From the Revd Andrew Thomas
Sir, - I was sad to read the negative letters from readers
concerning the state of the Church in the rural setting.
Admittedly, one could legitimately argue that the rural Church is
in the decline.
Nevertheless, the rural Church is an exciting and wholly
positive place to be. I think the Church of England bean-counters
need to take a long hard look at the way they count their beans and
realise that rural churches don't count their beans in the same way
as town churches. Just because we don't have 200 people in church
on a Sunday morning and hundreds of pounds in the collection plate
doesn't mean we are failing.
In broad brush-strokes, town and city ministry is where you see
everyone on Sunday morning and no one Monday to Saturday. Rural
ministry is where you see no one on Sunday morning and everyone
Monday to Saturday. Rural ministry and church life is much more on
the chaplaincy model. Sadly, this isn't conducive to statistics
that are easily analysed.
I have thriving and exciting church communities. In my five
parishes there are at least six church services most Sundays, we
have a successful Sunday school on a Monday afternoon, and a
growing Messy Church. I spend time at school taking assemblies, and
with the staff and parents. I spend time with the local business,
hunts, and cattle market. All part of the local make-up that
attracts thousands of townsfolk each year seeking to escape the
anonymity of the metropolis.
If the bean-counters want me to tell them how many people I "do
church" with each week, it stretches into the hundreds. Does this
mean that I am running a mega-church?
Country folk need church, and they need the Church. They need it
to be there, where it always has been, providing a constant in an
ever transient world. I wonder if the bean-counters could look at
other ways of measuring church, perhaps more pastorally than on the
default accountancy model; and maybe Church House could look at the
many and varied ways rural communities are doing church.
The Vicarage, High Street,
Somerset TA22 9DW
From Mr Matthew Chinery
Sir, - I am not sure whether it will reassure or further sadden
Harriet Ryan (
Letters, 13 February) that freezing churches are not an
exclusively rural problem. The PCC at St Augustine's, Kilburn, in
London, is currently trying to raise £250,000 to install an
adequate heating system for the first time in the building's
history (some radiators were installed in the triforium in the
1930s, but never connected to anything: we assume the money ran
We are halfway there, and hugely grateful for grants from our
patron (the Society for the Maintenance of the Faith), the diocese
of London, and various other bodies. It has been surprising,
however, that so many "big ticket" funders, most notably the
Heritage Lottery Fund, will not even consider grants for such a
One occasionally wonders about the point of investing so much
time and effort keeping a (magnificent) Grade I listed building in
such good condition when it is almost unusable four months a year.
The project has the potential utterly to transform the outreach
that we can offer as a parish. If there is a wish for a church to
be at the centre of the daily life of a community, adequate heating
is an absolute essential; it would be good if more funders
recognised this. Otherwise, I fear today's cold church is
tomorrow's closed church.
The Diocesan Registry,
5 Montague Close,
London SE1 9BB
From the Revd Dr W. S. Monkhouse
Sir, - I suggest that new bishops, and those clergy identified
early on as high fliers, are given the opportunity to experience
for themselves what it is like to be a single priest in charge of a
far-flung benefice of a multiplicity of parishes, each with its
PCC, its challenges, its churchmanship and traditions, and its
church officers who know nothing of email. I hope that they will
take the trouble to find out what it feels like to be confronted
Sunday by Sunday by only a handful of people.
I hope that they might begin to understand the sinking feeling
that comes when diocesan advisers refuse to acknowledge that some
of us simply don't have a critical mass of willing hands to indulge
in yet another initiative - simply because the few people we have
are already fully occupied in putting bread on the table, and
looking after friends and family who are worse off than
I hope that the new pathway for clergy career advancement will
mean that the bench of the future includes more priests who have
come from the coalface on the periphery - from where, of course,
the view is so much clearer.
W. S. MONKHOUSE,
Burton upon Trent DE14 2ED
From Anne Coomes
Sir, - The report Released for Mission prompted Nigel
Holmes last week (
Letters 13 February) to assert that "the key to keeping the
rumour of God alive in the countryside" is the parish magazine. We
agree with him. Parish magazines may be the only form of Christian
literature that thousands of non-churchgoers ever see, never mind
When Mr Holmes then suggests that church-magazine editors would
benefit from access to an "electronic feed of interesting material
month by month to enrich the editorial content", we have excellent
news for him: we are already doing this.
It was exactly out of concern for people like Mr Holmes, in
churches that can struggle to fill their magazines, that we founded
1999. Everymonth, we offer exactly what he described: scoresof
inspiring or informative articles and snippets, book reviews,
poems, jokes and quotes,as well as front covers, cartoons,
children's pages, and puzzles. Nowadays, wesupplychurch-magazine
editors inevery diocese in England, as well as churches across the
UK and Anglican Communion.
PO Box 236,
Cheshire SK10 4GJ