Archive for the ‘Church of England’ Category

A Visit to St Mary’s, Primrose Hill

October 8, 2007

A couple of former students recently took me to the outstanding ‘First Emperor’ exhibition at the British Museum. As they lived near Hampstead, and had invited me for afternoon tea, I prevailed upon them to take me to visit St Mary’s, Primrose Hill.

It was a weekday afternoon, and what a pleasure to find the church open and being used. A class of primary school children was visiting, and other people were coming and going. I had visited the church many many years ago when the hymnwright George Timms was vicar. It now seemed quite different, and frankly more alive and less stuffy.

The church is actively reaching out to the local community, there was much reference to local schools, ‘All age worship’ is included in the parish schedule of worship and a Fresh Expressions form of worship has been introduced. Work with children seems to be a priority, and there was a lovely children’s area.

The church once had a reputation of being the Dearmer Parson’s Handbook flagship. As such it was visited by liturgical archaelogists. It was very refreshing to note that today there is very little of that arcane approach favoured by a certain type of single gentleman, who delights in liturgical minutiae at the expense of mission and outreach. (An approach Dearmer would surely have questioned).

Indeed it was good to note that most of the church officers came from the locality, only the head server comes from afar, and, curiously his photograph, of a rather unkempt gentleman, was in black and white whilst others were in colour – almost suggesting he belonged to a bygone era of the church.

The church had a feel of being a place of brightness, life and sincere worship, but also one which felt homely and used – a place where all felt welcome. The pool table in the aisle, and the tapestry covered sofa nearby supported the homely atmosphere.

One couldn’t help feeling the altar and chancel nowadays seems rather distant, a nave altar may be an asset.

The parish magazine, though well produced did not quite have the vigour and freshness which prevailed in the church itself, that was unfortunate, perhaps the editorial team could review content. Input from children and young people would be appropriate. Information about the Fresh Expressions ministry should be included. There was also some slight inconsistency about weekday worship times in different parts of the magazine.

In summary:

Well done to the priests and people of St Mary’s, Primrose Hill for creating a welcoming parish based church which preserves dignity and hospitality.



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.


Top Heavy Church?

April 28, 2007

Parishes and parochial clergy in the Church of England are growing tired of the pressures and demands put upon them by increasingly bureaucratic and centralised diocesan authorities. The day to day life of worship and pastoral care in the parish no longer seems to be a priority.

One example comes from Durham diocese where it was stated that an additional Archdeacon (complete with secretary etc) was needed to assist with the ‘downsizing’ of parochial ministry! And a different example comes from the Diocese of Southwell where, until parishes objected, the diocesan Archdeacons’ Visitation, to which all churchwardens and clergy were called, was planned for Ascension Day!

Many more examples can be given, and readers are welcome to post examples as comments here.

A recent correspondent to The Times makes a very good point when he writes:

[The Church of England’s] organisation is in urgent need of fundamental reform.

Three trends have emerged in the past 50 years: a drastic decline in church membership; a significant reduction in the number of parish clergy; and an increase in the number of bishops and their associated administrative supporters.

The Church has been seriously top heavy for many years. It has limped from one financial crisis to another. Instead of cutting down at the top, it has pruned the network of parish clergy. This has had a direct adverse effect on church mebership and hence reduced the financial support coming from the parishes.”