Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 20 February 2021

The Guardian Ash Wednesday under Covid restrictions – in pictures

Ben Phillips All Things Lawful And Honest Super Bishops & Simpler Structures
“Ben Phillips reflects on the increasingly top-heavy structures of the Church of England and commends a radical rethinking of diocesan boundaries which would enable bishops to be both real pastors on the ground and effective symbolic leaders of the wider Church.”

Anthony Woollard Modern Church Does it Matter if the Church Dies?

Robert Hammond ViaMedia.News What to ‘Give Up’ When Everything’s Been Taken Away?

Philip North All Things Lawful And Honest The Primacy of the Parish

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Michael
Michael
11 days ago

Anthony Woollard Does it matter if the Church dies? It isn’t dying, it’s been killed off by clumsy decisions imposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and his fellow bishops; the continued closure of most churches in England which will still be in place at Easter in some communities; and the continued refusal to share communion outside vicarage living rooms. Robert Hammond What to give up. Complacent because it was written by someone who has lost very little in the last year other than wine tasting abroad. Millions of people have lost their livelihoods, or will do so, when furlough ends.… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
11 days ago

Phillips. I guess many of us could come up with schemes for diocesan simplification based on existing or historic centres and boundaries. But it’s top down. Look at the mess that top-down thinking creates with synods, dioceses, parishes, local government and so much more. Why not start by asking parishes – yes parishes – what they need and would like, and work from bottom up? Ask them, given local communication networks, where they’d like the offices to be? To take but one example from Phillips’ piece – Carlisle, the centre of the universe since it’s my birthplace. If that diocese… Read more »

Last edited 11 days ago by Stanley Monkhouse
Jonathan Jamal
Jonathan Jamal
11 days ago

Reflecting on Ben’s article on Bishops, leads me to think about the more simplified system that pertains in the Scottish Episcopal Church, where they only have 7 Dioceses, where the College of Bishops will soon be made complete by the consecration of the New Bishop of Argyll and the Isles. In the Scottish Episcopal system, the Bishops are grouped together in a College of Bishops, and instead of an Archbishop they elect one of the Diocesan Bishops to the Primus, the one who acts “Primus Inter Pares”, who is a Moderator, rather than an Archbishop, Metropolitan, Primate or Presiding Bishop,… Read more »

David Exham
David Exham
11 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal

The difference in scale between the CofE and the SEC is vast, so I doubt whether the episcopal/diocesan structure of the SEC can be applied in any realistic way to the CofE.

Jo B
Jo B
11 days ago
Reply to  David Exham

I think, if anything, the lesson to take from the SEC is not to have fewer dioceses but more, so that the Bishop is a regular visitor in every parish, knows the clergy well and can be an effective pastor rather than a distant manager. A larger House of Bishops would be much harder to corral into the ludicrous complicity with injustice that has been seen on so many fronts in the CofE. The bishop with a vastly reduced patch can be paid the standard stipend, archdeacons and suffragans become superfluous, and I suspect parishes would be far less reluctant… Read more »

Michael
Michael
10 days ago
Reply to  Jo B

JoB The very last thing the Church of England wants or needs is more bishops. Paying the standard stipend would never pass muster. The House of Bishops cannot agree on essential basics, such as restoring, in some form, the chalice to the laity. They abruptly removed it one year ago and have ignored legal opinions and all other arguments. I predicted last July that concomitance is here to stay. My best guess is another three years and then the drift back to communion in both kinds will be restored by default. Do you think it would be easier to make… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
10 days ago
Reply to  Jo B

Our Diocese of Edmonton in western Canada has 55 parishes. My previous diocese, Athabasca, in norfthern Alberta, had 18 parishes, but vast distances.

I have been blessed to work in small western and northern dioceses since 1979. In each of them, my bishop knew me by name, and had real personal relationships with the people in the parishes.

Richard
Richard
11 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan Jamal

Perhaps that is doable with but 7 dioceses and 7 bishops, but perhaps not in the CofE. Then, of course, there is tradition.

Bob Edmonds
Bob Edmonds
11 days ago

A thought provoking article by Philip North. It is encouraging to see his last point in action in Sheffield Diocese with the largest churches in the diocese working with the Bishops to renew parishes by means of church grafts. New spiritual life can already be seen in these parishes, despite Covid-19.

NJW
NJW
11 days ago

I almost wholeheartedly support every word that Philip North has written. However, it would be nice if there were an acknowledgement that deprivation is not only found in urban areas, but that there are some areas where there is coastal, rural and post-industrial deprivation – otherwise, hurrah!

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
10 days ago
Reply to  NJW

I was struck by the lack of symmetry in Bishop North’s comment Recent articles in The Spectator and elsewhere in the press have hinted darkly at plots within the House of Bishops to dismantle the Parochial structure, to add thousands of clergy to the dole queue and to close many of our buildings. There is much that is mistaken in this coverage, not least that the decentralised structure of the Church of England with its 42 autonomous dioceses and 12,000 independent parishes renders such a centralist programme of reform entirely undeliverable.  Well, “hinted darkly” is a weak way of putting it. What… Read more »

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
10 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

As I understand it there will be significant numbers of retirements in the next few years with far more retiring than will be ordained into stipendiary ministry so I cannot see the likelihood of large numbers of redundancies, How many current stipendiary clergy are 65+? Is this easily to hand?

Simon Bravery
Simon Bravery
7 days ago
Reply to  Perry Butler

According to Ministry Statistics 2019 on the Church of England in website, there were 600 stipendiary parish clergy aged 65 -69, 60 aged 70-74 and fewer than 10 aged 75-79 out of a total of 7700. About 4% of the total retired in that year.

Graeme Buttery
Graeme Buttery
10 days ago
Reply to  NJW

Thank you for this. As I minister in Hartlepool, I recognise this only too well. We have too many left behind communities, left behind, religiously, politically, economically and even, culturally.

Graeme Buttery

Stephen Lacey
11 days ago

I don’t claim to be a thinking Anglican just the Church Warden and Treasurer of a dying rural parish currently able to pay only a third of our Parish Share. My question is: what happens to a Parish Church when there is no functioning PCC?

Michael
Michael
10 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Lacey

My local church has not had any churchwardens for five years. There are ten PCC members including a treasurer and secretary, who happen to be husband and wife. The vicar’s wife is another member.
I know of three other nearby churches with either no churchwardens and/or no treasurer for many years. I don’t know how they function either.

Froghole
Froghole
10 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Lacey

There has been a tendency in recent years to downgrade such churches to chapels of ease. This means that certain rites cannot be performed in the erstwhile parish church converted by a scheme under the Pastoral Measure 2011 to a chapel of ease (historically, chapels of ease did not have fonts, although this gradually ceased to be the case in certain places). Another strategy is to group churches together under a combined PCC. There is ample evidence of this in many pastoral schemes in recent years. It is now recognised by many in authority that people are often unwilling or… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
10 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

I should add that how you get treated is something of a postcode lottery. Some dioceses are more caring and scrupulous than others. Even within a particular jurisdiction, it is possible to have radically different outcomes. Take Buckinghamshire: there have been two recent closures of ancient churches – one of these is to the east of Newport Pagnell, and one of them (which was intended to be a closure – I attended a packed ‘farewell’ service) is to the east of Aylesbury and in an area of very rapid development. The first church was down to an electoral roll of… Read more »

Stephen Lacey
10 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Thanks for your response. However much they look the other way it seems that in the end the responsibility reverts to the Diocese. Regarding the ‘death’ of the church, is this just Church of England? We have a very popular Evangelical Church locally. It is so in demand they had to enlarge it. They have a wonderful modern building with all facilities including a coffee shop open to the public, a large car park and interesting services and music that attracts families and young people. Our beautiful Parish Church is grade 1 listed, has no running water, no facilities,a small… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
9 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Lacey

Many thanks for that, Mr Lacey. As you probably know there is also a Greek orthodox monastery not so far from you which also often has very large congregations: I attended a former Church of England church there at a major festival and it was like the pre-lockdown Central Line at rush hour. I suspect that the success of the evangelical ‘competition’ is a function of it being a ‘gathered church’ catering to a fairly large area. I had the pleasure of meeting your previous incumbent in 2013 (I believe he has since moved to the Oxford diocese) – and… Read more »

Stephen Lacey
8 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Yes, I know of which you speak! The ruined Church was damaged by the Essex Earthquake of 1884, being the strongest earthquake ever to hit the British mainland. (Another proud Essex boast). It did, of course, also release the Essex Serpent. The recent novel of this name resonates with other discussions on this thread as it deals with the collision of Faith, Science and Superstition. Soon to be a television series where no doubt Religion will get the bum rap.

Froghole
Froghole
8 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Lacey

Very many thanks! Yes – Virley: arguably the smallest parish in the county by area (outside Colchester), and with Salcott it is a very odd combination, the boundaries of both being almost like a spindle. The other conspicuous victims of the ‘quake were Layer Breton (which was refounded on a different site), and Langenhoe (which demolished nearly 80 years later and never rebuilt). When I had a long conversation with the previous incumbent of the latter benefice at Abberton (a very droll ex local government official and ex Bradwell juxta Mare incumbent), he was ruminating the possibility of having an… Read more »

Stephen Lacey
6 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

I don’t have anything further to add other than I came across this Website by pure chance and have enjoyed the diversity of views expressed in a civilised fashion even though with a few I understand some of the words but not the sentences. Thank you to the Creator for helping me at a particularly difficult time.

Michael
Michael
10 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Indeed the overwhelming are dying and there is plenty of delusion. Until public worship fully resumes, the self inflicted catastrophe remains hidden. I wonder at the lack of accountability. A vicar and PCC decide to keep a church closed with the rubber stamped permission of the bishop. Pew fodder like me are voiceless. None of those who keep the church closed and on the road to insolvency will ever be held to account. Lobbying the vicar, PCC, archdeacon and bishop has been a total waste of time but I will continue to do so. The same people will be elected… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
11 days ago

Re: Does it matter if the Church Dies? Perhaps a take on that question for lent might be, that a church that dies to itself is good theology?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
10 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

Perhaps the death of the Church is less important than the demise of religion in the minds of people living in secular nations. No amount of management skill is likely to bring church growth when the product the church is selling is seen as unnecessary, unscientific and detrimental to human flourishing. Bodies rising from the dead, miraculous healings, angels, and virgins giving birth all seem too far fetched and removed from reality.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
10 days ago
Reply to  FrDavid H

And yet, as Chesterton apparently never quite said “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything”. In the UK today, about 18% of people have some sort of belief in astrology; 35% believe they have a personal guardian angel; 46% believe in some form of life after death and about half believe in karma or destiny. (Of course these may be among the 76% of statistics made up on the spur of the moment, or the 23.798% of statistics quoted to a spurious degree of accuracy.) I suggest the reason that people are reluctant to… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
10 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

It may be correct to assume people don’t like hearing they’re not very nice. But what evidence is there that religion makes people “nicer”? Some of the most hateful bigots have been motivated by their deeply-held ‘Christian’ faith. For example, the Good Friday Agreement is a political device to stop Church people killing each other in N Ireland. The Churches would be packed if they consisted only of people who are wonderful Sadly it’s often the people outside who are “nicer”.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
9 days ago
Reply to  FrDavid H

But what evidence is there that religion makes people “nicer”?

Rather little, but it — or at least, the Christian religion — is not there to make people nicer. It’s there to help people understand and come to terms with the fact, and tell them that there is something to be done about it: namely to come into the right sort of relationship with God, and that the reason that there is that something that we’re able to take up is Jesus.

Perry Butler
Perry Butler
10 days ago
Reply to  FrDavid H

What has happened in the last 40 odd years has been significant growth of New Churches like New Frontiers/New Wine /Icthus etc and to some extent ethnic churches. These have eclipsed mainstream nonconformity like the URC and Methodism. Here in Canterbury we have besides the parish churches and cathedral at least three or four such fellowships meeting in schools plus a longer standing Evangelical Free Church. These attract large numbers of mostly younger people and families. The Baptists seem to be holding up and the RC’s have had a shot in the arm due to immigration. There is also now… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
10 days ago
Reply to  FrDavid H

Fr.David H, one of my concerns is how one reflects theologically on the demise and death of what may called variously, a paradigm, an institution, a society, a tradition, to which one has been connected existentially as a medium of ultimate concern. There are places to look i.e. the ‘religionless’ Christianity of Bonhoeffer, theologians such as Jurgen Moltmann, Douglas J. Hall, and Anglican John Macquarrie with his adaptation of Heidegger. The latter is attracting a new audience as of late. The Anglican Church of Canada has documented quite clearly that it has been in decline since the 60s–insidiously at first,… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
9 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

Thank you. A very sensible analysis worthy of more reflection.

Colin Coward
9 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

YES!

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
9 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

I must admit to be puzzled as to what the processes of “reflection”, “critique” mean here and how we might appreciate the insights of other traditions, and discern our way forward, without making use of rationalist thinking or whatever “game theories” is supposed to denote. (I happen to know exactly what I mean by game theory, but it probably is intended to denote something different in this context). An illustration would be helpful to old-fashioned lay people such as myself.

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
9 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

I find it helpful to draw upon a couple of insights from transcendental Thomism. For example, one attends to information from the senses, one intelligently examines the data or the phenomena, one reasonably makes judgements about what one has examined, one then strives to act in a responsible manner. So, one wants to consider, for example, problems presented by cultural phenomena. The church lives in a multi-cultural world. Historical consciousness is a given. Indeed the now long standing ventures in ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue are largely predicated on such. Many of the problems faced by a particular community are shared… Read more »

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
8 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

one attends to information from the senses, one intelligently examines the data or the phenomena, one reasonably makes judgements about what one has examined, one then strives to act in a responsible manner Quite so. The question is really how one’s thinking moves between those stages. I assume that “reasonable” does not mean “using human reason”? And to whom or what would that action be “responsible”? Historical consciousness is a given I think this means that a conscious attention to historical facts is a requirement for the process to succeed. That’s very likely true in many circumstances, but I would… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
8 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

“I assume that ‘reasonable’ does not mean ‘using human reason’ “? Why would you make that assumption? “I’m not going to reject that as a description of a creative process.” I am not describing a ‘creative process’, I’m giving a short hand for a cognitional theory. An over focus on the ratio undermines the integration of the dynamics required for human knowing and authentic human living—its the mistake of rationalism in the negative sense of the term. The cognitional theory used by various adherents ( there are several) of the transcendental Thomist tradition is essentially a post Kantian updating of… Read more »

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
8 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

Well, you asked … “I assume that ‘reasonable’ does not mean ‘using human reason’ “?Why would you make that assumption? That would be in the context of previous comments “The notion of ‘rational argument’ is a fig leaf.” “The lived and documented existential experience of marginalized and/or oppressed groups trumps the self interested rationalism of institutional life every single time.” and “critique the rationalist theologies of western Christendom with the insights and reflective experience from emergent theologies” — all of which suggest that “reasonable”, in the sense of “using human reason”, is not a mode of thought or argument that… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
8 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

Anything, pleas for rationalism, or for faith, or for common sense, can be used as a fig leaf in a controversy. Any port in a storm. If I had to venture a guess from afar, using your comments as indicators, I’d say your assumptions are grounded in some sort of logical-positivism or other undifferentiated empiricism. In any event, cheers. -Rod

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
7 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

Anything, pleas for rationalism, or for faith, or for common sense, can be used as a fig leaf in a controversy.  Indeed. But “is” and “can be used as” are not the same thing. If “rational argument is a fig leaf” then how could it have a valid use in any mental process, whether you want to call it cognition or creation. It’s just covering up something else. So what is it covering up in the example under discussion? I’d say your assumptions are grounded in some sort of logical-positivism or other undifferentiated empiricism Ah, now this is where old-fashioned… Read more »

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
8 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

One can see something of the fruition of that insight in liturgical renewal, for example, where prayer focuses more on the ‘economic trinity’ rather than on the ‘immanent trinity.’ The latter notion is rationally, that is to say logically, coherent; but the former is a more fully articulated complex of reason and the church’s faith experience in the world. A bit of a diversion, so I’ll address this separately. Choosing the doctrine of the Holy Trinity to critique the “western rationalist” approach seems a rather poorly-chosen example: it has often been held as the prime example of an illogical or irrational notion,… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
7 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

Any chance of a Janet and John version of this exchange?

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
7 days ago

Stanley, I laughed out loud when I read this this morning. Should I be Janet or John I wonder? Doc, you’ve shown once again that laughter is the best medicine. -Rod

Last edited 7 days ago by Rod Gillis
Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
7 days ago

I’ll do my best. Rod Gillis expressed the view, about a controversial episode in church politics, that “The notion of ‘rational argument’ is a fig leaf,” that “The lived and documented existential experience of marginalized and/or oppressed groups trumps the self interested rationalism of institutional life every single time”, “Empowered and privileged groups tend to view their particular social reality, with its alleged ‘rational’ arguments and ‘reasonable’ constructs, as co-extensive with social reality as a whole. It is not. It is merely their reality” and that “This notion that the issues can be resolved by genteel class driven debate, wherein… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
7 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

Thanks. I get it now you’ve put it so simply.

Stanley Monkhouse
7 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

so, correct me if I’ve got this wrong: people make up their minds about stuff based on their upbringing, genetics and life experience, then search the writings of long dead people to justify their prejudices, never using one word when seventeen suffice. Is that right? Like people decide on moral issues then search for a bible quote to back up their decisions. Rowan Williams quotes Herbert McCabe OP as saying that ‘ethics is entirely concerned with doing what you want’.

Michael
Michael
6 days ago

Stanley – I wonder what you mean about people making up their minds based on upbringing, genetics and life experience? Are those so ingrained that it is not possible to alter set patterns in life, whether or not use is made of the writings of long dead people? I have never been to Northern Ireland but know that is a good example of entrenched attitudes, even prejudice. In my 20s I totally rejected my upbringing and the prejudices that came with it simply by moving to England – multicultural, not leafy and being shocked that not everyone was a fundamentalist… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
6 days ago
Reply to  Michael

Michael, good stuff. You illustrate one of my points. Your (reaction to your) background/upbringing has shaped your opinions. Opinions, prejudices, rationalisations – all the same. We choose ways to justify them that suit us. Yes indeed, we can change them but let us not kid ourselves that our new opinions are any more or less “true” – they just more easily fit our (changing) world view. And as for Scriptural affirmation, you can find verses and attitudes that support about anything – as Herbert McCabe implied. By the way I entirely share you antagonism to the HoB, locked churches and… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
6 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

“Given his rejection of rational argument…” You keep asserting that. I have to assume you continue to believe it. “…diagnoses…’logical-positivism or other undifferentiated empiricism’ …he seems to think that’s somehow a refutation.” Do I? I can see how you might take that as my meaning. Quod scripsi, scripsi.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
6 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

I have to assume you continue to believe it Since that is the plain meaning of what you have said, yes. If I were asked to construct a position we might find common ground on, it would we something like this. Reason is given to us by the Creator for us to use. Honest rational debate, grounded in evidence, carried out in a sprit of honesty and open-mindedness, and with a common commitment to the purpose of resolving issues of concern, is a powerful and constructive way of illuminating differences and finding ways forward for common good. It is fundamentally… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
6 days ago

In these kinds of debates, and after a point I should perhaps say mea maxima culpa for my part in them, the nostalgia for graduate seminars of decades past rolls over me like a wave. Everybody has some sort of heuristic schtick. Mine happens to lean heavily on thinkers in a particular Christian philosophical tradition. As the back and forth progressed, I averted to this in order to point out that challenging the adequacy of a plea for ‘rational’ debate in a given instance is not, in fact, a rejection of the process by which we intelligently and reasonably come… Read more »

Last edited 6 days ago by Rod Gillis
Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
6 days ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

challenging the adequacy of a plea for ‘rational’ debate in a given instance is not, in fact, a rejection of the process by which we intelligently and reasonably come to better understand complex cultural issues

I read this after posting the comment above. I think that the position I outlined there might be consistent with what is written here.

Froghole
Froghole
10 days ago

Further to the links, I note that the R number is now as low as it has been since May, whilst a very large section of the most vulnerable elements of the population have now received their first jab. Hospitalisations – which were hitherto concentrated amongst the elderly – are apparently plummeting. Of the fifty or so churches local to me (east Surrey), only about three are being used by congregations, and I am off to one of these in a few minutes’ time. I do think it is time for active consideration to be given to re-opening churches for… Read more »

Michael
Michael
10 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Maybe they will insist on proof of vaccination before allowing worshippers into church ie two doses. Any excuse to make it as difficult as possible to reopen so denial of communion to all but themselves can continue. If a certificate becomes a requirement, it will be discrimination on grounds of age, which I thought was unlawful. Can that be challenged? But then most worshippers are aged 60+ so the minority who remain forcibly locked out will remain locked out (me included) for several more months. We have no value in these circumstances. Will other public places do the same so… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
10 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

‘…for those church communities apprehensive about restoring real worship…’

I would like to respectfully ask that you rephrase that.

Froghole
Froghole
9 days ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

Many apologies, Mr Chesterton. I was not deprecating online worship. I have frequently referred to worship in churches as ‘real worship’ (analogous to ‘real property’) and worship online as ‘virtual worship’. Thank you for noting the clumsy nomenclature, which I shall try avoid repeating.

Tim Chesterton
9 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Thanks for your generous reply, Froghole! TA readers might be interested in this quote from an email I received yesterday from one of my parishioners (a lady in her mid-70s who regularly participates in our online Facebook services) (one name is omitted to protect privacy): ‘I just wanted to say thank you for all you have done for us all this past year. I really appreciate the effort and work that you and ___ and many other people have put in to keep us connected and viable. I for one would have been very lost without all our opportunities for… Read more »

Last edited 9 days ago by Tim Chesterton
FrDavid H
FrDavid H
8 days ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

It’s interesting how so many clergy offering online services attract far larger ‘congregations’ than they would physically in their buildings. Obviously those who usually attend each Sunday miss sacramental worship, but they are outnumbered by those who prefer to watch at home.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
8 days ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

Quite so. How to balance that against the very real distress felt by people deprived of personal fellowship and the sacraments in a physical setting?

Tim Chesterton
8 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

Richard: I feel that tension. However, I should also point out that we were allowed to be open again for a few months in the summer and early fall. Our normal Sunday congregation pre-Covid was around 80, but we never got more than 15 to our socially-distanced, hymn-less, communion in one kind, no coffee hour, no children’s program services. Obviously, to many people, their fear of Covid combined with their dissatisfaction with what they were actually allowed to do when we gathered under Covid safety protocols, and they decided that what they were being offered wasn’t worth the risk.

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
10 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Froghole, I can’t speak for other churches but our three were faced with a rapid increase in active cases of covid-19 in our district council area at the start of this lockdown, eventually peaking at 4-5 times the level we were managing successfully before Christmas with our mitigation measures. Throw in the change to the more infectious Kent variant and congregations with a fair chunk of older people and we had to think very seriously about our duty of care. We re-opened all three churches at the end of June and remained open, except during lockdown 2, as well as… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
9 days ago
Reply to  Mary Hancock

Many thanks for that, Ms Hancock! In my area most churches were closed in December (a number had not re-opened between lockdowns 2 and 3, and several not since the outset of lockdown 1). Practically everything had shut down by early January. Personally, I think that was the right thing to do, given the tragic experiences of the last three months. I do know that several local benefices are assessing the situation in a dynamic manner, which is good. The big risk at present, it seems, is the growth of infection amongst the young – something which may be accelerated… Read more »

Mary Hancock
Mary Hancock
9 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Thanks, Froghole – the church where I live, in one of the three parishes whose cure I share, is indeed a wonderful building (and a great community). I will be sad to leave it quite soon on my retirement.

Tim Chesterton
9 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Froghole, you may be interested to know that here in Alberta in western Canada our provincial premier and our chief medical officer recently held a town hall meeting for faith leaders (online, of course). Both of them specifically singled out community singing as something that will not be permitted for a very long time yet.

Andrew
Andrew
9 days ago

If the parish is the cornerstone of the Church of England in view of its comprehensive geographical ministry, then in what sense do parishes ‘fail’, and become a financial burden on a diocese – a luxury we can no longer afford? It may be retorted that the Church isn’t a listed company responsible for maximizing the wealth of private shareholders: there are other benchmarks of success. At the heart of the problem lies the establishment of the diocese as recipient and distributor of the parochial common fund.  Decentralization of the responsibility for clergy costs has precipitated an inharmonious conflict of interest… Read more »

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
9 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

The bottom line is that someone has to pay for the church buildings and the clergy. With shrinking numbers and thousands of listed, high maintenance, not fit for purpose buildings this is becoming more difficult. I agree that the bureaucracy should be slashed, but PCC’s will always demand priests irrespective of the costs. A better approach is to be transparent about costs and parishes who want stipendiary priests should be charged the full cost (c.£60k) with substantial reductions for UPA’s and church plants/fresh expressions.

Tim Chesterton
8 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

This is essentially the approach we take in our diocese in Canada. There is no great big central pot of money, so parishes need to cover their clergy salaries. A limited number of support grants are available to help out parishes that can’t pay their own costs, and several of our parishes also have part-time clergy.

Andrew
Andrew
8 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

Thanks Sam. Haven’t we already crossed the Rubicon to the extent that many clergy are no longer full-time stipendiaries? There are likely to be substantial savings to be made in rapidly continuing this trend and encouraging non-stipendiary curacies. The emphasis should be on vocation rather than a stable career structure – which is itself an illusion given that the long-term economic viability of the parish quota system looks bleak, especially in the wake of coronavirus. My impression is that the £60k figure is unrealistically high in relation to the size, wealth or demographic profile of most congregations. It is a generous… Read more »

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
8 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

The average income for people in full-time employment is £35k. That will cost about £40k in NI and pension contributions, and a rough rule of thumb is that overheads are something like +100% of salary, but obviously staff accommodation adds more. So £60k is far from generous as the cost to the parish of employing someone.

Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
8 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

I took the figure of £60k to be the full cost of a full-time stipendiary priest ie including share of national insurance costs, contributions to pensions, cost of housing. However, that said, it seems unduly high. The best information that I can find in a quick search is dated from 2016 in the SEC where the costs are spelled out as follows: “To support a full-time stipendiary priest in this ministry will require approximately £39,800 in 2016: Stipend £25,200 (SEC Standard Stipend) SEC Pension & Employer’s NI £8,500 Travel £1,500 Administration £1,900 (telephone, office etc.) Accommodation expenses £2,700 (Council tax,… Read more »

Charles Clapham
Charles Clapham
8 days ago
Reply to  Daniel Lamont

A breakdown of diocesan costs per full-time stipendiary priest for 2021 can be found by downloading the ‘Common Fund’ PDF booklet on the Diocese of London’s website at https://www.london.anglican.org/support/finance/common-fund/ which gives quite good information on the relative costs of stipends, pensions, housing, training costs, central support services, etc. Some of these costs (e.g. housing) will obviously be higher in London than elsewhere in the country, but for my part I don’t think they are unreasonable on the whole; though I entirely agree that the total cost per stipendiary priest (which in London works out at £85,000) will be beyond what… Read more »

Last edited 8 days ago by Charles Clapham
Sam Jones
Sam Jones
7 days ago

Thanks for the link. I note that nearly £30k of the £85k is for central costs which seems very high – few businesses spend more than a third of their income on support costs. I am also puzzled by the reference to national church support, what is this?

It would be interesting to know what % of parishes are paying the £85k per stipendiary priest in full.

Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
7 days ago

Thank you. That is most helpful. The charging back of a portion of the cost of training makes a huge difference.

Stanley Monkhouse
8 days ago
Reply to  Daniel Lamont

Daniel, the CoE figure also includes a portion for costs of continuing training and for the army of diocesan advisers and administrators. Some of these do great work. Some do not. It felt to me as if the second group included (1) those who sat in their offices dreaming up tasks and initiatives to dump on stipendiary parish clergy but which bore no fruit and fizzled out (the waste paper basket was my most valuable office accessory); and (2) advisers who came to tell me how to do my job but who resisted my attempts to tell them about the… Read more »

Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
7 days ago

Thank you. As far as I am aware, the Diocese of Edinburgh which is a big diocese in Scottish terms, operates on about 8 staff at the centre (not including clerics) and the Bishop and the Dean share a PA, smaller dioceses might have only five central staff. The SEC is tiny and poor, of course but that, perhaps, is part of its strength.There is neither the need or the money to pay for a large bureaucracy. It has never been an established church in Scotland. It means that many of its churches are very small and don’t present the… Read more »

Stephen Lacey
8 days ago
Reply to  Daniel Lamont

In Chelmsford Diocese its £80180 for a Full Time Stipendiary Priest for your Church or Benefice. The Priest sees nothing like this figure. Woe betide you if you can’t raise this. You are placed in the Red category and told to find a self supporting Priest, a Lay Minister or ‘interim ministry’.Anything else is ‘financially unsustainable’ Why would you then pay anything to the Diocese? Is it not an invitation for your congregation to become a Free Church?

Stephen Griffiths
Stephen Griffiths
7 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Lacey

In my experience over four dioceses and two stints as a rural dean the equation that produces the parish share has been: based on indices of attendance and wealth/deprivation that are hotly contested, complex to the point of being impenetrable, barely mentioned at diocesan synod to avoid discussion, controlled by a few key people, delegated to deanery synod to divide up amongst benefices and used as a tool to measure loyalty to the diocese/C of E. I have yet to find a benefice that does not aspire to pay the cost of its stipendiary clergy (sheltered life?), and yet to… Read more »

Stuart
Stuart
7 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

There are a couple of catches with ramping up NSM to save money.
One is what to do with all the ministry that happened during working hours. That’s not going to be possible in the same way if the minister is doing something else to earn a living.
The other is the whole “labourer worthy of hire” thing. The choice is between congregations giving valuable money and unpaid ministers giving valuable time. One way or another, someone has to pay. Unless we only want clergy who, for whatever reason, don’t need to earn a living.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
7 days ago
Reply to  Stuart

Stuart, you express my thoughts exactly. If we are to be run by more NSMs, who will be available to do all the funerals that are currently filling up the diaries of clergy around the country? Funeral Directors won’t wait for clergy to check with their employer if it’s ok to take a couple of hours off work on Tuesday week, and will quickly turn to civil celebrants if clergy aren’t available to give quick responses to requests. But there is also a broader cultural issue. Every diocese in which I have served has put on various training days, meetings… Read more »

Andrew
Andrew
6 days ago

Dexter, the NSM minister won’t be the only one needing to check with their employer if they can take time off work on Tuesday week, unless you’re taking it for granted that the laity required to be present at the funeral (e.g., churchwardens) will also be free. 

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
4 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

Andrew: I realise that things will vary from place to place, but in my context funerals in church are quite rare. The vast majority are at the crematorium, where all the assistance required is provided by those paid to be there. From time-to-time, I help out in other parishes which require cover for funerals, where a verger, parish administrator etc are available to assist, but do so in a paid capacity, which makes me wonder if we are heading for a situation in which parishes have paid administrators but volunteer clergy.

Michael
Michael
4 days ago

Father Dexter It is evident from death notices in the press that most funerals are at the crematorium. The culture has changed considerably as humanist celebrants have all but taken over. The funeral is all about the life of the deceased, death is the end, no hope beyond the grave. I recall at the local crem there used to be retired clergy on the rota who supplemented their pensions by being available to take funerals so in that respect they were volunteer clergy. They were known as ‘crem cowboys’!

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
4 days ago
Reply to  Michael

Yes, I am well aware of ‘retired’ clergy who have done quite well out of crem funerals. I strongly suspect that their conduct helped speed up the break down in the relationship between funeral directors and parish clergy, and open up the way for civil celebrants. In the past year I have been doing all that I can to restore that relationship with my local funeral directors, and my purpose in commenting on this thread was to make the point that it is the existence of the stipend that makes it possible for me to be available for as many… Read more »

Charles Clapham
Charles Clapham
7 days ago

If anyone wants to dig further into the figures, I think I’m right in saying that every diocese is required to produce an annual report and set of financial statements which should be publicly accessible (either on their website, or via the charity commission website); the Archbishops’ Council similarly produces a financial statement which anyone can examine. No doubt as with other comparable organisations (education? NHS?) there are areas of questionable expenditure or where things could be made more efficient, but I’m not persuaded that there is any evidence of huge financial incompetence, ‘gravy trains’ or expensive ‘white elephants’ going… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by Charles Clapham
Sam Jones
Sam Jones
7 days ago

There is a lot that can be done to reduce the cost of clergy, much of which has been mentioned on this site in the past, such as:

  1. same stipend for all clergy
  2. clergy to start contributing to their pensions
  3. transfer diocesan administrative functions to the Commissioners and do centrally at cheaper cost
  4. transfer diocesan assets to the Commissioners and ringfence them to subsidise UPA parishes
  5. all ‘diocesan adviser’ roles to be combined with parish ministry and/or done by NSM’s/volunteers
  6. end residential training for clergy

I am sure there are many other suggestions

Michael
Michael
4 days ago
Reply to  Sam Jones

Sam I agree with all your suggestions. re point 5 about diocesan advisers. Like bishops and archdeacons, they are growing in number. re point 1. about same stipend for all clergy. I would be more brutal and say that if a full time stipendiary is not doing a full time job then he/she should agree/have imposed a cut. By which I mean those full time clergy who continue to keep their churches closed and continue in their refusal to share communion outside their own living rooms. It is a central part of their ministry but they are not doing it.… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
3 days ago
Reply to  Michael

‘By which I mean those full time clergy who continue to keep their churches closed and continue in their refusal to share communion outside their own living rooms. It is a central part of their ministry but they are not doing it.’

Excuse me, but keeping my people safe is part of my job. And by the way, I haven’t had communion since October either.

Last edited 3 days ago by Tim Chesterton
Michael
Michael
3 days ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

Tim My local church is a vast early Victorian building. At the 8 o’clock on Easter Day the attendance is about six, more or less the same as the rest of the year. Of those six, four have already received first dose of covid vaccine and the vicar also. I am one of the other two who will still be waiting at Easter for first dose. Please explain to me why 8 o’clock cannot take place in church on Easter Day? For the second year running. Why is it OK for the vicar to be the only one receiving communion… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
3 days ago
Reply to  Michael

I make no judgement about your church. But your post didn’t talk about your church. It talked about all churches. The judgement you declared was on all clergy. You need to stop doing that.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 days ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

You need to stop doing that.

What an odd phrase. I don’t know how you know what Michael “needs”. I think you meant either “Please stop”, or just “Stop!” In any case it’s clear that Michael is writing from a position of distress and it might be helpful to acknowledge that, even sympathise, before issuing him orders. It also helps, when asking or telling someone to do something, to explain why you think they ought to do it.

Tim Chesterton
2 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

I’m in no position to issue orders to anyone. But I am a regional dean, and I know that most of the clergy in my deanery are exhausted. Speaking for myself, in over forty years of parish experience I’ve never had a year as stressful as this. So when someone proposes that because my bishop has decided it’s not yet safe to try to run on-site services in our churches, my workload is reduced and I should have my salary cut—well, quite frankly, I’m angry. And I’m not alone. If they haven’t already done so, I think everyone on TA… Read more »

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
2 days ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

Then, for what it’s worth, you have my sympathy too. I don’t have any special answers for you any more than I do for Michael. He’s distressed and angry: you’re stressed and angry. Suppose a similar dispute had arisen in your parish: let’s say, between a parent angry and distressed because their child’s school was closed, and a teacher stressed and angry with trying to run lessons online. What advice would you give to the parties?

Last edited 2 days ago by Richard Pinch
Tim Chesterton
2 days ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

That’s not a hypothetical situation. We have many young families in our congregation and they were all in that situation. Now the schools are open, but 10% of the schools in Alberta have had Covid outbreaks. Consequently we’re on a roller coaster of openings, individual school shutdowns etc. etc. Teachers are stressed, parents are stressed, we all just want it to be over. But I think the thing is to realize that these are extraordinary times we’re living in. It’s not going to be business as usual, no matter how much we long for that to happen. At the moment… Read more »

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
1 day ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

I’m not disputing any of that, and since I’ve made the point I wanted to make in this discussion, I’ll leave it there.

Fr Dexter Bracey
Fr Dexter Bracey
3 days ago
Reply to  Michael

Michael, I don’t know where you are based, but it doesn’t surprise me that the only church in your area that is open is the Forward in Faith church. In most areas, FIF/Society parishes have been open when allowed to be. I’ve no wish to seem partisan, but traditional Catholics have argued the case for sacramental assurance because we believe that the sacraments matter. We have demonstrated our commitment to the sacramental life of the Church by doing all that is necessary to ensure that people can continue to receive Communion in our churches. I know from my own experience… Read more »

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