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Giles Fraser has missed the point: rural churches need to be valued, not exterminated

This is a guest post by Rev Tiffer Robinson – A Church of England Priest responsible for four rural parishes in Suffolk. He is also a newly elected member of the General Synod. Tiffer tweets at@tifferrobinson

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The Church in the countryside is in a crisis.  Expensive cold medieval buildings with a handful of elderly worshippers sitting on uncomfortable pews Sunday by Sunday, sharing a priest with half a county.  But Giles Fraser has a solution:  Close all the churches!  Well, not all of them.  Keep the odd one open every 20 villages, and put a couple of priests in.  The minster model, he calls it – it worked over a millennia ago, why not now?

Well, no.  I’m sorry Giles, and the steady trickle of urbanites who have commended you for being “brave” and “bold”.  If you had bothered to ask any of us who, you know, do the rural ministry thing for a living, we could have pointed out that we’ve sort of thought of that.  And here’s the reasons it’s just, well, daft.

Firstly, that isn’t the minster model.  The minster model is about larger church centres resourcing the mission and ministry in every surrounding community.  Which usually involves some form of ecclesiastical building.  What you are proposing is just having big churches around and encouraging people to go to them.  We already have that.  In most rural communities a town or suburban church is only a short drive away, and some choose to make the journey for consistency of worship, or for better music, or simply not to make up a tenth of the congregation.  But the vast majority don’t, and wouldn’t.  As others have said, the methodists tried this, the baptists tried this, the post office has tried this, and it hasn’t worked.  Why would it work for Anglicans, who have a far greater sense of incarnational parochial ministry, where it has failed (catastrophically) for everyone else?  

Secondly, no one wants our buildings.  The state aren’t going to take them on.  The various organisations that from time to time buy important redundant churches are maxed out, and don’t want the average village church anyway.  What would happen to most of these buildings were we to follow this route is that they would fall to the diocese to maintain and make safe.  This would then increase costs for every extant parish in the area – I’m not so sure urban churches will willingly fund the maintenance of St Agathas in the marshes, which was previously being cared for by a PCC and supportive village community.  Private ownership has its own problems – I know plenty of churches left to rot in villages where the developer ran out of money, or fell foul of listing regs, and the community have a very visible reminder that the Church of England is crumbling before their eyes.  When I have gone to village events in such places to represent the Church I am asked what I am doing there: “we don’t have a church anymore”.  In terms of mission, it’s the worst thing you could do.

Thirdly, and more importantly, we aren’t just a club with too many buildings, but we are a Church.  Indeed, we are the Church of England.  We don’t just pack up and leave.  Whether you understand the role of the local church as a placeholder for the gospel, or as a place where the sacraments are celebrated, churches are important for the communities they serve.  And rural villages are a place where the parish system still works.  Where people do want to get to know their neighbours.  Where it’s important that the local vicar knows who you are, whether you come to church or not. Where 10 people on a Sunday morning represents a regular opportunity for the lonely to meet their neighbours and support one another.  And on that note – where rural ministry is properly resourced and wisely managed the proportion of the population in Church on a Sunday is often significantly higher than at Elephant and Castle.  The four churches I minister in have a combined a population of 2000, and we have 80-100 men, women and children in church every Sunday.  I know of churches where a third of the village attend a monthly songs of praise. Where the Christmas carol service is attended by more people than actually live in the parish.  Close these churches, and that ends, overnight.  We’ve seen it happen.  

There are plenty of challenges facing the rural church, and clergy deployment is a real problem, and in many dioceses finances are dire.  But there are those of us who are at the coalface, who are discussing and experimenting and growing the kingdom of God in these places, with these people.  Maybe just give us a ring the next time you decide to undo all of our hard work with a soundbite.  

  • preacher

    Mission, Ministry & discipleship these are the vital elements for Church growth, but I feel we must be ready for a period of deep soul searching & honest self appraisal.
    Firstly, does the local Church exist for our benefit or for the Worship, praise & glory of God?.
    Are we serving the Lord or are we expecting Him to provide for us? Do we still want a diet of milk or are we ready to eat & digest meat?.
    Do we know & understand the importance of the grace, mercy & forbearance that was purchased for us & all those that accept God’s offer of salvation on the Cross of Calvary & the part we have the honour of participating in by bringing others into His Kingdom?.
    There is much more that could be said, but these are the elementary questions that we need to answer honestly.
    We have a task to perform & we need to be bold to accomplish it. Going to Church services does not make one a Christian, any more than going to the theatre makes one a part of the cast or crew, some come to be entertained, while others come to work. The choice is ours.

    Blessings. P.

  • “Whether you understand the role of the local church as a placeholder for the gospel, or as a place where the sacraments are celebrated, churches are important for the communities they serve.”

    And isn’t this the core of the problem – a division at the very heart of Anglicanism? It really ought not to be either/or, as with Giles Fraser; it should be both/and. In Jack’s mind the sacraments of the Church and evangelising must go hand in hand.

    The disrespect in this comment from Giles Frazer to one tradition in the Church of England in scandalous:

    “The appropriate theological response to all this” (i.e. preserving ancient church buildings) “is called iconoclasm – creative destruction. And it is deep in the Judeo-Christian tradition. When Moses returned from receiving the Ten Commandments, he found his people worshipping a fancy golden statue. So he smashed the statue. And this has been the proper theological response to idolatry ever since.”

    There’s a misrepresentation of both Moses and Judeo-Christian tradition.

    On what basis does he describe worship in beautiful churches styled on and reflecting theological beliefs going back to Christianity’s arrival on these shores as “idolatry”. Recently Jack had the very great pleasure of worshipping at a Mass of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in St Columba’s Catholic Church in Edinburgh. A beautiful celebration based on the Common Prayer Book and, to Jack, a more Catholic service than the one he attends in his local Roman Catholic Church parish.

    What strange times we live in.

    • Ian G

      It has long been observed (50 years to my knowledge) that many Romans often err and, when corrected, find it hard to believe that, the obviously Roman church is, in fact, the Anglican church. The Roman church is the smaller and simpler Slipper chapel. Walsingham is an experience, even for Protestants such as myself. Best to choose a festival when the lace and birettas descend upon the town and parade in all their finery. It makes you wonder if you are still in Kansas – as it were.

    • grutchyngfysch

      The example Fraser wanted, but obviously struggled to locate, was Nehustan.

      Even faithfully wrought objects can become idols – but this has nothing to do with the properties of the object, and everything to do with the character of the heart which engages with it.

      Idolatry at its core is about fashioning gods which are convenient to their maker as a diversion or intentional rejection of the Creator. And with all such fashioned objects, the self-satisfaction that accompanies the act of making soon gives way to the slavery that results from Image-Bearers prostrating themselves before images, inverting the order of Creation, and leaving man beholden to thing he has made himself.

  • Tutanekai

    By its very nature the Church is considerably behind the times, as evidenced by this row over obsolete buildings and what to do with them. But there is a technological solution to the worship problem.

    Put services online and let people FaceTime into them using an iPad or similar. Make an artificial reality experience out of it, so when you turn your tablet to the side, the screen will display the avatar of another attendee sitting in a virtual pew next to you, and you could have names and email addresses displayed so that virtual handshakes of peace could be exchanged, and the sort of gossipy conversations that used to take place in draughty church porches after the service could continue via email.

    All so much easier and cheaper than trying to keep mouldy old buildings upright. Preserve a few of the prettier ones as interesting examples of architectural patrimony (and somewhere to film Songs of Praise), but let the rest be demolished, or just fall down. Nothing wrong with picturesque ruins dotting the countryside. Very romantic, very gothic, good for tourism I should think.

    • As an alternative to the growth of internet pornography and ways to connect with perverted communities to feed man’s growing perverted and insatiable sexual desires, it’s not a bad suggestion. Did you know one can pray the Rosary on line these days with worldwide participants and also witness the celebration of the Mass at regular times?

      • Tutanekai

        I didn’t know but I’m not surprised. The Internet is used by all sorts of special interest groups as a virtual meeting place. There’s no reason why Christians shouldn’t do the same, apart perhaps from a certain Luddite tendency many of them exhibit in relation to any new social innovation.

        If Christians prefer to pray the Rosary online or Skype into Mass from the comfort of their own sofa, or bed, or bubblebath, then the need for church buildings is obviated, and they can be sold off, or left to moulder away with no qualms.

        I haven’t been in a church in some time and, tourism aside, may never be again. The empty ritual of Christian worship never appealed to me anyway. But for those to whom it does, the Internet will be the church of the future.

    • James Pitkin

      I always love to throw in a problem to good suggestions – in several of the rural parishes where I live there is no broadband speed to support anything more than emails and slow browsing (no chance of video)

      • James Bolivar DiGriz

        And something like 30% of people do not have an email address, so one can assume that they do not use the the ‘net much if at all.

        • James Pitkin

          Yup!

  • Sir Walter Tyrell

    This was why St Clare refused to allow her order to be given property, because of the risk that those whose calling was to pray for the world would be choked by the thorns of property management (Matthew 13:7). It would be regrettable if the Church of England were to cease to be a ministry of prayer and preaching and become largely concerned with the maintenance of it historic buildings.
    However, those buildings are too essential a part of England’s landscape to lose and some way must be found to pay for their upkeep. Perhaps some of our politicians, bankers and businessmen could be persuaded to buy an indulgence. I am sure some of them have a great need of one – provided that they are confident that they are not booked on the boat to Hell.

  • James Pitkin

    I usually agree with Giles Fraser but not on this. I am a Vicar in 4 rural parishes covering 30+ square miles, there are 4 churches. Other denominations have withdrawn from the area but not the CofE. I know that there will be pressure on us to close the 4 churches (or some of them) but…they are well maintained (better than 20, 50 or 100 years ago), the parish share of £60K+ is paid (which more than covers the cost of having a Vicar) and people come together to worship. There is a strong presence of the church in the 2 local schools. 5% of the population come to church regularly and 85%+ come at Christmas!

    • carl jacobs

      the parish share of £60K+ is paid

      What is the combined budget of the four parishes relative to share?

      • James Pitkin

        About double that – 4 parishes have separate budgets/accounts. 10% is given away and the balance on expenses/maintenance/repairs. For some parishes 80% of the budget has been Parish Share and for others about 40%. About 75% of income is from giving and the rest from fundraising.

        • carl jacobs

          expenses/maintenance/repairs.

          And of that amount, how much is spent just maintaining buildings? How much maintenance has been deferred because there is no money to pay for it?

          • James Pitkin

            Every 5 years the churches are inspected by an architect who identifies what work is needed in the next 5 years (repairs as well as maintenance). All of the 4 churches have completed all recommended repairs (and maintenance). I have been encouraging people to cover repair costs by fundraising and gifts from non-regular donors (regular giving then goes to ‘running costs’). The 4 churches are all different in age, size and difficulties in repairs. I estimate that on average £20,000 per year is needed for the 4 churches repair/irregular maintenance – about 15% of ‘turnover’.

          • carl jacobs

            £20,000 per year is needed for the 4 churches repair/irregular maintenance

            That’s a lot of money spent per year just to maintain four old buildings. The cost structure you describe in terms of operating costs and maintenance only seems to confirm Giles Fraser’s point:

            transforming the church into a buildings department of the heritage industry.

            Of the £120,000 total, what percentage is spent on buildings in one way or another?

          • James Pitkin

            £5000 for each building is less than £100 per week – about the same as hiring a village hall for a day! As I said this money comes from those who want an historic building in their village – the running costs from those who use it weekly. The insurance costs are about £2500 per year. Of the £120,000 less than £30,000 is spent per year on the hardware – say bout £10,000 (7%) on the buildings (insurance, heating, lighting, cleaning and churchyard maintenance). I am sure that following Giles’ suggestions would mean plenty of money being spent on a building in which all might worship – or if we rent a school (as has been done in my experience) there is still a cost. If they stopped being used for worship the communities would probably want to retain them – and their money would then still go on the buildings!

          • carl jacobs

            So a typical parish has a financial sheet like this:

            Total Income: £30000
            Contributions: £22,500

            Fumdraising:

          • James Pitkin

            That’s certainly a start but the 4 parishes are not equal in size. (Population – and finance – across 4 parishes is: 45%, 30%, 12.5% and 12.5%)

          • carl jacobs

            Which must mean that two of the parishes are heavily cross-subsidizing the other two either in terms of absorbing more parish share or in terms of outfight gifts. A minimum parish share of 40 per cent on an income of £15,000 (12.5% of £120,000) leaves £9,000 – enough to keep the lights on and repair the building, and not much else.

            Does the parish with 45% of the finance pay 80% of its budget to parish share? How much of the 10% of giving goes directly to parishes to help them keep up with expenses?

          • James Pitkin

            No – each parish is self-sufficient. The percentage split is for the Parish Share, each parish maintains its own church. The 10% goes to other charities (not the neighbouring parish!)

  • Inspector General

    Much the same was tried in the Conservative party, and pre Cameron too. Not so much close down the rural constituencies but much reduce their power, notably in their ability to select their own prospective parliamentary candidate. Consequently one understands that half of their MPs are now the result of the central list. The significance of this is best illustrated when you consider half the Conservatives did NOT vote for gay marriage. You do the sums.

    Fraser, far from missing the point, seems to be going down the same road. Concentrating power in one church with several priests. Don’t be surprised if the priest-in-charge is a city boy or girl. From a central list, of course, and fully compliant having been positively vetted with the church direction as the metropolitans see it. Clergy from rural backgrounds will simply no longer be tolerated. That is very bad news for Anglicanism.

  • carl jacobs

    Maybe just give us a ring the next time you decide to undo all of our hard work with a soundbite.

    One can understand the sentiment. But (to change the analogy a bit) the author of this post reminds me of the Postal Workers on board RMS Titanic. They struggled mightily to rescue the mail from the onrushing water, and refused calls to abandon their efforts. We remember them for their sacrificial efforts in moving the mail up a few decks, but they never had a chance at achieving their objective. They failed to see the wider picture and instead focused on their immediate responsibility to a futile mission. The mail was going to be under water in just short of 3 hours no matter what they did.

    Giles Fraser is right. (Did I really just say that? Someone please shoot me.) These buildings aren’t sustainable. Their primary purpose is not to provide a focus for worship, but to provide a sense of place and continuity. It is not the purpose of a church to maintain buildings so that communities may feel a sense of connection to the past. The wise thing to do is to quit sinking money into them. That doesn’t mean you abandon the ministry. It means you abandon the building. In a word, leave the mail behind, and find a life boat. Deconsecrate the building. Demolish it. Find a low-cost alternative as a place of worship. If people won’t come to worship in the absence of that building, then they were only indulging their own sentimentality to begin with.

    Why demolish? The author has said it. “[N]o one wants our buildings.” That’s not technically correct. He should have said “[N]o one wants to pay for our buildings.” I suspect there are plenty of people who would love to keep the buildings – just so long as no financial commitment is required. A sense of place and continuity is important to people. But usually it’s not important enough to pay for. Again the author has said it. “[A] very visible reminder that the Church of England is crumbling before their eyes.” This is a real and legitimate concern. The building that cannot be maintained must be removed. The old must be put away so the new can grow up in its place.

    It won’t be pleasant. But it is necessary. And it will happen one way or another. Look down the stairwell to the mail room on Deck F and you will see the rising water. It really doesn’t matter of you can get all the mail up to Deck D after all.

    • James Pitkin

      Sorry Carl, not my experience. Locals can be persuaded to pay for the building – but not the other costs.

      • carl jacobs

        Then why did the author include the paragraph beginning…

        Secondly, no one wants our buildings.

        … in his original post?

        If the locals could be persuaded to pay for the building, then this entire paragraph would be rendered moot. The state wouldn’t need to take them on. Various heritage organizations wouldn’t need to purchase them. They wouldn’t fall to the dioceses to maintain. Urban churches would not have to maintain them. They would not have to be sold to private owners. And they certainly wouldn’t be left to rot. The local community would simply produce the required money each year.

        But what you are describing is the exact rationale that I mentioned. The locals are supporting the church building and not the church. They value the continuity and sense of permanence provided by the building. Its purpose is not to provide a place to worship God but rather a stone of remembrance to their own existence in a transient universe.

        • James Pitkin

          You’ll have to ask the author!
          The locals supporting the building include those who are part of the church. The locals supporting the building consider themselves to be part of a community and one of the markers of community for them is probably the church building. For them the purpose of the building is possibly not worship but a complicated web of emotions and ideas – many would not agree with your description of it as “a stone of remembrance to their own existence in a transient universe.” Now I am off to a Harvest Supper with 25% of the village population – and any funds raised going to the Red Cross for Humanitarian Relief in Syria and other places…and that will happen in a Hall run by the community at its own expense!

          • carl jacobs

            I asked you because you directly contradicted the OP without explaining why the OP was wrong. The author’s experience is just as valid as yours. His description also has the advantage of agreeing with the widely held consensus that the CoE possesses many non-viable congregations in expensive buildings. Indeed, your own budget figures on this thread lead me to believe two of the four parishes described are non-viable. One suspects you are guilty of hasty generalization.

            a complicated web of emotions and ideas

            You use your words. I will use mine. Either way, at the center of their rationale is the Self and not God. Whether they agree with my description or not is neither here nor there. Distill the motivation to its essence and you will find that my description is accurate.

          • James Pitkin

            Carl, we will just have to disagree – which should be fine…

          • Sam

            I thought of “postman pat” when I read these exchanges : a kind of rural idyll where every village had a shop, pub, post office and church and everyone knew each other. Except those days are long gone , most shops and post offices are closing because of cost and pubs are struggling. The c of e churches can’t be far behind and not only are they expensive museums, suffer lead theft etc.

            The alternative seems to stop trying the Victorian way and try doing what Jews had to do before we built synagogues in Britain and meet up in homes? Would save a bob or two.

          • James Pitkin

            It isn’t an idyll but between the 4 villages here in Hampshire there are 4 pubs (only one of which is closed), no post offices – one comes twice a week to set up in the Village Hall and Shop. As Vicar, I don’t know everyone but certainly over half of the population…We have had lead stolen from one church – replaced with fibre-glass (with necessary permissions). Meetings in houses happen but we need a big building to get together (30-60 on a Sunday in one of the churches) – and we couldn’t conduct a lawful wedding anywhere other than a church..

        • James Bolivar DiGriz

          Carl, I think that the author and James Pitkin (whose posts & account have disappeared) were making different points.

          James was saying that locals (non-churchgoers AIUI) were willing to give some money to help in maintaining the church building. The author is saying that noone wants to take on the building in toto.

          The latter would involve a very large capital expenditure just to buy the building and an ongoing expenditure to maintain it. Someone might be able & willing to give £100, or more, per year to ensure that the church building in their village is kept in good condition but neither able nor willing to buy it for hundreds of thousands of pounds and be on the hook for, say, £10,000 each and every year and maybe major expenses every so often.

          I believe that the CoE owns c. 50% of all of the Grade I buildings (and presumably a lot of Grade II* ones) and the cost of maintenance on these can be huge. James said that on one of his church buildings the lead had been replaced by, IIRC, fibre-glass. I think that this means it is not Grade I as, AFAIUI, on a Grade I building the lead (even if stolen) would have to be replaced with lead. Just re-leading the roof could cost £10,000 with no guarantee that the thieves won’t come back a week after the work is finished.

          Non-churchgoing locals may well be willing to collectively contribute a significant part of £10,000 pa if that means the building is in good condition. If the bill is £50,000 (or more) they may well not contribute the same %age. In fact if they think that the whole amount will not be forthcoming, and the building will gradually fall into disrepair, they may not even contribute as much in numerical terms.
          Also, there is the minister (and members of the congregation) organising all of the fund-raising activities, and getting all of the building permissions (secular & ecclesiastical), and arranging for and supervising all of the actual work. If the building was just somehow passed to the local community who would do all of that?

    • Anton

      A lot of money could be raised by selling them to Americans for reassembly across the Atlantic…

  • Inspector General

    The idea of the English countryside without churches is unacceptable. Besides, villages are going to get bigger. A population increase that is now out of control thanks to the EU and bloody unwanted migrants is going to see to that. And on top, you are seeing voluntary racial segregation as Islam and blacks take over the cities, and the English who can get out, literally flee for the hills…

    • David

      You may be right about white flight to the countryside. The present trickle may become a flood. Certainly more towns are likely to be become segregated.

      However Town Planning policy has, for the last 60 years, generalising now, expanded only those villages with facilities, a shop or two, a school and that sort of thing, whilst deliberately not developing the smaller ones, because they lack those facilities and are often have inadequate roads, water supply, sewers and all the rest of the infrastructure. So the bigger villages, often considered small towns in a less crowded country, will continue growing, whilst the smaller ones will not. This is partly a question of economics, as the unit price of say, providing sewage, reduces markedly with size, like many things. Other factors of course also drive our propensity to not develop the smaller places.

      • The Explorer

        Very interesting post. However, this talk of a million new homes. Where are they all going to go?

        • David

          Good question.
          For my sins, I was a lifelong Chartered Town Planner, of 36 years experience. I specialised in strategic, large scale planning at a very senior level, for two decades. I say this purely because it has long been my firm opinion, that for some two decades at least, southern England and Wales, has been building way beyond its sensible environmental limits. In plain English we are full up. The average citizen knows this intuitively, because of the struggle to park the car, get to work on time, find a doctor or a place for the offspring. These are of course culturally influenced value judgements – but backed up by much hard evidence.

          Often it has seemed to me that the politicians run the country not for our common good, as a society, but for good economic statistics. Human happiness, flourishing and fulfilment, is secondary to bulk and profits.
          Trying to find say, 1000 acres, 400 hectares, for development that is not valuable agricultural land, or a protected view, or a nature reserve, or on the flood plain etc etc etc and can be serviced with amenities, sewage, water, schools, shops, roads, etc etc economically, relatively near employment opportunities has been technically almost impossible across swathes of southern England and Wales for a very long time. We are becoming a desperately overcrowded country.

          This is of course true, if your vision of a good life is a house, with a modest garden, near playing fields and informal recreation space. But that is, or has been, a vital component of the British idea of the good life. If we were Hong Kong Chinese, with a different culture, we would see it all differently. But we are not – people still aspire to a bit of breathing space, and its rapidly being used up ! But people continue voting for those same politicians don’t they ? So they get what they’ve voted for !

          • chiefofsinners

            Nice bit of expertise, that. Thank you.

          • David

            Thank you. Happy to help.

          • alternative_perspective

            Thanks for your information. May I pose a query, do planners ever consider the possibility of the provision of sensitive higher density housing in villages. Yes many people want village life and a garden but I’m sure there’s a market for those who want the peace and aesthetics but not necessarily the gardening, for instance?

          • David

            The short answer is a provisional and cautious, “Yes”, where appropriate. I innovated some 30 years ago by, experimentally, approving some three story homes (internal garages +utility on the ground floor) in one ancient village, and many two story plus rooms in the roof-space (lit by small tasteful dormer windows) in a new settlement I helped create. Three storeys provide good sized family accommodation on a small footprint, thus allowing higher densities, and therefore effective use of the constrained land budget, without being unacceptably overpowering. But this type of housing can only be built where it is appropriate, visually, for its physical context i.e.. in plain English, not stick out like a sore thumb ! Inevitably aesthetic value judgements are involved – hence the inevitable controversies, so you can never please ’em all !

          • alternative_perspective

            Thanks again. My thinking was more along the lines of creating new instances of reimagined mills from the industrial revolution..

            Across the country old mills and the like which were surely great blots on the landscape are now intimate and defining features in local geography: loved and admired. My query is whether there is scope in the system to try and replicate this, perhaps in not as imposing ways but creatively nevertheless?

          • David

            That’s imaginative ! Perhaps in cities for young, flat dwellers do you mean ?
            But deep plan buildings, like mills, are not ideal for housing, which requires relatively small rooms, all with external windows. Also remember that whilst large mills were common in industrial northern towns and some southern cities, say alongside canals, they were not found, generally, outside industrialised areas or in market towns and smaller settlements. So in most localities you would not even be echoing, in a pastiche, the areas built heritage.

          • Thanks for this fascinating outline. In some ways Ontario mirrors these problems and solutions. Oddly enough, though, mills and other large structures ate failing to attract or retain commercial users and are starting to degrade. Case in point, the town of Elora, which sees a healthy amount of tourism, has a landmark mill at a gorge, had a restaurant and an inn there, but closed down, as the building became unusable due to neglect. See https://www.google.ca/search?q=town+of+elora&oq=town+of+elora&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3.9744j0j4&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8#imgrc=FqNGlrWWYAqEqM%3A (this is an old pic, which shows payrons at the restaurant balcony).

            What do you mean by, “so in most localities you would not even be echoing, in a pastiche, the areas built heritage”? As a planner, you’re above way my paygrade (so easy with the technical hargon); I just taught and directed masonry restoration projects, which generally consisted of me begging and weeping for use of proper techniques and materials by people who can hopefully speak English, give a shit about what they’re doing and can learn to tuck-point with a jointer instead of their fingers before the season’s end. Did you mean to say that builders in the UK build in a mish-mash of faux historical styles (your ref to pastiche), just as they do here, regardless of recommendations by heritage organizations? It’s doubly bad here, because we have fewer heritage properties than you do.

          • David

            Hello there Avi, and thanks for that.
            “What do you mean by…”
            You’re on the right lines. OK you are familiar with this question – faced with building near historic, even ancient ones, there are, essentially two options. Firstly build an uncompromisingly contemporary style of structure that boldly contrasts with the old styles. Secondly echo the old style thus creating a pastiche. Some people love these copies, as comforting reminders, others hate them as false. Both groups have valid points. Now in areas with an industrial heritage, whether their mills still stand or not, putting up new “mills”, that are in fact residential, as I think our friend “alternative_perspective” suggests, does have a certain legitimacy. But in areas where such structures never even existed, you would not (self-quote), “even be echoing, in a pastiche, the areas built heritage”.
            Sorry, I compressed too much into one sentence there, which is not good communication.
            But it’s good to hear from you.

          • CliveM

            Hi Comrade Avi

            How is the Socialist Peoples Republic of Canada?

            The words to the song ‘The Peoples flag is deepest red’ can be found on line if you need them. I suppose you will be using Bebo now?

            Your new leader, very butch in his boxer poses!

          • Thank you for not rubbing it in, Clive. A sensitive fellow you are. Not ready to talk about it until the mourning period is over.

          • CliveM

            Apologies but I am not good at resisting temptation!

            Still if you look at our alternative leader, that is something to really worry about :0(

          • But at least he’s way-out on the margins, you know where he stands and he’s not in deep cahoots with media and industry cronies like our popinjay.

          • CliveM

            You’ve clearly not been following the BBC coverage of him!

            Yes he is out there and I don’t think the risk is high, but by gum, the damage he would do if he did get it.

          • Radical loonies can only do so much, our establishment guy has already announced the upcomming damage. 60 billion in infrastructure “investment” to pay off the waste management mafia, the unions, “green tech,” Muslims and the arts leeches. And he’ll be ending the ISIS missions, coddling the PLO, taking directives from the UN and sucking up to Obama. We’re goin’ down, bro, and we’re going down fast.

            PS and rushing to bring in 25,000 Muslim migrants.

          • CliveM

            Infrastructure investment, otherwise known as pissing up against a wall.

            He looks a lightweight to me, will he be up to it?

          • Oh, he’ll do fine. He doesn’t know how to tie his own laces, but the interests that got him in will do the work for him and they’ll bleed us dry as before. Off to work for me now; someone’s got to pay for the glorious hope and change. Grrr…

          • PS You know, the worst part of it is waiting for Carl to have his jollies with me. He must be planning his strategy as we speak. I’ve bee riding him over obama since day one and now it’s pay-back time.

          • CliveM

            I’m looking forward to it!

          • Always glad to entertain, Clive. It’s on me, buddy.

            And for my fellow Canadians who got bored of a good economy and living in a country that acted like one for a decade:

            http://avibarzel.daportfolio.com/gallery/930363#5

          • CliveM

            Struggling with link. However two words, Tax Accountant. It’s a career with a future!!

          • Link? I must have been uploading to site. When you went on. It shouldn’t be problematic, Deviant Art is the biggest artist host site. Be my UK spy and check later?

            Yeah, my guy will have to work extra hard to compensate for the loss of income-splitting that’s being taken away.

          • Always glad to entertain, Clive. It’s on me.

            And for my fellow Canadians who got bored of a good economy and living in a country that acted like one for a decade:

            http://avibarzel.daportfolio.com/gallery/930363#5

          • CliveM

            Ps I did wait 24 hrs.

        • Inspector General

          They’re going to build several thousand homes between Oxford and Bletchley. A ribbon development along a rejuvenated railway line which has recently had a spur put in to link it to London. Feeder place for London, then. And on prime agricultural land. Once HS2 is built, then thousand more homes in Birmingham. Again, commuters for London. But that development will be brown field.

    • IanCad

      Well, it happened in many of the great cities in the US.
      I’m afraid you’re correct.

  • The Explorer

    Carl and the Inspector both make good points in the posts below. Demographic shift does seem to be a reality if one considers the 2011 report that 600 000 had left London. Will those moving from the cities to the villages be C of E churchgoers? If so, the Inspector is right: the buildings should remain. If not, Carl is right: the buildings should be demolished for they are unaffordable.

    The system that pertained when the churches were erected assumed Christian cultural primacy. Given the growth of secularism and other faiths, the future seems likely to be not a Christian country, but a country with Christians in it. That requires a different solution.

  • chiefofsinners

    The upkeep of parish churches should be funded by the state.

    Here’s why:

    The majority of citizens, who identify themselves as
    Christian in the census, want to go to carol services at Christmas. They want to have their children christened,
    to be married and see their parents buried in the local church. They want to visit churchyards and use parish
    records to research their family history.
    They want a Remembrance day service and an Easter service. They want to
    hear church bells on a summer evening and they want the beauty of the parish
    church in every village landscape. They
    like to go on holiday and visit ancient churches, marvel at the architecture
    and the beauty within; some even want to do brass rubbings. Many of their livelihoods depend on tourists
    who flock to the UK for the same things. They want a quiet place to contemplate
    life when it’s all too much, and they want there to be a local vicar. They want their children to go to primary
    schools which were built by the church on land given by the church and where
    the work of governance is mostly done by volunteers from the local church.

    They want all this but they want it to be funded by the ten
    regular attendees.

    • IanCad

      Hatched, Matched, and Dispatched. Perhaps the odd carol service and maybe a church fete. That doesn’t pay the bills.
      Our National Heritage is worth paying for. Once it’s gone — it’s gone.

    • carl jacobs

      The upkeep of parish churches should be funded by the state.

      No, it shouldn’t. The purpose of a church is not to carry national heritage. If you subsidize churches like this, all you will do is sustain dead churches that employ wolves in sheep’s clothes. Let the dead bury their own dead. Don’t embalm the corpse and pay to have it displayed like Lenin in his mausoleum.

      • Sam

        It should be paid for by the members, including the vicar’s salary and house.

        • carl jacobs

          That isn’t how it works, though. The four parishes described below pay £60,000 toward a common fund that pays for the vicar. That fund also pays for the bishop, and the bishops assistants, and the assistants to the bishop’s assistants, and the buildings to house the bishop and his assistants, and the wine for the bishop and his assistants, and the bishop’s wine cellar, and the cheese to go with the wine, and the car in which the bishop travels, and the … well, you get the idea.

          Was that cynical?

          • Sam

            Dude

            it’s not my beef , but clearly I can’t see how it is sustainable to upkeep old buildings which , for example, come with regs that demand every time lead is stolen from the roof it has to be replaced. My cynical thought is The c of e could end up as a giant pension fund .

          • James Pitkin

            Actually Carl – the Bishop and his housing is paid for by the Church Commissioners rather than the local churches. The local churches also don’t pay for the Bishop’s transport or hospitality.

      • IanCad

        Carl, From the American point of view, I well understand your position.
        Church and State are separate. And, of course, that means no state funding for religious places of worship.
        I absolutely agree with that policy. However, this is the UK, and the very beauty and character of the land is inseparable from our underused and neglected village churches. It is in our national interest to maintain the uniqueness of our heritage.
        Sure, a million questions need addressing, not least the role of the state in the ordering of religion. He who pays the piper calls the tune.
        I agree with your post in as much as it would relate to the USA and would probably have thought the same when I lived there.
        I am something of a stranger in my own land, and am daily learning that it is so very different from your New World.

        • carl jacobs

          From the American point of view

          But .. but .. does there exist another point of view that wouldn’t be considered … well … wrong? 😉

          Seriously, tho. I think you will have to sever that connection to restore health to the Church in England. The gov’t could maintain the churches as historical items. But it shouldn’t maintain them as churches. They could be one or the other but not both.

          • IanCad

            Agreed! But the rights of the CofE to use them as churches must remain inviolate

          • chiefofsinners

            I logged on to have this conversation with carl, but you’ve said it all.

          • CliveM

            The French succeed in being very secular, but the state subsidises church building maintenance. It can work.

        • grutchyngfysch

          “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

          Which is why a policy which makes the church the piper is not a good idea.

      • Dreadnaught

        What about all the dosh pumped into Islam for mosks, madrassas and all that jizz

      • grutchyngfysch

        Totally agree. The less dependent a congregation is on the State, the better, because they’ll be all the less beholden to toe the line and defame Scripture and the Gospel.

        It doesn’t figure as an issue so much right now, but given the inexorable slide, it will matter more and more in years ahead.

    • Jon Sorensen

      “They want to hear church bells on a summer evening” and “They want a quiet place”.
      And all this without knowing how much, where and how the money goes and which child molester is protected with this money. Church is filthy rich but needs more other people’s money. Great plan.

      • chiefofsinners

        The CoE is not filthy rich. That’s the point of this article. Paedophiles, unfortunately, find their way into all public bodies. If we followed your logic we wouldn’t fund any of them.

        • Jon Sorensen

          CoE is filthy rich and they get a lot of money every year. The problem is the their outgoings are bigger than income.

          “Paedophiles, unfortunately, find their way into all public bodies.”
          Only Churches have set up systems to protect, financially support and move peadophiles from one parish to another, even to another country. “public bodies” don’t have this. Those will contact police.

          “If we followed your logic we wouldn’t fund any of them.”
          You have just no idea about how Churches and “public bodies” handle paedophiles. Please don’t compare them.

          • Phil R

            Paedophile are covered up and protected by public bodies

            Rotherham. …

          • Jon Sorensen

            “In the other cases, overwhelmingly, they were men of Pakistani origin and we need to understand why this has been happening,”
            http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-28934963

            Could you please point out where did they relocate abusers, were abusers paid money and defense lawyers from a particular organisation?

          • Phil R

            See CofS comment below

          • Jon Sorensen

            Sorry, which one? Can you maybe please copy-paste?

          • Phil R

            Abuse has been perpetrated in the NHS and BBC by Jimmy Saville, by
            members of the houses of Commons and Lords, in schools and in children’s
            homes. Currently investigations are under way into members of the
            police, judiciary, armed forces and secret services. All these
            institutions have made the same mistake as the Church: they have acted
            to protect the organisation rather than the victims. All are now
            learning the lessons. If you stopped funding them all then society would
            collapse.

          • Jon Sorensen

            You got a point there. Jimmy Savile case shows failure to act by many secular organisations. Shame on them and us.

            But I think Churches had gone even further but knowingly moving abusers to other parishes enabling their further abuse. Churches have also provided the lodging and paying them while paying layers and legal defence. In the US Churches have event trying to take insurances against abusing priests!

          • The Explorer

            Their outgoings are bigger than income. Odd definition of wealth. Dickens’ Mr Micawber would not agree with you.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “Wealth is the abundance of valuable resources
            or valuable material possessions. This includes the core meaning as held
            in the originating old English word weal, which is from an
            Indo-European word stem.”

            You can be extremely wealthy while spending more that your income. Nothing odd about it. In fact a lot of rich people do that…

          • The Explorer

            You can indeed be extremely wealthy while spending more than your income. Look at the US with its $20 trillion of debt. But at some point the creditors step in.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Yes. So maybe CofE should now downsize to the level that is sustainable before they get into a bigger hole.

          • chiefofsinners

            There’s the point. The taxpayers will have to decide whether they want parish churches, and if they do they will have to pay for themselves.

          • Sam

            Asset rich , income poor would be the way to describe the c of e financially. True it’s got a massive investment portfolio , but that’s tied to paying pensions etc, not readily available liquidity.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Such a terrible situation being asset rich. Poor CofE. Let’s give them more tax payers’ money. They seem to know what to do with it.

          • Sam

            Dude

            I’m not suggesting that the c of e gets taxpayers money. I said as such last night…

          • Jon, can Jack ask why you up-vote comments which rebut your assertions?

          • chiefofsinners

            Because if his brains were gunpowder he wouldn’t have enough to blow his hat off.

          • That comment lacked charity, sir.

          • chiefofsinners

            Sorry if I offended him. I genuinely thought he already knew.

          • But is he bright enough to know this?

          • IanCad

            Always thought it was blowing his nose. Which, I believe, sounds more poetic.

          • chiefofsinners

            The last time I got into a discussion about ‘noses’ Jack got the wrong end of the schtick.

          • CliveM

            I’m with you.

          • Sam

            I’ve given up on this discussion as my life is too short.

          • Jon Sorensen

            I up-vote funny and good comments. If a comment makes me chuckle (smart, witty, silly, ad hominem) I usually upvote. If a comment is well thought out and informative I usually upvote. If someone rebuts my bad comment those are the best and worth up-voting. It probably means I learned something and are now a little bit less ignorant.

            I thought Sam doesn’t want Government to give CofE money, but Government gives millions:
            https://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2012/05/government-agrees-%C2%A330-million-extra-to-resolve-vat-concerns.aspx

          • Sam

            Well I followed the link and that money is there for builders repairs, because the government changed the policy on being to reclaim VAT on bills for religious buildings. I’m happy with that or not charging VAT for repairs , because I can accept that the church buildings are magnificent pieces of English heritage. What I object to is that state paying more directly to upkeep congregations or pay a vicar a salary. Because with money comes control and I don’t think government should control religion in that way.

            I think you are being too ideological in these attacks. I’m not a Christian , but I can see the architectural and historical import of these church buildings. As to keeping them active as c of e churches, then that’d be up to the combined wisdom of the blog author and the c of communities themselves.

            Regarding the money, people can read what is spent and collected on the same website here and make their own minds up

            https://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/funding.aspx

          • Jon Sorensen

            “the church buildings are magnificent pieces of English heritage”
            There are many other buildings that are magnificent pieces of English heritage owned by organisation, companies and individuals who don’t have BILLIONS of dollars investments. Why should Church get free money and nobody else. Why this privilege only because of faith?

            “I think you are being too ideological in these attacks”
            Equal rights and freedoms is just too strong ideology. Why not give proportionally same amount of money to Humanist, Scientology or Pagans?

            “As to keeping them active as c of e churches, then that’d be up to the combined wisdom of the blog author and the c of communities themselves.”
            They should do that with their BILLIONS, income, tax deductible donations and special tax breaks. Why do they need additional special taxpayers money?

          • Sam

            Your being deliberately hyperbolic to provoke a reaction, so you won’t get one from this dude as it isn’t worth my effort or time.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Yes. Equal rights are so deliberately hyperbolic…

          • Fair points about your use of up-votes, Jon. Credit it to you too.

          • chiefofsinners

            Abuse has been perpetrated in the NHS and BBC by Jimmy Saville, by members of the houses of Commons and Lords, in schools and in children’s homes. Currently investigations are under way into members of the police, judiciary, armed forces and secret services. All these institutions have made the same mistake as the Church: they have acted to protect the organisation rather than the victims. All are now learning the lessons. If you stopped funding them all then society would collapse.

          • magnolia

            The C of E is categorically not filthy rich. It has obligations to pay its retired clergy pensions. These are not great sums. Are you suggesting clergy should not be paid pensions on their retirement? Parishioners via the parish share pay their incumbents effectively. They also pay the parking costs of clergy visiting hospitals, and working expenses, though most clergy absorb a lot of these. All the church commissioners can afford to pay is the retired, Bishops, and Archdeacons. Dioceses pay their diocesan officers. None of these is paid profligately, far from it, and especially so in terms of “professional” (classic meaning) recompense.

            In addition they own some churches which belong morally to the people, as many villages will make quite clear when there is a threat of their own church closing.

            Therefore you are extremely inaccurate and are just repeating and peddllng popular myths bandied about in certain atheistic circles which don’t go to the bother of putting any work into properly researching a subject. I think people who spend lots of time saying they don’t like myths should stop perpetuating them if they wish to be consistent.

          • “I think people who spend lots of time saying they don’t like myths should stop perpetuating them if they wish to be consistent.”

            Go girl ….

          • Jon Sorensen

            The C of E is filthy rich. Just their investement portfolio is £6.7 BILLION!!
            https://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/churchcommissioners/assets.aspx

            Government already gives them 10s of Millions and tax breaks on top of that.

            “The average return in 2014 was 27% driven primarily by capital growth, including realised gains on sales. The annualised return for the last ten years is 11.1%, compared with the IPD benchmark of 6.5%.”
            https://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/churchcommissioners/assets/property-investments.aspx
            Can you please calculate how much money they made JUST from their investments? The C of E is filthy rich!

            Their “obligations to pay its retired clergy pensions” is only just over £100M. Which is way less than they make from the investment funds.

            “In addition they own some churches which belong morally to the people, as many villages will make quite clear when there is a threat of their own church closing”
            Then give it to the people.

            “Therefore you are extremely inaccurate and are just repeating and peddllng popular myths bandied about in certain atheistic circles which don’t go to the bother of putting any work into properly researching”
            Nonsense. This is another Christian myth.

      • The Explorer

        There are videos from time to time of some struggling stately home or other. Heating the place is expensive; so some wings are closed off altogether. Maintaining the inhabited part is even more expensive.
        Is the owner rich? Yes in terms of assets; no in terms of disposable income. The way to get more disposable income would be to sell off the property and move somewhere smaller and cheaper. Good bye heritage. In this scenario, I see similarities with the Church of England.

        • Jon Sorensen

          You probably should downsize if you are spending more than earning. Anyone who wants to upkeep heritage churches should do it. We should force taxpayers to do that.

      • The Explorer

        It sounds like a description of the BBC.

    • Phil R

      It is not that they do not wish to pay

      The issue is that they feel that they are paying enough taxes already,

      And they would be right.

      • chiefofsinners

        Then let’s try to think what we could spend less of their money on.
        EU membership. The Barnett formula. Free school meals for families that can already afford them. Meddling in other people’s civil wars then trying to police the ensuing anarchy and solve the ensuing refugee crises.

        • Phil R

          This lot alone is probably more than £3000 per year for most families.

        • James60498 .

          Can’t disagree with any of that.

          Don’t suppose the Tories are up for it though.

    • Old Nick

      Of course that is precisely what happens in Germany

      • chiefofsinners

        They believe the future lies in combining Christianity and technology. Hence the slogan: Vorsprung Church Technik

  • Inspector General

    On the subject of racial concentrations, be it the English in the countryside or the muslims in the cities, here’s how the latter are doing it.

    When a property becomes available and notified by the usual channel, if it’s nearby a muslim area, muslims will be interested in it. However, one the property has an Islamic owner, should it need to be disposed of, it will never again be advertised. It will change hands within the muslim community. Simple and effective. That’s how it happens in Gloucester, as yours truly found when he moved here. The Islamic area thus grows, and grows. Lord knows how they conduct themselves in their community. No doubt using that black market law, Sharia.

    The alternative to what happens is integration, which is what our lying politicians said they would do. They didn’t choose that. Why should they…

    • Anton

      Because they came here originally not to take over but simply for a better standard of living than in Islamic lands. But then they saw the results of the 1960s socio-sexual revolution and vowed “not for our children” and lost any interest in integration. Who can blame them? Secularism will reap what it has sowed.

      • The Inspector General

        Anton, if you could provide any evidence that the alien immigrants were obliged to integrate in the first place, the Inspector would be most eager to see it. Until then, he will hold that it was US who had to do the fitting in to accommodate THEM! The crash helmet exemption for Sikhs being an early example thereof…

        • Anton

          They weren’t “obliged” to integrate as in those happy days of greater social consensus there were fewer creepy regulations. But I suggest that they were a lot more open to it. Plenty of non-Sikhs don’t want to wear crash helmets either; look at the USA.

          • The Inspector General

            The wearing of crash helmets on two wheeled motorised vehicles is mandatory in the UK. Sikhs excepted, that is.

          • Anton

            What’s your take on circumcision? I believe it should be legal but it is one of the very few biblical things for which I have not been able to find a corresponding secular argument (arguments which Catholics call “natural law”).

          • The Inspector General

            Like yourself, this man yearns for a time of much less regulation on our lives. One firmly believes that society is built of families who are largely independent of the state and produce independent offspring that way, and that family customs should be respected. This as opposed to FGM which is a cynical mutilation of the female child. It all comes down to what is above and what is below the line.

  • Mike Stallard

    In our village, a disastrous priest emptied the place. The new Vicar is not able to visit all of her four parishes. So now it just has a Bright Hour once a month – kiddies welcome! – and tiny little octogenarian congregations every so often, The Church School is full to bursting and they did have a harvest festival and will have a carol service.
    What is missing is that the village, which was once a unit, it now a collection of individual houses. Nobody knows anyone else and doesn’t really want to. People do not even acknowledge each other in the street any more.
    Suspicion has taken the place of neighbourliness.

    • Sam

      Don’t you decide via a vote as a member of the congregation who the local priest will be ?

      • CliveM

        Not in the CofE. The Bishop decides.

        • James Pitkin

          Well, the Church Council get a say – and cannot be overruled, usually.

          • CliveM

            Are there any parishes still decided by the local gentry?

          • Sam

            My brother David was going to buy a rural property but it came with chancel liability and being a “lay rector” .

          • CliveM

            You’ll need to explain?

          • Sam

            In English law (so we found out) if you buy a particular bit of land you are legally responsible for upkeeping the chancel and that bit of the local church.it goes back to the reformation or something when it was monastic land. There was a court case years ago which confirmed this law was still in effect. (The church council took a couple to court for repairs, for £100,000 ). I think they are changing it. The lay rector is the title you get for owning such land.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            In the vast majority of cases chancel liability is not an issue as you just insure against it.

            Where we are, the local ‘manor house’ estate (house now a hotel) was broken up in the 1880s and so each parcel of land from that sale has chancel liability. When we bought our house we took out a specialist insurance policy, it was something like £100 for a million pound of cover for 10 years.

          • chiefofsinners

            This sounds like an ideal solution to the problems of church upkeep. If offerings don’t cover it, tithes will have to.

          • Sam

            Dude

            The deal breaker for my brother was slightly different in that he didn’t feel he could agree to be upkeeping another’s faith building, even with insurance.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            Okay and I accept that this would be an issue for some people. However that is, IMO, quite a different point from the one that you previously made.

          • Sam

            I thought I was being factual, rather than making cheap shots.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            I think that the obvious meaning of “My brother David was going to buy a rural property but it came with chancel liability” is that it comes with unlimited financial liability, hence that is the matter that I addressed. As that unlimited liability could affect anyone I think that most people (who know what chancel liability is) would take it that way.

            I now understand that what you meant was that he did not want to spend any money to supporting a different faith’s building.

            I was not saying you were making cheap shots, just that those are, IMO, two very different matters.

          • ian

            recheck the legal position. if the right to claim wasn’t registered by the PCC and added to the property land register in 2013 then the liability passed

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            Clive, this
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chancel_repair_liability
            goes in to some detail on it.

            For parishes with a rector (not a vicar) in some cases the glebe lands were sold with historically the right to receive the tithes that those lands produced together with the responsibility to maintain the chancel but nothing else. With time the receipt of tithes disappeared but the chancel liability did not.

            Total liability goes with every part of the land, so if it is split into a thousand pieces each one of the new owners is liable for 100% of the cost.

            No PCC had claimed that for a long time, however, AFAIUI, there was no real doubt that it was still in force. It was modified in the 1930s and there were a couple of later attempts to change or remove it.

            All of this is from memory so some details may be off. The court case involved a couple who inherited a house and land that was most of that to which chancel liability attached, and they owned another house some way off, so they might not have had much ready cash but they were not impecunious.

            The PCC asked them (early 1990s) to pay something like £20,000 for chancel repairs and they refused point-blank, insisting they had no liability. The PCC issued a formal legal demand, the matter went to court all the way to the Law Lords and at no stage was anyone in any doubt that chancel liability applied to their land. Whilst this was tied up in court (a decade) the state of the chancel deteriorated and the cost of the repairs went up to well in excess of £100,000 and the couple racked up legal costs of £350,000.

          • Old Nick

            The patron decides, but with broad consultation. The patron may be the bishop or the (generally former) squire’s family, or Oxbridge colleges (who were given the monasteries’ patronage by Henry VIII of blessed memory) or the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral or some bunch of Trustees devoted to the promotion of one particular brand of churchmanship. The good thing about the system is that it prevents the Bishop remaking the diocese in his own image, as a top-down industrial corporation

      • Nick Walsh

        In most dioceses the PCC/Church Wardens decide – though the Bishop can influence who is put forward for them to interview

    • sarky

      Where do you live? Midsomer?

      • The Explorer

        People are right to be suspicious in Midsomer. Look at all the murders. The percentage must rival Detroit or Chicago.

        • Sam

          Dude

          My cousin has just given me a book I won in a raffle *(it’s better to just give the 50p and be done with it) called England’s thousand best churches by Simon Jenkins. Aside from the hilarious London centric snobbery Jenkins lets slip from time to time -Berkshire he says on page 15 “has more character than its status as a perpetual slip road to the M4” and that Warwickshire suffers from the “gash of the Birmingham conurbation(page 812)”- what struck was the jacket blurbs for the book about the churches as “nation monuments” and” historical treasurer”.

          That’s the problem . The village churches are seen as history and not as places of worship: something to put on the Christmas card. You could see if the national trust is willing to run them, but I suspect they’d go for the plums, such as cathedrals etc as they know the costs involved in maintaining grade I and II listed buildings, but they’d be unlikely to get revenue for visitors fees , excluding cathedrals or larger churches . The other way to fund them long-term would be to threaten to make them into mosques. I bet 109% of villagers would suddenly find the money then….

          *along with Jaws,Dune and Thatcher: the downing street years)

          • The Explorer

            Yes, the Muslims have a great track record when it comes to turning churches into mosques. St Sophia in Constantinople, St Nicolas in Nicosia, St Titus in Crete…

          • Sam

            I was being tongue in cheek there.

          • The Explorer

            Yes, but it happens. The Turks even put a minaret on the Acropolis. A Swedish artillery officer fired a cannon at it. Probably in revenge for having to learn Greek at school, with the minaret just as an excuse.

          • Sam

            Dude

            I’m aware of these issues, because Jews are in the front line, even in Britain our synagogues have become like fortresses, but even worse is the holiest site in Judaism , the Temple and last week the tomb of Joseph was burned down . The Palestinian leader Abbas said last week about Jews praying on the Temple mount:

            “Al-Aksa [the temple mount] is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They [Jews] have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem… We are in Jerusalem and we will stay in it to defend our Islamic and Christian holy sites. We’re not going to leave our country… Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it’s for the sake of Allah. Every shahid will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded, by Allah’s will.”

            But you see at least Palestine wants to protect Christian sites, but because they are Allah’s, not Jesus’s. Thankfully the c of e bishops have told Cameron strongly…. to accept 50,000 Syrians .

          • Old Nick

            Scotch artillery officer

          • The Explorer

            That would explain everything. I’ve also read that he was a German from Luneburg: his nationality seems to have been rather flexible. The one constant was that he was in the pay of the Venetians. (Which would also explain everything.)

          • CliveM

            A whiskey bottle as an artillery officer???????

          • Old Nick

            Nothing to do with whisky, merely a Scotchman (normal English word for a Caledonian – consult the Oxford English Dictionary as written by the Scotchman Sir Jas. Murray, before it was recently gerrymandered).

        • sarky

          Only if your white and Middle class!!

    • Phil R

      The thing is that you are still paying 1/4 of her stipend £6000

      Village Churches need to be reinvented with non ordained leaders in charge.

      Not readers. But people from the congregation who want to lead. You would also have £6000 to spend,,,,,,,

      Imagine!

      • scottspeig

        Best idea I’ve heard – They could even be supported by the mobile vicar (and spread over more churches)

        • Mike Stallard

          The CoE is now the Methodist Church – almost exactly!
          And look where that is at the moment!

          • Phil R

            The Methodists are where they are not because of laity involvement, rather an anything goes approach to scripture.

            Liberal Church = no congregation = no money

        • Phil R

          It does not even have to be a vicar…

          perhaps best if it is not in most cases

      • Anton

        Yes. The consequences of the heresy of ordination are coming home to roost.

      • Old Nick

        Where would you find the sacraments with the laity in charge. That matters to some Christians, and is one reason I now face a 40-mile return trip on Sundays

        • Phil R

          A member of the laity could be trained to administer this.

          Probably in less than a day.

          After all it is hardly rocket science!

          • Old Nick

            You cannot ‘train’ someone to have the charism of priesthood. And no, I do not agree with your reading of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

  • Sam

    Dudes

    When I was in an ecumenical mood I once went to a church service. Only an hour long (ours are roughly 3 to 4 hours) and the liturgy and readings were in English and not sung , but my observation is you need to sort out your Kiddush: it was just a cup of tea and a stale biscuit!

    Where’s the after service bible /dvar Torah discussion ? Where were the Dips, Fruit Peanuts, Baklava, Berekas, Cigarim, Popcorn cake , Bridge Rolls, Bagels, Sabich, Gefilte Fish, Schmaltz herring, Biscuits and of course the malt whiskey? The wine? The juice and soft drinks?

    • carl jacobs

      Gefilte Fish, Schmaltz herring

      Generally we want to keep people around awhile. We don’t want to kill them dead on the floor.

      • Sam

        *sigh* There’s no pleasing some people, sadly…..

      • Anton

        Are you confusing it with Japanese puffer fish?

    • chiefofsinners

      You were lucky to get the biscuit.

      • Sam

        Ah, but it wasn’t even a chocolate digestive….

        • CliveM

          You don’t get a biscuit at my church.

          Have to say a 3 to 4 hour service! Oh no, never.

          • chiefofsinners

            My heart always wilts when I’m invited to stay for a cup of tea and a biscuit. The implication being one biscuit and one biscuit only.

          • The Explorer

            When Derrida visited Oxford to expound deconstruction and the impossibility of a transcendental signifier, at the end of his lecture an undergraduate asked him, “Why don’t you just kill yourself?”

            Derrida responded by denouncing the paltry fifty minutes allowed for the lecture. “In France I would have sree (three) hours. Sree hours!”

            Listening to him for three hours I’d have killed MYSELF. But I’d have done for him first.

          • Anton

            At Cambridge in the 1980s Derider was awarded an honorary degree, but not before many angry dons (including myself) provoked a vigorous debate. The basis of postmodernism is the truth-claim that there is no such thing as a valid truth-claim…

          • chiefofsinners

            How can you be so sure?

          • Anton

            I’m not a postmodernist even if they are.

          • Old Nick

            Augustine dealt with that in the Contra Academicos: how could Cicero and his fellow-Sceptics be so certain of their uncertainty

          • Anton

            Hey that’s great – got a detailed reference?

          • Old Nick

            There is a clear translation by J.J. O’Meara, published by the Catholic University of America Press. I see that someone has put it onto the Internet at
            This was one of the books Augustine wrote immediately after his conversion.

          • Anton

            Thank you!

          • alternative_perspective

            Its common in China and Africa.

        • chiefofsinners

          It probably had been. Children tend to lick the chocolate off and put them back. To be honest, we all do sometimes.

          • Anton

            Doesn’t work with (appropriately) Jaffa Cakes.

          • chiefofsinners

            But good to know that you’ve tried.

          • Anton

            With that comment you have me licked.

          • chiefofsinners

            I refute that allegation…

    • Anton

      There are plenty of communal meals in homes or at the local carvery pub after services in most churches I’ve attended. But I must say I was impressed with the availability of (free) whisky after a synagogue service I once attended with a Jewish friend who believes in Jesus. It’s hard enough in some churches trying to get the coffee to be made shortly before the service ends – rather than before it starts, following which it sits stewing for 2 hours then tastes like instant coffee with a dash of hydrochloric acid.

  • len

    The church in many places has become the dead centre of town…
    I believe that in the largely prosperous West something pretty momentous will have to happen for people to start questioning the meaning of their existence.
    I also believe there are Christians positioned by God to be able to bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as preached by the Apostles when people start earnestly searching for spiritual truth.

    • Anton

      I deeply agree with you. We must expect persecution too.

  • ZX10

    Well Giles [progressive] Freezer is only doing what he believes needs to be done, it’s his religion and if no one can see that and let him run it then he’s going to break it one TFTD at a time !

  • Anton

    Calling Your Grace… because the government hasn’t the guts to specify *Islamic* extremism, peaceable evangelicals will be targeted for our difference of opinion with the government over such matters as gay marriage. Today Teresa May is specifying the promised new curbs. They include “closure orders for law enforcement and local authorities to close down premises used to support extremism”. As for what is meant, David Cameron has responded that “It’s no good simply talking about violent extremism. We need to confront all extremism” while Teresa May (“May Not” would be more apt) said non-violent extremism could not go “uncontested” as it led to “the erosion of women’s rights and the spread of intolerance and bigotry”. See:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34568574

    • sarky

      Oh well looks like the decision to shut churches has been taken out of your hands.

      • Anton

        The meaning of “church” in the New Testament is a set of people, not a building. I’d weep for England rather than for the Christian community in England if that starts to happen. Any State that is so heedless of liberties is going to circumscribe your preferred activities sooner or later.

        • Old Nick

          ‘Church’ is Greek ‘kyriakon’, and means ‘belonging to the Lord’, so could presumably qualify either noun

          • Anton

            Isn’t that modern Greek? The word for “church” in the original Greek of the New Testament is EKKLESIA.

          • Old Nick

            The etymological origin of the word ‘church’ is ‘kyrios’ (lord).

          • Anton

            Please check where EKKLESIA and KYRIAKON appear in he NT and how they are translated!

          • Old Nick

            I do not need a translation thank you. The English equivalent of ekklesia last time I looked in Liddell and Scott was ‘assembly’. “Kyriakos oikos” is used to denote the House of the Lord as early as the Passio of S. Pionius of Smyrna (Decian, if we are to believe L. Robert, Bowersock and Jones) and Athanasius.

          • Anton

            This is not primarily about translation but about usage in the New Testament and in later documents written in Greek. To my knowledge, every denomination translates, into English, EKKLESIA in the NT when it is applied to Christians as either “church” or “congregation”. It is an interpretive translation to be sure, but it is universal. (The same word EKKLESIA in the ancient Septuagint translation of the OT from Hebrew into Greek, typically referring to a gathering of Israelites, is often rendered “assembly”.)

            In contrast, KYRIAKON appears only once in the NT (1 Cor 11:20 re Holy Communion) and is never translated there as “church” (or congregation). Of course many other similar words appear because of the KYRIOS root. See

            http://biblehub.com/greek/kuriakon_2960.htm

            If you are saying that KYRIAKON came to mean “church building” in the post-apostolic era after the canon was closed then there is no disagreement between us and I am glad to have participated in clarifying the matter.

          • Pubcrawler

            Ah, good old metonymy and the importance of not confusing signifier with signified. What fun!

  • len

    No wonder the churches are closed they have ceased to be’ salt’ and’ light’ and have allowed themselves to become irrelevant to much of todays society.

    It seems to me that in our divided and broken society that more and more laws are going to have to be implemented to keep the lid on’ the pressure cooker’ that the inequalities in our society have produced.

    I think part of Jeremy Corbyn`s success (so far) is due to the fact that he is promising to restore some sort of fairness to politics. (Quite a radical idea)

    We have had ‘Political Correctness’ as a means of trying to control society and to point society in the direction our masters want to take us. This has led to the loss of free speech for anyone who has opinions that differ from those who desire to control us.

    The latest thing to chip away at freedom of speech will be the accusation of ‘hate speech’ which also will be any form of speech which is contrary to the official government line…
    As George Orwell said (might have been speaking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ) ‘telling the Truth in times of Universal deceit is a revolutionary act’.

    • Dreadnaught

      the fact that he is promising to restore some sort of fairness to politics. (Quite a radical idea)

      This is absolutely dumb Len. What Corbyn comes out with is less to do with being a government in waiting or an effectively viable alternative in British political history and even less to do with achieving ‘fairness’ on politics. It’s the Miss World level of stated ambition, to help the world and save the poor donkeys nonsense that would be hilarious if not for the fact its coming from the leader of HMG in Opposition in the Mother of Parliaments.
      The guy would be better off getting dressed for his annual appearance at Hamleys dressed as Santa Clause for all the fairness his brand of largess would inflict on a defenseless nation – and you have fallen for it big time.

      • CliveM

        Said it before, he’s so out of touch he’d be better off being a living exhibit at Beamish in the NE.

        • Dreadnaught

          I don’t agree Clive, Beamish deals with the reality of the past not the fantasy of the future.

      • len

        Not saying I agree with Corbyns politics but remarking on the undeniable amount of support he has generated….

        • Dreadnaught

          So much ‘support’ from a generation of ex-schoolies and ne’r-do-wells in fact, who have never tasted genuine austerity or known real poverty and that has all but condemned the once honourable, Methodist shaped working-persons Party to obscurity.

  • Old Nick

    A rural group I know has nine churches, which each muster a much higher proportion of the local population on a Sunday than you would find in Dr. Fraser’s part of the world. The churchmanship is Low and dignified. A new parson was appointed fresh from a curacy at a ‘praise band’ Evangelical church in the county town, and he did not like going around small congregations (what is more he did not like going round village fêtes, where he could have made real human contact with rather a high proportion of his flock, but that is another story). He decided that there would be a weekly mid-morning service of the sort he appreciated every Sunday of the year in one of the (hideous) village halls and that he would occasionally visit the village churches as needed – right in line with Dr. Fraser’s views. He then published a series of articles in the parish magazine which goes free to every house that wants it in the nine villages, telling people that unless they adopted his practices and way of thinking they should not bother coming to church at Christmas . He has (natch) left, and the parish magazine is now full of articles from the Calvinist NSM, who has been around for 30 years or so, implying that we are all very wicked for driving him out. It is good to know from this piece that there are clergy in the countryside like the author of this article who understand how the countryside works and are willing the traditional and highly successful witness of the Church of England in villages.

  • Mark – Street Pastor

    As a non-Anglican, who worships in a city church, can someone please tell me about the demographics of the small village church congregations? Are their members predominantly over or under 40, and how many young families do they find amongst them regularly? If the answers are ‘over 40’ and ‘not many’ then perhaps the church is in care and maintenance during its inevitable decline towards extinction? Just a thought.

    • magnolia

      But why would the presence of the over 40s mean “inevitable decline”, when they might have another 60 years of life left in them? And that including 20-40, even 50 and occasionally 60 years of active and engaged life? Who told you to write off people over 40? Who told you that churches with many over 40 were on an “inevitable decline towards extinction”. Maybe you should ask for your time and money back, as it certainly wasn’t Jesus.

      What would you say that was constructive to an eighty year old widow, for example, who now fears that she might have little societal use, and that the church might not want her presence as it might not be the image they wanted to put out? That is not a thinly veiled self-description, but a challenge to your assumptions which appear to have a sliding scale of who the church, as representing God, most values. Is the widow’s mite to be derided? Jesus appears not to have thought so.

      • magnolia

        You would need to know the median age of any particular village to know whether a church was dying or not from taking the age profile. If the median age is 55 your “over 40” would mean little, as the church with many under 4os would be demographically unrepresentative. Also as half go to university nowadays, and many of their parents are in their 40s or 50s it would depend on term or vacation time, and furthermore you then have to consider whether a village has a turnover of people coming and going; some are much more stable than others. Also some have a large number of second homes, families with children who may weekend there. In terms of keeping village churches alive actually these people are a decidedly mixed blessing.

        Many village churches attempt to serve the people in a variety of styles, and reach young and old, and often families, so young and old together, across three or even four generations. Old and young can and do worship alongside each other, as they ideally should!