Archive for May, 2007

Things fall apart

May 25, 2007

It would seem that the tensions found in the Anglican Communion as a whole are also found locally in England – not least in the colleges where ordinands are prepared for ordained ministry.

The events at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford make puzzling reading, and if true seem to suggest in some areas Church of England ordinands are stepping back in time and into old disputes. It certainly appears that the conservative evangelical movement is divided.

  • Whenever recently, apart from at Wycliffe, has there been a move to stop women teaching in colleges?

The confusing arguement over the nature of the atonement seems to have confirmed what many had begun to think – Oak Hill College is an extremists’ college.

  • What steps do Bishops take to prevent colleges becoming too polarised?

And at the other end of things – it appears some gay male ordinands at Westcott House in Cambridge are falling out with one another over their boyfriends – a recent falling out even resulted in fisticuffs! It is said in Cambridge that at Westcott House the gay male ordinands deliberately choose to go on a placement in the north, in Manchester, to enjoy the delights of the gay community there.

  • Are there guidelines or rules about the appropriate behaviour of those training for the church’s ministry?

The Church of England is a very varied place indeed! However, reflecting on these incidents one cannot help but wonder whether in the world of the Church of England colleges, at least, to quote Yeats:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

I tend to the view that extreme liberals and extreme conservatives are not prepared to listen to different views, and have created their own little safety zones from which they “shout the odds.” The church is much bigger than the sum of these little safety zones.

To quote Yeats again, and from the same, wonderful poem:

The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.



Ascension Day in Cambridge

May 19, 2007

Being in central Cambridge on Ascension Day I decided to attend the Eucharist. Ascension Day is not the religious festival it was in the Church of England, and it was not as easy as I expected to find evening worship. St Clements and St Edwards advertised an evening Eucharist at 7.30pm. Great St Mary’s had no poster or notice for an Ascension Day service but when I got home I notice details of one on the notice sheet from that church, but not in the worship this week section! GSM clearly need to pay a bit of attention to their communications.

St Benet’s had a 6.30am service – not much use for the casual visitor on the day! However St Bene’ts mentioned a ‘Mass’ at Little St Mary’s at 7pm. I decided to attend that.

My first impression was how lovely Little St Mary’s was decorated. There were exquisite floral decorations. It was bright and welcoming, and all looked well kept and loved. There must have been about 50-60 attending – the majority, I suspect over 60yrs old. The worship was very traditional Anglo Catholic. The music was very good, especially the organist and cantor. (There was even applause after the final voluntary – reminiscent of the Episcopal Church of the USA).

There were some slight idiosyncracies, for example, during the opening procession the procession stopped and the clergy faced the pulpit for a while and then censed the pulpit after a reading then walked on, and the hymn was resumed. During the worship (and not before) the music of the worship was handed out. The sound system (not the clearest I’ve heard) was clearly causing the clergy problems – they kept fumbling with the switches in their pockets – presumably turning them on and off – but the gestures were awkward and at one point verged on the comic. Also strange was the awkward taking in and out of the processional cross through an archway – it looked decidely odd to the visitor. While one does not expect the clergy to have beaming smiles they were especially solemn looking – if not anxious, and sometimes they seemed a little unsure of what they were doing – for example, at times the subdeacon had to whisper instructions and guide the deacon.

The sermon given by the vicar, was light weight and  disappointing. It was extempore – and it showed. The readings were read with dignity from a lectern, the sermon was preached in the centre in front of the altar without lectern and the vicar kept swaying a little and looking a little anxious as he sought words to say. I’d hope for something more weighty – instead it meandered around the topic of regular prayer and eucharist, especially in the period between Ascension and Pentecost. It was difficult to see how the sermon related directly to the event being celebrated. There were uncomfortable pauses as the vicar thought of the next thing to say. One expected more from a central Cambridge parish on a feast day. I felt it was an opportunity missed – a good clear proclamation of the doctrine of the Ascension was missed.

I left the worship a little disappointed, and feeling it was likely observance of this ‘principal holy day’ of the Church of England was likely to continue to decline.