Thinking Anglicans

Problems with the guidance on closing churches

Updated 5.45 pm Tuesday

The Archdeacon of Hastings, Edward Dowler, has written for the Church Times: Let the clergy pray in their churches. Do read the whole article, but here are some key points (emphasis added):

  • “OUR church buildings must now be closed not only for public worship, but for private prayer as well and this includes the priest or lay person offering prayer in church on their own.” This direction from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, contained in their recent letter to the clergy, goes surprisingly beyond the current restrictions outlined by the Government in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020. These state that a reasonable excuse for people to leave the place where they are living includes “in the case of a minister of religion or worship leader, to go to their place of worship” (6.2K), and, moreover, that a place of worship may be used “to broadcast an act of worship, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast” (5.6b).It would be helpful to know upon what further scientific advice the Archbishops have based their ruling…
  • …THE Archbishops’ ruling also has doubtful legal basis. In law, church buildings are vested in their incumbents, who, at their induction, take possession of the temporalities of the benefice. It is not clear that the bishops have any legal ability to issue apparent management instructions that incumbents should not pray in their churches. Legally speaking, this is a matter of conscience for individual clergy, in particular those who are incumbents.
  • …The justification most frequently invoked for what has happened is that the clergy “must lead by example”, being “alongside those who are having to self-isolate”. This understanding of leading by example is also questionable, however…  what the clergy and other “worship leaders” (as the Government terms them) may be able to do in the current situation is to maintain the prayer life of their churches on behalf of the people of the parish as an act of service in the present, and in preparation for the day when, God willing, everyone can return.
  • …IS THE Archbishops’ ruling practical? Guidance issued last Friday by the Archbishops’ Council’s Cathedral and Church Buildings Division states that “it may be reasonable for one designated person to enter the church to check that it remains safe and secure.” In most cases, regular checks will be not only reasonable, but essential. A curious situation will arise in which clergy and lay leaders are effectively obliged to perform janitorial duties, but will risk episcopal censure if they say any prayers while doing so. The Archbishops’ ruling implies a somewhat magical view, in which the consecration of churches continues unaffected even when they have temporarily been mothballed.
  • …In a final related point, the Archbishops’ ruling creates an interesting ecumenical situation, since the Roman Catholic bishops of England and Wales expect their clergy to offer mass every day in their churches…. We have reached a situation in which this aspect of the life of the parish church — one that often those of other denominations have been happy to acknowledge — has effectively been ceded to Roman Catholicism, with perhaps far-reaching consequences.

And the archdeacon concludes:

ONE aspect of the current situation is that guidance is constantly changing as new challenges become clear. My hope is that the Archbishops may see fit to change their guidance also.

Rather than mothball the parish churches, my plea is that clergy might actually be encouraged to visit their parish churches regularly; to pray in them for their parishioners and ring the bell to signify that they are doing so; to live-stream or record services from them as much as possible, given the current restrictions; and to use key features of the churches as teaching aids for those who are currently unable to gather inside them.

Do read the entire article.

Update: The prolocutors of Canterbury and York have issued a letter in support of the bishops. The text is copied below.

A Letter from the Prolocutors of Canterbury and York to the Clergy of the Church of England.

Dear colleagues,

We are writing to you during these extraordinary days as your representatives on Archbishops’ Council and General Synod.
We have the privilege of speaking for you to senior colleagues through the synodical system, which means at times it is right for us to be critical of some decisions and policies.

However, in these unprecedented times, we wish to offer our full and unequivocal support to our Archbishops and Bishops.

As clergy across parishes, chaplaincies, and cathedrals, we are all facing a very new and unprecedented reality. We are being called to exercise our ministry in new ways which will challenge, stretch, and make demands on us, the like of which none of us has seen in our lifetimes. None of us feels adequate to the task, save for the grace and mercy of God.
We have been briefed on some of the wider reasoning for the closure of our cathedrals, churches, and chapels, which we accept is causing some of you to feel angry and perplexed. However, we believe it is right to accept and to take on trust our Bishops and Archbishops in this matter. They do not make these decisions lightly. The points made by those most concerned have, we believe, been part of their consideration in this decision. It is not the time for arguments about whether bishops have a legal right to do this, nor to add extra demands on our Archbishops when they are attempting to lead our response to Coronavirus alongside other faith leaders and to assist the Government in its work. We simply must lead by example by staying in our homes, and demonstrate that we can stay at home, including when leading worship for the people in our care. Every trip we take outside our home endangers life: ours, our family’s, even perfect strangers. Such trips should only be taken for essential ministry.

Many retired colleagues who offer so much support to us in our ministry will not be able to take the usual services as they would wish, and they will need our support now, as they have previously supported us in our ministry. They can still have an active ministry, telephoning people, praying for people, and that will be much appreciated.

We will soon, no doubt, be required to take a massive number of funeral services. They will be unlike any funerals we have ever conducted: few, if any, mourners or congregation, save the essential people working in the funeral industry. We will, perhaps, be preaching to a video camera so that family and friends may be able, albeit in a less personal way, be involved in the service for their loved one, and to receive the comfort of the Christian hope of the Resurrection. The considerations need to be part of our preparation for preaching the Easter hope in a short while.

This ministry will take its toll. There will be colleagues, friends, congregation members, even family who may die. We will need to be resilient, and find strength in our daily prayers. We hope you will also be able to find support from senior clergy where possible, from clergy in networks, and above all from our families and friends.

May God who has called us to this ministry, through the Holy Spirit, give us all the gifts we will need, to rise to the challenges which this pandemic will put before us. And above all else, let us remember that “neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Revd Canon Simon Butler
Prolocutor of the Province of Canterbury,

The Revd Canon Chris Newlands
Prolocutor of the Province of York

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David Runcorn
David Runcorn
7 months ago

There are shrewd suspicions around that when it came to government officials were feverishly trying to write health guidelines for communities, organisations and institutions across the whole of society, churches would have been very low on their list – and even lower in terms of the practical understanding of what actual guidance was needed and for whom. So at this point I trust the church guidelines more – guided as they are by professional health advisors.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
7 months ago

Astonishingly, given the furore that Edward Dowler’s article has caused after its online posting, the Church Times has not seen fit to include it in today’s printed edition, although it does refer to it in passing. The CT does however include an interview with the Rev’d Dr. Brendan McCarthy ‘the C of E medical adviser’. He is Irish, lives in Ireland, and is not a member of the C of E. He has been a hospital chaplain for over 20 years and then adviser to the Parades Commission in Northern Ireland. Nowhere does it give any indication of his medical… Read more »

Stanley Monkhouse
7 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

McCarthy is a priest of the Church of Ireland diocese of Connor (roughly Co Antrim and half of Belfast). He has no medical qualification. This is from the Connor Diocese website: “Brendan McCarthy has a primary degree in divinity as well as Master’s degrees in theology, history and human rights law and a doctorate in Christian Ethics. He is an ordained Anglican Priest and is currently the Church of England’s national adviser on Medical Ethics and Health and Social Care Policy.” https://connor.anglican.org/2015/02/13/brendan-mccarthy-lead-course-christian-ethics/

Stanley Monkhouse
7 months ago

According to Crockfords, Dr McCarthy was Rector of Omagh, Co Tyrone, 1990-96 (search for Omagh, not McCarthy). An Irish colleague tells me he was an exponent of the Toronto Blessing and set up his own church. He must now be back in the C of I fold.

Stanley Monkhouse
7 months ago

Sorry for this second addendum. I have no axe to grind. My Irish colleague speaks well of him and I gather he did not have an easy time in Omagh. If my experience of the C of I is anything to go by, albeit in the Republic, such communities can be very conservative, and of course that is now 30 years ago.

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
7 months ago

Thank you, Stanley, for digging out this extra information about Dr McCarthy. Although you say that your colleague speaks well of him, do you really think that he is a fit and proper person to be advising the bishops on health matters, and to go beyond the advice of qualified Gov’t health advisers, when he has no medical qualifications whatsoever?

Stanley Monkhouse
7 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

Well, no. I was simply reporting what I could find out. Given the nature of the diocese Connor (a fair bit of GAFCON sympathy), and indeed the general tenor of the Armagh province, it wouldn’t be surprising that one of its priests had little understanding of or sympathy with a catholic view of the sacraments. And this may have some bearing on locked churches, churches as holy places, and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper therein. But what does my opinion matter?

God 'elp us all
God 'elp us all
7 months ago

Simply reporting what I could find out by ‘Googling’:
Irish Times 5 April 2017
‘Rev Brendan McCarthy of Kilmore diocese said he had come to believe he had been wrong concerning LGBT people and that he had been in part a cause of their pain, “unintended but real”.’
Not sure what it means; may have some bearing?

Anthony Archer
Anthony Archer
7 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

If the Archdeacon of Hastings had been one of my archdeacons, as diocesan bishop I would have been incandescent with rage at the article. I have no idea why the CT has omitted it from the print edition, but certainly it will remain on the record in its online format.

Simon Butler
Simon Butler
7 months ago

I think I would reply to your questions as follows: 1. The Government’s advice has been confusing: might it just be that the Church of England is hearing different voices from different parts of government and might therefore be erring on the side of caution? 2. I am yet to hear that the Church is in possession of the professional advice those critical of the current position seem to think exists. Might it be that this advice is in fact the invention of overheated imaginations? There is a tendency in the midst of social media storms for a supposition to… Read more »

John S
John S
7 months ago
Reply to  Simon Butler

Simon B:

Re your second point: one of the reasons that some of us had understood that the Church was acting on unspecified professional advice provided to it was these words from the 27 March Archbishops’ Letter:

“The government guidelines also continue to assert that funerals can take place in church
buildings. The medical, epidemiological and public health advice we have received clearly
indicates that this represents an additional layer of risk that we don’t need to take.”

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
7 months ago

You’re right, Simon S. I find it galling that those who questioned the Archbishops’ position earlier in this thread were criticised for having done so without having medical expertise, whereas the Archbishops had advisers with such expertise. But now it has turned out that the only Archbishops’ adviser so far made known to us has no medical expertise at all! I think Simon B has it completely inverted in his second point. It is not those criticising the Archbishops’ position who are claiming that the Archbishops have superior medical advice. It is instead the Archbishops themselves who are claiming to… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  Malcolm Dixon

See the next later thread, published yesterday. The C of E paper signed by the three co-authors is dated 31st March, but clearly they were on the scene before then.

Paul Waddington
Paul Waddington
7 months ago

It does seem that there is a head of steam building up on this issue. It would seem that, once again, the Catholics have acted more wisely in this matter.

FrDavidH
FrDavidH
7 months ago

Mr Waddington believes “the Catholics” act more wisely than Anglicans in every matter.

Father David
Father David
7 months ago

Couldn’t agree more, Archdeacon.

Kate
Kate
7 months ago

Clap, clap, clap.

If the Archdeacon is right and the decision is legally the incumbents’ , then I think the archbishops as authors, and any bishop who try to force the guidance on incumbents,should be subject to CDM. “It is that serious” for the reasons set out by the Archdeacon.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate: I think this is very dangerous talk. There was a lot of argument earlier this year, or maybe last year, about oaths of canonical obedience, and some people on TA, who should know better, were almost saying that it could be ignored if it did not suit personal wishes or their view of things. I’m not commenting on the merits, or otherwise, of what the Archdeacon has said, but let’s hear no more of CDMs in this war against Coronavirus – that is the real issue.

Kate
Kate
7 months ago

If it is the case that the archbishops, or any bishop, has exceeded their legal authority then absolutely they should be subject to CDM and, if the case is proven, dismissed from their office. There are few things more serious than preventing Christians from using a church to pray or worship. And, as the article points out, the Bishop of Rochester is threatening disciplinary action. If disciplinary action is only used down a hierarchy it becomes a tool of oppression.. As the Archdeacon also points out, clergy are allowed to enter churches to check the fabric of the building but… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate: In the middle of this crisis the last thing anyone needs are legal battles, which is what these would be. For a start, a CDM against an Archbishop, unsurprisingly, is made to the other Archbishop. Who would decide CDMs against both Archbishops, even if the procedure got off its feet? I don’t pretend to know. The next in line of seniority are the Bishops of London, Durham and Winchester. Are you suggesting that over this issue, and the known national and international peril of Coronavirus, the Church should embark on the kind of purge you seem to contemplate? Have… Read more »

Charles K
Charles K
7 months ago

I am at a loss as to why clergy (and I am ordained too!) think they are an exception to the rule and should be able to do ridiculous things like “toll the bell” – thus passing infection onto a different surface. Clergy are neither above the law, nor do they know better than the government or the some of the finest health experts in the world. We are still being paid and housed and there are plenty of ways in which we can do our job and – whilst it is hard to do things differently – that is… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
7 months ago
Reply to  Charles K

As long as the vicar or curate is the only one to touch the bell rope (until this is all over or the rope is disinfected), there is no danger of passing the infection to anyone else. If “the rule” is no “groups larger than X” (whatever X might be), then surely a clergyman alone in a building as large as a church is not a violation! I believe the Archbishops have decidedly gone overboard here. On this side of the pond, the Episcopal Church has issued no such directive and is encouraging the use of church interiors as backdrops… Read more »

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

Perhaps worth mentioning that from the latest figures, despite the enormous number of confirmed cases in the US, the death-rate there is 2.15% against 7.11% for the UK.

John S
John S
7 months ago

Sorry, Rowland, those statistics are unhelpful because almost completely meaningless. They are presumably deaths to date as a percentage of known cases to date. As such, all they really reflect is policies on testing and different time lags, nothing much about the behaviour of the virus, the health state of the population, or the effectiveness of suppression measures.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  John S

I wasn’t making any such judgement (nor talking about bell ropes), just a gentle hint about the inappropriateness of commenting critically from the US about the Archbishops’ handling of the catastrophe we are experiencing in the UK with a mortality rate so much higher regardless of the reasons for it. I realise that about a year ago, or so (or was it more?), we, or the Archbishop, caused great offence to TEC by telling them what they should, or should not, be doing. Shouldn’t we all stick to keeping our own houses in order? When you say the statistics are… Read more »

John S
John S
7 months ago

Rowland: just for complete clarity, the difference between us is that you think these figures show that the mortality rate IS higher in the UK (“for whatever reason”). I think they show no such thing. I have no wish to prolong a one-to-one disagreement nor to be guilty of contributing to the frightening descent into personal antagonism being shown on Thinking Anglicans at the moment, so, having put that on record, I will not contribute again to this particular strand of discussion. Peace be with you.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  John S

My real point is that, even more so in the present crisis, it is kinder to refrain from criticising the archbishops of another Province of the Anglican Communion. A very old-fashioned concept now, possibly, but ‘not good form’. It is surely unnecessary to make such comments, and I was trying to make that point as diplomatically as possible. I hope I have not shown personal antagonism to anyone.

Kate
Kate
7 months ago
Reply to  Charles K

With respect, that’s fear-mongering . At most the virus lingers on surface for a few days, perhaps only a few hours. If the incumbent is the only one entering the church they are no more likely to infect someone by touching surfaces than they are in their own home.

Since a single bell tolling other than as a call to worship is often a sign of something like a death, in that particular example I think tolling the bell might be unwise, but not for the reasons you give.

J Kirby
J Kirby
7 months ago
Reply to  Charles K

Charles – The Government has said clergy are permitted to enter their churches. This isn’t an issue about clergy thinking they know better than the govt, unless of course by clergy you mean the bishops! I don’t understand the theologising of this issue – it is objectionable because it is CONTRARY to government guidance and an empty gesture with adverse pastoral implications.

Tim Chesterton
7 months ago

At a time when people are getting sick and dying at alarming rates, I am incredulous about the huge amount of time and energy being expended in the Church of England – and here on TA – on this issue. Honestly, don’t we all have more important things to do right now? Didn’t somebody once say, ‘You strain at a gnat and swallow a camel’?

FrDavid H
FrDavid H
7 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

Couldn’t agree more. Doctors and nurses are risking their lives daily to help save lives and showing incredible dedication. Meanwhile people on here are arguing whether or not a vicar can pull his bell rope. God help us.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

I entirely agree, but feel that some of the preposterous things being said here cannot be left unanswered and unchallenged. It is, incidentally, physically as well as mentally quite draining trying to advance reasoned and rational responses to some of these posts.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
7 months ago

Rowland, in normal times I would not wish to close down the conversation, but these are far from normal times. Is not the wiser path now to simply ignore the “preposterous things” rather than giving them energy? Let the purveyors of them shout into the void.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  Allan Sheath

No doubt good advice. But some positive (personal) consequences of Coronavirus: Inter-action with Tim in Canada (including his video service which I 100% applaud) and Father Ron in New Zealand, having until now only read their posts, and others on TA, some of whom I have disagreed with in the past! I hope that Susannah’s plan for links with other churches around the world will happen and be fruitful for all.

J Kirby
J Kirby
7 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

It’s important because of the implications. The national church of this country is the only one which has so thoroughly shut up shop in this kind of visible way. Priests should be praying in their churches on behalf of the nation they minister to, not hiding away in their studies.

Tim Chesterton
7 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

What’s wrong with praying in your study? Doesn’t God hear those prayers? And if you’re live streaming the daily office (as many of us are), far more people can see you doing it (and join in). Usually when I pray Morning and Evening Prayer in my church in western Canada, I do so alone. Last night 11 people joined me for Live Streamed night prayer, and as of this morning the video had been viewed 153 times. How is this ‘hiding away’?

J Kirby
J Kirby
7 months ago
Reply to  Tim Chesterton

I don’t know why this is so hard for people to grasp. It’s objectionable not because God can’t hear prayers from a priest’s study, but because it is gratuitous advice at variance with medically-informed Government legislation. If there was a genuine threat to public health then I would happily support abandoning church buildings, but there quite simply isn’t. So it begs the question if this is such a great idea irrespective of any benefit to public health, why don’t priests just stay in their studies permanently – as you say, God can hear their prayers, why have church buildings at… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
7 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

OK, this is where I bow out of this. Blessings to all, keep on praying, wherever you do it.

Doug Chaplin
7 months ago

Somehow, I can’t avoid the suspicion that “We have been briefed on some of the wider reasoning” means, “the archbishops have asked us to stand between them and the incoming less than friendly fire”

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
7 months ago
Reply to  Doug Chaplin

Alternatively that wider reasoning includes the fact that there are many religions in this country and the closure of all places of worship applies to all of them. The Muslim Council of Britain, for example, has adopted an identical approach to that of the Archbishops:

https://mcb.org.uk/press-releases/mcb-calls-for-the-suspension-of-congregational-activities-at-uk-mosques-and-islamic-centres/

J Kirby
J Kirby
7 months ago
Reply to  Stevie Gamble

This isn’t about that Stevie, it’s about clergy being able to enter their churches alone to pray and live-stream, just like every other denomination in this country is doing. No one is arguing about the need to suspend public worship.

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
7 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

Please support your claim that imams are entering their mosques here in Britain to pray and livestream. You appear to be somewhat reluctant to provide evidence, but I assume you must have it since you are making these claims; why not just provide it?

J Kirby
J Kirby
7 months ago
Reply to  Stevie Gamble

I’m not claiming that. Where have I said such a thing? I had no idea whether imams were praying in their mosques or not, the only thing that link shows is that their congregational activities have been suspended. However, Stevie, a quick look on Google showed me that Friday prayers are being broadcast from the main prayer halls of the East London Mosque and Waltham Forest Mosque. So it looks like imams are indeed entering their mosques and praying and preaching, broadcasting out to their people from their place of worship just like we should be doing. Perhaps we should… Read more »

Stevie Gamble
Stevie Gamble
7 months ago

I had assumed that since J Kirby was responding to my comment about all the religions followed in this country he was commenting on all the religions followed in this country. The Archbishops do not have the right to ignore all other faiths; the fact that some members of the Church of England are apparently oblivious to that fact possibly explains why they are so keen on conspiracy theories.

J Kirby
J Kirby
7 months ago
Reply to  Stevie Gamble

Clearly the Roman Catholics and Muslims are very sensibly ignoring the example set by the CofE bishops. They must be having a right laugh at our expense. I’m just so glad the Bishops of London and Chichester haven’t gone along with this nonsense – it shines a light on the rest of the bishops’ ineptitude and pastoral autism.

T Pott
T Pott
7 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

Liverpool Roman Catholic Cathedral livestreamed last Sunday mass with two clergy, and are planning to do the same next Sunday, from inside the Cathedral. https://www.liverpoolmetrocathedral.org.uk/events/event/live-stream-of-palm-sunday-mass/?ondate=5th%20Apr%202020 Shrewsbury RC Cathedral are doing several services a day. Even St Peter’s and Paul’s (Dome of Home) New Brighton are doing several a day.There is no secret about it. Look at their websites if you don’t believe me. Meanwhile Liverpool’s Protestant Cathedral, the largest church in the British Isles, is empty with no live streaming, because the Anglican bishops think it too dangerous. This is absurd. Many years ago as a boy I saw the… Read more »

Canon Dr Michael Blyth
Canon Dr Michael Blyth
7 months ago
Reply to  Doug Chaplin

Nevertheless I find it troubling that when I google the Church of England’s appointed Health Advisor I can find no biography of his qualifications or even when he was appointed as such. If his advice is regarded as superior to that of the government medical officers then I think we have a right to know on what basis the archbishops and bishops have taken their decision to ban individual clergy from their churches. As so often in the Church of England strict accountability is demanded of the rank and file clergy whilst those in authority demonstrate little transparency. All the… Read more »

Simon Butler
Simon Butler
7 months ago
Reply to  Doug Chaplin

Absolutely wrong Doug. No one asked Chris Newlands and me to do anything. We decided to write our letter because we believe the Archbishops are right.

J Kirby
J Kirby
7 months ago
Reply to  Simon Butler

I’m sure you’ll be rewarded for your loyal service, Simon Butler. The question you haven’t answered is how the Archbishops know better than the government’s own medical advisers.

Mr Simon Butler
Mr Simon Butler
7 months ago
Reply to  J Kirby

I’m not interested in that sort of reward J Kirby. The Government does not speak with a single voice. The reality is that the claim that the Church has secret, unpublished medical advice, is an invention of those who oppose the church closures. The Church of England has never claimed that it has, but that it is acting on government advice. The question might better be posed:why does the Department of Communities and Local Government continue to issue advice that runs contrary to that given to the Church of England by the key figures in Government?

Doug Chaplin
7 months ago
Reply to  Simon Butler

In that case, my apology for being overly cynical, but I do worry that the clergy chairs of synod appear to be trying to close down dissent, rather than foster questioning of what may well be an ultra vires assumption of quasi-papal authority by the archbishops, who are requiring more than the law of the land does.

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  Doug Chaplin

It would only be ultra vires to go beyond the law by doing (or authorising) something which had been prohibited by law – the exact opposite of your hypothesis. But, by now, surely, with the gravity of the situation currently facing our country, the subject of the archbishops’ directives does not require any further discussion.

Jeremy
Jeremy
7 months ago

“It is not the time for arguments about whether bishops have a legal right to do this.”
It most certainly is, if a bishop is threatening disciplinary action!
And to say that “now is not the time for legal arguments” is usually to admit that you don’t have any.
By all means, stay home, defend the NHS, and save lives. But let no one use the pandemic as an excuse to break the law.

andy gr
andy gr
7 months ago

I think “work from home if at all possible” is pretty clear. It wouldn’t help the church’s reputation if priests felt they were a special case in this regard.

Angusian
Angusian
7 months ago
Reply to  andy gr

Many priests live ‘above the shop’ so going to church is only moving from one room to another. Thank God for those parishes where priests pray for, and with, their congregations and offer Mass enabling spiritual communion, Political correctness must not overpower the prophetic ministry of the church.

John
John
7 months ago
Reply to  Angusian

Just a request for information: “Many priests live “above the shop'”. I must say that in four years living in the UK and many visits since (with a lot of church-viewing), I’ve never come across such a situation. I know they do exist, since Victorian Anglo-Catholic new builds sometimes imitated RC builds of the same period. But seriously, “many”? I confess I’ve read a number of contributions on this and other threads which imply that this is the norm, so that the general rule ought to assume it. And I admit to doubting that this is the norm in the… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  John

I decided to ‘retire’ from this thread, but think I can give you a factual answer without creating controversy. You are correct. In former times the Rectory was usually a large detached house. It might be a veritable Stuart or Georgian mansion. In the village where I grew up, the ‘old’ rectory was one such. Its bland 20th century successor was also a large detached house. Both were more than a mile from the parish church, and I believe the Rector used to travel to church by car. In present 21st century conditions, all of the churches with which I… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
7 months ago

Many thanks for your observations! Your acquaintance in Dorset may be relatively fortunate: having pretty much ‘done’ the Salisbury diocese, it seems to me that monster benefices in rural situations are the rule rather than the exception. Here, for instance, is one which stretches from almost the northern and western limits of Dorchester to the Somerset border: https://www.melburyteam.co.uk/ Note that it does not include references to Stockwood (CCT; usually one or two services p/a) and Toller Fratrum (which split from the Church and operates as an independent church using the BCP with, it seems, a service every month or so).… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  Froghole

The Dorset churches are the Stour Vale Churches Group, in the charge of and under the care of the appropriately named Revd Richard Priest, although sadly I haven’t met him for some years. One of the eight has the lovely name St Mary Magdalene’s, Fifehead Magdalen. St Mary Magdalen has a special significance for me. The final resting place of some of my family, including my late wife, is Magdalen Hill Cemetery, Winchester. Nearby is the site of a mediaeval leper hospital, excavated and the subject of a TV documentary a few years ago. They didn’t mention (not archaeology) that… Read more »

Tim Chesterton
7 months ago

Rowland, if you happen to see Richard, please give him my greetings. We were slightly acquainted years ago, when he was a Church Army member, and came to our Canadian diocese to speak about evangelism.

Froghole
Froghole
7 months ago

Many thanks again! Yes, I remember – it’s in a tucked away place, and they have evensong there monthly. I have had the pleasure of attending services in that benefice. Not too many closures round there, given that the Blackmore Vale is one of the most densely churched areas in the country: Stour Row (a Victorian foundation) has been sold recently for residential use (but I think it was in Shaftesbury benefice), East Orchard (closed due to structural issues, but they have a summer service in the churchyard, and I have been able to get into the building, albeit briefly).… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  Froghole

This has been a refreshing diversion from the main topic! I know most of those places. Sadly the miniature “Chapelle Royale” at Itchen Stoke has suffered a burglary and lost its mediaeval brasses, transferred from the earlier church. I think they have an annual service there. I believe Itchen Abbas is still thriving. Briefly back to St Mary Magdalen’s Hospital in Winchester. Somehow a Romanesque doorway from the leper hospital survived to the 20th century and found its way into St Peter’s RC church in Winchester where it was re-erected and incorporated into the north side of the church building.… Read more »

Froghole
Froghole
7 months ago

Many thanks for the correction! Yes, I went to them both and have muddled them in my memory – apologies for that. They had a choral evensong there in the summer advertised (unusually) on the CCT website, not overly well attended, unfortunately, but well done withal, and the building is magical inside. I recall it being a Baring-financed church (various branches of that family seem to dominate the country up to Micheldever and East Stratton (I was 50% of the congregation when attending the latter)). I understand that Itchen Stoke is now served by Ovington which also had a question… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  Froghole

This ought to be my final contribution as we have slightly strayed from John’s original question! However, Itchen Stoke is a good example of not “living over the shop”, the grand rectory being on the other side of the road from the church behind a high wall. As you say, the Barings were very dominant in some of the churches of that area, especially at Northington, a veritable small cathedral. Itchen Stoke is said to be inspired by the Sainte Chapelle, Paris (and not, as I said, Chapelle Royale – there are several of those elsewhere), and the inlaid ‘maze’… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley
Fr. Dean Henley
7 months ago

Whilst the clergy (venerable or otherwise) are squabbling about their rights, privileges and appurtenances huge numbers of God’s children are dying from this wretched virus. These children are disproportionately the elderly; the age group that makes up most of our congregations. The Deputy Chief Medical Officer has already prepared the ground for restrictions lasting six months or more; what is going to be left of the Body of Christ when restrictions are lifted? We are all steamed up because this impinges on our affluent countries; what about the majority of the world’s population who are dirt poor, with no access… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 months ago

To paraphrase what I’ve seen many times on social media an elsewhere: “Make use of technology.
But remember, when this is all over, the question the country will ask of the church will not be “How professional were your podcasts? How slick your live-streaming?”
Just “When I needed a neighbour, were you there?”

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
7 months ago
Reply to  Jane

Jane. This could sound rather harsh at a time when folk have been working very hard and creatively to quickly grasp new ways of expressing worship and care in separated communities. In this time of isolation technology of all kinds has been become a very important way of being ‘there’ for folk who would otherwise be alone.

Stanley Monkhouse
7 months ago

Couldn’t have put it better, Dean. Spot on. The discussion displays narcissistic middle class club members bewailing their inability to have the worship experience they think they deserve. If anything tells the world at large that the Church of England is merely a prop, like alcohol or heroin or golf, enabling some people to get through life, this discussion does it.

Ian
Ian
7 months ago

May I as a self isolated 68 year old diabetic catholic express my appreciation to the parish priest of St James Spanish Place for the prayerful Sunday mass I followed on you tube. Not flashy not self indulgent but allowed me to make a spiritual communion. I heartily recommend it to my brothers and sisters in the C of E to do the same

Malcolm Dixon
Malcolm Dixon
7 months ago

Sorry, Fr Dean, but you go too far, much too far in fact in your last offensive comment. What the priests you refer to are trying to do is to provide spiritual sustenance to their parishioners, surely the very ‘cure of souls’ to which they were instituted. I have been very grateful, at a testing time in my own life, for the chance to partake in spiritual communion, by remotely observing celebrations of the Eucharist from their homes or even, for a few brave souls, from their own church, as all RC clergy are doing. Edward Dowler was right.

Father David
Father David
7 months ago

Highly offensive conclusion.

NJW
NJW
7 months ago

Please forgive me if this sounds intemperate, but today we (as what I hope is a fairly normal ministry team serving large rural area) have seen 166 online attendances at the three daily offices that have been streamed from a chapel in the parsonage, provided food for 45 meals (nearly 200 so far this week) to vulnerable people or people living in isolation, delivered 5 medication packages to people in isolation, continued to make contact with a pastoral list of 300 (which was only 200 or so a little over a week ago), dealt with press enquiries from local papers,… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Rowland Wateridge
7 months ago
Reply to  NJW

I vowed not to comment here any more, but this has been so heartening – and inspiring – to read. Clearly when they needed a neighbour you and your team and volunteers were there. I’m reminded more of Matthew 25 31-40, where the final ‘account’ is “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me”. In my nearest city, Winchester, there is a ‘Plague Monument’, a tall stone obelisk commemorating a plague of 1661. Centuries earlier Winchester was all but decimated during ‘the Black Death’ – we have been here before… Read more »

Father David
Father David
7 months ago

Why can’t we be allowed to ring a single church bell tonight at 8 o’clock in order to express our thanks and shew our solidarity with the NHS?

brcw2
brcw2
7 months ago
Reply to  Father David

I would have thought that solidarity would be best expressed by doing what the rest of the populace is doing: clapping & cheering. (Besides, as pointed out elsewhere here, a single church bell tolling does tend to convey a message of death rather than thanks.)

J Kirby
J Kirby
7 months ago
Reply to  Father David

We rang our bells, and it was very much appreciated in the community.

Tim Chesterton
7 months ago

From Mayor Saddiq Khan’s Twitter feed today: ‘The strong leadership from faith leaders like @JustinWelby is helping to save lives across our city and country.‘

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