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Letters to the editor

12 August 2016


Hospitality matters more than security measures

From Canon Stuart Morris

Sir, — When I was asked by the churchwarden of a church in Derby what we should do in the wake of the murder of Fr Jacques Hamel in France, my response was that we open our doors even wider.

The prevention suggested by Nick Tolson (Comment, 5 August) is so removed from Christian hospitality and generosity. Martyrdom has always been a part of the faith, and we do not start slamming our doors shut.

When Brother Roger was murdered during the prayers at Taizé, the brothers there, the next day, continued with their prayers in the same style, and the same vulnerability.

So should we all.


St Edmund’s Vicarage

Sinfin Avenue

Derby DE24 9JA


From Dr Eric Stoddart

Sir, — It is disappointing to see your headline on the otherwise measured article on the security advice after the murder of Fr Hamel in Rouen. To be “put on alert” carries much stronger connotations of imminent danger, especially in close proximity to a photograph of a police officer in a church, than “being alert” — the advice that is soberly reported.


St Mary’s College

St Andrews
Fife KY16 9JU


Church and people in England: Henson’s theory

From Mr Alan Bartley

Sir, — Bishop Herbert Hensley Henson’s 1928 Bishoprick Paper, addressing the ordination of women, has a useful aside about how the Church of England started to lose the English people.

Some were urging women priests to increase the numbers of clergy. He gives the figures for 1914 and 1928 for the diocese of Durham: assistant curates down from 234 to 96; working clergy had fallen by 142. The same applies across the country.

He tells us that the contact between the Church and people had been “the Church Schools and the regular house-to-house visitation of the Parish clergy”. He reports that “in most parishes Church schools have gone: and now the assistant curates are rapidly going.” While “the Incumbents are ceasing to be parsons of their parishes and becoming ministers of such congregations as they can gather.” Their time is taken up with necessary duties that leave no time for parish visitation.

He is convinced that “We are failing not because the people reject our teaching, but because they never really know what it is: not because they refuse our ministrations, but because we cannot offer them. . . A generation is growing up in the industrial districts which really does not possess the elements of Christian faith and morals, and which is destitute of the attachments and habits which have in the past been the buttress of personal morality.”

From other sources, before this had been the great education battles, where disagreements with Nonconformists meant that Christian discipleship could not be taught in state schools, only scripture knowledge, and then even that was watered down to religious education that described religion without inculcating its practice.

An elderly local preacher I knew in the 1970s explained the end of great preachers by the increased competition as first radio, cinema, and then TV provided alternative amusement to people on Sundays. The increasing hostility of such providers to Christian values and faith has undermined what remained of Christian folk knowledge. He added that crowded churches were a free way for the working classes to stay warm in winter in the days before the welfare state and their greater prosperity.

With increasing populations and decreasing clergy, and with no effective alternative to parish visitation, was decline inevitable? Was this helped or hindered by the hesitation of some clergy to assert the historic faith, with this life as a probation for a life to come? Those who believe such things have better resisted and sometimes reversed the decline, but often draw their congregations from a very wide area; so their methods may not serve to reach and recruit our neighbours.


17 Francis Road,

Greenford UB6 7AD


From Mr Anthony Jennings

Sir, — Could I add to the comments of Professor Nigel Bastin (Letters, 5 August)?

People in the parishes have lost faith with the institutional Church in the same way as they have lost faith in politicians, and largely for the same reasons: they no longer see them as representing their interests or their views.

The churchwardens and the PCC members who do all the practical work of the Church are not interested in endless debates about the ordination of women or homosexuality. They are concerned, for example, about the fact that the parishes are providing much of the funding that maintains the diocesan bureaucrats, and yet when their parish assets are sold off, the parish gets no benefit, and congregations decline.

Those employed in the diocesan offices must realise that without the parishes they cannot survive, and sooner or later they will have to start listening to them.



Save Our Parsonages

Flat Z, 12-18 Bloomsbury Street

London WC1B 3QA


From the Revd Ian Robins

Sir, — With regard to That Was the Church That Was (Books, 29 July) and Professor Nigel Bastin’s response: there is a more frightening reason that the English Church has lost the English people.

Through all the years after I was ordained in 1952, most parish churches offered cheap grace, through indiscriminate baptism.

In 1966, I resigned from the parochial ministry, as my bishop would not support me in a baptismal policy that simply insisted on time spent with parents before a date for their baptism was fixed. I have never refused to baptise a child; but some parents have a preferred a “nicer” priest instead of an evening or two with me.

When canon law authorised delay for preparation before baptism, I returned to parish ministry.


33 Manorfields, Whalley

Clitheroe, Lancs BB7 9UD


Justice Goddard and abuse investigations

From the Revd Andrew McLuskey

Sir, — What relevance does the resignation of Justice Goddard have for investigations into abuse committed in church contexts? The answer, sadly, is: quite a lot.

Not all of the offences being — and to be — investigated are in the distant past. Many of them, according to press reports, are only too current. It is, therefore, imperative for the good name of the Churches, and indeed many other institutions, that a new chair for the abuse commission should rapidly be found. Clearly this must be someone who is (a) appropriate and (b) will stay the course for the whole investigation.

Also one feels that there should be an interim report to show us how far things have progressed. This surely is the least that can be done for the survivors and their families.


17 Diamedes Avenue, Stanwell

Staines TW19 7JE


Fraudulent appeal from ‘Ugandan student nurse’

From the Rt Revd Keith Arnold

Sir, — I have now received three identical copies of a letter from Uganda in the past three months purporting to be from a student nurse requesting a donation to costs of training at a Training Centre in Kampala.

When I got the first, I assumed it was bona fide, and sent a cheque for £30 to a local bank. The next thing I knew was that £30,000 had been withdrawn from my account, and I discovered that a clever forger had altered my cheque accordingly.

The bank confirmed that it had failed to identify the forgery, and my account was amended.

I want to alert other clergy to this sad event. The perpetrator must have access to lists of retired clergy like myself, and is no doubt finding his or her “scam” to be lucrative.

This is a sad business, because girls are enlisted to write these begging letters, and thereby the springs of charity are being fouled.


9 Dinglederry, Olney

Buckinghamshire MK46 5ES


Visibility is needed, as well as presence, today

From the Revd Richard Coles

Sir, — I should like to thank Canon Tilby for her kind and thoughtful comments about my media ministry (Comment, 5 August). A tiny correction: my Queen of Puddings, rightly dethroned, denied me a place in the Celebrity Masterchef finals, not the semi-finals.

And, in reply to her question, I do take off the collar when I’m off-duty, but I don’t think media appearances are off-duty. This is partly because the ministry of presence has always seemed to me to be valuable, but also because I think a ministry of visibility is increasingly important in a culture that finds us baffling, if it notices us at all.

I perhaps flatter myself to think that deconstructing a haggis might be construed as mission, but opportunities, where possible, should nevertheless be taken.


The Vicarage, Church Hill

Finedon, Northants NN9 5NR


News from St Albion?

From Mr Steve Vince

Sir, — One would have thought that some of those who have been writing in defence of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership (Letters, 5 August) would recognise a pastoral breakdown when they see it.


13 Selwyn Close

Wolverhampton WV2 4NQ


Photographic mix-up

From the Revd Gillian Maude

Sir, — Your caption on page 5 (News, 5 August) conflates two different events and does not describe the photo, which is from a celebration at St Peter’s, Monkwearmouth, on 4 June, and shows children from Sunderland leading a processsion of the Children’s Codex 1300, as it leaves Monkwearmouth at the start of its journey to Rome as a gift to Pope Francis.

The caption relates to an event in St Paul’s, Jarrow, on 11 July, which celebrated the arrival in Jarrow of a full-size digital facsimile of the 1300-year-old Codex Amiatinus, produced in the Wearmouth-Jarrow monastery under Abbot Ceolfrith. On this latter occasion, the Bishop of Jarrow and the (RC) Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle shared in the blessing of the Codex, which was then taken to the former Bede’s World museum.

The Children’s Codex 1300 project produced a compilation of Bible texts, every school in Sunderland and Jarrow contributing a section, bound into a leather volume. One copy has been blessed at Lambeth Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and is being taken as a gift to Pope Francis, in celebration of Abbot Ceolfrith’s gift to the Pope 1300 years ago.

The facsimile of the Codex Amiatinus could not be carried in a sling hammock by four children: it is an enormous book, weighing more than 75 lb.


St Peter’s House, York Avenue

Jarrow NE32 5LP


Our apologies for the confusion. The photo and caption have been corrected online. Editor

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