From the Revd Patricia Roberts
Sir, - Reading the letter from the Revd Hugh Wright (Letters, 29
August), I just wanted to say that I also have been challenged
by the increasing secularisation I find around me. Like him, we
have had a reduction in weddings, baptisms, and funerals, and I
have been grappling with how to make what we do and are relevant
for our communities.
This weekend, our village held a commemoration of the First
World War, and the church service picked up the theme. Despite
hundreds turning out for the display in the neighbouring village
hall, not one person came specially to the church for the
Perhaps more significantly, most of our members have a myriad of
events on offer at the weekends, from doing the weekly shopping to
taking the children to a variety of sports clubs, and meeting up
with family and friends, so that, increasingly, people come only
when they are on a rota to do something. Sundays are just another
day in busy calendars.
I passionately believe that Jesus Christ is as relevant today as
he has always been, but maybe the wrapping of the traditional
Church is creating an impenetrable wall between those who know and
love him, and the world where the humanist gong clangs loudly. As a
Church, we need to face these issues, and take our heads out of the
sand before it is too late.
The Vicarage, The Butts
Lydiard Millicent, Swindon
Wilts SN5 3LR
From the Revd Richard Tilbrook SSC
Sir, - I do not share the Revd Hugh Wright's pessimism
concerning accelerating secularism.
In this parish of 7000 souls, I conduct 20 to 25 baptisms a year
(two-thirds of the births in the parish), between six and 12
weddings, and an average of 70 funerals. Since I assume that other
Christian denominations also conduct services in my parish, the
vast majority of people must still seek the care of the Christian
Church when it comes to these important rites of passage.
It is unlikely that my experience is unique. I have no knowledge
of Mr Wright's circumstances, and mean him no offence, but I am
sure that it is our responsibility to communicate to all our
parishioners that they have a right to these offices.
The people of our country are no longer taught by family or
school that we are the Established Church, and here for all; so it
is up to us to make our mark.
If the Church of England makes it clear that it is here and
welcoming for everyone, people will come. We are not a
congregational Church. We have the cure of souls for the whole
13 Abbot's Road, Old Heath
Colchester CO2 8BE
From the Revd David Berry
Sir, - The Revd Hugh Wright's letter (29 August) on
secularisation covers the ground very fully. He highlights the
cliff-edge situation facing the Church.
In our part of rural Cumbria, we have just begun a series of
ecumenical meetings to prepare us for structural change. The cliff
edge is now before us. The structure we have used, and been used
to, is having to be superseded. It was explained that we just can't
afford the clergy.
Are there any theological faculties or prominent church groups
studying, in depth, what should replace our crumbling system? I
would be thrilled to find one. I hear too often the call for our
faith to catch up with the modern world, when what I long to hear
is the call for our system to catch up.
Our parish system came into full use after the end of the
Graeco-Roman civilisation. Its demise was on the cards when the
next great social change began to appear in the 1700s with the rise
of the Industrial Revolution. When one of our priests, John Wesley,
saw what was going on, he proceeded to ride his horse and the
gospel straight through the parish system.
Nearly 300 years later, we are seeing it acknowledged that a
third system is needed. Megachurches seem to be the great exception
to decline. Could this be because, like Wesley, they break free
from a declining system?
2 The Croft, Warcop
Cumbria CA16 6PH
From Canon James Mynors
Sir, - As it happens, in the seven rural parishes where I've
been Rector for seven years, we have recently observed the precise
opposite to Mr Wright: a doubling of wedding and baptism enquiries,
and an increase in the willingness to take on responsibilities.
Attendance by non-regulars at special services seems to be up, too.
Only the number of funerals seems to be down; but that is because
of increased life expectancy, not secularisation.
The question is much better answered, however, by thorough
research rather than exchanging isolated stories. That is why the
Church of England has recently published From Anecdote to
Evidence (available online), which, for example, notes that
from 2000 to 2010, 27 per cent of Anglican churches did decline,
but most were stable, and 18 per cent grew.
More importantly, the report analyses why so many churches grew,
in spite of today's climate. In the diocese where I serve, the
rural clergy and the College of Canons have both found this
material very useful for reflection. I commend it to others.
Main Street, Aldwincle
Kettering NN14 3EP