Only the Church of England would sign its own death warrant.
Our local church has no incumbent (they can’t afford it, it seems) and a retired clergyman offered to take services there for free, in addition to providing a choir and organist at his own expense. The services were to be based on the Book of Common Prayer, which is currently outlawed at our local Godshop.
In their great wisdom, the Churchwardens and the bureaucrats from head office (think “Yes Minister”) turned him down. Apparently no changes can be made at this moribund and all but abandoned building until a new full time vicar is appointed. Which will be another 18 months in the making.
It is too radical apparently to offer a service whose liturgy was written by Archbishop Cranmer and has served more discerning members of the Church of England for over 500 years.
To look a gift horse in the mouth is a brave and foolhardy step for an institution on the edge of extinction.
Most of these places are waiting to die as, sadly, are most members of the dwindling and decrepit congregation. God’s waiting room as they say.
At my local church there is no organist and the few services they offer are accompanied by a juke box. The services themselves are low church, which is fine for those who like badly written lyrics and tunes only a child under three years old could properly appreciate.
There is no Book of Common Prayer. Instead, there is something written in a language designed for those unable or unwilling to expand their vocabulary beyond the 500 or so words they customarily get by on.
The beautiful old building is locked and barred every day.
What use is a church if it is closed to visitors? What use is a place of worship if it locks out those who would rest there a while in quiet contemplation?
As usual with human affairs, the whole matter is cursed by politics.
My parents lived in the village for 30 years and both are buried in the local churchyard. I myself own a cottage here and although not a conventional god botherer, find solace in the beauty of the music and the ritual of the traditional church.
I offered to be a key-holder so that I could open up the venerable old wreck to visitors who came knocking at my door.
But I am not an insider and apparently the right to a key is a closely guarded privilege. Perhaps one has to be an apostle or at least an ordinary disciple?
Insurance companies would prefer churches to be opened every day – statistically an open church is less likely to face vandalism.
Given such an attitude, an early death is assured for this and countless other local churches.
So there you have it. An empty and locked church with virtually no congregation. Requiescat in pace.
And yesterday, the Bishops of the British Church of England issued a statement condemning any sex outside heterosexual marriage, including for gay or heterosexual people in civil unions. At a time when the British church has a commission, not yet completed, trying to address the very contentious (within the church) issue of gay clergy. Very hard to figure out the logic here. Civil unions are government-recognised unions, so maybe the church objects to them as not having religious blessing. But many marriages are conducted by non-religious celebrants, and confer similar state and legal recognition as both marriages conducted by clergy and civil unions conducted by state bureaucrats. So why do they get the sex pass? Seems like another nail in the coffin of religions that are unable to adjust to the increasing recognition of some human rights not recognized by earlier societies.
I guess the real (and understandable) problem is lack of belief. I too am a non believer but happen to love the traditions, architecture and music. Perhaps I like the make believe of it all. The real trouble is people. As usual. Protecting their turf, as usual. Repelling outsiders, as usual. Not to mention all the kiddy fiddling and other niceties. I guess all human society struggles with the same issues. I’m sure there are saintly people in the church as elsewhere but they are outnumbered by those engaged in power struggles and climbing to the top of the greasy pole. Hope Mr Welby reads this article ~ perhaps he could take some action.
Can’t you get this to your local press, radio/tv or by telephone to Bbc Radio’s Sunday religious program (does it still exist?) Rueters might like it too – they have a wide reach, especially if you see the editorial department head personally with this printed statement. (Are their offices still in Fleet Street?).
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Well I did twat it to Justin Welby and emailed it to the Lambeth Palace press office. But, strange to relate, received no reply. I may indeed send a Grumpy Old Man letter to the Daily Telegraph. Pity it is no longer run by Lord Metroland along with The Daily Beast.