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Back to basics and belief

28 February 2014

Peter Ould envisages a future Church that, born out of crisis, returns to its true purpose

THE coronation of King William V was held on an auspicious day: 24 April 2034. A week of sun in the run-up to Easter had meant that the outdoor Good Friday service in Trafalgar Square was well attended, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Katie Tupling, had preached a powerful sermon in the presence of the King, Queen, and Prince George.

Up and down the country, the churches were full on Easter Day, as congregations showed another record rise in attendances. Not since the 1970s had the pews been so full, and millions prayed for the reign of their new king.

Twenty years earlier, the picture had been remarkably different. In the midst of the second failed vote on women bishops, and the collapse of the "Croft discussions" on human sexuality, schism had looked the Church of England square in the face - until the fateful General Synod of July 2017.

When the late Archbishop Welby had begun his presidential address - "Communities of holiness, centres of resurrection" - no one had expected what came next. After the second great credit-crunch earlier that year (accompanied by the dramatic TV pictures of the rioting in European capitals), the former oil executive told the gath-ered clergy and laity that it was time to refocus.

"The internal battles of the past few decades have distracted us from the core mission of the Church," he said. "It is time, once again, to do what the Early Church did so well - simply preach Christ crucified and risen, and love the world around us that has lost sight of any vision, both politically and spiritually.

"There is no place for agendas, there is only space for the work of serving God, and serving the people we live among. Anything else is not what the Church of England is about."

FACED with a House of Bishops that closed ranks on the desire of some to advance their particular causes, some lobby groups found themselves frozen out, financially and socially.

The second generation Pilgrim Course (written by a retired archbishop, Dr Sentamu, and Bishop Michael Langrish) was a radical rewrite, focusing on a simple but effective basic discipleship. It was endorsed by Holy Trinity, Brompton, and by the GAFCON Primates, as the official follow-on from Alpha.

But the one thing that really turned the Church around was the way that the United Ecclesiastical Credit Union stepped into the breach after the failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland, in 2023. With nowhere else to turn, millions of men and women moved their money into the hands of church-sponsored local banks, and put their dinner plates in the hands of locally resourced foodbanks (the four million unemployed were extremely grateful).

Suddenly, in the midst of a national malaise, the ordinary men and women of England saw a Church of England that knew what it believed (even if it was often at odds with the Government), and lived out a genuine public life of love.

In his address to the nation on Easter Monday, King William paid tribute to "the Church of our people that has walked alongside each of us over the past decade, through our pain and joy, just like the Saviour whom the Church and I serve."

And, as Archbishop Tupling settled with a cognac in her chair, watching it on her holographic TV, she joined the people of England in giving thanks for all God's mercies over the past 20 years.

The Revd Peter Ould blogs at www.peter-ould.net, and is founder of the Twitter aggregator, the Twurch of England.

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