From the Revd John Whittaker
Sir, - It's not often that an article in the Church
Times causes me to groan out loud. The report that Chancellor
Mark Bishop of the Lincoln diocese has ruled that no faculty will
be issued for St Michael and All Angels, Uffington, to allow for a
new oak table planned to be used both for serving refreshments and
as an altar, did just that (News, 5 September).
Apparently, the canon that forbids such "inappropriate" requests
is F2(2), which places a requirement on the church to ensure that
"the Lord's Table is kept in a sufficient and seemly manner".
One year ago, St Mary's, Hinckley, started distributing food
through a foodbank. Now we regularly give away 200kg of food a
week. The distribution happens right next to the altar area. A few
months ago, as I watched the food being placed into the hands of
the hungry, I was touched by the vision of the bread of life given
out at communion on Sunday's becoming the bread of life in a
different way, given out in the week.
The sacramental action of communion took on a new depth of
meaning when expressed in this generous action of service - so much
so that we are thinking whether our altar can be used more tangibly
to be a physical expression linking the two actions.
It might be that keeping an altar in a "sufficient and seemly
manner" involves keeping it pristine and clean, and away from the
grit and reality of the world we are called to love and serve. Or
it might be that using the altar as a tangible link between
sacrament and service is a far richer and better way to honour
I believe that this is the case at that inspiring church St
Gregory's, San Francisco. I hope it will be the case at St Mary's,
Hinckley, and I would urge St Michael and All Angels to put in an
appeal, so that their linking of sacrament on Sunday with
hospitality in the week can be seen as it truly is: a wonderful and
life-giving use of an altar, far surpassing the requirement for it
to be kept in a "sufficient and seemly manner".
Parish Office, St Mary's
Church Lane, Hinckley LE10 1DW