rural church decline
Church of England

The last chance to save our rural churches

 

There was a popular modern worship song that did the rounds a few years ago entitled ‘God of this City’. The chorus went:

For greater things have yet to come 
And greater things are still to be done in this City 
Greater thing have yet to come 
And greater things are still to be done in this City

It was never going to win any awards for its lyrics but it did seem to capture a moment of hope that resonated in some churches on both sides of the Atlantic. Worship that cries out our longings for God to move in power so often stirs my heart and spirit, but this song just turned me off and it was down to one thing. If I’m not living in a city, and I personally haven’t for a good while, I can’t sing these words with conviction. It’s fine for all those who are, but for the rest of us it all just sounds a bit too exclusive. Sure, I’m desperate to see God working in our cities, but also in our towns and villages too.

In the same way that we often complain that our politicians can’t see beyond the Westminster bubble, I sometimes get the impression that many high-profile church leaders have forgotten that beyond our suburbs, in the rural wilds, lie 65% of all Church of England churches and almost half of its members. We know that these churches are out there, but there’s little attention paid to them, especially when most of the exciting initiatives and events are going on in our big cities.

This is something that has bugged me, having grown up living in a village rectory in the West Country where there were plenty of sheep and cows but not so many people. The idea of attending a church that was actually warm and had a toilet was quite a novelty. Having finally escaped when I went to university, I was able to experience the other end of the spectrum too: large, vibrant churches bristling with people and resourced up to their eyeballs. These city churches have so much potential. They have the ability to reach thousands of people of all ages and from many different backgrounds, and when they get it right their ministries can potentially achieve great things on a large scale.

In contrast, a village church potentially only has a few hundred people on its doorstep. Most of its income will be used to pay for the minister (whom they will probably have to share with at least three other parishes) or preventing the roof from falling in. If a city church closes through lack of attendance, it’s not that difficult to find another a few streets away, even if it’s not the same denomination. In a village, if the church closes, a major focal point of the community is lost and quite often there will be no alternative unless you’re willing to jump into a car and regularly drive a fair distance to the next village or nearest town.

When he became Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby announced that his three key priorities would be prayer, reconciliation and evangelism. Since then it’s been heartening to see the Church of England beginning to focus on mission and church growth more seriously, having been largely in denial over the need to reverse its decline for so long. And so today’s meeting of the General Synod turns its attention to rural churches and will begin with a candid discussion about their future.

It’s very kind of everyone to have noticed that people might need to hear the gospel in a village as much as in the more vibrant parts of our country. With the majority of Methodist chapel doors now firmly closed, it’s pretty much only been the Church of England which has bothered with these non-urban communities. How many Pentecostal, New Frontiers or other denominations do we see laying down roots away from the bright city lights? Even the successful church planters such as HTB would rather establish a new congregation thousands of miles away in a different country than take a look at small towns outside of the M25. No one’s pretending this is glamorous stuff, but is God not interested in anywhere that doesn’t have a Costa or a Starbucks?

Perhaps village churches just aren’t worth the effort. This week the Synod was informed by John Spence, chairman of the Church’s finance committee:

We know that we have large numbers of parishes now with very small electoral rolls and with nobody on them below the age of 70. We know from what at least two diocesan bishops have said that in less than 10 years we will see a threat to the presence of church in communities across rural England.

Today’s discussion will centre around a new report,  Released for Mission, Growing the Rural Church, which presents a bleak picture. Rural clergy are spread so thinly between their parishes that they have little time to focus on anything other than the logistics of keeping their churches going. To compound matters, few have received any training on how to carry out such a role. It is only because of a heavy reliance on unpaid and retired clergy that the parish system has avoided disintegration already. Some congregations are decidedly reluctant to use anything but the Book of Common Prayer and show a lack of openness to any form of change. Children attending church are something of a rarity, and also many church buildings have become a huge drain on resources. In only a small number of parishes is there much happening that could be identified as outreach or mission, beyond regular Sunday worship.

It’s pretty obvious to anyone who has paid attention to these matters that many of these churches, to put it bluntly, are doomed. Any congregation that is aging and isn’t going out of its way to bring in new blood has no hope. Many will indeed be extinct in a decade.

The frustrating and saddening thing is that 30 years ago, as a child, I could see this happening. The rot had set in and it has continued to spread while those at the top have done little more than try to patch it up and leave it to someone else further down the line to deal with.

The Church of England’s website strap-line is to be “a Christian presence in every community”, but this ideal of being a church for everyone, seeking to offer worship, pastoral care and prophetic witness in every place, is hanging by a thread that is rapidly fraying. It is frankly unsustainable even with a massive injection of attention and resources. Only a genuine miracle will prevent the inevitable.

It shouldn’t have come to this, but here we are nonetheless. Desperate times call for, if not desperate measures, then certainly prompt action. If the CofE looks to implement strategies to remain present throughout England at the glacial speed it usually goes about its business, then by the time plans are in place it will be too late.

Justin Welby revisited his three key aims at Synod on Tuesday, reminding the Church of its duty to call Christians “to be those who worship and adore God in Christ, overflowing with the good news that we’ve received, making Christ known to all so that the good news is proclaimed effectively throughout the church”, and that the Church must work to encourage believers. “That change will not just happen,” he warned. “We can’t just hope for something magical to occur.”

This is hardly rocket science, but if churches are not willing to follow Jesus’ teaching, taking His good news into their communities and discipling those who respond, then there is little point expending energy looking to prop them up. There are, however, many rural churches that are doing wonderful things: running groups for the community; children’s work; seeker courses such as Alpha, and a new ‘Fresh Expression’ form of church. These churches do need support, and lots of it. Vicars need management-training to develop skills to manage multiple parishes effectively. Lay people need be enabled to take on leadership responsibility without restrictive rules hindering their participation. An injection of resources for some churches will be needed, especially when they do not have the numbers to fully fund projects and community initiatives. Church bureaucracy needs simplifying to reduce the burdens placed on clergy to free up time for missional activities (this process has already begun through Bishop Pete Broadbent’s Simplification Task Group). Opportunities for members of different churches to meet together to experience worship, discipleship and spiritual feeding need to increase through initiatives such as the Filling Stations that are spreading around the country.

The Church of England’s desire to be “a Christian presence in every community”, will require new approaches where congregations are on their last legs. Upkeep of buildings will be a major factor, and the concept of  ‘festival churches‘ proposed by Anna Norman-Walker, Canon Chancellor of Exeter Cathedral, offers a beneficial solution. These churches would have their upkeep paid for by the local community and in return the Church of England would guarantee a set number of services each year at festival times, including Christmas and Easter when congregations have traditionally swelled.

The situation is grim, but all is not lost. Many rural churches are still at the centre of their communities. Congregations may be small, but, proportionally, they will have a far higher percentage of locals attending than most city churches manage to draw. There is still plenty of goodwill towards these churches, even by those who never attend.

Radical action, prayer and thinking are urgently needed to rescue our rural churches. It will be challenging and require the biblical calling of churches and their members to override tradition. It will not be easy, but there really is no alternative, otherwise ‘God of this City’ might turn out to have had a prophetic element. That would be a profound and irreversible tragedy.

  • The Explorer

    Bare ruined choirs
    Where late the sweet birds sang.

  • First of all, it is possible for a rural church to have a thriving congregation and to support its own minister. Check this one out. They don’t come much more rural than this:

    http://www.newhouse-baptist.org.uk/

    The key here is that the Gospel is faithfully preached week by week by a faithful preacher.
    However, we must all accept that this is the exception not the rule. It’s fair to say that non-conformist groups like the FIEC are looking to plant new city churches, but only hope, at the best, to maintain rural ones. This needs to change.
    I have a few comments to make as an outsider on rural Anglican churches. The vicar of the church in my village is a dear lady and I’m sure she is very good at personal pastoral work. However, leaving aside her gender, I don’t think she knows what the Gospel is, so she is never likely to convert anybody. She also has six or seven other churches to look after, all of which seem to want to celebrate the Lord’s Super at every service. This means that every Lord’s day, she is charging from one church to another and even if she was the greatest preacher in the world, she is limited to about 5-10 minutes for a sermon, so that she can rush through communion and be off to the next church. This is hopeless and is the reason that her congregations are jumping into their cars and driving to the big evangelical Anglican church in Exeter where things are done properly and the Gospel is preached.
    .
    What needs to happen is that the C of E needs to train up some a load more lay preachers and empower them to give communion. Then each village church can have a proper service and (if the training is right) hear the Gospel. If the C of E cannot provide part-time training, then the various Gospel Partnerships around the country can. Look them up on the Internet.
    .
    Maybe this is already happening. But if it is, it needs to happen more. The one piece of good news is that more and more Anglican trainee ministers are evangelical. I praise God for the work of Oak Hill seminary where trainees are given a sound Gospel education.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Even back when I lived in Exeter many truly faithful to the Gospel would come in from the outback and join us at St Leonards.And it just gets worse when a minister shouldn’t be a minister because they don’t know the gospel and think their task is to fulfil ritual.

      I did hear of one congregation that bought a bus, and each week, though the service was in a different church, they only needed one as they bussed the people from other congregations to the one where it was to be held. heirarchy happy as buildings kept open, people happy as decent and dignified service each week, clergy given a chance to do something decent and dignified.

      • I do thank God for St. Leonard’s Church. It is one of only 2 or 3 real Gospel churches in Exeter. But it is part of what I call the ‘Tescoization’ of the Church; the big churches are getting bigger, with better ‘worship’ groups, creches, children’s work, while the small churches are just stripped out.
        The problem is that it’s impossible to blame the folk who go to St. Len’s because the smaller churches which they have left don’t do the one thing necessary- preach the Gospel.

        • Dominic Stockford

          Almost 100% accurate. 99.6% maybe!

          The teeny midge in the ointment is the tendency of some people to leave faithful small churches because they are small. More noticeable in cities ironically, but it does happen in the countryside too.

        • Anton

          Tescoization is happening for the same reason the much-maligned Dr Beeching closed many railway branch lines and more people support a premier league club: in our affluent society almost everybody can afford to run a car. Let us give thanks that more people have access thereby to services (pun intended) of higher standards. In the church context, provided that people make real friends in their homegroups so that the megachurch thing is not impersonal, it means an improvement there too.

    • Phil R

      Martin. Oak hill is fantastic.

      That is why many on the CofE would close it tomorrow if they could.

      Instead they starve it of funds and it relies on private Christian doners

  • Johnny Rottenborough

    The outlook for the C of E would be somewhat brighter if it had a leader who wanted England to be Christian. Welby prefers diversity and would not want to live in a ‘monocultural’ country. Given the option of a Christian England or a multiplicity of religions, he chooses the latter, thereby throwing in the towel and conceding victory to Islam.

    By the way, note how, to Welby, a stone through a mosque window is an ‘evil’ act on a par with the murder of Lee Rigby. Words fail me.

    • Anton

      What did he say, please?

      • Johnny Rottenborough

        @ Anton—Links aren’t showing up very well. Hover over ‘Welby prefers diversity’.

        • dannybhoy

          Couldn’t find your quote. Haven’t you got another link?

          • Johnny Rottenborough

            @ dannybhoy—The link works OK for me. Here’s the URL:

            http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5112/diversity-is-a-gift-says-archbishop-justin-during-visit-to-southall

            If that doesn’t work, I can post the article.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Read it, not shocked by what I read, which is shocking! terribly saddened though.

          • Anton

            It’s easy to condemn Justin Welby but the real problem is the existence of an Established church in a multicultural society over which there is a secular umbrella. Far tougher on the conscience for faithful clergy who have to bury atheists using Christian rites because their relatives want it. Some want to turn the clock back, others wonder whether Establishment was ever OK given that politics is about law and the gospel is about grace.

          • Dominic Stockford

            I’m not condemning him entirely or solely. He is a product of a system, and hasn’t seen the evil inherent in the system.

            As for funerals, I don’t mind burying atheists using a Christian service – as long as no-one objects to the changes I insert into the wording, making it clear they weren’t Christian, and that they haven’t more than ( as we can never be 100% sure about these things) ‘hope’ of eternal life – with no sure and certain about it. And they never do.

            What I mind is having to fight unbelieving families who want a parody of a funeral service for someone I know to have been a good and true Christian (as far as one can know such a thing). It angers me when they threaten to go to another minister, even by implication, because you fight for a member of your own congregation to be buried as they asked.

          • sarky

            Your on dodgy ground there. After all the funeral is for the family. If they were a christian their funeral will not alter their final destination will it?

          • carl jacobs

            Sarky

            A Christian funeral is not a purchased service intended to help the living cope with death. It’s purpose is not to make survivors feel better. It’s purpose is to confront people with truths surrounding man’s mortality – for better or worse. You don’t change truth to protect a man’s feelings. There are plenty if places to get salve for the wound if that’s all you want.

          • sarky

            Explains why humanist funerals are more and more popular. Went to one recently and it was a real celebration of the persons life, came out feeling better, salve for the wound if you will.
            funerals are already depressing without feeling worse coming out than when you went in!

          • The Explorer

            With Mrs Thatcher we were treated to impromptu funerals that were celebrations of the person’s death. Wonder how much of that is at the back of minds in a materialist (and materialistic) world.

          • carl jacobs

            it was a real celebration of the persons life

            Then truly you have received your reward. But not every funeral allows for that possibility.

            What, for example, would you say about Dave? He was 36 years old and apparently in excellent health. He came upstairs from the basement at 9:00 pm one evening because he couldn’t catch his breath. He died of a pulmonary embolism in an ambulance outside his home not twenty minutes later. He left a wife and two children under seven. Would you say his funeral was “a real celebration of a person’s life?”

            Or perhaps we should consider Pam. She died of breast cancer at the age of 42, thereabouts. Her husband was a teacher and a part-time pastor at a little church. All five of her children aged 20 to 5 sat at the front of the church before their mother’s casket and watched their father preach her funeral sermon. The youngest won’t even remember her. Do you suppose you would have came out of that funeral felling better than when you came in? What words could you have spoken to that little boy?

            And then there is Gina. She was 9 months pregnant minus two days. The baby stopped moving, so she got concerned and went to the doctor. She was told the baby was dead. She would have to give birth to the corpse. I will never forget the sight of that little white coffin. They held him once. They had a sketch made of him so they could remember what he looked like. That was the sum total of their interaction. How do you celebrate the life of a person who has not even lived?

            These are all true stories of real people – real funerals that I have personally attended in last fifteen or so years. There isn’t any celebration in this kind of funeral. There is no fond remembrance of three score and ten well lived. There is just pain and heartbreak and unfulfilled expectations, and that sudden final absence that comes from a relationship permanently severed. Well before the time they thought it would happen. There is nothing but sorrow and loss.

            So what would your empty sterile meaningless secular funeral have to say to David’s family, or Pam’s family, or Gina? Bad luck? It must hurt? Life goes on? But that isn’t the question they want answered. The question they want answered is the question “Why?” And to that question, you have no reply at all. Just an awkward silence.

          • sarky

            Mine was for my friends wife who died at just 40 from breast cancer. The funeral was anything but empty, sterile and meaningless. Friends got up and spoke about their favourite memories, her favourite music was played and like I said we celebrated her life. The question of why wasnt even raised.
            So how do they answer ‘why’ at a christian funeral? god is so loving that he allows shit stuff to happen to good people? Its all part of gods plan? Eve ate an apple, so bad stuff happens? Really comforting and I know which I prefer.

          • carl jacobs

            Sarky

            I didn’t ask you about that funeral. I asked how you would address three deaths that inflicted great trauma on the survivors. I want to know how you would comfort those who cannot be comforted. Favorite memories and favorite music won’t mean much to a woman who just lost an infant.

            The funeral was anything but empty, sterile and meaningless

            If you begin with a meaningless life, then you proceed directly to a meaningless death. When circumstances get hard, then the words about memories become empty and sterile. There is no palliative for the pain in meaninglessness.

            So how do they answer ‘why’ at a christian funeral?

            Your question is founded on so many anthropomorphisms. You really don’t understand God at all. He is not a giant chess player who acts and reacts in real time. He determines the end from the beginning. Everything that happens unfolds according to His decree in order to effect the outcome He has ordained. There are no random molecules on the universe.

            God owes us nothing. He is not an ATM machine responsible to make us perpetually happy and satisfied by perpetually granting our desires. His purpose is to conform us to the image of His Son. Everything that happens – without exception – will work toward that overriding goal. What man intends for evil, God intends for good. What appears to man as evil will ultimately work towards God’s good decree, and we will all of us glorify Him for it.

            The answer to the question “Why?” is that “God is sovereign.” We don’t necessarily know specifics. But we don’t need to know specifics if we know God. A child dies not know how to get home from a distant place. But a child knows his father and trusts in him when he cannot understand himself. So also we trust in God.

            You might know why. You might learn why in the future. You might never know why. It doesn’t matter. You fix your eyes firmly on God, and you follow Him – no matter where He might lead. Why? Because you know that God is good, and that His ultimate intention for you is good. And in that, you can rest.

          • sarky

            Sorry carl but that is just alot of religious nonsense. Alot of words to say nothing.
            Think I’ll just stick with ‘shit happens’, makes alot more sense.

          • carl jacobs

            Sarky

            Then cross your fingers, trust to whatever you think luck is, hope nothing bad happens, and wait to die. I don’t envy people who imagine they can go face to face with despair. But this is why I say that atheism is a luxury of the rich. Money gives you half a hope that you can run the gauntlet without harm. I would say “God help you if you lose your bet.” But you have no God to help. So you will just fall.

          • sarky

            Wait to die? I intend to live every minute of my one life.

          • carl jacobs

            If only our intentions could reliably govern the course of our lives. If you can’t give an answer to them, you won’t be able to give an answer to yourself when the need arises. And you won’t find “Shit happens” to be an acceptable answer when it’s you who is asking the question.

          • The Explorer

            No, but depending on its nature it could affect the destination of some of those attending.

          • Anton

            I hadn’t heard that problem, only the opposite! What sort of stuff have you vetoed?

          • Dominic Stockford

            Inappropriate worldly songs, such as ‘My Way’. Emotive and irrelevant poetry. Ecumenical prayers that either say nothing, or are contrary to Biblical doctrine. And I have insisted on wearing robes for those who clearly wanted that.

            I have even been told that I was ‘not to preach for more than 5 minutes’ – red rag to a bull, that one. They got 15, in a crematorium with time limits on overall service length! (it always pays to be on good terms with the people who work in such places, when you need leeway they then give it).

          • Anton

            Well done. Especially about “My Way”, which is deeply humanist. There’s a David Pawson talk that mentions Cliff Richard singing it in worship as “His Way” (meaning Jesus’ Way) and getting a rocket from the copyright holders.

          • sarky

            I find that really disrespectful. Why would you ignore the wishes of a grieving family and give them ‘the dominic show’? Surely their wishes are more important than your ego?

          • Dominic Stockford

            I am a Protestant minister, they get the God show from me, or if they don’t respect their deceased family member’s wishes, they can find someone else.

          • dannybhoy

            But Anton, in our own country,
            the country many of these folk have chosen to come and live in to escape, persecution or starvation or lack of opportunity
            the ArchBishop should feel free to condemn the hacking to death of a serving soldier of Her Majesty’s armed forces.
            He shouldn’t have to slip it in with breaking mosque windows!

            He should be able to ask his Muslim friends to come out and condemn the actions of those Muslims who seek to terrorise the people living alongside them, or to condemn those who eschew our laws or mock our system..
            We all condemn extremist, and that is why extremism has never gotten a hold in our own country; we don’t like it and clearly we have always rejected it.

          • Anton

            I still think, Danny, that the leader of an Established church in a multicultural society is in an impossible position; one that God never intended. The only issue this raises for me is that of Establishment. Obviously I agree with what you say about the first generation of Muslims coming through our open here for a better life rather than to make England like Pakistan, but I regard that as a distinct issue.

          • dannybhoy

            Yes I do agree it must be very difficult but to adapt len’s sentence below..
            “Christianity in the desire to be relevant (and inoffensive) to’ this modern (multicultural/multifaith) age’ is allowing the world (State) to dictate what is’ in’ and what is’ out’.

          • The Explorer

            Islam in a multicultural society is also in an impossible position. A Muslim consulting the Qur’an won’t find much in the way of advice about multicultural egalitarian co-existence. To be true to itself, Islam can have only one long-term solution.

            Likewise, an established church in a multicultural (multifaith by implication) society seems to me a contradiction in terms. One or the other has to go.

          • dannybhoy

            From Johnny’s link..

            “Archbishop Justin told his audience that diversity was a “gift not a threat” and he did not want to live in a “monocultural” society. He said he “rejoiced” in the example of inter faith co-operation and community work he had witnessed in Southall.”

            “He added: “I want, as I have already done, to acknowledge the pressure that our Muslim friends and colleagues have faced over the last few weeks. There have been terrible attacks, I know that the vast majority of those in this country and especially people of faith would join me in condemning utterly any act of violence against anyone because of their
            faith.”

            Anyone have a problem with this, ‘cos I do.

    • Anna055

      I’m upset by this because I don’t believe that is what Justin Welby is saying. Welcoming divesity of culture isn’t the same as saying you would rather people didn’t come to know Jesus. The speech is more like Paul paying compliments to his hearers in Athens. His past reconciliation work has shown him that people will never listen to what you have to say unless they feel that you genuinely appreciate things about them.

      • Johnny Rottenborough

        @ Anna055—The kindest explanation I can come up with is that Welby speaks in tongues with Christians and speaks with forked tongue to Hindus and Muslims. I don’t mind him lying to Hindus and Muslims but if he’s lying to Christians, if he really does shudder at the thought of a Christian England, God help him.

        • Anna055

          All I can say is that although there are times when I might prefer him to take a different approach (though often I think he gets things pretty much right), I haven’t seen anything that makes me think he is duplicitous or that he doesn’t have a genuine concern for evangelism.

  • Anton

    For most of the 1990s I was in a rural Anglican village church. Gillan has written this article as if the hierarchy is letting down the faithful, but it isn’t quite that simple. The church in that village IS its congregation, for vicars came and went. And, once I got onto the PCC, it became clear what the trouble was. The PCC comprised ten elderly ladies with good hearts but no idea of leadership, and two men of virulently liberal theology. (“Virulently liberal” is not, I assure you, a contradiction in terms.) At meetings I was regularly the only one to suggest seeing what the Bible had to say about issues that came up. I proposed running an Alpha course but was told that it wasn’t right for rural parishes. I rang Alpha HQ and was told that it had worked fine in many rural churches, and that in one the average age of the congregation had begun at 80 and been going down by about ten years each time they ran one. (No, this wasn’t due to the shock of the course killing the elderly.) It only needed a vicar who was on for it but that never happened and I eventually bailed out for a nearby baptist congregation. I had been told by the liberals that I’d feel more at home there, but I suspected they were saying this in the hope of getting rid of me, and I heard no clear call from God to quit at that time. Unless something happened then the congregation was obviously going to die out within a generation. I asked what their plan was but answer came there none… and so I went. I regard this story as a tragedy.

    • dannybhoy

      I can identify with your experience Anton. I know some think I am overly critical of the CofE, but part of the reason I refer to Christians and Churchians is because this is my experience.
      Some Churchians are on a crusade to keep alive a kind of exclusive club; a clubhouse if you will.
      The club has rules and rituals, is open to the ‘right kind of people’ and scorns those who still believe in the truth of Christianity. As a consequence money matters have now replaced spiritual matters on the agenda at synods.

      ” 4But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5Remember
      therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did
      at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its
      place, unless you repent.”

      Revelation 2:>

      • Dominic Stockford

        Purposeful and relevant quote – the one that was in my mind.

      • magnolia

        Ah, money matters and spiritual matters. I guess this is why Westminster Abbey didn’t seemingly jib at flying the flag at half mast for the ex-King of Saudi Arabia, despite what happens to Christians if they so much as attempt to gather at someone’s home to pray in the name of Christ.

        Their excuse was that it wouldn’t make any difference to the plight of Christians in Saudi Arabia. But I think knowing that a church anywhere would do that whilst they suffer for their faith would grieve them deeply, and that makes a difference.

        You are of course right. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Have we not sung it enough times? So why is it not ingrained into us, me included? Perhaps every synod should sing that before doing business? Every PCC? As if we put money first we are no different from the world, and in the thrall of Mammon, whether Westminster Abbey, or Synod, or the little village church PCC, and we might as well stay at home , watch “The Wolf of Wall Street” and cheer as reportedly some of the Wall Street people did at all the greediest most hedonistic “successful” bits.

        • dannybhoy

          “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Have we not sung it enough times? So why is it not ingrained into us, me included? Perhaps every synod should sing that before doing business?

          Wouldn’t that be a wonderful innovation!
          To come before our Lord in worship and remind ourselves just who it is that we are serving…

    • Phil R

      You cannot teach old dogs new tricks

      that does not mean that you shouldn’t love the old dogs

      i had the same experience. But i am still there. ..just

  • magnolia

    Well one key in many rural parishes seems to be to run a variety of service styles which appeal to different types of people. Hard to do when the Vicar or Rector has to make their way between various different churches on a Sunday.

    I really don’t think the parish communion movement helped at all for those more that ilk, as you then have a group of insiders who must have a eucharist, which can only be taken by the incumbent, or retired, or rarely, assistant clergy, which is simply not helpful to the lesser churched who feel their outsider status forcibly whilst still seekers, and makes the task of the incumbent close to impossible.

    Trying to combine the church with the post office is a disastrous policy on top of this, and I have been to churches where they were like coffee shops cum post offices with an altar looking a bit lost at the end, and a feeling of abundant gossip taking place. No longer a place of prayer.

    The public love the idea of the rural church. Think how popular Miss Marple bicycling around St Mary Mead is in the popular imagination. I feel this has never been entirely harnessed.

    • sarky

      Exactly, they love the idea.

    • dannybhoy

      “I really don’t think the parish communion movement helped at all for
      those more that ilk, as you then have a group of insiders who must have a
      eucharist, which can only be taken by the incumbent, or retired, or
      rarely, assistant clergy, which is simply not helpful to the lesser
      churched who feel their outsider status forcibly whilst still seekers,
      and makes the task of the incumbent close to impossible.”

      You don’t live near me do you?!

      • magnolia

        Doubt it!!

        The situation is ubiquitous! Once knew a Rector with no fewer than 12 rural churches to look after. It is clearly an absurd and unworkable situation, and a drastic rethink of ministry is necessary. Maybe some people should be ordained solely for small village ministry, and have fewer years training, and a part time job. Maybe there should be less of an emphasis on producing your own original material each Sunday and a greater encouragement of borrowing, pasting and sticking good material that people find useful. Would it be awful if the sermon was a good youtube video on the subject of the readings? I don’t think so at all. We need to be a little contemporary. We need to know people are online a lot and help them sort the wheat and the chaff as otherwise they can get blown away on total heresy

        And we have all sat through idiosyncratic peculiar and dusty sermons that were more individualistic than being useful and focused on people’s lives, questions and needs..

        • dannybhoy

          I like your ideas Magnolia. I think we need to broaden our horizons and employ the laity (don’t like that term anyway) far more in the spiritual life of the church.

          • magnolia

            Tick up to say thanks!! Yes we need to broaden our horizons and all throw ideas into the community pot.

            There is every shade of opinion on the internet and more than ever people need equipping with the ability to discern cults and heresies and recurring dodgy ideas e.g gnosticism, or they can get seriously misled. I think the focus on pluralism seriously inhibits this.

    • Uncle Brian

      Magnolia, I’m not sure I’ve fully grasped your point about the Eucharist and the “lesser churched”. Do you mean they feel excluded because they’re being reminded that they’re not full members of the club? If that’s what it is, then surely the solution is in their own hands, isn’t it?

    • Coniston

      The move to the Eucharist as the main Sunday service was a good idea (the early Christians met for the breaking of bread). But it has its downside. If the main service is the Eucharist, then those who are on the periphery of the church – and there are many such these days – can feel that it is only for ‘insiders’.

      • sarky

        Are you talking about Communion? Used to call it ‘smug club’ when I was a kid.

        • Coniston

          The Communion, Eucharist, Mass, Lord’s Supper, Breaking of Bread, was what Jesus commanded his disciples to do, and what the early Christians met to do on the first day of the week. If the early Christian house groups were Greek speaking (as nearly all were), they would have called it the Thanksgiving – Eucharist in Greek.

          • Don Benson

            Jesus actually commanded his disciples henceforth to observe a particular part of the Passover in remembrance of Him. Passover was a yearly event, not every Sabbath. A specific command for frequency of this enormously important remembrance was never given.

        • The Explorer

          When people are called smug, there are two possible reasons.
          1. They are.
          2. They aren’t, but those accusing them have a resentful feeling that they are missing out on something.

      • dannybhoy

        Also true.
        The minister has to find ways to bring in the personal from the congregation whether it be answers to prayers or testimonies, even choosing a chorus.
        It lifts people it focusses people’s eyes on ‘the Presence’ rather than the ritual..

        • Coniston

          Yes, but ‘the ritual’, provided it is always a means to the end and never an end in itself, can enhance understanding of ‘the Presence’. Many fail to understand this.

          • dannybhoy

            I accept the premise, but perhaps because of my free church background, ritual and church music leaves me cold.
            I just don’t get it and I don’t see where it comes from.
            Perhaps because I don’t accept the concept of the priest anyway, nor the idea of laity.
            “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s
            special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called
            you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
            1st Letter of Peter 2:9

      • Anton

        Thi is peraps a problem of the fact that the early church was persecuted and all attenders at services were committed believers; services did not cater for “seekers”. This is easily dealt with by having 2 services per Sunday, with the regulars knowing which is which.

    • Anton

      “The public love the idea of the rural church.”

      Not enough to come, though…

      • The Explorer

        The kind of thing they take for granted until it’s gone.

      • magnolia

        Partially agreed. But the question is, as we need for Jesus’ sake, to be his emissaries meeting people where they are at, having an attachment to the idea is something to be built upon. How do we do that? And no, I have not come up with any extensive answer. Rather hoping someone else might have an impressive and useful insight though!

  • dannybhoy

    Rural parish churches ‘like the one what we attend’ are testimony to an England that has gone. To be kind, I think the echoes of that old English culture could still be heard up until the 1960’s, and then were lost in the din and energy of a brash new England based on a brash and successful consumerist America..
    The Church of England has lost its congregations, its power, and its influence, and is reduced to seeking State handouts and favour in order to retain some sort of presence within our secular humanistic society. From being an Advisor and Director of Kings, it finds itself a Welfare State claimant, having to report back to the JobCentre to show that it is still seeking work…

    • sarky

      Must be the only welfare state claimant where the dependants are falling!

      • dannybhoy

        🙂
        Bad, bad boy.

  • Dominic Stockford

    Preaching the Gospel without fear or favour is clearly necessary – rather than simply filling posts with people who happen to offer themselves for ministry. However, the key is your comment about people and groups such as HTB.

    They recently ‘planted’ a church here, by removing (yes, that is what happened) a small but faithful congregation from their church and bussing in their new happy clappiness to it. Not renewing what was there, with respect for its form and style, but simply closing and replacing with something entirely different. An area where there are already 5 CofE congregations easily available – and, well I never, in a city. What is more, in a rich bit of a city. Others of similar ilk (CoMission Initiative) have also recently planted in this area. Why. I wonder, do so many people want to start congregations in such a pleasant and wealthy suburb of our capital? What is it about us that draws them in? (to the detriment of the faithful Gospel preaching congregation already here, of course. We’re not CofE, but that’s not essential).

    I also wonder what it is that means that normally the leaders and members (pew fodder, whatever you wish to call them to differentiate them from their wonderful leaders) involved don’t seek to revive a flagging congregation, but to start a brand new shiny one. A bit more reading of the Gospel is required here I think,

    Personally, I know a small town where I’d love to plant a church, no posh coffee shops, not much wealth, not much ‘fun’. But boy, the gospel should be preached there. Not for me now, as I’m not abandoning my faithful congregation where I am for the time being. I may move on one day, maybe I can get a chance to take Christ there then.

    • Anton

      Dominic, you wrote: “I also wonder what it is that means that normally the leaders and members (pew fodder, whatever you wish to call them to differentiate them from their wonderful leaders) involved don’t seek to revive a flagging congregation, but to start a brand new shiny one.” I can answer that: most probably it is the leadership that is the problem. And they are not going to give it up.

      • Dominic Stockford

        I couldn’t quite bring myself to say it, but I tend in that direction.

        However, ‘lay’ people have a responsibility too, especially when they go wherever and do whatever they are asked – they shouldn’t simply do that.

        • Anton

          Please would you be more specific in your critique of HTB style; specifically, where you think it is weak on the gospel?

          • Dominic Stockford

            Having an ‘Experience’ trumps teaching the challenge of the truth.

            When alpha began its specific stated purpose was not to share the gospel of salvation through Christ alone, but, and I quote Sandy Millar, to ‘get bums on seats’ from among younger people.

            There are several books which dispassionately lay out the problems with it. The fact that the Romans can use Alpha without alteration betrays an almighty issue with any claim that it can accurately present the Protestant Gospel.

          • Anton

            They don’t. Catholic Alpha is tweaked, and it had to get permission from HTB to do that.

            I regard the Alpha format as its real strength – meals served at multiple tables, all watch a presentation, discussion at each table at which there are a couple of experienced Christians. I’m happy to see different videos than Alpha’s own presented, but I find nothing heretical in Alpha material at all, just an under-emphasis on sin and repentance (although it is there) and a view of the Trinity that is somewhat tilted towards the Holy Spirit (but again, nothing heretical).

          • It is a long time since I attended an Alpha Course, but my recollection is that the Gospel was presented (Poorly IMHO) at the third meeting and the ‘Holy Spirit’ weekend came some time later.
            Tell me, if someone has not been saved by the Gospel presentation, what sort of spirit will they be receiving at the H.S, weekend? If they have been saved, why do they need a H.S. weekend? Please refer to Romans 8:9 in your reply.
            Christianity Explored is a much better, more biblical, course. Google it up.

          • Anton

            God knows whether someone is ready to receive the Holy Spirit or not and if not then He will not send it to that person.

            I am willing to believe that Christianity Explored is better in content than Alpha. I’m not familiar with it, and I’ve freely pointed out Alpha’s weak points on this thread. What I regret is that some people have nothing good to say about Alpha when through it God has turned round the lives of many (read the testimonies). Question for you, in turn: Do you consider that the typical Alpha convert is or is not saved?

          • The Puritans used to say that God can draw a straight line with a bent stick if He wishes. I’m sure that many people have been saved through the Alpha Course.
            I’m also sure (and I have seen such folk) that many people believe themselves to have been saved through an Alpha Course not because they have repented of their sins and trusted in Christ for salvation, but because they ‘had such a feeling’ at the Holy Spirit weekend and learned how to speak nonsense language. Matt. 7:21-23 is relevant here.
            .
            Which of these ‘converts’ is ‘typical’ I am not able to say.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Quote from an Alpha newspaper.
            “I had a warm feeling so I knew I was saved”
            From a chap still living with the wife of his neighbour.

          • Anton

            I’d like to explain my view in my own words, rather than in a response, so that you won’t have a distorted picture of me. I have spoken to my elders in more than one congregation (I’ve moved town twice since going nonconformist) about my concern that the emotional is liable to get taken for the spiritual nowadays, especially in worship. I agree with your concerns, but I suspect it reflects our post-Diana culture rather more than it reflects Alpha. Regarding Alpha I do regret that some have nothing good at all to say about a course which has made many genuine converts at a time when the CoE is shrinking. No it isn’t perfect, as I’ve said, and Yes Christianity Explored might be better. I’ve not seen it so I don’t know.

            We need the context of that Sandy Millar quote in order to determine whether he was deliberately diluting the gospel or simply putting it in today’s language. For all I know he was talking about the free meal and the professionalism of the presentations.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Absolutely. No-one in the groups of churches I am involved with would touch it with the proverbial.

          • dannybhoy

            Is there such a thing as “a Protestant Gospel”? I can see only a Biblical one, and whilst I can see where non Evangelical churches get their emphases from, I would still insist that the Lord’s word’s to Nicodemus that “Ye must be born again” sums up the Gospel, and is expounded upon and proclaimed throughout the books and letters of the New Testament.

      • magnolia

        Sometimes the leadership of the old church has been faithfully battling problems, thinly stretched in personnel, in the thick of the battle, when some hedge-funded (things like shorting and derivatives, very questionable morally and destined to bring down the West) shiny new HTB church plant, with several keen families providing back up in tow is shipped in to bring its pop-styled shiny new product often with a prosperity gospel for itching ears, stripping particularly the congregations of well established surrounding evangelical churches, but also others. They say they will create only their own congregation, but don’t know who used to go where, and not all people tell them the truth about the churches they have left.

        David Wilkerson has a telling sermon on the phenomenon.

    • Uncle Brian

      Dominic, forgive me for asking what is probably a very stupid question, but I don’t live in Britain and it’s been many years since I last set foot inside an Anglican church. I’m afraid I don’t really understand what you mean when you say, ” … by removing (yes, that is what happened) a small but faithful congregation from their church.” My question is, How was the removal effected? What “removing” seems to mean, at first sight, is that anybody who had worshipped at that church under the previous management was now banned, proscribed, physically barred from entering by a security guard or bouncer. But I can’t believe that would be allowed under C of E rules. So
      what, exactly, did the “ removing” involve? Were those worshippers somehow made to feel unwelcome? What did the incoming management do, exactly?

      Thanks
      Brian

      • Dominic Stockford

        The CofE closed the congregation down, even though it was regularly attending in small numbers, and without discussion with the attenders – just told ’em. It was second congregation in a two congregation parish.

        They then handed it over to HTB without following the correct procedure. So they had to do it all over again.

        Then HTB started up their “modern ” services which all knew quite well were not at all compatible with the original members.

        • Uncle Brian

          Thank you, Dominic, that was quick!

          The suspicion that has been lurking at the back of my mind while reading both Scott’s OP and several of the comments goes something like this. The question that is being asked is, How are we going to save all those churches (whether in the city or the country) that look as though they’ve entered a terminal decline. Couldn’t the answer be, If they switch to an HTB happy-clappy formula, that is what can save them?

          We have happy-clappy parishes in the Catholic Church as well, and it’s a form of worship that I don’t care for in the least. But if it’s a choice between putting up with that and staying at home, I’m prepared to put up with it. There are always some people who don’t sing and don’t wave their arms about, but who bear with it all patiently until it’s time to join the communion queue, which after all is what we’re all there for, isn’t it?

          • Dominic Stockford

            No, we’re not. The Bible describes the Word of God as the power of God unto salvation for those who believe, but makes no such claim for the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper

          • Uncle Brian

            Well, Dominic, I see your point, even though I don’t share your ideology. Your argument is quite unbiblical, of course, as I’m sure you’re fully aware. The institution of the eucharist was a
            historical event that is fully reported in three of the four Gospels, and with less explicit (though perfectly recognisable) references in John and Paul.

          • Don Benson

            The ‘Eucharist’ you refer to has no origin in any of the gospels. Jesus’ breaking of bread and pouring of wine at the last supper (the Jewish Passover) took on a new and profound meaning which Christ himself declared. He himself became the Passover lamb for Christians. The remembrance of that is central to our faith but there was never a commandment for weekly (or even daily repetition). Indeed I have no doubt that its exclusive use on Sundays in many a rural church has contributed to the decline under discussion. It is a form of ‘worship’ which seems designed to exclude all but a small group of Christians who like that kind of ritual.

          • Uncle Brian

            This comment by Coniston, posted on this thread earlier today, sums up the facts of the case very neatly:

            Coniston sarky • 5 hours ago

            The Communion, Eucharist, Mass, Lord’s Supper, Breaking of Bread, was what Jesus commanded his disciples to do, and what the early Christians met to do on the first day of the week. If the early Christian house groups were Greek speaking (as nearly all were), they would have called it the Thanksgiving – Eucharist in Greek.

            The construction that you place upon the eucharistic words of Jesus, in your reply to Coniston, is one possibility among many but it has never been accepted by more than a small
            minority of Christians. As for your assertion, in your reply to me, about the preferences of Anglican congregations, for all I know you may be perfectly correct. I don’t live in Britain and nowadays the Cranmer blog is practically my only source of information about the C of E.

          • dannybhoy

            I’m with you on this. The breaking of bread together as oft as ye do it in remembrance of Me is not necessarily an every Sunday morning thing, nor is there imv anything particularly mystical about it. It’s more like meeting to celebrate the Lord’s sacrifice of Himself for us..

          • Dominic Stockford

            I have no issue with the existence or institution of the Lord’s Supper. All I did is say that nowhere does the Bible call or imply it is in any way a saving ordinance. Whereas The Bible DOES say the Word of God is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe. The Word is essential, and without it there would be no Lord’s Supper anyway.

    • Phil R

      Is it a poor town with not much wealth precisely because the Gospel is not preached.

      Or perhaps it is but it us not listened to.

      • Dominic Stockford

        Good points, well thought out.

  • IanCad

    Except the Lord acts congregations will continue to decline.

    The current issue is maintenance and repair.

    Heritage and beauty requires money and hands. Religion plays but a small part.

    The current bodge-job mentality will not work. Repairs have to be made in a workmanlike fashion and in harmony with a staitened budget. Roofs, exteriors, guts – in that order.

    Perhaps a cadre of healthy early retirees would be amenable for basic training in the manual arts. Nothing fancy – wire brushes, pointing, lead work, basic carpentry. All easily taught to older souls. Sorry; it’s tough to train the young so let’s forget apprenticeships.

    Taxpayers will have to cough up. Shouldn’t be a problem – reducing by half our financial aid to Moslem Pakistan would raise 223 million. That will pay for a lot of lead.

    To me there is something profoundly distasteful in reducing that which was built to the Glory of God into halls of worldliness and trivialities.

    • Shadrach Fire

      Except the Lord acts congregations will continue to decline.

      The Lord is there just as he always has. He is doing nothing different than before. He is waiting for his people to recognise his presence and worship him in Spirit and Truth and then he will come and be with them.
      Then, things will happen and people will come.

      • IanCad

        True Shadrach.
        As in wars – they generally start when we are weak – so we must come to the cross – just as we are. Weak, helpless and ashamed.
        Will it take a great crisis?

  • sarky

    Whats more important buildings or people? If it’s people, sell the buildings and save money, after all they are just bricks and mortar. Meet in community centres, schools etc. Having read this blog for a while, there seems to be a longing for an age that is long gone. You have to understand what business has understood for a long time, ‘adapt or die’.

    • dannybhoy

      You’re a builder or you do “buy to let”?

      • sarky

        Neither – did have a buy to let property for a while, was a total pain so sold it.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Ah, but the truly reformed are not welcome to use state property, they don’t like what we say and believe. What is more, putting out chairs for two hours every week is not practical, and worshipping among children’s pictures of false gods (on the walls for the latest art week) makes life very awkward to say the least.

      I know one brother paying to meet in a care home sitting room. They discovered his opposition to same-sex marriage and now he cannot advertise where his congregation meets at all. Getting a new meeting place is not possible for them.

      Small simple Christian worship places really does work best.

      • Anton

        Homegroup churches with the homegroup leaders accountable to the Elders are the way of the future. Get used to them now because it will be the only way when persecution sets in.

        • Dominic Stockford

          But why should we self-censor? We can still fight so we must. We can still be seen, so we must. For the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God, we mustn’t give in.

          • Anton

            I don’t see it as self-censorship. I see it as putting my time and effort and money into gospel activities rather than into building maintenance.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Indeed. But choosing to leave perfectly good buildings and meet in small groups in private homes, when you don’t need to is self-censorship to me.

          • Anton

            I don’t want to go round in circles Dominic, but it frees up time energy and money from building maintenance and I also believe that some law could go through very rapidly which has the no doubt indirect effect (Satan is very clever) of making it impossible for nonconformists to meet in their premises. When that happens there will be a glut of such buildings and they will be unsaleable whereas now a decent price can be commanded for them, and put to the Lord’s work.

          • Dominic Stockford

            You might be right. But I think they’d need to disestablish the CofE first, and then have another Great Ejection of Reformed ministers from the CofE before they would come for us.

          • dannybhoy

            We don’t self censor but it may come to the point when we meet in secret..
            http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/357
            These rock homes in Goreme were inhabited by the early Christians in times of persecution…

        • The Explorer

          Back to Christianity’s origins.

      • dannybhoy

        Somple multiuse buildings are the way to go..

        • The Explorer

          Can you expand on “multiuse? Church/mosque/yoga centre/séance venue is how some might interpret that.

          • dannybhoy

            Multiuse as in having rooms off for various classes or groups, a kitchen and a large hall with a stage for services or social events.
            This is one example my wife and I visited..
            http://www.thevineyardchurch.co.uk/home
            If you flip through the menus you’ll see that this is a converted commercial warehouse complete with cafe and seating areas.
            They have just bought their second warehouse to meet the demand from young families with children..
            I hold no particular candle for the Vineyard Churches, but I certainly admire how they’re reaching out into the community..

          • Leacock

            Churches were built for a reason, done right (and so not being some 20th century modernist abomination) they can help the parishioner draw closer to God, free of the distractions of this World.

          • dannybhoy

            Not to deny your point, but churches were built in the style the people of the day would build a dwelling for an important personage such as a nobleman.
            Nothing wrong with that of course, but people and times change and those big cold old buildings (like ours) are limited in how they can be used.
            For example our church has no toilet, no piped water, and an antiquated heating system that doesn’t..
            It takes a lot of maintenance, but you can’t really improve anything without a faculty, and even simple things like a repaint freshenup has to be done with specialised materials.
            Frankly it’s ridiculous.

          • Leacock

            I’m not saying that old churches shouldn’t get in door plumbing (although those crypt cafes have really got to go) merely that I think that in general they are superior in aesthetically to certain unfortunate recent buildings. But leaving aside the religious dimension most of those old churches really ought to be preserved at least on historical grounds anyway so it is better to ensure they are actually still in use.

          • dannybhoy

            Aesthetically of course! Norfolk is full of aesthetically pleasing empty churches!
            I love looking at old houses, but I wouldn’t want to live in one..
            The CofE should get the government to take some on and make them into museums or reading rooms or concert halls and then start building some less aesthetically pleasing practical buildings with environmentally friendly heating and solar panels etc., in which we can worship God and meet together socially.

          • Leacock

            But that ignores the value of environment for such experiences. We already have plenty of those tent churches and the like, and they tend to preach an empty prosperity gospel at best. And of course old churches can continue in their function whilst still serving as respectable concert halls etc. that is what they do, they are centres of the community. Building narrow, ugly little structures that no one wants to be in except during the actual service (if then) simply separates the Church more from the community.

            The reason churches are empty has nothing to do with the aesthetics of the place, nor even discomfort from draftiness etc. the real problem is the cowardice of the priest (and even worse the priestesses) who preach their liberal theology to ever waning congregations. The important thing in Anglicanism’s decline is faith or lack thereof.

          • dannybhoy

            Leacock
            Apart from your obvious appreciation of historical and aesthetically pleasing churches I think we are pretty much saying the same thing.
            One of the failings of British Christianity is our tendency towards judging people more on what they say about the Christian life instead of how they live it
            We build our Christianity on things like doctrine and theology, and social background and achievements. Through these things we then build a whole set of ‘club rules’ that effectively excludes all those who fail to meet the criteria..
            Christianity is about salvation and redemption and sharing the Gospel. Church life is about supporting one another, helping and meeting the needs of the elderly, the unemployed, the incapacitated.
            It’s “Behold how these Christians love one another!”
            So whether it be an old church, or a new church, they are both only buildings.
            WE are the Church…

            1 Peter 2:4-6 English Standard Version Anglicised
            “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

            6 For it stands in Scripture:
            “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
            a cornerstone chosen and precious,
            and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Well…I’m not sure I am totally comfortable with thunder boxes in churches… the last trump is something angelic, not gastric…

    • The Explorer

      If we have no souls, buildings outlast people. If we have souls, we’ll be around when buildings are a memory.

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      But you see, dear Sarky, we are connected not only with the present, and hopefully the future, but also with the past. We are part of continuum, not living in the past but recognising it has shaped who we are. The present is ours to shape, and in turn it will be the past for future generations. Worshipping in a place where countless generations have worshipped forms a spiritual connection. It is far far short of ancestor worship, but it is an enduring bond.

      • sarky

        But surely you have to be mindful that your generation is not the last because then the past will become irrelevant.

  • len

    Secularists have been allowed to destroy the’ public perception’ of the foundations of Christianity.Of course the Foundations of Christianity are just as sound and valid as they ever where but the public perception of these are now based on error.
    Unless the church stands on the true foundations of Christianity and makes these known then the Church (or at least the church as perceived by the population at large) will continue to be irrelevant .
    Christianity in the desire to be relevant to’ this modern age’ is allowing the world to dictate what is’ in’ and what is’ out’.
    The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God and the Power of God and the Church needs to be salt and light in our ever darkening world.
    Salt was used in the ancient world to prevent or to slow down the spread of corruption and light to show the Way through the darkness……

    • sarky

      The problem is your salt isn’t strong enough and your light is too dim.

      • The Explorer

        Christ did speak of salt losing its flavour. Since that cannot happen, and he would have known that, what he was presumably talking about was contamination of the message. Plenty of that.

      • The Explorer

        The prevailing New-Testament image is of light shining in the darkness: precarious, but not extinguished. There’s a lot of darkness.
        There seem to have been two views within subsequent Christianity about the light. One is that it will spread and extinguish the darkness. (That seems to be your view: only Christian optimism is misplaced because it’s not working.)
        The other is that there will be an increasing number of points of light as there are new believers, but the overall darkness will continue until the Second Coming of Christ, with a growth of darkness just before the end.

    • dannybhoy

      Well said Len.

    • Anton

      Salt is sodium chloride and it is highly chemically stable and does not “go off” with time. The only way you can wreck its effect so that it is to dilute it. Which is precisely what has happened within the CoE, sadly.

      Incidentally it is clear from Luke’s account (14:34) that Jesus was talking about the salt that was spread on the sewage heap to stop it stinking, not salt that makes food taste better. That is a far stronger metaphor for how Christians are supposed to act in the world.

  • chiefofsinners

    God is the God of only one city, that which Augustine calls the City of God: “A city surpassingly glorious, whether we view it as it still lives by faith in this fleeting course of time, and sojourns as a stranger in the midst of the ungodly, or as it shall dwell in the fixed stability of its eternal seat, which it now with patience waits for, expecting until ‘righteousness shall return unto judgment,’ and it obtain, by virtue of its excellence, final victory and perfect peace.”
    Buildings will come and go. Congregations will get in their cars and drive to the church they like. Or find virtual fellowship online.
    The city of God remaineth.

  • Happy Jack prefers to worship in beautiful churches dedicated to worship of God and praising Him. Church Halls exist for communal gatherings and social work.

    “Christ held Himself in His hands when He gave His Body to His disciples saying: ‘This is My Body.’ No one partakes of this Flesh before he has adored it.”
    (St. Augustine)

    “If angels could be jealous of men, they would be so for one reason: Holy Communion.”
    (St. Maximilian Kolbe)

    “Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you – for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart…don’t listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love…”
    (St. Therese of Lisieux)

    • Anton

      Pre-Reformation, which you presumably think was a better way, our church buildings were used in the way church halls are today.

      • Pre-Reformation the Church focused on the Sacraments. They were places of worship. All other activities were secondary to the Mass and Holy Communion. He was physically present in our churches, as He still is in Catholic and Orthodox Churches today.

        • Anton

          Of course all other activities were secondary to that (and I look forward to discussing transubstantiation with you sometime). I am contending re your distinction between church building and church hall, which is a post-Reformation thing and actually rather daft.

          • Uncle Brian

            And I look forward to reading what you both have to say on that subject (transubstantiation).

          • Frankly, discussing consubstantiation and transubstantiation all gets tends to get rather esoteric in nature.

            Happy Jack is content with believing in the ‘Real Presence’ – that the Bread and Wine, when consecrated, following the proper form, by a validly ordained priest, is actually transformed in a miraculous way into the very physical presence of the Body and Blood of Christ.

          • Anton

            That is exactly what transubstantiation means!

            It is patently false that the smell and taste of blood are accidents rather than substance, for if something did not smell or taste of blood then it would not even be called blood.

          • A Jack said he is content to believe what he believes without launching into a philosophical discussion about the nature of reality.

            His belief is as stated:

            ” … the Bread and Wine, when consecrated, following the proper form, by a validly ordained priest, is actually transformed in a miraculous way into the very physical presence of the Body and Blood of Christ.”

            The Bread and Wine are not signs or figures, but also in actual reality the Body and Blood of Christ. The elements of the Eucharist, the bread and wine, are transformed into the actual Body and Blood of Jesus; and that are no longer bread and wine but only retain the appearance of bread and wine. The Eastern Church more refers to this: a “divine mystery”, “transelementation”, “re-ordination”, or simply “change”.

            It’s a miracle and that’s good enough for Happy Jack.

          • Anton

            But the explanation that your denomination gives makes no sense, for the reason I have explained. Attributes of something are divided into their “substance” and “accidents”. One might say that a pen is a writing implement which conveys ink to a nib; that is the “substance” of what a pen is. Its brand, its colour, etc, are accidents of any particular pen.

            Jack, you claim that all this is abstruse philosophy. Are you with me so far?

            The Roman Catholic church’s claim is that one of its ordained priests is able to change the substance of bread and wine into the substance of the body and blood of Christ. (Hence “transubstantiation”.) But as the body and blood of Christ when he walked this earth would have tasted, looked and smelt like regular human flesh and blood. (Remember how they tested whether he was dead on the cross?) For Rome’s claim to be true, taste, colour and appearance would have to be accidents of blood, not substance. Yet this is patently nonsense, because unless something looks, tastes and smells like blood then we don’t call it blood in the first place.

            Of course it is possible that, as you suggest, this argument is too abstruse for you to grasp. But I welcome any comment that you do wish to make.

        • Pre-Reformation the Church focused on the Sacraments.
          Indeed it did, Jack, though it deprived the laity of the cup.
          Just another reason to praise God for the Reformation.
          You’ll be pleased to know that Christ is physically present in all churches today where the word is preached faithfully and His ordinances are faithfully observed (Matt. 18:20).

    • dannybhoy

      Jack
      Please note that out of a sincere liking and respect for you and your views I refrain from commenting…

      • In Jack’s opinion, one of the greatest losses of this age is the disbelief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in churches.

        • dannybhoy

          I do understand that Jack, and if we were in a Catholic church together I might get the same sense of His presence as I currently get when in a service in which we go into a time of worship; led by someone with a guitar and a heart for God.
          If there is sufficient ‘purity of intent’ (that’s the best way I can put it) then I think in some mystical way God comes down to receive the worship and adoration of His people..
          I just think that purity and sincerity are key, not the ceremony.

        • CliveM

          Well a lot of people stopped believing that a long time ago.

    • CliveM

      Jack

      I agree about the Church.

      I have been to a few miserable Gospel Halls in my time. Certainly helped me believe in hell!!

  • Linus

    If a church has special architectural significance then there’s an argument to be made for contributing public funds to the maintenance of its fabric. But as for the vast bulk of indifferent worship barns dotted around the English countryside, why should the taxpayer foot the bill for them?

    If I lived in the UK I would object very strongly if I saw my tax contributions being used to prop up houses of worship where they teach people to hate and discriminate against me. If a building like Ely Cathedral were in imminent danger of collapse, I might be persuaded to contribute funds to its restoration on the grounds that any outstanding work of art is worth saving even if it was created and is still used by homophobic bigots. But try to apply the same argument to the squat and indifferent pile of flint and worm-infested oak that lowers over many a damp and mouldy English village and you’d find me less generous.

    In any case, the world is littered with the ruins of obsolete temples and fanes that fell down when their cults dissolved away to nothing. Churches are going the way of all relics of the past. Temples of Aphrodite and stone circles such as Stonehenge might still live on as ruins, but now their religions have disappeared, they’re really just monuments to what once was but no longer is. We still preserve what’s left of them because of their importance in bearing witness to our culture’s development over the centuries. But there’s a limit to how much money can be ploughed into preserving the past without compromising the future.

    • Athanasius

      You have used the word “bigot”: you will now be ignored.

      • sarky

        And so have you!

    • Hi Linus

      I looked this up and the gov’t doesn’t pay for the church of England, except the churches can claim the VAT back from repair work and claim tax money if the membership fees are gift covenanted….

      PS: to get into Ely cathedral you have to pay money (at least when I was visiting the area) as I was honest enough to say I wasn’t there to pray, but I didn’t want to pay. I went to visit the church Oliver Cromwell attended instead ( which was free and opposite the cathedral grounds)….

      • CliveM

        But guess what Hannah, poor Linus has to pay for the maintenance of all pre 2005 Churches (Catholic and Protestant) and Synagogues in France through his taxes.

        Poor soul.

      • Linus

        I wasn’t implying that the government pays for church repairs now, just that it shouldn’t in the future.

        I visited Ely Cathedral many years ago and wasn’t asked to pay – whether or not it was a special free day or they just didn’t charge for entrance in the late 70s I don’t know. I might pay an entrance fee to see it again, as it’s such a quirky and interesting building.

        • Hi Linus

          Lots of change since the 1970s, like no flared trousers, not every person in a church is an automatic homophobic bigot…..

          As for Ely , it costs £8 now: http://www.elycathedral.org/visit/visitor-information

          • Linus

            “…not every person in a church is an automatic homophobic bigot…”

            Enough are to make it an overwhelming trend. And the rest of them acquiesce by, for example, not making a fuss when the Church demanded an exemption from the equal marriage law.

            And while you’re defending them … you do realize that as a Jew they condemn you to hell for rejecting Jesus as your saviour, don’t you? Unless you’re one of those Jews For Jesus, of course.

          • Hi Linus

            I’m not quite sure who the “them” is that I’m defending, but if you note I actually chosen my words carefully: I said not every person is an automatic bigot in the church of England, not least because there happens to be gay people in it and of course it frequently gets attacked on the comments here for being too pro gay.

            As for Christians and hell, yes I know that people believe this because I’ve had a lot of discussions here about that subject, although there seems to be different interpretations between the Protestant and Catholic. I don’t believe in Christianity, its beliefs mean zero to me, so it’s difficult to get offended by a concept I’m not bound by myself. l’m a Jew for Judaism and frequently argue with the “messianic Jews” .

          • Linus

            Gay Christians only have themselves to blame for the flak they get.

            For the secular LGBT community, they’re collaborators and Uncle Toms. Their presence in the Church is one more reason why we’ll be glad when it finally fades away. Nobody likes to see his own people suborned by the very evil that wants to destroy them.

            If you’re unconcerned by the Christian attitude that casts you as evil because you won’t bend the knee to their carved and painted idol, I suppose that’s your affair. It troubles me in the sense that Christianity has become so heavily politicized, it’s starting to affect voting patterns and certainly here in France we’ve seen a significant rise in support for the National Front as a result.

            If they ever win an election (which is unlikely, but we have to consider all possibilities) then not only will they attempt to rescind my rights, but their noted anti-Semitic attitudes will lead to an even greater number of Jews leaving France.

            So you think Christian anti-Semitism doesn’t affect you, eh? Where the National Front goes, Ukip will follow. I hear Maureen Lipmann is thinking about her future in the UK. I really hope you never have to.

          • dannybhoy

            For the secular LGBT community, they’re collaborators and Uncle Toms.
            That’s kinda discriminatory..!

            ..that casts you as evil because you won’t bend the knee to their carved and painted idol, I suppose that’s your affair.
            We don’t follow idols.
            It troubles me in the sense that Christianity has become so heavily politicized, it’s starting to affect voting patterns and certainly here in France we’ve seen a significant rise in support for the National Front as a result.

            If you accept that the French have a right to proclaim
            “Je suis Charlie Hebdo!” then you must also accept that they have the right to vote for the National Front should they so wish? It doesn’t mean they will all be anti-Jewish or anti Gay.

          • CliveM

            It’s interesting that the French secular state has a bigger problem with Homophobia, then the ‘Christian’ British State.

          • dannybhoy

            I personally don’t get the ‘homophobia’ bit Clive. I don’t get why it’s used in such a pejorative way.
            I don’t like the gay lifestyle, but I don’t hate them.
            The same as I don’t like skinheads or the BNP or the SNP, but I don’t hate them either..
            It all comes under the heading of sin.
            It seems to me that it is some from the LGBT community who make such a big deal of all this.
            Christians/Jews don’t/can’t condone homosexuality or same sex marriage because their faith doesn’t allow for it.
            But I have NEVER heard of Christians or Jews physically beating up on Gays. The only faith I know which physically attacks homosexuality throwing from a tall building was the last example I read about) is Islam. But the LGBT
            Same sex marriage is therefore a “No no” for me as a Christian, but as a citizen I don’t have a problem with civil partnerships.

          • CliveM

            I tend to avoid getting bogged down in this debate. Nothing ever changes, no one ever listens. Fortunately Christianity is about more the Gay Marriage and I find it more interesting to focus on these areas.
            In the main Gays are gay because that’s the way they are made. No one would get up close and personal with some guys hairy arse out of simple naughtyness!!

          • dannybhoy

            I don’t disagree Clive, but we feel instinctively as creatures that this is wrong, because only one of each sex in union can produce children, and as Christians we are told that it is wrong.
            What about those men and women who in line with NT teaching try to control those urges? How different is that from a man who has an urge to have sex with females of whatever age? Or with children? We can feel sympathy, but the reality is that Christians struggle against all kinds of urges. Gay people are not the only people to have desires that the Bible condemns as wrong.

          • CliveM

            Well as I say this is a debate that I no longer take part in. There are other things more pressing.

          • Linus

            You’re right, we’re not the only ones to be demonized by Christianity. It’s a religion that casts its net of condemnation far wider than us.

          • dannybhoy

            Linus,
            There are times when you talk sense and there are times when you sound like a petulant child who can’t get his own way so you shout insults and accusations at whoever is denying him.
            This is one of them. If you weren’t so busy having a tantrum you might pause to consider you are using a Christian blog to “scweam and scweam until you are sick.”
            Your objections and assertions are met mostly by politeness and conciliation, but increasingly your bouts of hysteria undermine your credibility as a defender of the LGBT community.
            Sorry son, but I thought you should know that.

          • Linus

            Infantilize me all you like, it’s just a vain attempt to dismiss a point of view you don’t like.

            That Christians don’t like hearing their victims answer back doesn’t surprise me. You specialize in casting aspersions far and wide and hate it when your targets have the temerity to fight back. Bullies are always outraged when they meet resistance. It’s your god-given right to insult and defame others as you see fit, isn’t it?

            Don’t like what I say? Tant pis pour vous ! I’m going nowhere and will continue to defend myself and my community against your vicious libels and lies. Deal with it. The time when you could just throw a casual insult at a gay person and expect them to go scuttling back into the closet is gone forever.

          • dannybhoy

            You may not have noticed through your tearful anger that I am one of your most conciliatory respondents..
            Not that matters, but it does show a remarkable blindness on your part. As Christians we are not going to change our views, and you forget that we all see ourselves as sinners saved by grace. That means we are all aware of tendencies and habits in our own lives that we recognise as sinful.
            Being homosexual is not in itself a sin, it is the practice and encouraging of others to engage in that sin which is condemned. As is adultery, anger, violence and murder, theft etc.
            What you are trying to do is to get the Church to endorse YOUR sin by accepting same sex marriage etc.
            Well, it ain’t going to happen, or rather Christians like myself will leave the CofE if or when it does.

          • Linus

            Believe me, I’m under no illusion that any of the Christians who frequent this blog will be persuaded that anything I say has the slightest merit. Dogma has closed your minds completely.

            What interest me are the people who aren’t yet dogmatic homophobes and who may look at this site and be sucked in by the homophobic propaganda they find here. Or by the gay people who may be pressured into coming here by Christian family or “friends”. They need to see another point of view. They need to see your arguments batted aside like the thin tissue of lies they really are. They need to see how much more your beliefs mean to you than do other people.

            I’m frequently upvoted by guests on this blog and almost never by named contributors. And that’s exactly how it should be.

          • dannybhoy

            Being upvoted means nothing, because frankly your emotional outbursts and insults of our faith will only be applauded by those of like minds.
            You even insult those who have found ways of coming to terms with their homosexual dispositions by branding them as uncle Toms and traitors to the cause.
            This is irrational, and insulting to the dignity of the individual which you claim to believe in.
            We have occasional contributors like Hannah, a devout Jewess who conducts herself with dignity and never descends to the bilious outbursts that you come out with..
            If it’s true we have DanJ0 and some guy who’s picture was some kind of sailor guy. He too conducts himself with dignity and logic.
            Whatever you may think you are not a good advocate for the LGBT community I’m afraid, because you continually attack values which we as Christians hold dear without wishing to harm or insult you.

          • Linus

            It bothers me when I see young people driven to suicide by vicious Christians who’d rather see them dead than gay. It bothers me when I see hundreds of thousands of people in the street waving banners and shouting for the State to discriminate against me because they believe they’re better than I am. It bothers me when a Church that says it loves me then says “but you’re sick in the head and the only treatment is solitary confinement”. Sadists love to watch their victims suffer, don’t they?

            If I’m such an ineffective advocate for my cause, why complain? Why not just let me get on with it, confident in the knowledge that I’m doing my cause more harm than good?

            You wouldn’t object to me if you didn’t believe I was frustrating your plans in some way.

          • dannybhoy

            Ba-Boom!
            It bothers me when I see young people driven to suicide by vicious Christians who’d rather see them dead than gay.”
            There’s an example of your emotional rhetoric!
            Which vicious Christians?!
            That’s an oxymoron.
            Christians are required to love and to do good to those that despitefully use them
            Viciousness does not fit in with the love that demands we turn the other cheek.
            when I see hundreds of thousands of people in the street waving banners
            and shouting for the State to discriminate against me because they
            believe they’re better than I am.

            Never seen it. I am against gay marriage and actively support traditional marriage. Not because I think I’m better than you, but because there is no such a thing as same sex marriage. In recorded history there are no examples of societies built on that premise.They would not survive. Homosexuality is an extremely small minority of people whose sexual orientation differs from the norm which is heterosexuality.
            It doesn’t make them less human, doesn’t mean they should be bullied or hated, but it does mean that no culture has ever been built on the premise of same sex marriage because two people of the same sex cannot produce children

            Marriage is a form of social recognition that a man and a woman either love each other or are contracted to each other in an exclusive relationship, whose expected outcome is that children will be born to them and will be raised by them, complete with role modelling and socialisation.
            Homosexuals can never do that Linus.

          • Linus

            Mary Griffith was a Christian whose intolerant faith drove her own son to commit suicide.

            “But she wasn’t a real Christian!” will no doubt be your reply. Well she shared many if not most of your beliefs, especially regarding human sexuality. She claimed to be a Christian just like you do. She told her son he had to change or live in permanent celibacy, just like you claim we must.

            And now her son is dead and she has to live with the knowledge that it’s largely her fault because of the feelings of self-hatred and hopelessness she ground into him during his childhood.

            That’s a real Christian, isn’t it? Proclaiming God’s word no matter what the consequences. Shouting about how evil other people are and condemning them to a lifetime of celibate misery and then acting all surprised and innocent when they walk in front of a bus because life no longer holds any prospect of hope for them.

            I’ve seen hundreds of thousands of similar Christians demonstrating in the street, waving banners and shouting for the State to discriminate against me because they think they’re better, holier and purer than I am. They think their marriages are ordained by God because their impulses are “natural”, whereas my marriage is condemned by God because my impulses are “unnatural”. They think they have a God-given right to marry whereas I have to live with a God-imposed requirement to be celibate. They think they’re good and right and healthy, and I’m bad and wrong and sick. In other words, they think they’re better than me. And they want the State to affirm that by refusing to recognize my partnership as a legal marriage.

            Luckily for me here in France, the State has no role to play in affirming religious prejudice. The Manif pour tous crowd can continue to imagine itself better than me. It can continue to refuse to recognize my marriage. But the State doesn’t share its opinion. And man are the Christian homophobes angry about that! How dare the State not let itself be dictated to by their religion?

            It dares, just like it dares to refuse Muslim men the right to more than one wife, or Muslims and Jews the right to stone adulterers, and gay couples caught having sex. The State doesn’t care what you believe, it just requires you to respect civil law, even if that goes against the precepts of your religion. When the two come into conflict, civil law takes precedence. That’s the only way civil society can function.

            Carry on claiming to love and respect everyone while decrying gay marriage as evil and perverted. Fewer and fewer people believe you. They see you for what you really are – a zealot who demands that his religion or even just his own personal ideas and theories be imposed on everyone. Equal marriage imposes nothing on anyone, but it does allow each individual to follow his own conscience. And that’s what you can’t bear.

            It always comes back to power in the end. “Do it my way or don’t do it at all” should be tacked to the top of the cross as the basic Christian precept.

          • dannybhoy
          • Anton

            If Christians are holier than gays it is not by their own merits. Any Christian who forgets that fact needs – and will get, if genuinely committed – a sharp reminder from God, perhaps administered via the gay community. Where we demonstrate in the streets over gay matters it is not against gays but against secular lawmakers – the vast majority heterosexual – who are enacting legislation which we believe is wrong. That is our right in a democracy and if you don’t like it then it is really democratic freedom that you are attacking. Genuine ministry to gays, where it comes about, is motivated by love for them, not hate, and the fruits are visible in a number of online testimonies of people who no longer have gay urges and are now Christian. Such ministry recognises that the person must have a free choice and does not involve coercion.

          • dannybhoy

            You wouldn’t object to me if you didn’t believe I was frustrating your plans in some way.
            I don’t object to you. Your emotional turmoil made that up. From what I know of you I like you and welcome your continued postings here.
            I have no plans to frustrate so again either you are being paranoid or you are making things up in your heidd mon!

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/staticarchive/329d1a4124a58e048c1b57d84efbf342f65399f4.jpg

          • Danny,
            ‘Homophobia’ is a word used by the homosexual industry as a stick to beat its opponents with. Pay no attention to it.
            https://marprelate.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/homophobia-and-other-silly-made-up-words/

          • dannybhoy

            Martin,
            are you following the conversation with Linus and his Mary Griffiths example?

          • No.
            I rarely follow any posts of Linus on the grounds of Proverbs 14:7. In fact if you look up the words ‘fool’ and ‘mocker’ in a Bible concordance, you will find that the Spirit knew all about Linus 2,700 years ago.
            I just noticed him hoisting the ‘H’ word and I know that it worries some Christians.
            Read my link.

          • CliveM

            Sheesh, anti semitism in the UK is more a feature of the secular left then the Christian Right. I’m not a fan of UKIP but it’s not the same as France’s National Front. Marie Le Pen was anti Semitic and openly so from the start.
            Nigel Farage may like a drink to much, but he is no Marie Le Pen.

            I know you like to denigrate all things British, but anti semitism has always been a bigger problem in France.

          • Sam

            Dude

            don’t think Linus has worked out Hannah[ “collaborator”] Out Loud , aka my sister is gay and a religious Jew…. But I switched off following his views on the kosher thread.
            Shabbat shalom!

          • dannybhoy

            Linus comments there too?
            Shabbat Shalom to you and all true sons and daughters of Israel.

          • CliveM

            Shabbat Shalom Sam.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            I do hope I am still a dude, dear Sam…

          • dannybhoy

            Not a fan of UKIP!
            Not a fan!
            How can you be a pal of mine and not be a fan??
            😉

          • CliveM

            Enjoy the rich diversity in the Christian community!!!

          • William Lewis

            That’s one of the reasons why I know it’s true.

          • CliveM

            Yes I agree. It’s hard to believe that the God of the Universe would be interested in a dull uniformity.

          • dannybhoy

            Ha!
            I just got your meaning!

          • William Lewis

            Was it too cryptic? I just meant that I have never experienced a grouping that binds together such diverse backgrounds and cultures as Christian fellowship.

          • dannybhoy

            No, but I am not really a lateral thinker. I think in straight lines with occasional flashes of inspiration.
            This wasn’t one of them..
            But yes, a church which on the main is made up of committed Christians but accepts all who want to attend services and loves them with God’s love is imo what we should all aim for.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            avoid the flashing, dear Danny…it got Mr Slope into a lot of bother

          • dannybhoy

            Chuckles..

          • Sam

            France knows a lot about antisemitism and collaboration .Vichy France for example.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            The anti-Semitism that we should worry about does not come from the Christian community…one needs to look elsewhere. having said that, all forms of anti-Semitism are wicked, from whichever mouth that spews them.

          • CliveM

            Wise words Mrs Proudie, wise words.

          • dannybhoy

            Yes indeed, your fragrant presence and womanly wisdom light up this blog, Mrs Proudie…

          • William Lewis

            That might be a little too forward for a woman of Mrs. Proudie’s delicate sensibility.

          • CliveM

            He actually sent it to me!

            Frightened……..!

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            at least it wasn’t a billet doux from Mr Slope…

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Fear not, dear William…I am girded with the corsets of Righteousness and the foundations of Joanna Southcott

          • William Lewis

            It’s heartening to know of such fortitude, Mrs. P.

          • CliveM

            DB

            did you mean to send this to me!! :0)

          • dannybhoy

            Nah,
            I was adding ot to your compliment to Mrs Proudie.
            -You old smoothie!

          • CliveM

            That’s a relief. I will sleep easy tonight now!!

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Dear Danny, how kind…but I sometimes fear the blog has become so serious and earnest that there isn’t room for a soupcon of mirth…

          • CliveM

            Agreed, just because I’m a miserable sod, doesn’t mean the blog needs to be!!!!

          • dannybhoy

            Is that why we haven’t heard the rustle of your skirts recently?
            You and the Inspector really are witty, and a light touch works wonders in turning frowns into smiles.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Well partly, yes…though I have been taken to task recently for lightening the mood inappropriately…

          • CliveM

            The Cad!

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            why thank you Clive, dear heart…

          • Linus. You’re incredibly boring. Do us all a favour and piss off, won’t you? Go on, be a darling and take your Dawkinist misery somewhere else.

          • Linus

            Thought you were supposed to be ignoring me. Not doing a very good job of it, are you?

          • Anton

            We don’t want to ‘destroy’ you. That is a travesty of our attitude. So far as conversion goes, our responsibility is to give you informed choice and leave you free to make a decision. (If that happens to you more than once, Christian ‘A’ cannot possibly know what Christian ‘B’ has already said.) But in a democracy we are as entitled to lobby for what we think should be taught in schools, etc, as you are.

          • Linus

            What you call conversion, we call destruction. Destruction of our couples and our rights. A return to the evil days of the closet where being gay was a shameful thing to be hidden away.

            You want to destroy our ability to love and be loved. You offer us a choice between slavery to this painted idol of yours who demands that we live in celibate misery or take wives we neither love nor desire (which amounts to the same thing), or eternal damnation.

            So yes, you want to destroy us. If you didn’t, your religion would have palatable alternatives for us.

          • Anton

            “What you call conversion, we call destruction.”

            Didn’t I say that it was voluntary?

          • Linus

            Beware the Christian who tells you how evil you are and that God will punish you for being who you are and trying to find happiness in an intimate relationship, but that of course it’s “your choice”. That’s his ultimate get-out clause. Telling you about your free will is his way of obliging you to act while absolving himself of all moral responsibility for the influence he’s trying to exercise over you.

            He urges you to sacrifice your life to his religion and tells you all about the awful consequences if you don’t. He cares nothing about the turmoil this throws you into. His one aim is to convert you to his way of thinking because all he’s interested in is winning a victory. You’re just another notch on his Christian sword and once he’s conquered you, he’ll move on to the next victim and leave you alone and staggering as you try to cope with the prospect of living life in permanent celibate misery completely alone.

            This is the gauge of his true psychosis: he truly cares nothing for his victims and persuades himself that as God has ordained permanent celibacy as their lot in life, they must be able to cope with it, so they need no help from him. If they sink into depression or try to take their own lives, they’re just being dramatic cry-babies who shouldn’t be indulged. After all, it’s not HIS problem, is it? He gave them a free choice and they have to shoulder the responsibility themselves.

            “Free choice” eh? Persuading them that if they don’t give up all attempts to find happiness then God will torture them for all eternity. Painting them into a corner where they have no choice, and then claiming that they have a free choice, and then abandoning them to their fate.

            I know of one site where they do their best to coerce gay people into celibacy and then wash their hands of them by pointing them to their local chapter of “Courage” for “support”, i.e. a monthly coffee morning, which is apparently all the fellowship that celibates need to live perfectly happy and satisfied lives.

            This is the true face of Christianity. Subduing your enemies and then abandoning them to their fate is what it’s all about. I’ve seen what happens to young people who fall for the evangelists’ line about “free will” and then end up living in almost complete isolation and despair with no support from their “brothers” who “love them”. What they love is the victory they win. What they love is gaining their point and imposing their will on others, no matter what the consequences, no matter what the sorrow and devastation.

            Is their anything colder and more inhuman than a Christian evangelist? Is there anything more frigid and uncaring than Christian “caritas”? If there is, I’ve never seen it.

          • Anton

            You frequently claim to know what Christians are really thinking, but you can’t. Proper Christians do not leave converts alone. They guide them non-coercively. This takes a network, not just the one who is most responsible for their conversion. That network is called the church. Where it has failed people, that is a matter for apology and repentance.

          • Anton

            You are joking aren’t you? It’s the Muslims who are causing the Jews to think about quitting European countries.

      • CliveM

        Hi Hannah

        Sadly under French law all pre 1905 Churches (Protestant and Catholic) and Synagogues are owned and maintained by the State. Although allowed to be used by the churches etc as places of religious worship.

        So poor Linus has to pay for the maintenance of all these buildings, the majority of Churches and Synagogues, out of his taxes.

        • Hi Clive that’d be an interesting one for discussion , if it happened in Britain . At a strike a lot of the church of England’s fiscal problems would be solved. The downside is that the arrangement would doubtless have to include other faiths (who here would want to pay for mosques, let alone synagogues) and of course the government would have a much freer hand in introducing gay marriage into the church of England….

          • CliveM

            As this law only covers pre 1905 buildings, most (all?) Mosques fail to be covered by this. As you can imagine this is increasingly controversial.

            With regards the UK (or perhaps for thi discussion England) it’s a difficult issue, because a lot of the buildings are of historical importance and are a beautiful part of the landscape. In the main most people don’t want the buildings to disappear, even if they don’t care what goes on inside. So should the general taxes help pay? It’s probably better not in my opinion as it would be to problematical for the reasons you give.

          • Linus

            In France even though the Catholic Church uses state and municality owned buildings, it does not have to adapt its cult to civil law. Neither does it have to perform same sex marriages. Churches in France perform no marriages at all. At least no legally binding ones. You have to marry at the town hall in a civil ceremony before the state will recognize your marriage. If you want to have a religious ceremony afterwards, you can do so, but only if your church or synagogue allows it.

          • Hi Linus

            Thanks for that information about France, but I was wondering how this would work out in England

          • Linus

            In England everything’s always about money, so any proposal to burden public finances with the bill for maintaining and restoring thousands of empty churches would probably not gain much parliamentary or public support.

        • Linus

          Sort of…

          Only those church buildings that were known as cathedrals before 1905, along with a few other historic churches, chapels and abbeys, actually belong to and are maintained by the State. All other pre-1905 churches belong to are maintained by the municipality in which they are situated.

          My tax contributions therefore only fund churches in Paris and two rural municipalities where I have secondary residences.

          In the first of these, the church is a medieval jewel that I have no problem contributing towards. In the second it’s a hideously ugly Second Empire monstrosity and I object vigorously to having to pay for its upkeep.

          In saying that, the town council is so far to the Left and so embarrassed about the pure ugliness of the edifice concerned that work on the building is restricted to the bare essentials necessary to stop it from collapsing into the market square. It probably doesn’t cost me more than a few euros every year. Still, the principle of the thing still makes me complain. Why should I be expected to contribute a single centime to keep an offense against art, architecture and human dignity standing. Let time, weather and hopefully a conveniently placed tornado do their worst!

          I’m more concerned about the huge amount of money that the maintenance of church buildings in Paris costs me. I don’t mind them looking after Notre-Dame-de-Paris or the Sainte-Chapelle or even smaller churches like the beautiful Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile. But I do object to paying for the upkeep of the squat and ugly Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet, which is illegally occupied by the FSSPX and which would benefit greatly from the attentions of a wrecking ball and a few bulldozers.

          But these are unfortunately not my decisions. Taxes I have to pay whether I like how they’re used or not, and les vieux réacs of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet will probably stay where they are until the last of them dies of advanced old age (which won’t be long…) and then some other benighted Christian cult will take the church over.

          C’est la vie, c’est la guerre … et la lutte continue !

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Oh the Second Empire! Those lovely Worth gowns, the music of Offenbach, the beautiful Empress Eugenie, the glittering Tuilleries, the dashing Cent Guardes…sigh…and now you have Monsieur Hollande….

          • Linus

            And you have Camilla Parker-Bowles…

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            Oh Linus you are a tease…surely you have a nostalgic moment or two when the panache of Second Empire takes over? The salons, Baron Haussman and the boulevards, Monet and Manet, Cora Pearl and the Goncourt Brothers?

          • Linus

            Ah yes, the wonderful Second Empire! The cholera epidemics, the child labour, the general consumption of narcotics like absinthe and opium, the widespread adulteration of basic foodstuffs, the grinding poverty of the urban proletariat funding the extravagant lifestyles of a parvenue aristocracy become virtually indistinguishable from the fat and vulgar bourgeoisie !

            Ah la nostalgie de ce temps révolu !

            The British love the past, don’t they? But only the edited highlights. Splice the dirt, the disease, the dental decay and the smells back into their idealized episode of Downton Abbey or The Pallisers and I doubt they’d be quite so keen on quitting their comfortable present…

          • William Lewis

            It’s good to remember the glories of the past, Linus. If nothing else, to prize it out of the deathly, ice-cold grip of the Marxist revisionist.

          • Linus

            Selective memory is very misleading guide.

            By all means dream of living like a pampered crinolined lady or a starched and elegant gentleman, but spare a thought for the domestic slaves whose drudgery enabled their masters to float through life on a cloud made out of their blood, sweat and tears.

            Is that “Marxist revisionism”? Did servants live lives of luxury, comfort and ease? When you think about the human misery that lies behind the “glories of the past”, they don’t look quite so glorious any more.

            I’m not surprised that Christians can’t see this. Your entire religion is based on idealized images. Smoke and mirrors concealing a much grittier and more mundane reality. You see what you want to see and all the unpleasant bits fade away, don’t they?

            Give me a choice between now and then and I’ll take now every time. The past is dead and gone. Let’s bury it and get on with our lives.

          • William Lewis

            “I’m not surprised that Christians can’t see this. Your entire religion is based on idealized images. Smoke and mirrors concealing a much grittier and more mundane reality. You see what you want to see and all the unpleasant bits fade away, don’t they?”

            More hogwash from the fact-free, self-appointed blog gendarme, I see. What, on Earth or in Heaven, is idealised about the fallen nature of Man? It is because Christians possess the greatest glory of all that they have frequently seen fit to grub down into the dirt to extract the downtrodden. Of course some countries have reflected this great glory more then others. For the latter, it may indeed seem better to just bury the past and hope for a brighter future. Certainly the Marxists tell us it should be so.

      • Peasant Farmer

        St Marys Church? Thats where Mrs PF and myself worship, the leadership there doesn’t even have an offering plate going round during the service as they don’t want visitors to feel obliged to cough up money on their first visit.

        Its a warm and friendly church that has some really good people that devote huge amounts of prayer, time and money to its upkeep, without which no church community can survive.

        Its always struck me as odd that there is a parish church in the shadow of the cathedral, but it thrives nonetheless.

    • Anton

      If you think Christianity is on the way out then look at China. There, some 3-4% of the population have become committed – not lukewarm – Christians in one lifetime, and that is 3-4% of 1.5 BILLION people making it the largest movement in church history – and continuing.

      • Linus

        Nobody knows exactly how many Christians there are in China. The figures that are generally quoted in the Western press come from wildly over exaggerated estimates made by American Christian media in the 1980s.

        In the provinces where Christianity is a noted phenomenon, more level-headed estimates vary from 2.3 – 3.9%. But averaged out across the entire Chinese population, this figure falls to, at most, under 2%, probably somewhere nearer to 1%.

        If you want to claim that 1% represents a tidal wave of Christianity sweeping over China, by all means claim away. I see it as a niche phenomenon associated with certain groups within Chinese society who are far more open to Western influence than the culture as a whole.

        You’ll probably call this the thin end of the wedge. But Chinese culture has, over the course of history, proved immensely capable of absorbing and modifying foreign influences and adapting them to service its own needs. Like all previous religious influences, the Chinese will mould and modify Christianity to fit in with their own cultural imperatives. In a few generations Chinese Christianity will look very different to the religion you practice.

        • Anton

          I’m amused that you say nobody knows and then confidently give figures!

          The point is that it needs only a small percentage to make a large change to a nation’s life. People who believe in physical revolution understand this, based on the history of (in particular) communism, and it is because most people are apathetic. But a small proportion can also make a big change spiritually rather than by violence.

          I am in no doubt that Chinese churches will have some aspects of Chinese culture. The Chinese language, to take an obvious example. But beneath that – not on top of it – will be something very deep that they have in common with those faithful to Christ in our culture.

          • Linus

            I quoted estimates based not on hysterical Evangelical wishful thinking, but on figures given by Chinese churches themselves plus level-headed estimates of the “home church” phenomenon. Nobody knows how accurate these numbers are, but everyone agrees that the figures quoted by US church leaders in the 1980s are just wishful thinking. Make of that what you will.

            All that we know for sure is that there are some Christians in China. We don’t know how many. We don’t know what their growth rate is. We can hazard a guess, but to then extrapolate that into a Christian revolution, especially using what most observers agree are probably the more accurate lower figures, is hysterical nonsense.

            You want to see a Christian revolution, so you invent one and claim it’s taking over the world’s most populous nation whilst offering no evidence that this is actually happening. You do realize that your words aren’t magically transformed into reality, don’t you? Or is there a bit of a God delusion happening in your head right at this moment?

          • Anton

            I don’t agree about no evidence but I’m content to let time be the arbiter between us.

          • steroflex

            Is being gay a sin? Or is it OK? Or is it completely wonderful and something that should be encouraged? (Muslim lawyers are better than me at this kind of thing.)
            If I were now to quote a pile of numbers, would that make any difference to your way of life?
            I think not.
            Surely the same must be true for Christianity (or indeed any other philosophy or scientific opinion for that matter). Numbers are not what decide the truth.

          • Little Black Censored

            “…everyone agrees…”
            When everyone agrees, there is no disagreement.

        • Phil R

          Where my daughter taught in China the government statistics were provided for the city for the last 20 years

          less than 500 20 years ago and the latest figures 2011 255000

          Bear in mind it is not in anyone’s career interests to declare a Christian belief n China

          • Linus

            Figures apparently vary wildly according to the level of contact with foreign influences in any given province.

            You can read anything you like into one statistic. But you cannot make it into a trend without solid evidence in the form of a lot more statistics to back it up.

          • Phil R

            Not much contact in this city.

            Lots of Christians though. Most in unregistered house Churches like the one my daughter attended. The church was led by, set up by and entirely made up of Chinese and the services were in Mandarin.

            The city was over 5 million population with around 250000 Christians.

        • dannybhoy

          “It is hard even to guess at the number of Christians in China. Official
          surveys seek to play down the figures, ignoring the large number who
          worship in house churches. By contrast, overseas Christian groups often
          inflate them. There were perhaps 3m Catholics and 1m Protestants when
          the party came to power in 1949. Officials now say there are between 23m
          and 40m, all told. In 2010 the Pew Research Centre, an American polling
          organisation, estimated there were 58m Protestants and 9m Catholics.
          Many experts, foreign and Chinese, now accept that there are probably
          more Christians than there are members of the 87m-strong Communist
          Party. Most are evangelical Protestants.”

          http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21629218-rapid-spread-christianity-forcing-official-rethink-religion-cracks

          • Uncle Brian

            Bearing in mind that The Economist has no interest in hyping up Christianity, I would consider that an impartial estimate based on the statistical information that is available.

            How long till we have a Chinese pope? The next one after Reinhard Marx, perhaps?

          • dannybhoy

            Would he do takeaways?

    • Dominic Stockford

      Many churches have no architectural value, as our old one did not. English Heritage even advised us how to avoid it being listed. But try getting through a local council ‘heritage officer’ and you’ll find they won’t allow it’s removal, and even oppose its change of use – regardless of whether the congregation would ever be able to afford it (no grants of course).

      We’ve sold it, but the buyer is having similar problems even though it will supply some needed housing, and offices (which the council is complaining about losing). And even though it’ll look almost identical on the outside!

      • Linus

        The “heritage” cult is every bit as rigid and unyielding as any religion.

        If it’s old and ugly and serves no useful purpose, knock it down and build something new, I say.

        But I don’t make the rules.

        • Anton

          Above all, if it’s new and ugly knock it down!

          • Linus

            If it’s old or new AND ugly, I agree, knock it down and build something beautiful.

  • Peter Wood

    Dominic Stockford refers to a case of congregational “removal” and HTB activity. We heard recently of a mainstream Anglican church in Sussex which welcomed HTB people some time ago and now has a fight on its hands to maintain a balanced Anglican Via Media. Without entering that particular debate, it seems that what is now happening and happening understandably is that the C of E now sees clearly the need to educate potential new entrants to the church in the basics of religion by means of Alpha or (perhaps less contentiously?) by means of the Pilgrim course. The older generation – 60, 70 plus — acquired its religious education through a gradual process of infusion over half a lifetime of churchgoing. How can a rural church maintain a balance between new and tried and tested if the diocesan and local clerical tradition is weighted towards the evangelical tradition?

    • sarky

      HTB, is that nicky gumbals lot? That fella gives me the creeps!

      • dannybhoy

        S’funny.
        He said the same about you ….
        No, only kidding.
        Why does he give you the creeps?

        • sarky

          There is just something incredibly unsettling about him. Like someone who comes at you all smiles then knifes you in the back.

          • CliveM

            Well I will avoid agreeing with the stabbing in the back bit, but I too find his smile unsettling.

            I’m sure he’s a good man, just not telegenic!

          • Anton

            Perhaps too telegenic. I’ve been at an Alpha course about 7 years ago where one of the attendants (not a Christian) said that he came across a bit like Tony Blair. Everybody chuckled!

          • dannybhoy

            Wear a thicker vest is my advice…

  • Joshua gaunt

    It is a difficult problem with no easy answers. I have lots of admiration for the faithful people part of the rural communities keeping things going. It is great thing that people do keep going and keep a presence.

    It is an interesting point about lay involvement. As a former Methodist I find it strange how little Lay Readers are used, for instance. I’ve heard of vicars saying how busy they are and doing 3 or 4 services a Sunday, and yet they have Readers underused. And it is also strange that Readers are only licensed to one church. My Dad is a Methodist Local Preacher and one a quarter going out to take a service in a circuit on North Yorkshire Moors, and there are many other do similar to help rural churches out. Whereas in CofE there are Readers who rarely get to lead a service. Not a solution, but I wonder if this could help support rural churches.

    • dannybhoy

      One of the great problems of the Anglican church is that because the priest plays such a pivotal and authoritative role in the church, he can become a bottleneck that slows everything up or stops things happening. Unless he is prepared to share the load with some trusted and anointed congregants, he is left under tremendous pressure to keep all the plates spinning..

      • CliveM

        Got the same problem in the Church of Scotland with the additional problem that the Kirk Session could be an additional block.

      • Anton

        I entirely agree. But when I looked into the possibility of becoming a Lay Reader in the 1990s I found that it took longer than to get ordained! This system is sclerotic.

        • dannybhoy

          Our clergy are lovely people and I respect their calling into the CofE. I mentioned before that from our nonconformist background my wife and I get very little from the Anglican system. But the lovely thing is that they are open to new ideas and want to reach out into our community, so we work with them in that whilst honouring the Anglican approach and the Lord will be glorified.

    • balaam

      I too have admiration for the rural faithful. Because the rural church is the success story of the rural churches. The proportion of the population attending church in rural areas is higher than in the urban areas, Much is made of the urban success of urban evangelical mega churches in our cities, and we should celebrate that. But a very different, more traditional churchmanship is having a greater effect, in terms of population proportion in rural areas. We should be celebrating that too/ It is to the Church of England’s shame that these churches are ignored.

    • steroflex

      I did that and it worked in the country.

  • Martin

    Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation of John 2:5 [ESV])

    That could be the reason why so many Methodist churches are closed and why CoE rural churches may follow them. If there are no believers there what is the point of maintaining a building. Churches are not for those around them, but for those in them.

    And yes, I do know what it is like to be a member of a village congregation.

  • steroflex

    My Father, Grandfather and Great Grandfather were all in the Anglican Ministry in East Anglia. I left the Anglican Ministry in 1989 over the consecration of a divorcee as a bishop. The doctrine is all over the place. Some people will baptize a baby others won’t; some will marry divorcees others won’t; some people like women in executive positions others don’t. What a mess!
    I came to realise that what was holding my three country churches together was the fact that they were the legacy of earlier generations. Once that golden thread is snapped – often quite deliberately – it does not come back. Only the grey, cold, mouldy buildings remain.
    I am now a Catholic. I can worship freely almost anywhere in the world with people who believe the same as me and who I feel a great unity with too. And of course, many of them are friends.