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Afghanistan service was remote from the people

20 March 2015


From the Revd Henry L. Ormerod
Sir, - The Afghanistan service at St Paul's was very well planned, and extremely appropriate for the occasion. The gulf seems to be getting ever bigger, however, between such meticulously ordered acts of worship and the level of religious belief and understanding of the majority of the people who attend them.

The television cameras roving around the congregation during the hymns showed that only a small proportion of those present were singing. I couldn't help feeling, from my armchair at home, that there was a widespread lack of engagement in the cathedral with the strong Christian content of the service.

I wondered what the royalty and British aristocracy present thought of being asked to sing, "All that kills abundant living, let it from the earth be banned; pride of status, race or schooling, dogmas that obscure your plan." I wondered what the Prime Minister and the congregation thought of his being given a reading beginning with the word "And", a reading that in two places used the word "which" rather than "who" to denote people.

I also thought that the Archbishop's very good sermon had a little element of "cheating" in its highly disputable assumption (well suiting his further remarks) that the Authorised Version was right in attributing to Jeremiah the authorship of Lamentations.

Maybe, in a few years it will be thought more appropriate for such an occasion to take the form of a concert in the Albert Hall rather than a Christian service in St Paul's. Meanwhile, the presence of large and increasing numbers of unbelievers and people committed to no religion may need to be taken into account a bit more when such big national acts of Christian worship are held.

Henry Ormerod
5 Waterloo Drive
Banbury OX16 3QN

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