Thursday, 22 October 2009

Church making the news...

It's been all over the blogs and the papers - but happened just as I was putting the finishing touches to the last page of our November Parish Magazine. So this is what I wrote in my "View from the Vicarage."

[The print edition is now out and being distributed. But to appreciate it in full colour, you need to click here. The picture above is to be found in the magazine - of a certain retired priest who incites ladies to wear hats in church.]

Careful what you write…

As I write these words the Church is in the news - well, not much, but in a short story that the Vatican has opened the way for Anglican clergy to transfer their allegiance more easily to Rome should they feel that way inclined. Of course it was already possible. But now there is to be a structure, and clergy and congregations who make the jump will be able to retain certain Anglican practices within defined “Ordinariates.” There’s a word new to most people - and me! There’s just this problem - most of the disaffected clergy I know of who wish to escape the prospect of women bishops are already quite happy with official Roman Catholic liturgies, and would pop over pretty quickly if it weren’t for the prospect of stricter discipline, re-selection (or not) and re-training - plus the fear that they’d encounter more guitars and rather less incense… And the pay is even worse! What they don’t want is the assurance they can carry on in an Anglican way - after all they never have wanted to do that in the past!

Actually the Church hit the news the day before this as well when Fr. Ed Tomlinson - an Anglican priest in Tunbridge Wells - found an excerpt from his “blog” plastered all over the national dailies. He wrote:

In the last few years it has become painfully obvious that many families I have conducted funerals for have absolutely no desire for any Christian content whatsoever. I have then stood at the Crem like a lemon, wondering why on earth I am present at the funeral of somebody led in by the tunes of Tina Turner, summed up in pithy platitudes of sentimental and secular poets and sent into the furnace with ‘I did it my way’ blaring out across the speakers! To be brutally honest I can think of a hundred better ways of spending my time as a priest on God’s earth. What is the point of my being present if spiritually unwanted? … Once upon a time even funerals at the Crem would have been sincerely Christian in character. But that was another England, a time when Christianity was worshipped on these shores…

I fear that he’s less than charitable, though I know what he means. But I rather welcome the desire I encounter in people who wish to say something personal to them while at the same time having a priest as officiant. Where religion seems an alien creature, the music or poetry they know might help them make a connection. Weddings in church offer more possibilities than the civil version. If people wonder about my attitude I’d say, “Try me.” Nevertheless I’d advise that the organ provides better music than a CD for getting into church whether for a wedding or a funeral - our Bill knows when to start and stop! Let’s be sanguine - and cheerful.

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