From Mr Nigel Holmes
Sir, - "Big buildings and big institutions fall down slowly but
there comes a point when the roof really does fall in and we move
from being Durham Cathedral to Fountains Abbey. . . My own gut
feeling is that there will be serious questions of viability before
I retire, probably camouflaged in pastoral reorganising at diocesan
level. Say seven to ten years." These are words written by the
present Archbishop of Canterbury when he was the Bishop of Durham,
and are quoted by Andrew Atherstone in The Road to
Canterbury (DLT, 2013).
Thank you for your series of articles on the state of the
Church. The sobering statistical analysis by Professor Linda
Woodhead has been particularly telling. As many of your articles
have proclaimed, flexibility in thinking and radical structural
change is urgent. We must make the best use of abilities available.
In the past, the greatest waste was the sidelining of women; in our
day, inflexibility of movement between categories, especially lay
to ordained, marginalises many unpaid ministers. So that the fewer
paid clergy can devote more time to mission, the maintenance of
ministry will fall increasingly on volunteers. Yet the talents of
Readers remain under-used.
As so often in the Church of England, those with influence can
easily frustrate the will of the people. A survey of more than 1000
Readers found that one-third felt frustrated, and the vast majority
sought significant change. Their views were all but ignored. We
cannot afford to waste such talent and experience.
Sadly, many with power regard ministry as static. To my mind, it
should be dynamic, offering movement between categories,
progression matching flourishing talent and accumulated experience.
As numbers diminish, the survival of the Church in a recognisable
form will depend on this. Mission impossible?
Woodside, Great Corby
Carlisle CA4 8LL
From Mr John Griffiths
Sir, - In a Church running out of clergy and lacking the
resources to keep buildings serviceable, the laity is the one part
of the Church which can be expected to play a more crucial role in
the future. This is why it is all the more scandalous that there is
no integrated strategy for lay training; and that the vast majority
of money spent in the Church of England is being spent on buildings
and clergy. It is high time that the laity were imagined as more
than pew-fodder replacing the money sluicing out of the holes in
the Church Commissioners' pockets, and were resourced as being
vital to the future of the Church in England. Let us start
investing in the laity.
58 Middlefield Road
Hoddesdon EN11 9ER
From Mr Alan Stanley
Sir, - Much is said and written about the ministry of clergy.
Very little, if anything, is written about the theology of the
non-ordained without making it it in some way an appendage of the
true parish ministry, that of the clergy.
The many growing Churches take the theology of the whole people
of God much more seriously. Many have a voluntarist ecclesiology
that, although we may not accept all that involves, does in
actuality place the whole local congregation at the centre of the
cure of souls in that area. Many growing worldwide Anglican
Churches value, nurture, and enable the ministry of the
Assbridge Lodge, Cattle Lane
Aberford, Leeds LS25 3BN
From Dr Sheila E. Fisher
Sir, - In the debate about church health and the careful
reflections of the past four weeks, I find myself wondering where
the recognition of the power of chaplaincy ministry is.
In the wider world of schools, prisons, healthcare, airports,
and in the hard times of life such as illness and bereavement,
chaplains reach out in the love and grace of God.
The content, especially and disappointingly in the final issue,
has been centred on parochial ministry; and yet there is no
either/or aspect to parochial and chaplaincy: they are
complementary aspects of Jesus's ministry. He respected the
scriptures and taught in the synagogue. He had an equally powerful
ministry in the towns and countryside, reaching out to the
marginalised and vulnerable.
Surely it is time for our Church to do the same? It is possible
to support the parish structure, and yet feel a vocation to a wider
ministry, reaching out to places that parochial ministry finds it
difficult to access. This demands different, but complementary,
talents from parish leadership; and yet there appears to be no
pathway to identify and offer training to those who feel this
SHEILA E. FISHER
2 Primley Park Mount
Alwoodley, Leeds LS17 7JJ
From Sister Monica and Sister Catherine
Sir, - It is inspiring that the Archbishop of Canterbury is
developing and encouraging the ecumenical aspect of the religious
life at Lambeth Palace. This continues the work of traditional
Anglican religious communities at the instigation of Archbishop
Runcie, who invited the Order of the Holy Paraclete to establish a
presence at the Palace. It was continued by Archbishops Carey and
Williams; and for a short time, two communities (the Community of
the Holy Name and Sisters of the Love of God) worked and lived
together, involved in the life of the Palace and in the local area.
We thank God that the Chemin Neuf community is able to build on
this work (News, 28 February).
SISTER MONICA CHN, AND SISTER CATHERINE CHN
64 Allexton Gardens, Welland
Peterborough PE1 4UW