on Wednesday, 7 April 2021 at 11.00 am by Peter Owen
categorised as Opinion
David Ison ViaMedia.News Is God Inhuman?
Stephen Parsons Surviving Church The Wimbledon/Fletcher understanding of Church. Training Camp or Hospital?
David Pocklington Law & Religion UK “Net zero” in 2030 – a courageous decision?
On Net zero, I proposed an amendment to the Oxford Diocesan Motion (which was carried and is part of the final text) – my thought was that the national church needs to commission and invest in the technologies it needs: the timescale and urgency gives a physical scale which makes research and development worthwhile, and sympathetic solutions for historic buildings will have a market beyond churches. (Things like appropriate materials and finishes which enable architects to make features of solutions or to conceal/reduce their impact, which would reduce the issues raised in the faculty procedure). The deployment of investment funds… Read more »
If esthetics are the only objection to the placement of solar panels on the roofs of churches, then I am forced to ask: Does the Lord care at all about the appearance of where we worship him?
This subject isn’t new on TA and I remember some vigorous debate about it. Gloucester Cathedral is one important example of having solar panels on its roof. Others were mentioned. I’m not sure that any of us are in a position to answer your question! The important point about aesthetics is that very many English churches and cathedrals are historic buildings of the highest architectural merit and value, some approaching 900-1,000 years old (four examples close to where I live, including one with pre-Norman Conquest tower arches) and they are an important part of our heritage. Any adaptations must be… Read more »
It’s worth adding that solar isn’t the only green option. Putting electricity on a green tariff and using heat pumps is a very possible alternative – although it doesn’t resolve the problem of cost.
Using air source heat pumps for a historic building may need planning permission as well as a faculty in order to put the units on the outside of the walls. Unless it’s a very small church you are likely to need several units. Our biggest church would probably need 12-16 units. Permission may not be forthcoming for a listed building. I’m not aware that that many churches have installed ground source heat pumps – although there is often a lot of land available, archeology and burials are likely to be interesting problems. I idly wonder if installing the ground source… Read more »
No, but sadly English Heritage does, and it seems that whilst English Heritage submits objections to many church PV applications, the Lord rarely makes his/her views known in the planning process.
As a post script, I ought to explain that great care was taken at Gloucester Cathedral to make the solar panels as inconspicuous as possible, and they are not obviously apparent from ground level.
The Lord may not care but parishioners do, esp those who don’t attend,and including some who do, maybe calling themselves ‘Friends of St Whosoever’s’. And ‘the church’ in the guises of Diocesan Advisors and DACs is keen to hold onto its powers to determine such rather than be in the hands of the local Planning Committee made up of elected councillors. ‘Our’ church buildings of course also contain fine stained glass, carved pulpits and stone monuments all dedicated to the glory of God, benefactors, patrons, the great and good. The best route to carbon-neutrality for many fine buildings would be… Read more »
One of the consequences of an established church, I guess. Why people who do not attend church should have any say in how that building is maintained is beyond my ken.
I think the Lord is pleased when we do our best to worship Him in beauty and holiness. Those who built the churches understood that, and we should honor their intentions.
The Lord also charged us to be stewards of his creation and continuing to destroy it through the use of fossil fuels is hardly good stewardship.
Just out of curiosity, have you ever worshipped in a church in the UK? I attended a rural parish in Scotland for many years. Everyone wore their winter coats during the service. There was a small rail through which ran ‘hot water’ so the inside temperature was a whopping 45 F. You could see your breath. It’s just the way things are done.
What is the air conditioning cost of your church in southern USA? These things are non-existent in European contexts. Let’s be sure of what we are comparing, please.
I’m not suggesting US churches do not need to make progress in this regard. (And BTW, my personal church is not in the Southern US.) Much of this problem could be solved with better insulation, more care taken to leaky windows, use of geothermal heating. Another solution, of course, is change of location of worship. If your average congregation on a Sunday barely fills three pews, why are you heating a huge space in the church? Why not hold services in the parish hall, or even in the vicar’s living room? In the heat of summer, why not hold services… Read more »
My point was meant to be very basic. European churches are for the most part 1) very old, 2) expect congregations to worship in cold spaces in winter and warm/hot spaces in summer, with very little heating and no AC, 3) careful about bills for these things as there is not a lot of money. Compare the utility bills of US churches and I would hazard a guess: 10 times higher. Probably more. You do not need solar panels if you are not running up utility bills like US churches.
It’s very difficult to insulate an ancient stone church with a high roof, and subject to planning restrictions which forbid tampering with the architecture, or using materials not ‘sympathetic’ to the original. Nor do all English churches have a parish hall. And locals who don’t worship there regularly still want a beautiful historic building for their family christenings, weddings, and funerals; as well as civic occasions like Remembrance Sunday. It’s really difficult to know what the solution is. I think a number of churches will have to close and congregations from different parishes and denominations to worship together, but there… Read more »
Insulation is a great idea. Do you happen to have a spare half a million or so to do the work on our local (early 20th century) parish church? That’s not an exaggeration, by the way, that’s the ballpark figure we estimated when we were planning the renovation. Insulating solid walls in even a small house will set you back 50k. If you bring huge walls, high ceilings, fixed furnishings and all the rest into it the cost of making an old church affordable to heat is astronomical.
Are church finances really that desperate in the UK? When my parish church here in Pennsylvania needs major repairs (we redid all our stained glass three years ago, for instance), we do a fund-raising campaign with the parishioners. That time, we raised the necessary pledges (some $50 thousand as I recall) within a year. We redid the slate roof similarly a few years before, and all the windows in the parish house before that. We renovated the rectory before our new rector moved in in 2019. (And, BTW, our church building dates from the 1890s, the parish house from 1957,… Read more »
The average household income in the US is approximately double that of the UK. Of course, in both countries there are going to be enormous individual variations from the average, both up and down. The C of E (which is confined to England only) has in excess of 16,000 churches, literally both ancient and modern. Within a few miles of where I live there are churches which are eight or nine-hundred years old, and there are lots of them around the country, especially in rural areas, and many are supported by a small population. I know a priest in a… Read more »
Short answer: yes. I think what most people miss is that the vast majority of UK congregations are comprised of fewer than 50 regular worshippers. A great many have an average Sunday attendance fewer than 20. My understanding (please correct me if I’m wrong) is that an ASA of 100 would be considered small in the US. My local church raised £50k from parishioners (from the wider parish of ~650, not just the congregation) over the course of 2-3 years, plus another £20k in grant funding, but all this will accomplish is providing kitchen facilities, an accessible toilet and a… Read more »
It sounds like the real solution to all this is something that I know seems to be anathema to many in the UK: consolidation of parishes and decommissioning of some church buildings.\
That is inevitable. The only question is the way it happens.
This is not property in the same way US churches are (even leaving aside judicial disagreement over ‘implied trust’ in a church like TEC). A very complicated problem to resolve. Crown assets.
The ownership of C of E churches is a complex subject, but the one thing which I think can be confidently said is that they are not Crown assets. Quoting (courtesy of buildingconservation.com) from “Ecclesiastical Law and the Church of England” by Alexandra Fairclough: “Legally, ownership of a church is generally vested in the incumbent and held on trust by the Parochial Church Council for the parishioners, while the contents are the distinct responsibility of the churchwardens who hold them on trust for the parishioners. However, final control over the church, contents and land rests with the chancellor of the… Read more »
Thank you for the correction. As you say, “a complex subject.” Thus making consolidation and other schemes for declining memberships very complex in turn. And a different kind of challenge in scale and character vis-a-vis a declining TEC.
Many thanks. I do not have access to copies of Doe or Hill, but there is the following classic statement of Cripps (1845, at 391-2), disputing Coke on Littleton (1628) that the parson has title to the chancel as ‘parcel of his glebe’: “whatever rights the parson or rector may have in the chancel, he has not that full and exclusive property which he may be said to have in his glebe; for the jurisdiction of the ordinary extends to the chancel as well to other parts of the church…for when lay impropriations began, the rights and property of the… Read more »
Thank you, Froghole. I replied to this at some length but inexplicably it was ‘lost in the ether’. Dr Seitz has kindly acknowledged. I know the Norfolk chapel at Arundel and, closer to home, the Tichborne family private ‘aisle’ (effectively a chapel as it is enclosed) at Tichborne, both with RC consecration within a C of E church. Somewhat different, not proprietary, the Gardiner Chantry chapel in Winchester Cathedral also has RC consecration and from time to time RC Masses are said there.
Already happened – the local church here was two parishes, and until recently had two church buildings. One was sold to help fix the roof of the other. Consolidation is ok in towns but many rural areas have already reached the limit of what is reasonable, particularly where folk rely on public transport.
The problem with decommissioning churches is that if the buildings are officially regarded as of historical or architectural importance (“listed” in the jargon) they have to be maintained. There are charities which do so but their resources are stretched.
Whilst on the subject the Churches Conservation Trust is doing excellent online lectures on a Thursday lunchtime.
There have been so many pastoral schemes for the consolidation of parishes in recent decades (especially since the Pastoral Measure 1968) that the historic parish map is becoming increasingly unrecognisable; even when churches are not closed they are often downgraded to the status of chapels of ease. Since most parishes have existed for at least 800 years (and a large number in excess of 1,100 years) this is a development of no little moment. As to closures, it is difficult to understate what has been lost already, as a recent report has remarked: “The Church is going through a major… Read more »
Throw into the US compared to UK: I count something on the order of 30-40 church buildings within a 15 mile radius. Only a handful of these are TEC. This is the reality across the US. The historic church in Beaufort is 1713, but it is a relatively modest colonial period structure, and unusual in age. Most of these 30-40 are very modest edifices that come and go, and whose demolition would be of little moment, usually coinciding with the aging of a congregation or commercial or housing development and relocation. It is just a very different, ‘New World’, reality… Read more »
Many thanks, as ever, Professor Seitz! Sorry, but my earlier message had lapsed into gibberish: I was, of course, referring to the Merovingian queen Bertha of Kent, with St Martin’s – which contains many Roman materials – being used as her private chapel shortly after her marriage in 580 (the only reference made by Bede to her – in chapter 25 of book 1 of the Historia ecclesiastica – is to Ethelbert making provision for private worship by her, and it has long been assumed that this was at St Martin’s). Naturally, I do not wish to deprecate the architectural… Read more »
Yes, there are some stunning (episcopal) churches in SC, downtown Philadelphia, Savannah, Boston, Baltimore.
I think that depends on where in the US you are. In the Philly suburb where I live there are 10 or so churches of various denominations in a 10-minute drive of my home (including my own TEC parish and one other). By my reckoning, only three of those worship in buildings that are less than 100 years old (one is an RC parish that was forced to replace its building by fire in the early ’60s, the other two are relatively new congregations founded in the past 50 years or so). The mainline Protestant congregations are all in substantial… Read more »
The point I was trying to make was that TEC is a single denomination inside a much, much wider ecclesial footprint. The CofE faces issues that do not line up with that same supermarket of religions, when it comes to buildings, and to compare a single TEC with the CofE is soup-to-nuts.
Average ASA in US is around 60. We are declining and aging. CofE has a lot more physical churches to care for, dispose of, otherwise maintain. Perhaps this thread is another opportunity to flag differences (cultural, climate, age). In France we count 26 individual churches–all ancient– under the care of 3 clergy in our parish in Essonne. In France, since 1905, the church buildings are taken care of by the communes. It is hard to compare the situation in the 1M TEC denomination with England or France, at a whole range of levels.
I don’t know how many stained glass windows you have, but in a church with say, 8 nave windows, a large west window, and larger yet east window, all of medieval stained glass, it would take a lot more than £50k to repair all the windows.
That’s actually fewer windows than we have, although ours date only from the early 20th Century.
Many churches have more windows than the 10 I’ve described, but most small churches will have at least 10. Where there’s a big church and/or a clerestory that will add quite a few more.
And it’s not just the glass – the leads and the stonework will also probably need repair, and only sympathetic materials can be used. That takes specialist craftspeople, too. It all adds up. It gets very expensive, and as others have said, there might be fewer than 20, or even 10, in the congregation and a parish population of 2,000 or less.
I live in the parish where John Keble was Vicar. Our population is around 700. The church has a mediaeval tower but the body of the very large church and the stained glass are High Victorian, all inspired by Keble. The stained glass depicts the succession from the Old Testament Prophets through to the Apostles and the East Window is the Crucifixion – 54 in all! Some restoration has been necessary in recent years, expertly carried out by the stained glass specialists at Salisbury Cathedral. Roofs are a constant concern everywhere and I have a photograph of an American friend… Read more »
So where is electricity to come from? We are using more and more. Did you know that a petrol powered car does less harm to the environment than an electric one when you’ve accounted for electricity production? Nuclear power is the answer.
I’m afraid I don’t think that accords to what I’ve read on the subject. . From what I’ve read, electric cars are in fact more detrimental to the environment during the manufacturing process, largely because of environmental issues connected with the manufacturing of the batteries. . The operation of electric cars, however, is clearly less detrimental to the environment than cars running on fossil fuels, at least in North America and most of Europe. The main European exception is Poland, where most of the electricity is generated by fairly dirty-level coal. But as electricity is increasingly generated by wind and… Read more »
Dr. Primrose, you’re doubtless better informed than I, but I’m heartily sick of trendy wokery that goes for the quick fix virtue signalling solution without considering issues in depth. As for the radioactive rods, put ’em on a space craft and dump them elsewhere in the galaxy. Which brings me to one of the best fillums (as my father PBUH would have said) ever: The Day the Earth Stood Still – not the dreadful Keanu Reeves trash, but the 1951 original, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASsNtti1XZs. Klaatu barada nikto – it’s my new sign-off phrase. (Sorry, I’m a bit hypomanic today – it comes… Read more »
Just in case you’re serious, the energy requirements to get out of earth’s gravity well would quickly put paid to any notion of outer space waste disposal. That’s before considering the impact if such a disposal craft were to blow up on the launchpad or high in the atmosphere.
The biggest problem with nuclear is that it’s really expensive.
Serious? Moi? TA is very serious. There is not enough innocent silliness in the world and since I’ll be dead relatively soon, I’ve decided to try and increase the amount of silliness in my bit of the world. When Clive James asked Barry Humphries what made him laugh, BH replied “other people’s misfortune”. I mightn’t go quite that far. But enough of this silliness. I’m sorry to hear that polluting the galaxy with nuclear rods would be too expensive. Another silly idea bites the dust, but to imagine as some do that humans can get all the electricity they use… Read more »
The numbers work for wind, wave and solar so long as you can store enough of the power produced to smooth out the variations across the day and even the year. There are promising developments in that area (gravity storage of various kinds, new types of battery, air to fuel, hydrogen from electrolysis) but it’s too early to say whether they will be sufficient (or sufficiently efficient both in conversion and financial terms).
As a committed Pythonist I’m all in favour of silliness, but one must always be mindful of Poe’s Law.
Thanks Jo B. I hope the physicists and electrical engineers can get somewhere with this. Seriously, my concerns for the future of humans are biological. In short: (1) the consequences of antibiotic overuse and of human habitats further encroaching on those of other animals, both leading to new viruses, diseases etc; and (2) the increasing scarcity of drinkable water. Western expectations of health and life span are in human terms very recent, and IMO unsustainable.
Mr Pocklington refers to the recent case of Re St Mary Oxted (a parish with which I am very familiar); the chancellor of Southwark diocese is probably correct in holding that a cost of >£6k p/a on an environmentally sustainable heating system is probably not prohibitive in a parish which is in the midst of the old gin-and-Jaguar belt. However, it will almost certainly be unsustainable elsewhere, where oil boilers are the rule rather than the exception. The great mass of rural churches will struggle to make a rapid shift (or, indeed, any shift) to carbon neutrality any time soon,… Read more »
Thanks for that excellent piece by David Ison. I especially resonated with this paragraph:
‘It is no coincidence that the goodness of humanity is defined by the one who takes on himself our sin for our salvation. Repenting of our sins, cruelties and lack of love, and inviting Christ to dwell in our hearts in love to transform us, frees us to acknowledge both past and present evil in us; it enables us to become more humane, by letting go of the inhumanity of believing that we are good and others are bad.’
I’m slightly jaded if not surprised by the volume of comment on the environmental piece; the usual paucity of consideration for those of lesser means – both in our UK congregations and communities, and also in the developing world. But I am surprised by the lack of comment on Stephen Parsons’ excellent critique of the “training camp vs hospital” metaphor used by Jonathan Fletcher. His article articulated a deep concern I had when I read that metaphor, which also agitated my consciousness, whilst recognising that both similes have their place. That said, I’d much rather serve or stay in a… Read more »
One could equally question the absence of any response to the avalanche of material, admittedly published at short notice (the deadline for questions is Tuesday), ahead of General Synod, including important topics like safeguarding and revision of the CDM. Of course, the answer in both cases might be that people don’t feel that they have anything to say which hasn’t been said already, and certainly their silence is no basis for assuming that they don’t care about the matters which you highlight. In fact, there are 35 comments appended to Stephen Parsons’s article, and they are mostly written by TA… Read more »
‘Of course, the answer in both cases might be that people don’t feel that they have anything to say which hasn’t been said already’
That’s never stopped us saying it in the past!
Tim: True! Actually, I am not convinced that my response was entirely correct in relation to the General Synod material – a veritable Mount Everest of very heavy material to be read on an impossible timescale is a more likely reason for lack of comment. The CDM guidelines alone run to more than 90 pages.