Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 19 May 2021

All Things Lawful And Honest A younger church?
The Rev’d Steven Hilton recalls the success of the Church of England’s youth initiatives in the 1990s, and asks whether the Church’s mission and growth might be better secured by employing not more clergy but more youth workers.

ViaMedia.News Kate’s Story
by Kate, a transgender woman from the north of England, who bravely shares her horrific experience of being prayed for in three different evangelical churches.

Manmit Bhambra and Austin Tiffany LSE blogs From the Sanctuary to the Sofa: What COVID-19 has Taught us about Sacred Space

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Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
28 days ago

An interesting piece from Steve Hilton and certainly with some merit. In my last Benefice all three schools taught inclusivity and diversity right from reception and then on through the school. This was a good thing in and of itself but also reduced bullying towards those who couldn’t or wouldn’t conform to the prevailing norms. Katie is good at Maths but Iqbal is good at English. Oscar’s callipers mean running is not his best but he is good at swimming. Chantelle’s learning difficulties didn’t stop her singing like an angel. Unlike my schooling discipline wasn’t maintained by ridiculing the weakest… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
28 days ago

Really encouraging post from Steven Hilton. It put me in mind of ‘Seventy for the Seventies’, a youth mission training initiative run by the Diocese of Chelmsford in the first half of the 1970s. I was part of the third ’70’ and that year had a real impact on my life. It also reminded me of my early years here in the Diocese of Edmonton and the strength of the TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) movement at the time. Many of our present clergy and lay leaders in their late thirties were formed in that TEC community. These positive stories need… Read more »

Bob Edmonds
Bob Edmonds
28 days ago

A younger church. Employing more youth workers, alongside families and children’s workers is a key part of numerical church growth. By providing new mums groups, toddler groups, youth groups both midweek and on Sundays, a separate youth service on a Sunday, as well as an annual youth house party we have seen growing numbers of young people not only attending church events but also coming to faith in Christ. Encouraging young people to serve within the church (for example in worship) has led many to go on to serve in ministry elsewhere. But it is not simply a matter of… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
28 days ago

The late Nicholas Lash, when Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, believed that the Church – both CofE and RC – should cease wasting resources on church schools and invest in youth workers instead. That was over 20 years ago and was not well received. In fact it was not received at all in the classical sense. Today his words seem increasingly prophetic.

Froghole
Froghole
28 days ago

Unfortunately, I indulged in a rant under poor Mr Hilton’s excellent piece. However, the failure to engage seriously with the young (and the younger middle aged) has been an ‘Himalayan blunder’ on the part of the Church, and one with truly existential consequences. Of course, the Church does, or fails to do, many other things which make it repugnant to younger cohorts. I cannot fathom why the Church, which supposedly ‘controls’ or at least influences approximately 7,000 of the 20,000 state schools in England, and a large majority of independent schools, has failed so utterly and abjectly to derive any… Read more »

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
Reply to  Froghole
28 days ago

I also wonder if church schools are worth the candle. The days when a church school would provide a regular stream of choristers and confirmation candidates are long gone, and the effort that has to go in to school governance can be a major drain of time and energy of both clergy and active laity. And maintaining a Christian ethos in a church school is a constant struggle: I see the C of E appears to have given up on that by discouraging the singing of explicitly Christian hymns in their schools. Why is the C of E sinking so… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
27 days ago

Within weeks of my appointment to an incumbency I was reported to the Archdeacon for pointing out to a diocesan schools adviser that there was nothing remotely C of E about what was covered in “my” inner urban C of E school. The diocesan adviser was a Baptist and there was nothing remotely C of E about him. I asked the Archdeacon if a Catholic diocese would tolerate one of its schools in which there was nothing remotely catholic. Answer came there none. I was vindicated some years later by an Inspector’s comments. Dexter is absolutely right – governance issues… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
Reply to  Fr Dexter Bracey
27 days ago

Many thanks, Fr. Dexter. How many times during my tour/pilgrimage around the country have I encountered a defunct or moribund church cheek by jowl with a flourishing church school? What is the point of the church school if the church which nurtured it is dead? This is not just a problem for state schools: for example, Bradfield College, Berks, was founded in 1850 by the squarson of Bradfield, Thomas Stevens. Stevens intended the College to provide musical support to the parish church, St Andrews. The cost of the new College bankrupted Stevens, and yet St Andrews – which is now… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Reply to  Froghole
27 days ago

i was a member of a diocesan mission and pastoral committee for a good many years. This committee had a formula for calculating the workload of a parish priest, which it used when considering options for re-organisation of parishes. I was surprised to discover that the formula had no component for recognising the additional effort required if a CofE school was attached to a parish. I proposed a simple change to add this. My proposals were voted down multiple times. The most frequent reason given against them was that almost every parish had state schools of some kind within its… Read more »

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
Reply to  Froghole
27 days ago

A cynic might say that the chief advantage to the church of church schools is that parents and their offspring attend services to meet the admission criteria. Some churches keep a record of church attendance for this purpose. One of the challenges of the pandemic is how to assess the state of grace of prospective pupils and their parents when there are no services for them to attend. Some mysteriously lose their faith ( or at least the church going habit) when they receive the letter saying little Johnny/Jane has secured one of the coveted places at St. Mildred’s Mixed… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Simon Bravery
27 days ago

In 2012 that sharply observed BBC TV series ‘Rev’ opened with ‘On Your Knees Forget the Fees’ – an episode lampooning the efforts of sharp-elbowed middle-class parents to get little Johnny/Jane into a church school with a glowing Ofsted.

As a sad aside, although Auntie has seen fit to repeat the harmlessly sentimental tosh that is Dibley, I cannot see Rev enjoying a similar repeat, given how far the Church has disappeared from public imagination.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
Reply to  Allan Sheath
27 days ago

“My” church school to use Stan’s quotation marks was the only school in the village and so there was no competition for places. When we gently enquired of the parents why they didn’t bring the children to church we were told without any guile, malice or apology that “they get more than enough religion at school”. In terms of governance it was a bed of nails for me but I can’t elaborate on that here. Even if things had been easy it would have still been hugely time consuming for very little reward in terms of the mission of the… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Fr. Dean Henley
26 days ago

“In terms of governance it was a bed of nails.” I can sympathise with that. Church schools have an inbuilt tendency to suck you in particularly when things go wrong. A further problem in multi-parish benefices where the parish priest simply doesn’t have the time to get around all the schools (my Vicar has 6) is that the standard of what we used to call RE is generally dire.

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
28 days ago

On reading Stephen Hilton’s recollections of the 1990s, I can go back further and remember Fr Ken Leech’s seminal book Youthquake, about the counter-culture of the ’70s. Here was a prophetic, non-judgemental Catholic priest who transformed the lives of countless young people – many who were homeless, drug-addicted or sex workers – but who saw a genuine gospel message in the mature spirituality of a priest who understood young people without condescension. Acceptance of LBGTQ young people was a given, not a matter for endless, fruitless discussion. The CofE has come a long way since the inspiring, radical incarnational Catholicism… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  FrDavid H
28 days ago

I guess that would depend on whether you saw it as a ‘CofE church’, or just your local church. When I was a teenager in Essex in the 1970s I attached no significance at all to the denominational label. It was my local church, which happened to be going through a very exciting charismatic renewal at the time. People were becoming Christians, supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit were at work, worship was relaxed and contemporary, we were using Fisherfolk songs in services and in our house groups. God was real and I could see that God was doing real… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
28 days ago

Regarding Kate, In my life journey, I ran across many evangelical-oriented churches when I was homeless in the 1980s. Some of their staff or members were open-hearted and gave of themselves in the best spirit of Matthew 25:34-45 (I may be Jewish, but this is, by far, my favorite biblical passage from either the Jewish Scriptures (“Old Testament”) or Christian Scriptures (“New Testament”)). But many evangelical people, ministers or lay people, seem to want to live up to the worst stereotypes of the Pharisees in the Gospels. The latter evangelicals want people who are “different” in the pews, on their… Read more »

Last edited 28 days ago by peterpi - Peter Gross
Fr John Harris-White
Fr John Harris-White
27 days ago

Kate thank you for sharing your horrible experiences. All too common among certain religious folk. I was brought up in a Christian family, and told them I was like David and Jonathan. No further discussion, and I was fortunate I never met these Pharisees of the church. In fact in our Christian fellowship, there were many evangelicals who shared my nature, and we were good friends. Every Blessing on you Kate for your future.

Fr John Emlyn

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