on Saturday, 26 December 2020 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
Chantry Westwell British Library The ox and ass at the Nativity
Giles Fraser UnHerd Why I won’t be closing my church this Christmas
Jonathan Clatworthy Modern Church The Church and Bishopsgate
I’m in total agreement with Jonathan Clatworthy’s vision of an inclusive Church which contains diverse humans – gay, straight, trans etc. He seems to imply it should also include those whose faith and beliefs are based upon sex-obsessed fundamentalist nonsense. This may be the way the CofE is going if it tolerates the Bishopsgate sect among others. There’s no hope as long as any loopy view is acceptable, and which proves to many normal people the CofE teaches ideas which are ridiculous.
Yes. The St Helens view if tolerated is an immense problem for mission.
Giles, I am with you all the way, and better understanding of Incarnation would be hard to follow.
Although now retired I would have defied the Archbishop, and kept my church open.
I have been fortunate to live through several pandemics, and was chaplain at Kings College hospital through the aids pandemic, when the medics were lost in their understanding of AIDS, and men just died.
Keep up your good work Giles.
Fr John Emlyn
Giles highlights churches who have failed to open their doors but there are others who have placed so many hurdles to attendance to still in effect be closed. The parish who have a said Eucharist at 9am so that they can continue to Zoom at 10.30am; the parish who have the Eucharist once in a while, following no predictable pattern, but with no music and where the congregation are not allowed to receive the sacrament; the parish who insists on booking a ticket but doesn’t return telephone calls asking to book in my elderly mother and my good self, and… Read more »
Many thanks! This mirrors my recent experience pretty well. However, eliciting information from clergy and wardens was a hazardous exercise even before lockdown, though I would never attempt it unless there was no alternative (i.e., because information was not available online, or if it was available it was confusing, or if I was not able to obtain information from a physical reconnoitre – there being nothing on the applicable notice board, etc.). Whilst some clergy or administrators might pick up the phone, it was common for it just to ring endlessly, or for the response to be grudging, if not… Read more »
You’ll understand that I need to be coy about the precise location of these parishes. Since I’ve retired I’ve been to churches who are prattling on about mission but where no one would share the peace with me, another whose Vicar couldn’t look me in the eye and I had to introduce myself to him as a visitor, another with three clergy in separate holy huddles with their backs to the departing congregation. Some sermons I’ve heard wouldn’t come close to even a GCSE level of theology. One in 2019 was entirely about the perils of the overconsumption of mulled… Read more »
Many thanks! Yes, all that (and more) reflects my experience of clergy across much of England and Wales. However, it is much more common for me to simply be ignored completely, though this is not something I mind at all, as I am usually anxious to get onto the next church. However, it does make me wonder whether I would go back to a particular church if I happened to move to that particular parish. Also, many of the most ‘successful’ churches are the most unfriendly, and some of the weakest are the nicest. Indeed, I have come to put… Read more »
Father John and Father Dean – I wholeheartedly agree with you. Even when churches are open, they have a labyrinthine ticket system which relies on access to the internet and other computer skills. I did not mind being home alone on Christmas Day but I resented not receiving communion because full time stipendiary clergy either prefer Zoom or Facebook after 41 Sundays of exclusion. A N Wilson let off a lot of steam in the Times yesterday (Sat 26th) against the Archbishop of Canterbury, illustrated of course with the latter’s kitchen communion on Easter Day. No wonder the Archbishop reportedly… Read more »
I’m so tired of complainers wilfully choosing to ignore the fact that Covid-19 is deadly and the new variant is 70% more contagious. And the first duty of Christian pastors is the same as the first duty of Christians: to love one another, which at the very least includes not taking the risk of infecting each other with a deadly virus.
Tim Chesterton- could you explain to me why approximately six regular worshippers cannot be accommodated in a barn sized Victorian church without infecting each other? This is the Church of England. We are not talking about hundreds crowding into a BCP communion at 8 am. I disagree with your comment that the first duty of Christian pastors is to love one another. I stand to be corrected, but in the Church of England the first duty is public worship. The Parish Eucharist that I participated in via youtube yesterday morning came live from All Saints Margaret Street, London. In the… Read more »
The Church of England teaches: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength; and your neighbour as yourself.’ The duty to lead public worship does not trump this command which, as you know, is part of our liturgy. Michael, I realise that you had been doubly bereaved, having lost your mother and the church services which are such a source of comfort to you. That is tough. Anger is one of the very understandable responses to grief. I don’t know what are the circumstances… Read more »
Janet I’m sure you didn’t mean to come across as priggish but that’s how I read your comments. The CofE is in crisis and many clergy respond by burying their heads further in the sand. Michael is right to express his frustration with the absence of the church’s core ministry and purpose.
Perhaps I didn’t make it clear that I was responding to Michael’s disputing of Tim’s assertion that the first duty of priests, as of other, Christians, is to love one another. I can’t see that any C of E regulation is more important than Jesus’ command to love. And I agree with Tim that loving our neighbour means we don’t expose them to deadly infection. On the other hand, Michael has a real need for the sacrament which is why I suggested he and the vicar have a conversation. Is the vicar aware how Michael feels? Maybe he/she is and… Read more »
Janet I suspect you are not aware that in several dioceses bishops have forbidden clergy taking Holy Communion to people in their homes. It is a very sad situation. Bishops sadly in many dioceses are simply out of touch, and have ignored the importance of the sacrament. One suspects few archdeacons, and other senior clergy, had very little to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned were all around them.
Dave you are correct. Receiving holy communion at home is forbidden by any number of bishops. On Mothering Sunday, days after my mother died, and when churches were at the beginning of lockdown, I requested communion. I explained how much I needed the comfort of the sacrament on such a painful day and also that I would not be able to attend the funeral. The answer was no. The vicar did two identical celebrations that day at home. How do you think I felt? I have asked for communion since but have not received. Unfortunately the House of Bishops have… Read more »
Michael, I am a parish priest in the Diocese of Edmonton in western Canada. All Anglican churches in the province of Alberta have been closed (again) for onsite worship for the past three or four weeks, which is more than the province is asking for (the province requires 15% capacity, masked, social distancing etc.), because the numbers were spiking so high that our bishops felt the most responsible thing to do was to remove the risk altogether. This is a deadly pandemic. The new strain of the virus is 70% more contagious, and one of the things I’ve heard about… Read more »
Well said, Tim.
I made a very similar point on what I believe was a blog for law students, but my post was mostly given the ‘thumbs down’, and from one a particularly blunt riposte “No such legal duty exists”. This young man (I assume) appeared to be unaware of one of the linchpins of the law of negligence in England (also adopted in other common law jurisdictions like Canada, I believe), a 1930s judgment of Lord Atkin based on the actions of the Good Samaritan. Lord Atkin asked “Who is my neighbour?”, and the answer which he formulated, and embodied in the… Read more »
From the Twitter feed of a doctor in Oxford: ‘As of today there are 20,426 Covid patients in hospitals in England – the highest number ever recorded, even at April’s peak. There is no denying the gravity of where we are. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Staff are on their knees. Please do not believe anyone claiming otherwise. We cannot treat people’s cancer, heart disease, mental illness or anything else when we are redeployed into acute Covid crisis teams. This is why Covid is everyone’s problem. When the NHS is overwhelmed, non-Covid patients suffer too. Please – please – respect lockdown.’ In a situation… Read more »
I agree with Michael above, that the first duty of Christian pastors qua pastors is to ensure that worship is offered. Of course the primary duty of Christians (and I would argue, all human beings) is to love one another, and of course that is more important. But in his/her professional life the priest should ensure that the worship of God is not interrupted. Chatty zoom sessions or agonised online homilies are not enough. The offering of the Eucharist is and must remain at the heart of the Church’s life. I’m willing to accept expert guidance about when it is… Read more »
Michael, many thanks for a sane and balanced summary.
Michael? Should read ‘David’. Sorry – shouldn’t post after midday during the festive season.
The Book of Common Prayer forbids solitary celebrations of the Eucharist. And while some priests will feel the exceptional circumstances justify the expedient, others will feel they can’t in conscience do so.
I wouldn’t criticise either – or those who offer worship on Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, or other forum.
Fair point. I’m among those reluctant to celebrate alone (and I have never done so) but I can see that the present circumstances do indeed justify exceptional action (similar to withdrawing the chalice). However, the Eucharist remains the central normative act of the Church, and if it is impossible to offer this with a physical congregation it seems to me that the duty of every parish priest is to ensure that it is offered if at all possible. The current rules do not forbid one (or more) socially distanced members of a congregation. If they are again tightened, and a… Read more »
Some parishes are offering morning prayer and the eucharist online. One I’m ‘attending’ does I don’t see how liturgy streamed online could be the fruit of a wish to de-liturgise the Church it merely take the liturgy outside the church walls and makes it available to more people.
David, like you I will not preside alone. However, if I was still a parish priest and Covid regulations forbade the holy people of God from gathering to offer Eucharist, I would certainly preside alone that “we and all your Church may receive forgiveness of our sins and all other benefits of his passion”. Why? Because that is fulfilling the ordination mandate to “minister the sacraments of the new covenant”. There seems to be some very C of E confusion around as to what a priest, as a priest, does. Of course, a priest is still a member of the… Read more »
‘I suspect that the enthusiasm for virtual worship has been driven by those with a hidden agenda to de-liturgise the C of E.’ I can’t speak for the C of E, but in our case, our use of virtual worship has been the only vehicle possible for us to continue, and indeed expand, our use of the church’s liturgy. Since March we have used Morning and Night Prayer daily on Facebook Live, on our church’s Facebook page (which, unlike Zoom, is public – you don’t need a Facebook account to view it). Recently when we made the decision to cut… Read more »
And the cock crowed three times
If Kate’s comment means what it appears to mean then it is one of the most offensive and unChristians comments I have read on TA. I hope I have misinterpreted her.
Excuse me? Am I being accused of denying my Lord here?
Still waiting for an explanation.
Michael thank you for your comment. Those poor truckers stranded over Christmas were in the Archbishop’s diocese when they found that there was no room for them at the inn. I saw that the Sikh community had responded to their needs but I didn’t see any news of the Diocese of Canterbury ministering to those poor men and the few women drivers. Where was the Archbishop then, where was the Bishop of Dover, where was the Mother’s Union? These key workers were guests in our country and they weren’t afforded even the minimum of hospitality. A Spanish lorry driver was… Read more »
Thank you Dean. This was great opportunity for a ‘real presence’ of feeding 5000 imprisoned outcast foreigners. Such contrast too thinking back some 850 years to a troublous predecessor ABC …
My local church starts Eucharist before the first train arrives there on a Sunday so people in my direction can’t attend unless they drive
Our parish in Edmonton is practically inaccessible by public transport on Sunday morning. Our solution for the couple of people who don’t drive is that we arrange rides for them. It can be done.
Choose service times around public transport is obviously the correct approach.
I can’t, of course, comment on the situation with regard to transport in Edmonton, but in England Kate’s suggestion is not possible for every benefice and is certainly not ‘obviously the correct approach’. We are a multi-church benefice, and the timing of services depends on the ministry team’s availability. With the best will in the world, no one can preside at two different services in different places at the same time. I wonder if people posting comments could stop criticising clergy for the actions they have taken in the present very challenging times when the critics have not the slightest… Read more »
‘ the critics have not the slightest idea what are the circumstances with which each incumbent and community have to deal’ That is not correct. The nearest church to me is barely half a mile away and the vicarage is adjacent. I am well aware of what the community is dealing with – no covid deaths and barely any infections but we are in Tier 3. The local pub is closed by law but it does not stop the full time stipendiary vicar posting on Facebook details of a meal there a few days ago, while the church remains firmly locked.… Read more »
Well said, David. In my previous parish in northern Alberta I got up Sunday morning, left home at 7.45 a.m., drove fifty miles to the next community south where I led a 9 a.m. service, then drove home again and did one in my home community at 11.15. The third point in our parish had an afternoon or evening service (it was thirty-two miles to the west).
Then have expand the team with lay presidents
Thank you for this comment. I have 6 churches and my ministry team consists of one retired priest(who has an underlying health condition) and a reader who refuses to take communion because I wear a mask to administer. I do not have a large band of active volunteers. The majority of my congregants are over 70 . Since the crisis began I have done my best to respond to a barrage of changing guidance. However wrong it felt to me if I had not held streamed communion services in my home with just the immediate family present there would have… Read more »
Thank you for all you are doing, and for explaining it so clearly. I think a lot of people aren’t aware of the conditions under which clergy ar ministering, and assume they’re just sitting at home with their feet up.
Blessings and peace to you, Freddy. You are doing your best to be faithful in circumstances none of us ever dreamed of. And you are not alone, brother. I am a regional dean and am well aware that most of the clergy in my deanery are exhausted from doing everything they can to live out the love of Christ for the people in their parishes, in these circumstances that are next to impossible. I can honestly say that I am inspired by the obvious love of my clergy colleagues for Christ and for the people they serve. The only thing… Read more »
You have my respect and sympathy, Freddy. Often enough on TA I’ve sensed that some non-incumbent contributors have no idea of the pressures on conscientious incumbents. It took me a year or so to work out who was an incumbent, who had been, who was not … and so on. I then interpreted their remarks accordingly. Some of the current TA tetchy comments are frankly potty, some speak of a delusional and dysfunctional organization (no surprise), some of heroic work by church people, and one or two of lazy clerics who apparently lack empathy/sympathy (I’ve never been sure of the… Read more »
I wish there was a ‘like’ button for this – well said David!
Well said, David.
No one has ever made an issue of this in our parish. However, some members have made an issue of choosing service times around babies’ nap times.
Everyone has a different issue, it seems.
If course they haven’t because the ones who can’t get there aren’t involved at all
Kate, you know absolutely nothing about the public transport culture of a western Canadian city, and it’s time you stopped pontificating about it.
Jonathan Clatworthy’s description of the in-groups and out-groups in evangelical debate matches a well understood phenomenon in group psychology – affective polarisation. Researchers have been studying it in relation to the Republican/Democrat split in the USA, and the dynamics of the Leaver/Remain debate in BREXIT. We need to understand that solving the LGBTQ crisis in the church is at root a psychological problem, requiring an understanding of how human groups work when under challenge, not an issue of biblical hermeneutics or theology or ecclesiology.
Perhaps it was thought too obvious to mention in the Chantry Westwell blog, but the origin of the ox and the ass in the nativity story is Isaiah 1.3: The ox knows its owner And the ass its master’s manger; But Israel does not know, my people do not understand. There is no reference to the verse in the Gospel, but early church apologists made a link between the manger in Luke’s story and this verse in Isaiah, and observed the same theme in both texts of Israel ignoring its Saviour. Thus the ox and the ass were woven into… Read more »
I”t is interesting that this is really a continuation of the process by which the Gospel birth narratives were created. They are examples of haggadah – a kind of theological story-telling based on relevant prophecies, themes and patterns found in prior scripture. It is remarkable that the early church and the mediaevals happily continued the tradition to expand the story in the same way.”
Some of us see it as fulfillment of prophecy 🙂
I would add that you are a very welcome addition to Thinking Anglicans. I hope you stay around!
Thank you for this fascinating insight. The illustration taken from the Benedictional of St Aethelwold was so striking that I followed the British Library link to the digitalised copy of the entire work – a masterpiece of Saxon illustrated manuscript, created 950 years ago. Among other magnificent illustrations are included the tongues of fire descending at Pentecost on ten Apostles, and, most remarkably (presumably) St Peter crucified upside down.
Simon Jenkins comment in yesterday’s Guardian re closed churches.
“Boris Johnson putting churches on a part with steamy nightclubs and sweaty gyms” says it all, really!
Simon Jenkins appears to be mistaken. Places of worship can remain open in Tier 4 areas whereas nightclubs and gyms are closed.
Taken from the .gov website:
“Places of worship
You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. You should maintain strict social distancing at all times.”
Yes places of worship can remain open (as of 29th December – that may change tomorrow) but many choose not to remain open or have not reopened since mid March. Unfortunately the House of Bishops collectively show no real concern about the exclusion of laity from public worship and from communion which was imposed ten months ago. Individual bishops allow public worship to be cancelled with no time limit. They do not understand the pain. They all received communion on Christmas Day while doing nothing to ensure that all lay people could also receive who wished to receive.
“The result is a strict hierarchy. Leaders do the teaching; the rest meekly accept what they are told, while being warned against the demonic influence of the big bad world outside.”
That’s not a trait unique to evangelicals. Just look at the argument about individual cups, or lay presidency. All “episcopally-led” churches embed hierarchicalism.
Johnathan Clatworthy notes: “When single sentences are lifted out of the bible without any regard for context, their meanings can easily be altered. To take one example, Leviticus 20:13 (NRSV) runs: “‘If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.’ “For decades I have been asking Conservative Evangelicals why they are so committed to the first half of this verse but not the second half. Never once has any of them provided an answer.” Another set of verses that no… Read more »
Reminds me of the (in)famous ‘Letter to Dr Laura’ which has been doing the rounds on and off since 2000. Still great fun but makes a serious point worth repeating.
That’s useful, thank you.
Thank you, Rod for this link – I’ve not read all the articles but it is very helpful to read these thoughtful discussions of our theology and ecclesiology over time and then applied to current context. Even e when the current crisis is over, “normal”may take some time to return and these articles give ways into thinking theologically about how to include some of those who wer ex cluded from worship until lock down.