness is made to feel like failure): “what have I done with my unhealed fragments; how do I acknowledge their legacy in me now”?

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

I’m not an advocate of Myers-Briggs. It’s bunk.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Rod Gillis
8 months ago

So it is. And, in the event, those ordinands had the sense to ignore their director’s advocacy of it and turn it into the joke it always was.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

When I was an under grad at uni the ‘god squad’ was a source of amusement. At divinity school there was an advanced course, Family Dynamics, taught by a psychiatrist. It was an inter-disciplinary venture with senior students from the divinity school and the school of social work. The text was, The Person, by Dr. Theodore Lidz. Some of the social work students found the tendency of some of the theologs to drag “Jesus and God” into everything amusing. We live in an inter-disciplinary world. The laughing tends to stop when pastors enter parish ministry and find themselves contending with… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Rod Gillis
8 months ago

“People tell clergy things, but the clergy often don’t know what to do with it.” Quite! My mentor was wont to warn of “the grave danger of ministerial omnicompetence”, adding “in any situation, from a pastoral chat to a formal confession, be aware that you may be dealing with issues for which even DD after your name will be of little use.”

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

I can think of a number of parish issues where a DD would be of little or no help. Lol.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Allan Sheath
8 months ago

I found M-B helpful but only so far as recognising it was about preferences and not being pigeon holed into one of 16 categories. My scepticism grew with every following stage of the ‘shadow’ side etc. M-B’s thumbnail sketch of my personality type indicator is absolutely spot on in my case, but that proves very little I suppose. Indicators are only that.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Fr Dean
8 months ago

Among the problems with M-B has been the power of suggestion. People are told that they are, e.g. a ‘thinking extrovert with intuition,’ or whatever, and they begin acting that out. I wish I had a Toonie for every time one of my colleagues said something like, ” That is the ‘J’ in me coming out”. Or, “I’m an introvert and I find meetings exhausting”. More likely meetings exhaust all of us because they are so bloody boring and time consuming. In that limited sense the comment above about personality characteristics linked to one’s astrological sign come to mind. That… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Rod Gillis
8 months ago

Maybe that’s why the Church of England can appear so …. grey, if training is to burnish out people’s weaknesses so that they meet a lowest common denominator across everything. The alternative is to build on strengths. So, help a pastoralist become even better at community liaison but if someone is a theologian give them more academic training etc.

A not so humble parishioner
A not so humble parishioner
8 months ago

I do believe that it is now highly unlikely that a known child sex offender would be appointed by an incumbent and PCC into a position of authority where they were exposed to children and young people on a regular basis in a misguided belief that it was their Christian duty to offer this individual a pathway to redemption through working for the church. This happened at my church in the 90’s when I was a teenager worship there. That individual went on to abuse several of my contemporaries before being dismissed and was largely hushed up beyond some initial… Read more »

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
8 months ago

‘Pastoral care wasn’t chiefly about making people feel better or even loved but about the salvation of their souls.’ Mark Clavier’s summary of Gregory’s charge to his clergy introduces the socially awkward concept of salvation. I think I’ll major on this topic in my forthcoming pastoral visits. I’ll report back.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Stephen Griffiths
8 months ago

That’s a rather conceited viewpoint. Since the first shall be last and the last shall be first, it’s entirely possible that the true purpose of pastoral visits is so that parishioners can minster to the visiting clergy.

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
Reply to  Kate Keates
8 months ago

There may be time for Mark Clavier to change his mind on the issue, but it’s too late for Gregory.

Shamus
Shamus
Reply to  Kate Keates
8 months ago

This comment reminds me of the old observation that God only calls those to ordination when He gets desperate and He can find no other way of saving them.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
Reply to  Kate Keates
8 months ago

“Parishioners can minister to the visiting clergy” And what could possibly go wrong? Lol.

David James
David James
8 months ago

When Mervyn Stockwood was Vicar of St Matthews Moorfield in Bristol, a lady from the church asked him if he could spare half an hour of his time. He replied that he couldn’t, but would give her ‘Whatever time it takes’. He turned up on her doorstep later that week and, in her own words, ‘Spent the next couple of hours taking my life apart and putting it back together ‘. I know full well that this doesn’t prove (or disprove the maxim about a visiting parson making a church going people, but it does suggest what is possible when… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  David James
8 months ago

Mervyn Stockwood began ministering in Bristol in 1937. He was a legend there but 80 years ago … well you are simply not comparing like with like.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  David James
8 months ago

This is now St Luke, Barton Hill with Christ Church and St Matthew, Moorfield; a situation that today’s parish priest in a multi-parish benefice will be familiar with. And was Mervyn Stockwood being a little canny in not seeing the lady straight away? One of the best bits of advice I was given, in the context of not creating dependancy, was “always offer the person a time, but be a little careful about seeing them immediately”.

Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
8 months ago

When it comes to Parish Visiting By an Anglican Parish Priest within the context of the Church of England, the institutional assumption is that everyone is a Member of the Parish, whether they attend the Parish Church or not, on the institutional of Assumption of the C of E being the Nation of and for the Nation. Let me now tell you a story to link into this. My late father wanted to get the Anglican Franciscans to come and do a Parish Mission in his Parish of Fletton in Peterborough and paid a visit to the then SSF Friary… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal
8 months ago

I’ve often thought the CofE’s sense of self -importance places an unnecessary psychological burden upon the clergy who can feel weighed down by the idea they’re responsible for thousands of people in their parish. When people are ordained they should be told their main responsibility is to, say, the thirty elderly people who attend their church, rather than the 30,000 who choose not to.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
8 months ago

I couldn’t agree more, FrDavidH. And I would add that this is not a turning away from the 30,000, because if I do my work well and help the thirty to grow as disciples of Jesus, the result will be thirty workers for the kingdom of God in my neighbourhood, rather than just one.

Randall J. Keeney
Randall J. Keeney
8 months ago

As an American Episcopal priest, we have received quite a bit of instruction on the pastoral home visits and more than a few admonishments by our bishops and The Church Insurance Corporation. The days of the vicar stopping by for sherry in the afternoon are pretty much over. Clergy are warned: don’t visit people alone, particularly women if your are male, don’t be alone with children, leave doors to your office open, replace solid wood or metal doors in meeting spaces with glass doors, make sure someone else is in the building and close by when you have pastoral time… Read more »

Randall J. Keeney
Randall J. Keeney
Reply to  Randall J. Keeney
8 months ago

Please forgive my typos. I was interrupted by a unscheduled pastoral visit.

Fr Dean
Fr Dean
Reply to  Randall J. Keeney
8 months ago

How sad to see your parishioners as potential litigants. Some of the advice is sensible and I implemented it. But there are risks with a pastoral ministry. I wouldn’t want to see my doctor with the door open.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Randall J. Keeney
8 months ago

And whatever happened to simple trust in people, which used to be the foundation of civilised society? Its not that long ago that we were regularly told “Faith is spelt R-I-S-K” and we were to take risks for God. Say no more.

Fear and Tremolo
Fear and Tremolo
8 months ago

As a member of Gen Z, it is encouraging to read what Sorrel has written. I am glad that there are other young Christians standing up for what they believe, and how they’re trying to navigate secular society in light of it, with all its joys and struggles.

If the CofE could listen to more of us, it might even be able to grow amongst young people by coming to know what we actually say, think, and do. Although, given that Sorrel’s post seems to be the only post here not discussed by any other comments, I’m not hopeful.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Fear and Tremolo
8 months ago

Actually, I thought she was pretty good, and very accurate in her perceptions of so many problems, and I’m speaking as usual from the point of a longt term single man. Evangelicals may well be described as a nervous, frightened social minority, unsure of their place in the world around them and only secure if they dominate their culture. Hence so many of the social structures they impose, and their inability to cope with people who don’t fit their bill. Sadly, they seem to have got worse and worse in recent years – insecurity is an awful thing. (A friend… Read more »

FearandTremolo
FearandTremolo
Reply to  John Davies
8 months ago

My comments aren’t specific to evangelicals. If anything, it’s the HTB support of the Christian Unions which is giving the Church its most significant young blood.

The entire CofE seems to have no idea what to do with Gen Z. The squabbles around same-sex marriage don’t help, but even if we put that aside, the Church doesn’t seem to understand us or our concerns. A Youth Synod would be, frankly, an essential addition.

Last edited 8 months ago by FearandTremolo
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