Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 2 November 2019

Ian Paul Psephizo Is it time to scrap the ‘curacy’?

Andrew Lightbown theore0 Speaking of liturgy (and theological formation)

Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Imagination Deficit. Bishops and Survivors

Peter Sheppard  Catholic Herald Thousands of medieval churches face ruin. Who will save them?

David Walker ViaMedia.News The Fallout from Tribal Scrums

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Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

‘It is deeply shameful when those trusted with responsibility in the Church sexually abuse children. But what survivors repeatedly declare to be even more shameful are the ways in which the Church then works to deny, minimise or cover up the abuse. Often it is those closest to the abuser, the members of the same tribe within the church, who work hardest to deflect scrutiny and prevent accountability, whilst whistleblowers are anathematised.’

Wow, at last we have a diocesan bishop breaking ranks to side with survivors. Well done, Bp. David.

Chip
Guest
Chip

Peter Sheppard: ‘Tax, sometimes voluntary, of around one per cent is charged to maintain churches in many countries, including . . . the United States.’

That is not true.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Definitely is not true.

Kate
Guest
Kate

There are good grounds to levy quite a substantial local tax on secomd homes and one of the potential uses of that tax could be to help maintain listed buildings, including churches, in the area. I confess I can’t see, however, why churches should be treated more favourably by civic society than other listed buildings.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

To some extent, Peter Sheppard answers that point – the sheer numbers of churches compared with secular buildings and the existence of the statutory and other heritage bodies responsible for their upkeep. He cites the case of Norfolk churches, but that picture is replicated all around the country. The other factor is the special nature of churches and their purpose. They are precious places to Christians, and can equally be so to non-believers. I know a priest who has responsibility for eight mediaeval churches in a depopulated rural area, and there are more extreme examples than that. Admission charges in… Read more »

Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

Andrew Lightbown has it in a nutshell. Liturgy, for Anglicans, is where our doctrinal identity is located and, consequently, the bedrock of our mission. The fact that too many clergy are unable to inhabit the liturgy, and allow it to form (and inform) their pastoral and theological bearing is one of the great tragedies of our time. I’m not just talking about the usual suspects who have abandoned any identifiable Anglican liturgy in favour of pop groups, plasma screens and pointless syncopation. I’m talking about the phalanx of clergy ordained every year, whose training has been a hotch-potch of ‘one… Read more »

Simon Dawson
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Simon Dawson

I think it is unfair to compare a struggling rural multi-parish benefice with a large well resourced capital city church. There are churches in London (St James’ Piccadilly comes to mind) which I think can meet your desire for a deep congregational and clerical engagement with the Common Worship text and with the music. And I suspect there would be many struggling rural churches in France which do not.

FrDavid H
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FrDavid H

I couldn’t agree more. On a previous thread some commenters suggested God is happy with any type of worship as long as we are nice to others after the ‘meeting’ is over. I can think of no other profession in which people remain untrained and clueless as to the central activity of their work. Those who think that dressing in T-shirt and jeans, smiling and singing ‘songs’ is acceptable may be right. But they’re not ‘Anglican’.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

There’s something wrong with T-shirt and jeans?

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

T-shirts and jeans are great in the pub.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Everything in context. I was deeply offended when someone attended my wife’s funeral dressed like that. He simply didn’t make any appropriate effort for the occasion. I’m assuming that Fr David H is referring to the laity, whether congregation members and musicians, rather than the person taking the service who can sometimes be a layperson. ‘Sunday best’ has become an outmoded concept in most churches and that must be a good thing if ‘dressing up’ was for the wrong reasons. Really the issue is one of respect, and very much a matter of personal conscience. Christ didn’t mince words in… Read more »

FrDavid H
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FrDavid H

No Roland. I’m referring to clergy attire. I consider a T-shirt inappropriate when an Anglican priest conducts the liturgy. As you say, it is disrespectful at a funeral. And at weddings. Why should a priest stand at the altar dressed like someone propping up a bar or going out clubbing?

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Fr David H: That clarifies matters. It’s something I haven’t experienced. Occasionally a layman (not LLM) takes Evensong at one of the country parish churches I attend, but he wears a dark suit. I have encountered a priest wearing what I can only describe as a turquoise alb. I recently checked the Canons of the C of E in another context: colours of clerical shirts (when discussed on an earlier TA thread) and they do permit – within limits – some latitude in clerical dress.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Father, I am not a priest, and view things from the position of recipient. To me the mass is sacrifice, and what matters to me about the priest who serves in this sacrifice and “givenness” of God is the “givenness” of the priest, not outward appearances. I think the appearances are culture. Of course, Anglicanism may adopt various cultures, and indeed it does, but you can tell when a priest is “given” in their task. I agree that at funerals it is slightly different, because funerals have their own social culture outwith of the Church, and carry social expectations. In… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘It seems to me that a priest’s decisions on what they wear rest on their knowledge of their community, and communities and cultures vary. I think there’s room for all kinds of styles and expressions. ‘

Susannah, here you reach the heart of the matter. I would not lead the main Sunday services at my church wearing a tee-shirt and jeans. That’s because I know my community and I know what fits for them. However, if I were leading a service for a different community in a different setting, I would have no hesitation in dressing differently.

Kate
Guest
Kate

There are many who agree with you. My late father was horrified that the new vicar wore sandals.

Equally, there are those, me included, who disagree with you. The minister should be the most humble there, the most meek, the one *not* dressed in any finery – and a suit or fitted shirt is funery. That’s the purpose of a simple cassock and surplice. It should (although the practice has been corrupted) ensure that the minister is dressed very simply..

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

I hope it’s obvious that I meant to refer to the “wedding garment” in the Parable. Of course Peter Gross is correct, below, that in all the parables one must look for the inner meaning.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Dressing up, for *any* Christian service is wrong – including funerals. Leaving aside whether it is moral to own “Sunday best”, wearing it can make those who can’t afford it feel inadequate. It is the school uniform argument in a different context. Showing respect to the Lord is about *not* putting on expensive clothes.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I very much agree with Kate when she describes how people who dress in fine clothes at church can make people who can’t afford to dress like that feel inadequate. It’s similar with quite a lot of conversation – about posh holidays, or posh cars, or posh education – that can be heard in some churches after the service, in contexts where the ‘professional classes’ seem to network. Yes, they may recognise that they should make poor visitors feel welcome, but churches like that can be intimidating and people can feel out of place. They may feel socially marginalised, or… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

True, there is a parable about what someone wore to the banquet. But it is a parable not a literal story, let alone a rule book. It surely is not about what clothes we wear. Maybe it is about how we respond to the invitation to feast at God’s table — we would not go to a royal banquet unprepared (not washed nor in clean clothes), and we should come to God’s table prepared too.

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

I agree. Seems to me Jesus of Nazareth, in some of his parables, was far more concerned about the interior presentation than the exterior presentation.
Some of my most profoundly spiritual moments happened while wearing casual clothing at an outdoor worship service at summer camp.
Some of the meanest, spiritually empty people I’ve seen wore three-piece business suits while addressing a properly-dressed congregation.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“Some of the meanest, spiritually empty people I’ve seen wore three-piece business suits while addressing a properly-dressed congregation.”

This could well have described the Archbishop of Sydney, Glen Davies when he addressed his diocesan Synod, recently telling them that LGBT+ people should leave the Church. It was not, specifically, a worship service, but there was prayer content.

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Not in the eyes of Jesus – of that I’m absolutely sure. ‘People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’

Richard
Guest
Richard

I once worked at an Anglican church in the Caribbean. The parish was not wealthy; indeed, many of the people were quite poor. On Sunday morning, everyone came to church dressed in their very best clothes: men in jackets and ties, women in dresses with hats. This was the most important event of their week. A visiting friend remarked that everyone looked like they were dressed for Easter. They were… and some carried tambourines!

Tim Chesterton
Guest

‘Those who think that dressing in T-shirt and jeans, smiling and singing ‘songs’ is acceptable may be right. But they’re not ‘Anglican’.’

Sorry, but who gets the right to decide that singing ‘songs’ is not Anglican? I mean, personally, when I was in my teens I thought that calling someone ‘Father’ and going to ‘Mass’ was not Anglican, but I hope I’ve grown up a little since then and realized that reality is a little broader than I thought it was.

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Fr David H has clarified what he meant. He was referring to Anglican liturgy being conducted by a priest in non-Canonical attire. Probably what he and I mean by ‘Anglican’ should probably be qualified as ‘Church of England’ in this context. Maybe old-fashioned words now, but reverence and propriety come to mind. I guess practice varies in different parts of the Anglican world. In my only personal experience of TEC, in rural Pennsylvania, Eucharistic vestments were worn. The same is true when I visit Scotland. I’m always intrigued by Father Ron’s photograph – in England the combination of ‘Father’ and… Read more »

Kate
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Kate

I still think Father, Mass and Priest aren’t Anglican.

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

Kate: In this context ‘Father’ is optional. ‘Mass’ is actually quoted in the Act of Uniformity of 1662 and ‘Priest’ is an ordained Minister – the term which I know you prefer. The BCP freely interchanges the words ‘Priest’ and ‘Minister’ in the rubric. All of this is C of E and thus ‘Anglican’.

FrDavidH
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FrDavidH

Go to the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham and say that.

Allan Sheath
Guest
Allan Sheath

Quite agree, Michael (apart from the folk mass criticism. Palestrina vs Murray, isn’t this about taste?). The problem is that liturgical formation is now left almost solely to the training incumbent in most cases. Some are competent; others simply add to the culture of liturgical barbarism. Does anyone read Aidan Kavanagh’s Elements of Rite?

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I’m a liturgist so am all in favour of people being properly trained in our liturgies. However, we ought to be exercising much caution in allowing it to form our ‘doctrinal identity and pastoral and theological bearing’. Our liturgy requires us to be constantly looking at our own guilt, and almost entirely neglects Jesus’ emphases on justice, social concern, healing, and releasing people from the fear of death. (I have a lengthy chapter on this in Letters to a Broken Church.) Moreover, Common Worship is unconscionably wordy, and this makes it less than suitable for more deprived parishes where there… Read more »

Perry Butler
Guest
Perry Butler

It would be interesting to hear from a member of the Liturgical Commission about some of these issues. In producing CW did they really see themselved producing a resource rather than a standardised liturgy different from the ASB? Some of Michael Mulhern’s concerns resonate with me and coming out of retirement 2013- 2016 to help with the new POT i was surprised by the lack of liturgical basics, and the number who came from parishes that sat light to most of the Christian year and did not use the lectionary. But frankly worship in the C of E is now… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I was on Manchester Diocese’s Liturgy Committee for the whole of the time Common Worship was going through Synod, and several other members were on the Liturgical Commission at the time. I was also on General Synod for part of that time. And yes, the conception behind it was that it would not be a standard text like BCP and ASB, but would give a framework and a collection of resources to use with multiple options and alternatives. In the ante-communion especially there is plenty of scope for variation. So much so that the Liturgy Committee were discussing ways in… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Well this member of the Liturgical Commission also thinks that much of our liturgy is too wordy, and I wouldn’t single out deprived urban areas, it’s wordy for everyone. Maybe other areas, and the long-churched, take it for granted and allow the churchy words to go over their heads. Even when the revision that became CW tried to pare down the words, synodical revision and continued usage have countered this — in my experience especially at the Preparation of the Table, which frequently has multiple prayers and blessings of items … all followed by a Eucharistic Prayer which should be… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
Guest

Simon, can I just say how much I appreciate the spirit of this comment, especially the first paragraph? I feel we have many of the same issues in Canada.

Will Richards
Guest
Will Richards

‘Freedom to adapt to local needs’ would be fine, Janet. But that assumes those who are doing the ‘adapting’ know what they’re doing and have a thorough grounding in the foundational principles. My experience tells me they don’t. As for the wordiness of Common Worship, it is far less so than the ASB (and often more poetic). But, again, I suspect that, for most clergy, liturgy is just words on a page rather than an event in which words are just one element. I am still baffled by the numbers of clergy who think you can make a liturgy distinctive… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

I agree completely. As I said above, I’m all in favour of liturgical education. And I think using CW well requires more training, not less. With the BCP you can concentrate on reading the service well (which also requires training), but with CW you need to know what you’re doing and plan carefully.

David Emmott
Guest
David Emmott

We need a ‘like’ button. This comment hits the nail on the head. Liturgy is not just about words, and it certainly isn’t about reinventing the wheel for each occasion. Aidan Kavanagh’s On Liturgical Theology and Elements of Rite should be compulsory reading for all clergy, whatever their ‘tradition’.

Another Fr. David
Guest
Another Fr. David

Ian Paul asks if there is a good reason to not scrap curacies. Perhaps some of the comments here on less than satisfying liturgy might provide a pointer? I admit to being one of that tribe Ian mentions, namely the young men who started ministry in their twenties (I’m now in my sixties). I realise demographics have changed greatly in all sorts of ways, training colleges probably don’t consist of young men (and we were all young men) cloistered behind high walls with the occasional foray into the ‘real world’ one afternoon a week and on Sunday placements. However, I… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

How long was St Paul’s training? Zero. Of course, once he embarked on his ministry he trained himself, but none beforehand. If it is the right person in the right place we should trust the Spirit that there is no need for any training at all. If we don’t have that faith then either a) we do not trust the Holy Spirit or b) we do not believe that we are discerning correctly who has been called. Read above. The concern is about maintaining Anglican identity, Anglican liturgy, Anglican rules. I think we aren’t so much training people to be… Read more »

David Runcorn
Guest
David Runcorn

Kate – you are talking about one of the most highly trained and theologically able pharisees of his generation! And we actually do not know how he prepared or who he talked with after his conversation before he emerged as a follower Christ.

Alastair
Guest
Alastair

“How long was St Paul’s training? Zero.”

But that’s not correct, is it? As a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee his entire life would have been steeped in learning, understanding and interpreting the Jewish scriptures.

FrDavid H
Guest
FrDavid H

I still believe the Anglican ethos has much to offer the Church and world. Perhaps Kate is suggesting Anglican theological colleges teach students to do what they like since being Anglican can mean anything you feel like

Victoriana
Guest
Victoriana

Kate, this will not do. There are differing accounts of St Paul’s formation for his ministry. Surely it’s a bit unfair on people ministering in the here and now to expect that this is even a realistic comparison. This sort of magical thinking has contributed greatly to the crisis in mission that has afflicted much of Anglosphere Anglicanism since the Decade of Evangelism. And Anglican identity flows in a very fundamental way from liturgy, which creates the space for people to approach and find ways to articulate their understanding of faith. Do you really suppose that no-one ever met Christ… Read more »

ACI
Guest
ACI

Not to get into a long discussion, but your comment is simply wrong. Paul brags about his training, and properly so. To quote from the scriptures of Israel as often as he does indicates to most scholars that he had the text memorized in both Hebrew and Greek — education in antiquity being chiefly memorization of authoritative texts. Zero training? Hardly.

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I think we can grow as individuals through ‘alongsideness’, learning from people who have walked a path before us. In convent life, you start as a Postulant, then may become a Novice, long before any vows are taken. And that novitiate is a crucial period of formation. I’m sure there are many models in church life, and not all may need that particular approach, but speaking personally, I have found that in the exploration of vocation, there is great benefit in the ‘waiting’ period, and sufficient time for grace to operate. And similarly, living alongside others with more experience of… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

I have a strong interest in architecture, and have been involved in campaigns to save buildings, both popular and unpopular, from the wrecking ball. However, Anglican churches have a problem: they are symbols of an institution which for most of its history has deliberately excluded large portions of the population from full membership. Not just the LGBTQ+ community, but for most of its history women. In both cases, as the Philip North saga and the upcoming Lambeth conference show, it is still more interested in the interests of misogynists and homophobes than justice (you can easily re-write MLK’s Letter from… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

IO, using your argument, no faith school should receive public money either. My view is simply this: our inheritance of churches is a huge cultural treasure. I believe they should be maintained by the state if there is reasonable danger of them falling into disrepair. We must preserve the long-term presence of ancient churches up and down this land, just like we must preserve stone circles. Under no circumstances do I believe we should “let them fall into ruins”. With regard to Philip, let’s just say I disagree with you. He is not a misogynist, and he does not believe… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

As a footnote or aside, although the government and much of the press now call Church of England schools ‘faith schools’, they aren’t really faith schools, intended primarily for members of that faith. Church of England schools are part of the church’s mission to educate everyone, not to convert everyone.

John Swanson
Guest
John Swanson

To take us even further aside: that is the vision that inspired the original establishment of CofE schools, and it is no doubt your vision and mine, but it’s presumably not the vision of the many schools and parishes that use church attendance as an entrance criterion when oversubscribed. “Faith School” seems to fit them quite well?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“IO, using your argument, no faith school should receive public money either.”

Indeed.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

And I have read (indeed, only last week re-read, Because Reasons) Mawer’s report on the North affair. It was at every step open to Philip North to (a) explain what he believed and (b) how it differed from “The Society”‘s position. He didn’t, in any way that could be taken seriously: he attempted the popular theological trick of speaking in riddles and hoping that the pews won’t notice there is nothing there. He’s a leader of an organisation that states that “Priests and deacons submit their letters of orders to prove they were ordained by a bishop whose orders we… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I love that the liturgy in church resonates with the liturgy I was familiar with throughout childhood. It speaks to me of the abiding grace of God. It expresses continuity, across all the seasons and years. The continuity of the grace of God. One caution I do feel is this: if we say that liturgy defines the theological beliefs of the Church, then when those evolve in any way, the liturgy should not be treated like a rule that forbids that change. In other words, I see liturgy as an instrument, but not as an unbending authority, and it may… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

The bits of liturgy I find least comfortable are all the phrases that gender God as male. I will usually say them, quietly, because the service itself is more important and I want to share with others in the flow of our coming to God. Sometimes I couldn’t even care less. But sometimes it doesn’t feel comfortable, because I just don’t believe what I’m saying. I think liturgy has to be navigated this way: not seen as definitive or compulsory, but as a platform that is non-insistent. I do actually like liturgy, for the sense of continuity it creates, and… Read more »

Janet Fife
Guest
Janet Fife

One point that was made in the General Synod debate on the CW version of the Nicene Creed, was that in the original Greek it does not say Jesus ‘was made man’. It reads ‘was made flesh’ or ‘was made human’. Nevertheless the (all male) House of Bishops recommended the ‘was made man’ version – deliberately exclusive, even though it was less faithful to the original. I was one of only 12 clergy who voted against. I still regard that as one of my proudest moments, though it’s a real shame Synod voted for the existing version. When reciting the… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

I agree that ‘was made human’ would be much more helpful. Having said that, I don’t have much difficulty in recognising that Jesus was born biologically with male genitalia (his exact gender identity is a different issue). To me, Jesus grew up as a boy (I have a kind of precious relationship with the Child Jesus, and I love his purity and boyishness). He lived life as a man. So I don’t tend to stumble with ‘was made man’ except in recognising that that slants the Godhead and I agree that ‘human’ would be better. The word that does trip… Read more »