Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 26 September 2020

Giles Fraser UnHerd Why Covid can’t cancel Christmas
“There is much to be gained by the knocking out of all the cheap commercial cheer”

Peter Leonard ViaMedia.News What Schitt’s Creek Can Teach the Church of England

Archdruid Eileen The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley Keeping Everyone Happy at Church

Edward Dowler All Things Lawful And Honest Singing a new song
“Edward Dowler considers the Psalms, Augustine and anthropology, and calls for the safe restoration of congregational singing to our worshiping life.”

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
47 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Father David
1 month ago

St. Augustine also said – “To sing is to pray twice”

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
1 month ago
Reply to  Father David

Or more mellifluously, “To sing belongs to lovers.”

Edward Dowler
Edward Dowler
1 month ago
Reply to  Father David

Fr David: he is often quoted as having said this but I am not sure that he actually did. I would be grateful for any reference.

Father David
1 month ago
Reply to  Edward Dowler

Number 5 in Classic FM’s 24 inspirational quotes about classical music – so, it must be troo! You can’t catch me out that easily Archdeacon.

Kate
Kate
1 month ago

The current churlishness being displayed towards Christmas by some clerics is depressing. Miranda Threlfall-Holmes is the worst but Giles Fraser isn’t far behind. Christmas is Jesus’s birthday. I don’t know about you but if I go to a birthday party (when they used to be allowed) I don’t care how often people have been around during the year, I am just overjoyed they are there now. I don’t expect some lessons about why the birthday boy or girl is important; I just want to celebrate with them. Christmas should be a time of carefree joy and an outpouring of love.… Read more »

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate

So, Kate, you are prepared for your ‘outpouring of love’ to be at the expense of those who are shielding, and for whom gathering is dangerous? Including clergy, churchwardens, sidespersons, choir members, organists, Sunday school teachers? Like Giles and Miranda and most pastorally-minded clerics, I know many people for whom Christmas is the most miserable time of the year. Those who have been bereaved at Christmas, or suffered some other trauma, for whom Christmas is a dark anniversary. Thos who feel their loneliness and isolation more than ever at the ‘season of love’. Those who can’t afford the Christmas their… Read more »

Kate
Kate
1 month ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

Isn’t the job of Christ’s ministers to help people see and participate in the transcendent joy of celebrating the birth of our Saviour?

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate

Are you seriously suggesting that people mourning the loss of their nearest and dearest; all alone at Christmas; or shut in with abusive relatives, should be ‘helped’ to be joyful and celebrate? The pastor’s task if to offer comfort (= ‘make strong’), and that requires empathy. Empathy is costly, And the calling of all Christians is to be mindful of those who suffer.

I find it incredible that you should not only refuse to have your own fun spoiled by others’ griefs and pain, but even expect them to whoop it up with you. Unless you’re being intentionally provocative?

Kate
Kate
1 month ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

“Are you seriously suggesting that people mourning the loss of their nearest and dearest; all alone at Christmas; or shut in with abusive relatives, should be ‘helped’ to be joyful and celebrate? ”

Yes. That’s essentially what Job teaches us.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate

What Job teaches us, among other things, is that when ‘friends’ decide the best response to a man facing great tragedy and loss is to offer him false comfort and spiritual rebukes, it doesn’t work. That’s why we have the expression ‘Job’s comforters’.

The more relevant text is this: ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.’

Kate
Kate
1 month ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

Offer comfort too but we should never hide the joy that is in Christ because it is the best comfort of all.

Stanley Monkhouse
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate

Not in my experience, Kate.

Kate
Kate
1 month ago

I feel sad for you then Stanley because I have had some awful times and the joy of opening myself to God is all that has kept me alive through some of them.

Last edited 1 month ago by Kate
NJW
NJW
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate

‘A sword shall pierce your heart’
Not entirely full of joy – but entirely full of Love.

Michael
Michael
1 month ago
Reply to  Kate

I agree with you Kate. Region by region, national lockdown is coming back. The House of Bishops’ response is to cut to the bone attendance at weddings and baptisms. Church lockdown will be here once more. There will be no carol services, Christmas communion for clergy only, back to the same dire situation as Easter and Whitsun. I agree, for once with Isabel Oakeshott. Unfortunately ordinary churchgoers can do nothing but watch their local church being destroyed. Even some APCMs and all of General Synod are now exclusively on Zoom so those without Zoom are disenfranchised and silenced. Who could… Read more »

Charles Read
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael

Numbers at weddings are determined by the government and not by bishops. We have not made a decision on doing GS by Zoom – we have merely passed legislation to do so if we need to. So hybrid GS is possible too.

Helen King
Helen King
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael

‘Those without Zoom are disenfranchised and silenced’? Actually, no. There is a facility to join Zoom meetings by telephone. Speaking here as someone with a Zoom APCM next weekend.

Michael
Michael
1 month ago
Reply to  Helen King

Zoom by telephone? How on earth does that work? What if everyone participating in APCM does this? When I was excluded from APCM on Zoom, nobody said I could join by telephone. Kate, above, mentioned Miranda Threlfall-Holmes. According to Miranda, I am no longer eligible to comment on C of E’s response to pandemic because I did not attend APCM, have not worshipped regularly in church this year and not made any financial contribution so I should shut up. Except local church remains locked, I do not do online banking and was excluded from APCM. I have become a non… Read more »

Helen King
Helen King
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael

Just google ‘zoom by telephone’. Sounds perfectly straightforward. The meeting link should include those options and they can be passed on to those who don’t have computers.

Simon Kershaw
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Helen King

The creator of the Zoom meeting can add telephone options to the invitation and can specify which countries to provide the numbers for. It’s important to specify a numerical password for phone users (though you can still have a differnt alphanumeric password for more sophisticated devices).

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael

“those without Zoom are disenfranchised and silenced.”

There is a balance to be found.

In my neck of the woods in rural Wiltshire we have a superabundance of ancient village churches with no convenient car parking, no toilet, very poor heating in winter, and lots of steps both inside and outside. Yet before lockdown nobody seemed to complain about people with weak bladders, or poor mobility, or poor circulation being disenfranchised and silenced.

Yet such people now have many on-line services to attend, and many on-line communities to become part of.

Michael
Michael
1 month ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

In that case, collective worship no longer exists. Individuals at home in their individual spaces, never meeting in the real world, watching a celebrant receiving communion but deliberately refusing to share, while others watch elsewhere. That is not collective worship. Worshippers must have been much more hardy in the past. They managed to get to church every week in all weathers, often walking some distance. Public worship of God mattered to them. They did not expect to be pampered. Less than ten years ago I used to worship at a well attended 8 am BCP communion in a church with… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael

Based on my reading, few in the working classes, or lower, attended church on a weekly basis in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in rural areas, mostly due to the difficulties of travel. Sunday was their one day of rest and they took advantage of it. The gentry and aristocracy went to weekly services, as did their house servants, but even they might miss quite frequently in bad weather or if there was an illness in the home.

Froghole
Froghole
1 month ago
Reply to  Pat O'Neill

Many thanks. However, I am not certain that all of your statements are necessarily supported by the evidence. The famous 1851 census (the Mann census) of church attendance had the Church of England winning a bare majority of those who attended a service (though there were certain methodological flaws in that survey): https://archive.org/details/censusgreatbrit00manngoog/page/n5/mode/2up. I have read a number of volumes of bishops’ visitations which indicate that there were not only far more services than now, but they were invariably far better attended than at present, even in the supposed ‘nadir’ years of the late eighteenth century: http://www.brin.ac.uk/commentary/drs/appendix4/. On that basis… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Froghole
ACI
ACI
29 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Thanks for realism, on the ground and through time.

Froghole
Froghole
29 days ago
Reply to  ACI

Many thanks, ACI. I should mention that the phenomenon of the dependent chapelry, which is so conspicuous a feature of Cheshire, Lancashire and Westmorland (and also parts of the West Riding), is less evident in the greater part of Cumberland and almost the entirety of Northumberland. However, attendance would be informed by settlement patterns, and whether populations were ‘nucleated’ or diffuse. Pat has a very valid point in this regard. Mr Dawson’s neighbourhood ought to be optimal churchgoing territory, in view of its relative wealth and demographics (there are many retired military types, though church attendance in the armed forces… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
29 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Thank you for your excellent summary, which mirrors my own grasp of the situation very closely. To add context it may be helpful to study the Salisbury Diocese Buildings policy. ( https://www.salisbury.anglican.org/resources-library/whos-who/synods/diocesan-synod/2016-11-diocesan-synod-church-buildings-policy/view?searchterm=None ). There has been a very clear steer from the centre that wherever possible all church buildings should remain open. Any pro-active move towards rationalisation and reorganisation, which may lead to abandoning any ancient building, should be very much the last resort. I have always found it a strange policy for a Diocese which has the story about the Cathedral move from Old Sarum to its present location… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
29 days ago
Reply to  Simon Dawson

Very many thanks for your comments and that link! I think that the Stancliffe regime was much more sympathetic towards buildings than its immediate predecessors, and the only closure of an ancient church I can think of in the diocese during the last few year has been Staverton (sold recently for conversion to residential use) which, like Burcombe, suffers from a complete want of parking, although the rapid expansion of Trowbridge makes the loss of Staverton slightly less appropriate. Also, I suspect that one of the reasons why there have been few closures of late is because so many ‘marginal’… Read more »

brcw2
brcw2
29 days ago
Reply to  Pat O'Neill

I think ‘few’ might be putting it a bit strongly, but there are certainly figures that agree that weekly attendance by all was certainly not happening: in 1832 in one parish in Hampshire, apparently 24% of adults attended constantly, 20% generally, 37% occasionally and 19% never. And in a slum district of Liverpool, more than 2/3 of nominal Anglicans neglected worship. (Both taken from https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022046911002533)

Froghole
Froghole
29 days ago
Reply to  brcw2

Many thanks for that. The Hampshire parish in question to which Dr Field refers (on p. 718) was Wonston (Holy Trinity), between Andover and Micheldever, and the analysis was based upon tables composed by the incumbent, Alexander Dallas: http://www.google.it.ao/books?id=pHXjq_rnxn8C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false. Dallas (1791-1869) was a fervent evangelical, and a chaplain to the similarly evangelical bishop of Winchester, Charles Sumner. The Dallas family fortune came from a Jamaica plantation. Dallas fought at Waterloo and was very well-connected. He was viscerally anti-Catholic and anti-Tractarian and founded the Irish Church Mission, working closely with the celebrated archbishop of Tuam, Power le Poer Trench, deluging middle… Read more »

ACI
ACI
29 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Do you believe there are ‘people in charge’ who understand this situation (leaving aside any plans for addressing it)? Very grim.

Froghole
Froghole
29 days ago
Reply to  ACI

Many thanks, ACI! When a bishop attends a service in a parish church there is usually a larger crowd than usual. There might therefore be a Potemkin village effect. Also, I do think that some churchwardens tend to over-count at times. For the last couple of decades the authorities have been relying upon increased giving by attendees. The financial contributions have remained stable, and have even increased slightly, even as God harvests the attendees. I fear that this flow of funds is now collapsing, as Michael has suggested. Hampshire ought to be prime Church of England territory. Outside some deprived… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
29 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Froghole: Totally irrelevant to the discussion, but by a sad coincidence yesterday I announced to our local organists’ association the recent death of the former Organist of Holy Trinity, Wonston. I wonder whether you know two nearby churches: tiny Hunton and Bullington, the latter with its avenue of trees known as “The Twelve Apostles”? Although I have distant family connections with two of these three, I don’t know anything about pre-pandemic congregation sizes. I did have the unfortunate experience elsewhere last year of turning up to play for a service with three people present: the incumbent, a church warden and… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
29 days ago

Many thanks! My worship tour of Hampshire was intended to be comprehensive, so I did attend services at them. I am afraid that my experience of Bullington elides with yours – the congregation was little more than about five. Hunton actually had a slightly larger turnout (and Hunton, for my money, has a truly lovely setting, arguably my favourite in all Hampshire along with Avington, Farley Chamberlayne, Hale, Idsworth, Tichbourne and Warnford; of course it helped that I went there during a gorgeous spring blossom – the best churchyard blossom I had experienced since Beaumont-cum-Moze in Essex). My experience of… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
28 days ago
Reply to  Froghole

Thank you also to the Editors for permitting a slight diversion during these gloomy times. I live in John Keble’s parish, population circa 700, which takes in the lovely (Grade 1 listed) church at Farley Chamberlayne. By Hampshire standards it must be one of the remotest, high on the downs standing in isolation from fragmentary remnants of a village deserted in mediaeval times – in its own small way symbolising the Church eternal. Long may it continue!

Froghole
Froghole
28 days ago

Many thanks! I heard this earlier this year (and you may well have heard it also): it touches upon the take-over of Hursley House during the war and has some amusing anecdotes about the Cooper family: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05vxv25. The current occupants, I suppose, are a little more ‘corporate’ than the Coopers. Of course, as you will know as well as anyone, Keble is not the only distinguished burial in the nave of the church. The juxtaposition of Keble with ‘Tumbledown Dick’, a few metres to the west (by/in the tower, if I recall), is inherently intriguing. As with Hunton, the bewitching… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
29 days ago
Reply to  Michael

Michael – I repeat, there is a balance to be found. I agree with you that attending a service in a church, in person, is to be preferred. And locally that is possible for many. But with the best will in the world there are some who through disability or COVID shielding do not feel able to attend. And for those people we provide a Zoom service, with a programmed time of after service chat and gossip. And if people chose to they can sit in front of the screen with a small piece of bread and a glass of… Read more »

Laurence Cunnington
Laurence Cunnington
1 month ago
Reply to  Janet Fife

Every date in the calendar is an anniversary of a bereavement or tragedy for somebody – and I have had what I consider to be more than my ‘fair share’. I don’t begrudge others their joy on dates that happen to coincide with my grief, be that Christmas Day or any other day, though I might expect those close to me to show some sensitivity.

Last edited 1 month ago by Laurence Cunnington
Dominic Barrington
Dominic Barrington
1 month ago

Methinks Giles has been re-reading the Grinch.

“He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came! Somehow or other, it came just the same!”

Dominic Barrington
Dominic Barrington
1 month ago

I appreciate Edward Dowler’s plea for singing to resume. But he simply makes no real mention of the issues around the pandemic – and this in a country where the figures are going severely in the wrong direction. I don’t get it…..

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

Regarding Fr. Fraser’s commentary, as the great sage Charles Schultz might say (through the voice of Charlie Brown), “Oh, bother!” “I hate those smug, religion-lite ‘season’s greetings’ cards from politicians and their perfect families.” Is Fr. Fraser fretting over the “war on Christmas”? I hope that’s not “a thing” in Merry Old England. Bah, humbug! I assume Fr. Fraser is fully aware that Jewish people have been permitted to live in England, openly and legally, since 1655, and they celebrate Chanukah during December. Muslims observe Ramadan, and it occasionally falls in December. England has people who believe in polytheism and… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
peterpi - Peter Gross
1 month ago

Fr. Fraser said that the notion of God Incarnate as a human baby in a stable is blasphemous to Jewish people. I’d say that would be so if the person insists on believing that and identifying as Jewish, but my experience is most Jews have no problems with Christians believing that, as long as Christians leave Jews alone. But I used to sing in a TEC cathedral choir, and one Christmas Eve, I heard the dean, during his sermon or homily, state that people wanted a God they could see, they could hear, they could touch. And that ought to… Read more »

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

Idolatry? Why did God send his Incarnate Son if not for the world to hear and see?

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

The young son of a prominent megachurch pastor here in the US committed suicide a few years ago. It was tragic for the family. At Christmas, the boy’s mother complained about friends who had the audacity to send the family a Christmas card.

I spoke with a friend a few hours ago who is already putting Christmas decorations in place.

Some revel in Christmas, others recoil.

Fr John Harris-White
Fr John Harris-White
1 month ago

Giles thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree with them 100 %. This year we may live with Advent, and then travel to Bethlehem, and wonder with the angels, and shepherds. But hear also the words spoken to Mary,,’A sword shall pierce your own soul’..

as my old theological motto says, ‘The way of the cross is the way of light’.

Fr John Emlyn.

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead
1 month ago

Great article by Giles Fraser. A note of caution though: all retailers and hospitality services are relying on the usual increased footfall and trade in the coming Christmas season to boost a terrible year’s profits and maybe prevent bankruptcy. Cancelling Christmas will cancel employment for many, many people.

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
1 month ago

The problem for the CofE in navigating Schitt’s Creek is that it doesn’t have a paddle with which to do so. It lost the paddle when it picked up its hypocrisy: lots of gay clergy in supposedly celibate civil partnerships and only one out gay bishop when everyone knows their number is well into double figures and includes an episcopal gay couple. Like Peter I very much doubt that LLF will be able to function as the paddle.

47
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x