CH ** CH …What’s Missing?

That’s right. You are; so am I. Regular church goers have been missing from our churches since the beginning of Lockdown; not willingly but by command of our bishops, who chose to lock our churches against us, despite government advice that they could stay open with safeguarding measures in place. Thank God the supermarkets were more efficient or we would all have starved.

I will leave out all the stuff about the Church not being a building but its people; that is repeated so often it is becoming trite. Church communities have been doing sterling work individually to keep the “show” — if not on the road — at least on line, but it’s not enough.

Front page headlines in The Times (L) and Daily Telegraph (R)

Of churches and spiritual life — not a word!

Beginning yesterday, Monday 22nd June, churches may now open for private prayer.  Last week our local Vicar sent out a 14-page downloadable booklet from the bishop. This we were to read and discuss, on a Forum, on how we can do this safely. In our church, this means how to keep 2 or 3 very old ladies safe in a building that can seat 200. 

In the many weeks of lockdown one might have thought the bishops, the diocesan office, the people who wrote the booklet and the individual vicars could have put plans in place in plenty of time for this day. After all, the local clergy are the ones who know the size of their churches, the odd nooks and crannies that could be safely used for private prayer and, most importantly, the people in their congregations who would be likely to respond to this opportunity.

I would love to be able to go into the church I have been at home in for 30 years but I won’t. I don’t want to cause so much trouble and bother to all the able bodied members of the congregation who will have to get the 14 pages of the safety measures put in place.

Also, I have taken the words of Bishop Gregory, of the Diocese of St Asaph in North Wales, very much to heart. 

“It is very important that we do not make the re-opening of churches a free for all…”

A “free for all”? What planet is this man on? What church is he Bishop in?

Jesus says “knock and the door will be opened to you …” (Luke 11.9) unless the bishop has locked it.

Holman Hunt’s ‘The Light of the World

 Jesus also says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11.28)

I can’t think of a time since the end of the Second War when people have been more weary and burdened, and grieving and fearful or more in need of spiritual peace. To paraphrase George Herbert, “Love bade me welcome, but the bishops drew back.”

Gift Direct – to the Bishops

At the end of last week the Mission Area Pew News popped up on my screen — 12 pages of it.  Someone must have been busy!

The first page was the usual stuff: names of people needing prayers; Sunday’s readings; thanks for emails and news of the on-line service from one of the eleven churches in the area.  And there was a nice quote about ‘listening’ from the Henri Nouwen Society.

The second page was about Gift Direct.  From this I learned that with this method “you, the giver, are always in control.”  Of what, exactly?  How my money is spent?  I don’t think so.

I also learned that the Diocesan Board of Directors DBF have “approved measures worth over half a million pounds to support Mission Areas.”  Which will be very good news for the Treasurer of our little village church.  Despite valiant fund raising efforts that yielded over £1,000 in the year before lockdown we can either pay the bills for insurance, clergy expenses, electricity and churchyard upkeep or next month’s Parish Share, but not both.

Only one person in this picture would ever be seen in our church. The man with the white hair.

Under the above photo the Pew News was followed by eight more pages of how to Gift Direct, along with an address label and instructions how to lick the gummed side.

All this stuff about money made me wonder what happened to the rest of that £10,000,000 the Bishop of Bangor gave us at Pentecost in 2018.**  We know how Bishop Gregory of St Asaph spent £2 million of it:  he bought a defunct clothing store in a shopping precinct in Wrexham, where there are already seven churches.  This was odd in a way, since the money was intended “to focus on people not buildings.”  

Bishop Gregory hopes these doors will be much less intimidating than normal Church doors.

In fact, ten million pounds was supposed to “grow” Christians “in vibrant and exciting ways” and that’s why Bishop Andy looked so joyful and hopeful announcing this amazing gift.

The Bishop of Bangor, Pentecost, 2018

 It clearly hasn’t done that; there is nothing less vibrant than a closed and locked church!  So I’m wondering what has happened to the rest of that money.  Is it still sitting in the bank waiting to be spent?  £8 million is a very large sum — probably enough to put technology in place in churches so that all services can be live streamed and the bishops will never have to open any of their church buildings to mere parishioners ever again.

It would be encouraging to know where and how those millions have been spent before we were harangued to give “more generously and efficiently.”  

Are the Welsh bishops especially blessed or are there several other countries in the Anglican Communion where six Bishops have £8 million extra to spend on their members?  The 2018 figure of 42,441 members in the Church in Wales is likely to be an over estimate in the present situation.  I’ll make my sums easy and say 42,000 people now belong to the Church in Wales, which works out at about 7,000 parishioners for each Bishop. If they each took £1,000,000, leaving £2 million in the kitty as it were, that – at a rate of £190 per parishioner – should be enough to give the poor old struggling pew sitters some of that promised “vibrancy and excitement”.  Once sufficiently excited we would be much more likely to give with greater generosity. 

Ironically, the Pew News ended up with this statement. 

“We are not people of fear, we are people of courage.  We are not people who protect our safety; we are people who protect our neighbours’ safety.  We are not people of greed, we are people of generosity.  We are your people, God, giving and loving, wherever we are, whatever it costs, for as long as it takes whenever you call us.”

We are members of a very rich church but sadly we are led by some pretty duff bishops who have little financial acumen and seem capable of scandalously poor stewardship.

Is this where we’re going to end up — with kitchen sink Eucharists?

** I blogged about that back in June 2018 under the title “Golly, What a lot of Jolly Lolly”.

Faith not Angst

The Reverend Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury, has been lifting my spirits, restoring my soul and making me feel far less of a Misfit every day since just after lockdown.  The team at Canterbury Cathedral who appear daily on line from various places around the cathedral precincts provide Morning and Evening Prayer as well as the Eucharist and Compline.  However, it’s the Dean who has stolen my heart.

The Dean of Canterbuy, the Reverend Robert Willis in the greenhouse in the Deanery Garden

Every morning, no matter what chaos has been caused getting the day started — six of us in a three generation family, plus two puppies — the Dean, in his garden, gives me sanity, security and the assurance that God is in his Heaven and all’s right with the world, really.  With consummate skill, he draws together the reading for the day, the needs of the day, a special person or event of the day and the wonders of the Deanery garden in a particular spot every day.  All these elements are woven into the fabric of Morning Prayer, directly, simply and with eternal truth.

On Wednesday morning I found it unusually powerful. The reading was Luke, Chapter 7 vv. 2-10.

The Dean among the irises – May 20th, 2020

It is a story about a Roman officer in an army of occupation and his sick servant.  However, the soldier, a Centurion, is a man of wisdom and understanding.  Far from being a hated enemy he has taken a keen interest in the local people, their culture and religion and has even built a place in which they can worship their God.  He also keeps abreast of local affairs and has the sensitivity to listen when he hears of a remarkable man doing remarkable things.  As a man of authority he recognises authority in another.

As the Dean tells the story it is all about Faith.  Jesus himself says as much.  “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

Even as I was listening to the Dean amongst the irises the memory of another sermon on this story was bugging me.  At the same time, as I tried to concentrate on the prayers, two words from a poem were buzzing in my brain.  ‘Fools’ and ‘traps.’

The Dean with his cat.

Later, over a cup of coffee, my brain cleared and I remembered both the elusive sermon and the poem.  The sermon had been given in Liverpool Cathedral by Revd Jeffrey John in May 2016 and the poem was “If” by Rudyard Kipling.

After a lot of history about homosexuality in the Roman Army the point of Dr John’s sermon was not faith, but, because Jesus would have known the Centurion’s servant was gay, proof that Jesus loves gays. 

Here is the bit of the poem I was remembering:

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools . . .”

What I remember now of Dr John’s sermon was a complex convolution by an angry man. I still find those two lines of poetry most apt.*

Long may the Dean, in the company of his cats, continue to preach wisdom and faith amongst the flowers.

UPDATE Saturday, 23rd May

Oh, Joy! This morning the Dean was in the Wild conservation part of the garden. And we had pigs!

They are called Winnie and Clemmie, in honour of Sir Winston Churchill. He liked pigs. Cats, he said, look down on you and dogs look up to you but pigs look you in the eye. As well as the garden and the animals I also appreciate the fact that the Dean wears a cassock. No casual mufti for him. He is a priest, he looks like a priest and as a priest he looks you in the eye.

*I blogged about this sermon in a blog entitled “More than just good friends” on June 11th 2016

They Just Don’t Get It

Some people just don’t get it, do they?

The great majority of us understand what’s going on, and why.  We’re asked to stay at home and we do. But there are some people who seem to miss the point.

Take the Chief Medical Officer of Scotland, for example.

She explained to the people of Scotland that they must stay home, but, for whatever reason, she seemed not to understand that we are in a Me Too situation. She toddled off to her second home on two occasions, even after being stopped by the police. She just didn’t get it.

Then there’s Harry and Meghan Sussex. That’s another couple that don’t seem to have got it. To help them lead quiet, unpublicised, private lives they’ve moved to Hollywood! Not the best idea. While in a quiet backwater like Vancouver Island you can believe they want privacy, but Tinseltown? And then, they’ve hardly got settled in when they write to all the tabloid newspapers in Britain to tell them they want nothing more to do with them. What terrible timing!

If Prince Harry had really got it he would have flown not to LA but back to Britain. In a crisis you go straight home to join the battle, whatever the battle is.

I’m sure his grandparents would have been delighted to put him up in Windsor Castle for a few weeks. Since he has no official duties here (or anywhere else, actually) he could have spent hours and hours every day online and on the phone, just chatting to people in lockdown. He’s brilliant with people, especially kids and the Armed Forces. That sort of thing would have generated amazing positive publicity.

Here’s Harry doing what he does so well. Chatting and cheering up people in trouble — in LA. He doesn’t seem to understand he’s not an American filmstar; he’s a British prince.

However, the leader of the pack, when it comes to not getting it, must be the Archbishop of Canterbury. First of all he closed all the churches, then he stopped all the clergy from going into their own churches even when there was direct access from their own homes. Why on earth did he do it and why did his bishops encourage him? And what did he think the effect would be.

Remember, it was Easter — the holiest, most important season in the Christian year. In addition, we are in the midst of something akin to the great plagues of the past but in this one people are dying, separated from their families, few of whom can even attend their burials. It is a dark and fearful situation when we need all the spiritual help and comfort we can get.

At first, I assumed that the church closures were temporary, while the churches put in place the measures necessary to allow them to open again. Supermarkets and chemists organised themselves very quickly, knowing they were essential. If they could do that why not churches? Even bike shops are open. 

Does Justin Welby really think a bike shop is more essential than a church? Perhaps he does. Perhaps he was just anxious not to upset anyone by claiming anything special for Christianity. Many bishops are quick to point out that a church building is not the church. 

Quite right. We’ve always known we don’t need elaborate church buildings. People are the church — just as they were in the early days before church buildings or even bishops. The amazing endeavours of the ordinary clergy outside their churches have used every bit of technology to keep in touch with their congregations. As a result, the word of God is spreading around the internet almost faster then the virus that caused the lockdown in the first place. 

I’m afraid – no, let’s say, I won’t be surprised if — the Archbishop not getting it will have been a big blow to the Anglican church as we know it. Cultural Marxism, the Spirit of the Age and the forces of darkness may all have had a hand in closing down the churches at Easter this year.  But that’s all right. Many of us have been hoping for a revival — instead, I suspect, we are in for an on-line revolution! Glory be and Alleluia!

Where Now?

Another Sunday and another different experience.  Last week St Thomas’, Mellor, and this week St Paul’s, Colwyn Bay, by Zoom.  I’d got the time of the service wrong but I made it before the end and recognised all the usual crowd who were chatting happily after the service. In fact, since I didn’t know how to switch Zoom off I had more of the coffee time than I did of the Service!

St Paul’s Church, Colwyn Bay

This experience makes me sound like a real old not-with-it technophobe. Not true!

When I left my village church about five years ago over the subject of Same Sex Marriage in church (I disagree with it) I started to worship on line instead. I started conservatively but as time went on I got better and better at planning services and got more and more adventurous.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra – they can really belt out a hymn.

I chose my favourite hymns, sung initially by the choirs of King’s College Chapel, Westminster Abbey or Hereford Cathedral. Then I thought, why stop there? I found Welsh Male Voice Choirs and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and then, really branching, out I trawled through Gospel Groups (especially when I felt I needed an input of Glorious Joy), Gregorian Chant and even pop groups with guitars and synthesizers. I stuck to Morning Prayer because it didn’t seem right, somehow, to just watch a Eucharist Service; that only seemed to emphasise how isolated I had become.

I’m with Erasmus on “modern church music”. I only tried it once.

Then the Sermons. And, oh boy, this is where the Internet really came into its own. One of the greatest sermons I ever listened to came from a church in South Carolina but stupidly I didn’t make a careful note and could never find it again. Perhaps it was a one off programme, because the sermon alone lasted half an hour, kept me on the edge of my seat and made me sad when it finished. It was about Elijah and inspired me to go away and read all about Elijah again for myself.

Jules Gomes, then on the Isle of Man, was another preacher I listened to regularly. He’d already been kicked out by his bishop so I was expecting something a little different. The first time I heard him preach I was blown away. I hadn’t heard tough stuff like that in years, with forbidden words like sin, repentance, forgiveness as well as great dollops of sound common sense, backed up by a deep knowledge and understanding of the Bible. If you search, and I did, exhaustively, there are wonderful words of wisdom out there. 

I still found odd, old-fashioned churches where I could receive Holy Communion occasionally but in the end I went back to the village church. I missed worshipping with my friends — people who had loved and supported me through all kinds of joyful ups and distressing downs. 

But it wasn’t the same. It was good to be back in a community but in the interim the liturgy had changed, become simplistic and almost banal. We rarely had an Old Testament lesson and since we all read the readings for ourselves on pew sheets, the Readers, finding themselves reading aloud to bent heads who weren’t listening, became dispirited. We often missed out on the psalms and the sermons frequently followed a feminist agenda. By the beginning of this year I had begun to wonder what we could offer to anyone interested in hearing the true Gospel that was of real depth and value. I felt we were merely going through the motions. Sin was rarely mentioned, so no need for confession and repentance and the sermon message underlined this. God loves you, just the way you are. 

On September 22nd 2019 the bishops in the Church in Wales elected a new Bishop of Monmouth, and in doing so they really nailed their true colours to the mast.

The Bishop of Monmouth, the Venerable Cherry Vann

She is a lesbian in a partnered same-sex relationship — making her the UK’s first partnered “gay” diocesan bishop.

With her election the C in W must have become the most politically correct in the whole of the UK. Three bishops are men, two are heterosexual women and one is a “married” (she wears a wedding ring) lesbian.

+St David’s, +Bangor, ++Brecon, +Monmouth and partner, +St Asaph, +Landaff

That must surely tick all the right boxes. But now that people are discovering all sorts of different religious experiences on line why should any of them choose the pathetic present day alternative? Under the age of 50, or even 60, why would you want to go to worship in largely empty buildings with mainly elderly people ruled over by bishops who rate the Spirit of the age more highly than the Holy Spirit?

So that was Easter, 2020.

What a weird time! 

I pray that we never have to live through another Easter with all the churches locked and silent. Locked churches happen in dictatorships not in democracies. But it wasn’t the government who closed them down; it was the Archbishops.

On Good Friday I did not go to church. I could not go to church. For many people that would not matter very much. For some of us it was devastating.

I have been going to church on Good Friday since the Easter before I was confirmed, initially with my mother, for one or one and a half hours of the Three Hour Service. 

The Easter before I got married in the village church the Vicar’s wife mentioned, quite casually, that she always stayed for the full three hours.

“If Christ could hang on the cross for three hours the least I can do is sit in church for three hours,” she said.

After that I stayed for the whole time, year after year, and learned an enormous amount. I was given so much good sense and solid theology during that time, at a depth not possible in a short sermon.

Then the fashion changed and those Three Hour Services became hard and then impossible to find. I don’t remember why; I suppose we were given a reason. I was disappointed but not worried, because I had no idea then what was in store.

In recent years the Good Friday Service seems to have taken the form of wandering round the church being lead in meditation in front of the Stations of the Cross. We rarely have the Stations of the Cross as fixtures in Anglican churches, so we used to group ourselves around pictures blu-tacked to the walls. Well, I can sit and meditate in front of pictures just as easily at home, and I don’t even need to do it on line because I have many books. Even so, for someone my age, this was very strange.

Last Friday, instead of going to church, I was stopped by the police. They commented on what a beautiful day it was and how was I? Then they wanted to know the reason for my journey. When I told them — I had taken my husband to the Renal Unit of the local hospital for dialysis — I had a typical Welsh reaction. “Oh, bless!” In Welsh “pechod!” How was he? Was he doing well? Later in the day I went back to fetch him. I am so lucky being able to do this otherwise I would never leave home. I am sure the wild flowers along the banks of the country lanes are even more prolific this year; but perhaps they were always as magnificent and this year I am in the mood to appreciate them more.

St Thomas’ Church, Mellor, Greater Manchester

On Easter Sunday I followed a service on line from the church which I attended regularly for two years a few years ago. This is the church on the edge of the Peak District where my family received so much support, kindness and generosity and where my daughter lies in the churchyard. The service was simple and soothing but watching the Vicar eat a piece of bread, with the suggestion that at home I could do the same thing, didn’t make it any sort of a real religious experience and certainly no Eucharist.

As well as clapping and cheering all the workers and nurses and carers every Thursday evening we should also be singing hymns of praise and thanksgiving for our clergy. Many of them have been having a terrible time, not just not working but bereft of a whole way of life. They can go on reciting Morning Prayer alone — many of us do that anyway — but it must be disheartening never to get any response.

‘O lord, open our lips’, and not even one croaky voice to respond ‘and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.’

They have been doing a tremendous job, not only hanging on to their own faith but trying to help maintain the faith of people not only locked down but also locked out. They have been zooming, conference calling, e mailing, sending out regular briefings, all while they have been on a very steep learning curve in advanced computer technology. They have also been taking funerals, many of them in the most trying circumstances.

A politically correct Easter Sunday in the Kitchen.

They have been managing to do all this, having been utterly let down by their leaders. The Archbishop of Canterbury holding a service in his kitchen should be ashamed of himself. He is lucky enough to have two lovely Chapels right there in his house – one upstairs and a lovely medieval one in the crypt . . . so why the kitchen?  What was gained by being so very twee and trendy!
He just doesn’t get it. 

Supermarkets manage it. Chemists manage it. It involves queuing which the Brits are very good at. For some reason, Welby and Sentamu didn’t think churches could manage it, despite the fact that Christians tend to be every bit as law abiding as any other group, and despite the fact that, given the sizes of most churches relative to the sizes of their congregations, they would have plenty of space to stand 10 or even 15 feet apart and no need to queue. 

Even during the Plague and the Black Death Christians were never locked out of their churches.

People throughout Britain are staying at home, even if it’s driving them mad, they’re helping their neighbours and doing their bit. Within the medical world people have been putting their lives at risk because that is their vocation, which is why so many nurses and doctors are among those who have died. 

Don’t look for any martyrs among the bishops.

Is Anyone There?

The Light of the World

Here is one of three versions of this painting by Holman Hunt. One, first exhibited in 1854, is in Keble College, Oxford; another, painted in 1856, is in the Manchester City Art Gallery and the third (1904) is in St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Which version this is and why the artist painted three versions is not what is important here.

It was inspired by these words from the Book of Revelation 3:20.

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will sup with him and he with me.”

The door hasn’t been opened in a long while — weeds are already growing across the step and up the door. The people inside are completely self-sufficient, independent individuals who have no need of outside help.

Just like today. We are all shut up in our own homes, not even allowed to invite anyone in and dependent on the Internet for health and happiness. Fitness on-line is the big new thing. We are allowed out to shop for essentials. What are “essentials”? Food, obviously, and medicines. Bicycles, surprisingly. Churches? No, of course not. Mental health is of great concern but it seems that spiritual health couldn’t matter less.

The Right Reverend June Osborne hammers on the doors of Llandaff Cathedral before her installation as Bishop five years ago.

Nobody is going to answer the door for you, this time, June. That’s because everyone has left for the time being. Your worry, now, must be whether anyone will come back when they are no longer locked down. June’s Church in Wales profile describes her as ‘ground breaking’.

Closing her cathedral over Easter, if not ‘ground breaking’, is certainly unusual and sadly she is not alone. All bishops throughout Britain are obediently bowing to political and scientific advice and shutting up shop.

Until this century cathedrals and churches were where you went in times of trouble. It’s also where the clergy were, to comfort and console you.

This is the Church of England in 1866:

‘My curates were ill, unable to do any duty – I had been up for several nights running to two or three in the morning, attending to the sick, and more especially to the timid and fearful, – who would not go to bed for fear of ‘the pestilence that walketh in darkness’ – Wearied and at my wits’ end as to how I could possibly help my Vestry through their arduous duty, I had come down to a late breakfast at nine o’clock, when my servant announced Dr Pusey … he offered to act as my assistant Curate to visit the sick and dying … and to minister to their spiritual wants’. [The Revd S Hansard, quoted in Liddon’s life of Pusey]

The Church of England, 2020: ‘We are in a time of great fearfulness. The numbers of those becoming seriously ill and dying is increasing. It therefore remains very important that our churches remain closed for public worship and private prayer.’ [The Archbishops of Canterbury and York]

Now we’re in a time of great national crisis and what is the reaction of the Church in Wales and indeed the whole national church? Lock the doors and retreat to the safety of a recording studio.

A friend who has a medieval church on Exmoor had to send his churchwarden to the local iron-monger to buy a chain and padlock since no key could be found and no one could remember any time when the church had ever been locked.  Certainly, during the Black Death churches were not locked and who knows how many people benefited from being able to go to a sacred space to say their prayers

We are in deeper trouble than anything we’ve seen in over 70 years and our modern, liberal bishops are spineless and clueless. They tell us they are forward thinking, enterprising, enlightened, but they can’t find a way of working with politicians and scientists to devise ways in which committed Christians can go to church on Easter Sunday.

Perhaps Good Friday Meditations, alone at home or alone with Skype, will prove deeply satisfying, since all they need time and peace. 

No Eucharist on Easter Sunday will be devastating!

Modern Anglican bishops are extremely creative when it comes to anything to do with sex and gender. Couldn’t they be equally creative and imaginative and devise a plan that would allow those who care to receive the Body of Christ on April 12th 2020. Otherwise, I suspect, that will become a date of infamy throughout the Christian world.

Felix and Popcorn

Felix and Popcorn under the Endsleigh Pink

Just to cheer you up!

Felix and Popcorn are nine week old apricot miniature poodle puppies. The magnificent bush behind them is an Endsleigh Pink rhododendron from Bodnant Gardens.

One of the hardest things about the present situation is living not far from the National Trust’s Bodnant Gardens, which are at their most fantastic from now until the end of June, and not be able to go there. At least I have a little bit of their glory here.

They’re Still Not Around, Are They?

Every day, until he caught Corvid 19, the Prime Minister stood up and told us what was going on, both the bad and the good. Now we hear from any of the Ministers still left standing, as well as the medics and the scientists who tell us why this is going on and why we should do as we are told. There is good sense in it.

Later in the evening we have the media telling us what they make of it all. Some of that is very good; honest, straight forward, thoughtful comment. Some of it is emotional and heart wrenching; people who have lost someone or health workers who have given their all and are on the point of collapse. Sometimes there have been stories of greed and stupidity but increasingly these have been replaced by stories of generosity, unselfishness and charity. 

But, there is still something missing. 

We are, officially, a Christian country. So where, after the politicians, the doctors, the scientists and the journalists, are the clergy? Our religious leaders? The Bishops, the Deans, the Archdeacons? Why is there no God Slot every evening? 

For God’s Sake, Justin, show up and cheer us up.

The Archbishop of Canterbury conducts a Mothering Sunday service from his private chapel in Lambeth Palace on March 22nd.

The surroundings and the tone were more sombrely suitable for a funeral than a Mothering Sunday service. Nothing for children and not a flower in sight.

As the Leader (officially) of around 85 million Anglicans Justin Welby should be fuller of the Holy Spirit than most of us, shouldn’t he? I don’t want him laughing and joking in the face of this terrible plague but I think a bit of optimism about the strength of God’s love and “the sure and certain hope” in which Christians can live wouldn’t go amiss. 

NOT a truly uplifting comment from a man of God. Still, 3000 people liked it.

Surely, if a simple soul like me can have faith and hope, the theological experts should be proclaiming inspiration, encouragement, confidence and above all, the love and faithfulness of God, loudly and gladly. 

What’s the matter with the man? He has just been given TWO incredible opportunities which should gladden his heart.

The first, a valuable face-saving one — the postponement of the 2020 Lambeth Conference. He’s now got another year in which to resolve the pig’s ear he’s made of the arrangements so far. Surely that’s something he can take on board and rejoice about. 

The second, if he’s looking at it aright, is the most amazing opportunity for Renewal and Revival any Archbishop has had in centuries. I’ve been wondering for several weeks where are the likes of John Wesley when we so desperately need him. Mind you, John Wesley (1740-1791) lived through six Archbishops — none of whose names are memorable — so perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much of Welby and Sentamu.

Are there no John Wesley lookalikes out there to lead us spiritually? To teach us that there is light at the end of the tunnel? To reassure us that, with God’s help, when this crisis is over, we may actually find ourselves in a new and better world? A world of greater tolerance, less selfishness and self-absorption and with a true awareness of the benefits of generosity and community spirit.

NB I am indebted to Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla of http://rorate-caeili.blogspot.com for this suggestion.

“But instead of streaming (!) Masses and streaming Holy Week services, what about one bishop walking through the streets of his diocese carrying a crucifix and blessing every home and business on his way.”

Not Entirely Missing.

OK. I was wrong in my Monday blog. Neither of our Archbishops have been entirely missing.

Above is a screen shot from the Mail on Line

Here in Wales I wouldn’t expect to hear from either of the Archbishops but when I went to church on Sunday I did think there would have been some words of uplift and spiritual support from our Bishops. Here in the diocese of St Asaph there was lots of information for the clergy about the problems concerning Holy Communion. (No chalice for the laity and gallons of hand sanitiser.) We also had one collection plate on a stand in the middle of the aisle and — oh, joy! — no Peace.

Apart from that there was nothing to indicate that we are at the beginning of what is going to be one of the most desperate emergencies anyone can imagine. Well, anyone born after, say, 1950.

Came the Swinging Sixties, the War was forgotten and everyday life got better and continued to get better and better for many decades. (I haven’t been quite so confident about things this century, however.)

I can remember earlier and tougher times when buying even one toilet roll was a success. And what a welcome change it made from tearing up newspaper! In those rougher, tougher times we did at least get more support from churches and clergy. They were always THERE, a reliable, trust worthy presence in times of trouble and need, even if they were often a real pain in the neck much of the time. Their voices were heard and they let you know that they knew about GOD and they made sure you did, too.

On Monday morning — just a day late — the voices of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York were heard at last.

In the Daily Mail.

Well, perhaps that was wise. It would reach a larger audience than any church congregation.

Quite right. Be nice to each other. Just the sort of thing Jesus would say. Incidentally, the words above is another screen shot. I did not make either of the grammatical errors.

As in epidemics throughout history the fear we feel disturbs us very deeply, and dread comes upon us, the archbishops say.

Too right – particularly the fear of our own mortality.

And the answer to conquering this fear, according to the Archbishops “is the love that we receive.” 

What love? Whose love?

Since it’s the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the whole world wide Anglican communion speaking, you might have your own ideas about whose love he’s talking about. Guess again.

The examples given include a child embraced by “someone who loves them”; “someone of great age quietened with a familiar voice”; or the words of a friend. This seems to me to have more to do with Jayne Ozanne’s brand of ‘Just Love’ than anything you’ll find in the Bible. Apart from a reference to the Good Samaritan there was one subtle Biblical echo, when Welby and Sentamu warn us that “We must distinguish between a healthy fear — the beginning of wisdom . . . .” and unhealthy fear (panic buying?)

After 746 words (yes, I counted them) we get to what I think they should have been saying all the time. Politicians and social workers could have said all the rest of it.

“Finally, there is one more thing that everyone can do. Something we would expect from two Archbishops. We make no apology for saying Pray.‘”

Dear God! Has it really come to this? That church leaders, at a time of truly life changing crisis, feel they can only dare slip in 239 words about religion at the end of a generalised feel-good homily.

They recommend reading the 23rd Psalm and they suggest we recite the Lord’s Prayer while washing our hands.

Thank God we’re only fighting a virus and not a real war.

Thursday Postscript

“Ian” has commented that he thinks Psalm 46 is even more suitable for today. I agree with him. What could be better than this?

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.”

I could quote more but it will be better if you go away and read it for yourselves.

In fact, what I’d really like to happen is for the two Archbishops, the 100 and more other English bishops, the Archbishop of Wales and all five Welsh bishops to make a corporate decision. At certain times, five perhaps, throughout the day, they should stand outside their cathedrals, read from the psalms, from certain portions of the Bible, and then offer prayers and blessings over the cities they serve. All filmed from a safe distance. Other clergy could, perhaps, follow their example. It is good that Justin and John are suggesting what we should do.

Even better if they gave us a visual lead we could follow.