Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 9 May 2020

Serenhedd James The Critic Priests and palaces
“The Archbishops don’t realise the significance of the church building”

David Ison ViaMedia.News We Can’t Go Back…to Being In Control

OneBodyOneFaith An Engagement in Lockdown

Martin Sewell Archbishop Cranmer The Church should shine during lockdown

Rachel Mann Where do we go from here? Towards an Unknown Church … Part One … FRAGILITY

Jonathan Clatworthy Château Clâteau Coronavirus and moral responsibility

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Kate
Kate
2 months ago

Attending a church building may be a preferred option for many, even if there are residual risks. It must not, however, be seen as better, more faithful, or more virtuous. – Martin Sewell

So important.

Susannah Clark
2 months ago

Option 1: golden opportunity for moral self-righteousness and blaming the bishops for everything. Option 2: golden opportunity for immersing ourselves in our wider, secular communities, as they work to address this terrible ongoing tragedy (and exercise the love of God), and getting on with being alongside these efforts, as ‘part’ of those communities. The big issues are ‘out there’, beyond the church buildings at this time. The lesson for us all is to see the Church as for everyone, not just its members, and to be part of our communities. Personally, I supported the content of what Justin proposed, but… Read more »

Kate
Kate
2 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

“Please let’s leave internal strife behind us. We are not the story right now… unless we join the story God is writing in the lives of ordinary people, mostly with no idea of ‘justification by faith’, who understand that sometimes meaning and love is found beyond the individual in helping others and being a community.” Many of the small businesses in town have closed their doors: instead they are going out to people’s houses and delivering personally. The butcher for instance no longer starts work at 9:30, they are now there from 5am taking orders to deliver to people’s homes… Read more »

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
2 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Thank you, Susannah. I look around and see people of all faiths and none hurling themselves into the fray, reaching out to help others of all faiths and none, and yet – what I hope is – a small number of people within the Church of England are so obsessed with their own desires that they are apparently incapable of seeing beyond them. It gives me hope when I read your rallying cry; thank you!

Roger Hill
Roger Hill
2 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Thank you Susannah. It was a poor decision and I supported it solely on the grounds of social cohesion. But the subsequent debate has been introspective. Focussed far too much on priests and buildings. I would like to hear more of outward looking ministry at this time. Are there clergy out and about in their parishes in street and high street showing the church’s presence and concern, willing to greet and listen to people and offer words of comfort and encouragement? All at a safe distance of course. Now a retired priest, I find when out walking both people we… Read more »

T Pott
T Pott
2 months ago
Reply to  Roger Hill

Mr Hill, you would like to hear of clergy out and about talking to people. So would the police. It is against the law.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
2 months ago
Reply to  T Pott

Is it really against the law now in the UK to simply walk the street and speak to people you meet, even if masked and at a proper social distance? And to think that people in the US think OUR restrictions are unconstitutional!

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
2 months ago
Reply to  Pat O'Neill

The regulations have changed since T Pott’s post. Your own recent posts on TA have largely been critical of the C of E and, now, the UK as well. May I mention two things to add some perspective. The US and the UK share the sad fact of having the highest number of deaths in the world due to Covid-19. Indeed, relative to their respective size and populations, the UK’s is the higher rate. Both countries are fighting a battle. But in the UK there has been nothing to compare with the mass gatherings of demonstrators in the State Capitol… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
2 months ago

I firmly believe those carrying firearms at demonstrations in the US ought to have been arrested as well. But that is a different issue from making it a crime–even a misdemeanor–simply to have a conversation on a public street.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
2 months ago
Reply to  Pat O'Neill

At the time when Mr Pott posted his comment the requirement was that all UK citizens must self-isolate in their homes with a number of specific exemptions essentially based on necessity of movement. All other European countries enforced similar restrictions, some more strictly than the UK. Further afield, New Zealand, although a small country, by strict isolation rules was able to contain its Covid-19 fatalities to only 21. In all of these countries the object was to contain and as far as possible prevent the spread of infection. The majority of UK people have complied, and there has been a… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
2 months ago

So, before the recent loosening of restrictions, you risked arrest if, while out and about on a necessary trip (for food, let’s say), you stopped momentarily to greet a friend who was out doing the same thing and asked how he was doing? That’s not strict; it’s draconian.

As for the idea of a priest moving about his parish to check on the condition of his parishioners, is the need to check in on the elderly, the home-bound, the dying not a necessity? Or should we abandon them to their fate?

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
2 months ago
Reply to  Pat O'Neill

No, that’s a total misunderstanding. Firstly, there are no arrests. They are ‘ticket’ offences just like the ones police in the US issue to motorists and the penalties are fixed fines. The regulations are long and complex, and it would not be appropriate to fill a page of TA by copying them here. Shopping, observing strict precautions, has always been one of the permitted exemptions. The elderly and totally self-isolated are looked after. I am one, living alone, and haven’t been out of my house or garden, nor has anyone else stepped inside my house since 17th March. My shopping… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
2 months ago

My concern is that what happens in other countries can become a model for my own.

ACI
ACI
2 months ago
Reply to  Pat O'Neill

Comparing the US and UK is always tricky business. Scotland is the size of South Carolina. The UK is about one-fourth the size of the US, and with one-fifth the population. Each US state has a flag, bird, song, license plate, favorite football team, all its own. I believe you can rest easy that how the US conducts its public life will remain the same.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
2 months ago
Reply to  ACI

I thought that way four years ago….and the 2016 election happened and I discovered resting easy was not an option

John S
John S
2 months ago
Reply to  Pat O'Neill

Pat: please don’t be put off commenting on the UK situation. Your country and ours seem to share the prize for probably running the worst-managed responses to Covid. In humility, I for one do not resent commentary on the dire state we have got into, as I am sure you would not resent occasional commentary on yours.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
2 months ago
Reply to  John S

I assiduously tried to avoid that (seeing it as a matter of courtesy which ought to be reciprocal), other than mentioning the shocking scenes in Michigan with protesters carrying firearms. Actually, other than that, I have not seen any criticism of the US in these pages.

And to save an additional reply to ACI, the geographical area of the USA is more than forty times that of the UK: 3,797 million square miles compared with our mere 93,628 (both figures courtesy of ‘Google’).

The mortality figures in both countries speak for themselves sufficiently.

ACI
ACI
2 months ago

I dropped a zero…thanks Mr Wateridge. I believe all of the UK fits into a smallish New England. I lived in Scotland for 9 years. I can recall an old dowager in Angus say over drinks, “I know everyone in Scotland.” At the time I thought it was blinkered, or arrogant. But after a while I understood how truly differently scaled the country was. The USA is a vast, vast area, with state identity unlike anything I have experienced after living more than half my adult life in the UK, Germany and France. In many places you could not rouse… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
2 months ago
Reply to  John S

Let me note I have not commented on the infection or death counts in the UK, as I know the USA is not doing any better (and probably worse). My comments have been on how the government and the CoE are dealing with things from a, for want of a better term, civil liberties perspective.

Tim Chesterton
2 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Well said, Susannah! And as for praying everywhere, I sit in the easy chair in my study twice a day and lead Morning Prayer and Night Prayer on Facebook. When I did that in the church I did it alone. Now I’m joined each morning and evening by 10-20 people, from our parish and beyond, and an unknown number of people who ‘lurk’ anonymously (God bless them, if that’s what they need to do, more power to them!). People are hungry to connect with something bigger than themselves, and many are finding it easier to do that online. So enough… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
2 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Why must it be one or the other? Why not both? Again, here in my little corner of the world–one county of Pennsylvania–the churches (of all denominations and I include in that term synagogues, mosques, and meeting houses) are providing spiritual sustenance in the form of virtual services broadcast from their worship spaces, and physical sustenance, with food banks, direct cash when necessary, and, of course, community sustenance, by holding virtual events like family game nights, coffee clatches, Bible study, etc.

Much of this is just a continuation and enlargement of their activities pre-pandemic.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
2 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Susannah, the question still arises; what people, places and activities help individual Christians and local Christian communities love and serve others at this time? And how can space be made for those with different answers? For most of the past four decades, I have been a worker or volunteer for, and/or committee member of, various voluntary organisations helping people often in dire straits or campaigning against deadly injustice. In all of these (including as chair of a charity at present), attention to the needs and feelings of those required to care for or defend others has been critical and, where… Read more »

Fr John Harris-White
Fr John Harris-White
2 months ago

Neither the Eucharist from York’s lounge with Ugandan drums, or the Eucharist from ABC’s kitchen was uplifting in any way. But the Scottish Primus prayed the Mass from his chapel, which was uplifting..

Fr John Emlyn

Kate
Kate
2 months ago

I read Rachel Mann’s piece with interest, and Froghole’s comments there. There are a few lifelong Buddhist monks in Laos. Most, however, serve for a couple of years often as young men (it is still a male vocation), but also for periods in mid-life, before returning to secular life. I very much agree with Rachel and Froghole that the present model is broken but I think being willing to reconceptualize the nature of the church completely will be more productive than trying to make the minimum number of changes necessary to survive – a process, which if attempted, is likely… Read more »

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
2 months ago

I’m signing off TA. Few will shed a tear. This relentless bishop bashing by an assortment of people, mainly priests, some with unfulfilled ministerial careers, is unedifying. Thank God few outside the church see it. This is a kairos moment for the Church to reach out to those down at the gate. The Times leader today (supporting the 800 signatories to its letter) was way off message. To think that the mission of the Church depends on reopening its buildings for the faithful few to attend is fanciful in the extreme.

Froghole
Froghole
2 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

I think there will be many regular readers of this blog who will miss your contributions, as a layperson who plays, and/or has played, a considerable part in the formulation of policy at a national level, and who works or has worked closely with many of the personnel involved in that process. Perhaps some of us – myself included – will need to reflect on the distinction between constructive and corrosive criticism (though I am not myself in orders, and nor am I the member of any church community). You are entirely right to point out that this is a… Read more »

Richard W. Symonds
Richard W. Symonds
2 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

Anthony Archer says: “The Times leader today (supporting the 800 signatories to its letter) was way off message. To think that the mission of the Church depends on reopening its buildings for the faithful few to attend is fanciful in the extreme” I am reminded of a Church Times letter this week by Margery Roberts (who wrote “The Churchwarden”): “A few years ago, my parish held a brainstorming session on what really mattered to the parishioners and to the local community. The beautiful and historic church building came out top. There is an agonising dilemma here that the Church is… Read more »

Kate
Kate
2 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

The Church of England is facing the need for urgent and deep change. While the coronavirus wasn’t predictable, the need for a generation of rapid change had already been apparent for some time: unresolved issues regarding the status of women, a failure to track society’s evolving attitude to same sex relationships and gender identity, and an entrenched decline in worshippers and income. The CNC should have been appointing candidates with experience of leading change. In practice, we seem to have mainly got appointments whose instincts are to find ways to resist change. The reaction to the lockdown has demonstrated forcibly… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
2 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

Anthony Archer. I have always valued your contributions here. But I am, at this point, joining you. I am hugely grateful to those who host this site and will continue to read the resources posted here. I am often at odds with much of the content, church culture and views expressed here – but I come here to stretch and inform my own thinking. However I do not wish to be identified with the tone and language that increasingly dominates the discussion threads.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
2 months ago
Reply to  David Runcorn

It would be a loss if you stopped contributing, David, especially since I think your ability to delve beneath the surface of things is an important gift at this time. I would be interested to read your take on what is going on in the sometimes intemperate discussions at a time of collective trauma, perhaps probing, amidst loss, what might serve as areas of stability for individuals and communities and what happens if these diverge; amidst some degree of powerlessness in the face of the virus, how might people try to regain some sense of control and what happens if… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
2 months ago
Reply to  David Runcorn

David, I have always valued your contributions here and will greatly regret your absence. Your perspective from an open evangelical background is particularly valuable as a counterbalance to the predominating liberal catholic views. I am sorry if the tone or language of any of my contributions have contributed to your decision. I thought that your recent question on another thread to +Pete about the democratic status of the bishops’ decision was a model of brevity and relevance. What a pity that he wasn’t able to answer it fully because he wasn’t there!

Pete Broadbent
Pete Broadbent
2 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

I think my reply was nuanced! I could be blunter about the status of the “democratic decision.” But it’s water under the bridge now.

Stanley Monkhouse
2 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

Throwing toys out of the pram is unlikely to be productive in the long term, no matter how satisfying it feels at the time. Just because I appreciate the value of buildings as an evangelistic tool does not mean that I do not also appreciate the similar function of up to the minute technology. My concern in all this is three fold. First, more and more pressure will be exerted on increasingly hard pressed parish clergy to run both old and new style churches, if I can use that shorthand for the sake of brevity. For the many who, as… Read more »

Kate
Kate
2 months ago

Stanley You are right. It is not possible simply to add more but there are lots of alternatives, including centralisation. The obvious one, though, would be to alternate physical and virtual services either within a week or as a monthly cycle so that there is no overall increase in the number of services. I don’t think the technology should be a challenge: there are hundreds of YouTube channels which have added livestreaming in the past few weeks, most using little more than a smart phone. “It will encourage the idea of God as a member of the North Korean Kim… Read more »

Susannah Clark
2 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

I want to thank Anthony for his open-mindedness and very well-informed comments on many occasions here. What I also highly respect about Anthony is his demonstrated openness to change, which was so well explained in his essay ‘A Lifetime of Learning’ in ‘Journeys in Grace and Truth’, an excellent book edited by Jayne Ozanne. I also want to thank Peter and the two Simons for the platform they have provided here, and all the hard work and fidelity involved, as well as considerable patience and grace. However, it’s time for me to step back as well. God of grace and… Read more »

David
David
2 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Susannah, the part you have played in the comments on TA has been gracious, generous and profoundly theological; and a source of light and blessing. You will be greatly missed. Thank you for your life-affirming ministry.

Froghole
Froghole
2 months ago
Reply to  David

David – may I second your kind observation? Susannah is probably one of the most considerate and eloquent people in the Anglican blogosphere – if not beyond – and can always be depended upon to pursue a humane via media. In this sense (and presumably in much else) she is the quintessence of the best virtues the Church of England claims to represent. Her absence, and that of other commentators, will create a painful void. Very best wishes to her and others.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
2 months ago
Reply to  Susannah Clark

Have very much valued your willingness to approach tricky issues in a thoughtful and charitable way, Susannah. It would be sad to lose your contributions, though I recognise there may be other priorities in life!

Sam Jones
Sam Jones
2 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

I am sorry to hear that Anthony. I always enjoy your contributions here, although I understand your frustrations at the constant whingeing here.

Tim Chesterton
2 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

I will be joining Anthony, David, and Susannah in stepping back, at least for a while. I’ve realized this morning that the gap between those who primarily see the church as a Christendom institution providing chaplaincy services to the community, and those who primarily see the church as a missional institution forming new disciples for Jesus and equipping them all to take part in the work of sharing the love of Christ in the world in word and deed, is probably an unbridgeable gap. The first vision depends heavily on buildings, and clergy who are uniformed and identifiable as clergy.… Read more »

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
2 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

Another contributer bites the dust. I tend not to agree with Tim’s thoughtful comments based mainly on a difference in churchmanship. But he’s a valued member of the TA family and I’d ask him to stay.

Kate
Kate
2 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

Tim, my instinct is that God has shared part of his vision for the Church with many of us, but that none of us has been shown the full picture. I believe we are expected to work together to assemble the jigsaw. I think separation of parish chaplaincy as you term it (and I think that is a good choice of words) is absolutely the future, living alongside a missional arm. That is, I don’t think you are describing a dichotomy of alternatives but as two separate pieces which need to be included within the jigsaw. I would go further.… Read more »

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
2 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

“Every man’s departure diminishes TA,” as John Donne might have said. Yes, some comments have been intemperate, a few obsessive, and others have demonstrated a tin-ear. And that’s just me. But we need robust debate in which theology and praxis are not framed as binary choices if TA is not to become an echo chamber like much of social media. Can we not manage this by being generous with one another while avoiding that cloying Anglican niceness which silences the prophetic voice? As for me, I am going to pause in future before hitting the ‘Post Comment’ button.

Nic
Nic
2 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

I’m strangely amused by most of the nonsense I read on here. As Anthony alludes to, we get to hear from a number of individuals with unfulfilled (dare I say, completely mediocre/failed) ministerial careers, who are complete smart-alecs who have never really run anything much and would make pretty awful bishops, if anyone was misguided enough to appoint them. Thankfully, in the midst of their complaining and (not particularly smart) political manoeuvring, I can take heart that there are decent visionary and growing churches in the UK – in the Church of England and outside – who will take their… Read more »

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
2 months ago
Reply to  Anthony Archer

Anthony, as many comments before mine have shown, your contention that few would shed a tear at your departure is demonstrably untrue. I have always greatly valued your contributions and greatly regret that we shall no longer have the benefit of your wisdom. I am sorry if any or all of my comments have contributed to your ire. I agree with you that Saturday’s Times leader was off beam, but mainly because it confused the opening of churches to the public (which few are calling for) with allowing priests to pray alone in their own churches (which many support). But… Read more »

Kate
Kate
2 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

“Surely it must be possible and allowable for such bad behaviour to be called out in these pages?”

I also recall that several of us, despite our personal circumstances, supported the decision to postpone the publication of Living in Love and Faith. My experience is that everyone on TA takes each issue on its merits and supports or criticises as circumstances seem to them to deserve.

brcw2
brcw2
2 months ago

“A survey by ComRes last week found that almost one in four British adults have watched or listened to a religious service since lockdown began. Academics from British Religion in Numbers estimate that typically just 6% of adults regularly attend a religious service.” (From BBC News website this morning.)

Kate
Kate
2 months ago
Reply to  brcw2

That’s a very interesting statistic, thank you.

Savi Hensman
Savi Hensman
2 months ago

While I think the reactions to closure of church buildings have often been extreme, I believe that failure to listen attentively enough to others’ feelings and concerns – among those with opposing views on some of the controversies which have arisen during the pandemic – has made arguments more heated than necessary. This is probably largely a reaction to the pressures of the pandemic. If we can recognise some of the differences in experience, and that our own subjective reality and personal and local circumstances may influence what we think is the right stance for ‘the church’, there may be… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
2 months ago

I’m intrigued by the notion of ‘old’ church and ‘new’ church. As a child I attended a big service in Lincoln Cathedral for the first time and I vividly remember being part of a congregation of at least a thousand people all singing “Praise to the Holiest in the Height” I could feel the rumble of the Cathedral organ in my guts. The congregation was the usual rag tag and bobtail of people but we were all united in worshipping the Almighty. I just couldn’t get that sense of connectedness with God down a broadband line; it feels like a… Read more »

Rod Gillis
Rod Gillis
2 months ago

There have been a couple of comments here suggesting some with opposing views have “unfulfilled ministerial careers”. Alternatively, what does a ‘fulfilled’ ministerial career in the C of E look like? I spent over a decade as an Archdeacon dealing with personnel issues. Every organisation has staff who are not happy campers–some of whom actually achieve ‘career success’ ironically enough. However, there are people, clergy and laity both, with gifts and talents who have been profoundly alienated by the church. What does one really know about a commentator on a media platform? For one thing, you can’t see the body… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
2 months ago
Reply to  Rod Gillis

I saw that too, Rod. It read like the remark of someone who himself was unfulfilled. Writers reveal so much of themselves in the words they use. The institutional C of E is good for loyal, unquestioning committee people and jobsworths: it crucifies prophets and those who think for themselves – or would if they let it. Something rings a few bells concerning events in the Middle East about 2K years ago.

Richard
Richard
2 months ago

I hope that some of the frequent contributors who are “social distancing” themselves from TA (for various reasons) will reconsider their departure when we return to more normal times.

I notice here and on other similar sites that posts have been longer and a bit angrier than usual. When housebound, as our world gets smaller, our opinions often get larger… and we have more time to lecture and find fault with others. It seems to be human nature to voice disagreement, and maybe to look for disagreement.

Kate
Kate
2 months ago

The Scottish musician/organist Fraser Gartshore has a (recommend) YouTube channel. Fraser lives in Germany and has just posted (“The Masked Organist”) about Saturday’s Communion in his local village, the first allowed since the start of the lockdown.

Normally, he says, about 90 attend. With social distancing in place they could accommodate 46. In practice only 17 attended.

I thought many here might be interested in those numbers and more generally in a social distancing Communion.

https://youtu.be/JuvWzRAJy6s

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