Alerted by Archbishop Cramner’s blog, I’ve just caught up with Giles Fraser’s offering in the Guardian, about the nuisance caused by rural parishes. (I don’t normally read The Guardian. It still seems to carry more than a whiff of a mid 19th century iron-master’s attitude to the deserving poor.)
Surely Fraser is just doing a Katie Hopkins, isn’t he? Attention grabbing nonsense—except that, in view of the horrific violence against Christians I think his suggestion of blowing up village churches shows a singular lack of sensitivity.
In any case, he’s nothing like as radical as he thinks. Those of us who live in villages have been there long before him and we know that much of what the Church does is very silly.
About 10 years ago Welsh congregations were presented with very posh, very expensive binders, entitled Investing in Mission*. I suppose the thinking behind the poshness was that we would take the contents more seriously. We didn’t, of course. We got furious at the waste of money. Members of village PCCs expressed themselves fairly succinctly, because nothing in it applied to rural communities; we’d be better off doing our usual things, which had so far kept our church lively, welcoming and relevant to the village.
The PCC Secretary showed willing by attending two of the six meetings held in the next village to discuss the project and then got fed up. From those two meetings two things emerged.
- The injunction that we should put more money in the plate and stop wasting time and energy baking cakes showed as little compassion as does Giles Fraser. A widow on a small pension allocated as much as she possibly could to the church—half went in the plate and half into cakes, which sold at the weekly coffee mornings for more than twice the cost of the ingredients. It also gave her real joy to think she was still able to do something for her church, to say nothing of the pleasure it gave the cake eaters.
- The meetings listed the pluses of a village church. The value of a ‘sacred space’ in a church yard where our forefathers slumber; the Sunday services; Christenings, Marriages and Funerals; many special services to which Chapel goers and many others came; concerts, exhibitions, school celebrations, fund raising (with the emphasis on fun) from Bingo to Skittles. The list was long.
The conclusion was simple. When we can no longer afford the upkeep of the church we will lock the door with a heavy heart, put the key in a safe place and continue to worship—in a garden shed if necessary.
Coffee after the Service in the dog kennel.
*’Awakening congregations to their responsibility in resourcing the mission of the local church using a multi-pronged approach to raising the issues, teaching and challenging commitment.’ Or you could just bake a cake.