Looking for young people? Check the choir stalls
From the Revd Jeremy Fletcher
Sir, — The appointment of Jimmy Dale as Youth Evangelism Officer for the Church of England (News, 12 August) is a welcome strategic initiative. It is a shame that the C of E statement said that this post “will start to address the challenges of reaching out to [this] generation”. Mr Dale’s previous position at Youth for Christ (YfC) points to a continuity of active ministry among young people.
I was involved locally with Youth for Christ in the 1980s, and many such organisations have been at this for years. Beverley Minster, where I now serve, is in its third decade of having a paid full-time youth and children’s minister, and the growth of formal qualifications in church youth ministry, not least by the Centre for Youth Ministry, has been a great encouragement. Mr Dale does not start from scratch.
Can I encourage him to see the involvement of young people in “traditional” church music as a fruitful area? Beverley Minster’s youth ministry includes all the contemporary cultural means that you would expect. Our social media, gaming, lighting, PA, and DJ equipment gladden the heart of this ageing bass-playing Vicar.
Our youth ministers will tell you that their work with our choir is a key part of what they do. Up to 50 under-18s lead our worship week by week, singing at holy communion and choral evensong. A growing number are expressing their Christian faith publicly through baptism and confirmation.
Youth come in all shapes and sizes, and active involvement with “inherited” models of ministry and worship will bring its fruit, even as new forms of ministry begin to emerge.
I hope Mr Dale will add RSCM to YfC.
The Minster Vicarage, Highgate
Beverley HU17 0DN
How to nurture prophetic gifts in today’s society
From the Revd Keith Thomasson
Sir, — In response to Canon Paul Oestreicher (Comment, 29 July): from Abraham to Moses, Elisha and Elijah, and the prophets who wrote their texts down and whose texts were then reinterpreted by later generations, and the prophets in the New Testament, through to those in post-biblical times, whether they are enmeshed in the religious world or not, the essence of their message is: “If you don’t change your ways, it will all go badly wrong.”
Today, prophets’ voices are required in connection with global issues such as economics and climate change. There are several strands of listening going on: to society, to the theological tradition, and to God.
Prophecy can also have a more local connection; for prophets are deeply connected with context. It is here that the chaplain can model a prophetic ministry.
The chaplain has a capacity to connect the story of the times with the biblical narrative. From the periphery of an organisation, the chaplain observes and listens, or “reads the signs of the times”. He or she may then travel to the centre of an organisation and communicate.
One way of doing this is to work with the stated values of an organisation. The task of recalling colleagues, especially those in positions of leadership, to test their practice and the decisions that shape practice in light of an organisation’s values is valuable. Of course, it takes courage from those in leadership to be open to this, but when they are, it leads to beneficial dividends in reducing oppression.
Canon Oestreicher raised in my mind the tension between being prophetic in the parish setting and maintaining the status quo. I wonder whether a chaplaincy model as outlined above could be received more frequently as a gift within a parish or diocesan setting. People with appropriate gifts could be invited and supported in exercising such a ministry.
Across the Church, how can the ministry of those with prophetic gifts be nurtured? In the setting of both the parish and the (faith-based) charity, having the courage to sensitively work with the Bible in one hand and the equivalent of the national or local newspaper in the other could be developed. The sharing in reading the text together and reflecting on it in context can in my experience be beneficial.
This can happen in executive team meetings as much as in voluntary gatherings. Breaking the Word open, alongside breaking bread open, makes sense. Learning that leads to action stems from the diverse contributions to the conversation. Greater unity then comes when we in deeper appreciation of our diversity share bread together, in the presence of the other and the Other.
From this place, changing what needs to be changed is increasingly a possibility: by resourcing hubs where people who have potential and recognised prophetic gifts (from society, church, and chaplaincy) can share learning and where their voices can be heard from those in leadership; and by extending the current practice of several dioceses in appointing people to interim parish posts where speaking what they read or see, and helping local people change how things are done, is the norm.
Alabaré Christian Care and Support
2 Watt Road
Salisbury SP2 7UD
From the Bishop in Cyprus & the Gulf
Sir, — “Cyprus ordains its first ‘homegrown’ clergy” (News, 5 August) doesn’t get it quite right.
It was moving to ordain four candidates together at St Paul’s Cathedral, Nicosia, on 25 June, but, in ones and twos, “home-grown” and in several cases “home-trained” candidates have been deaconed and priested over the years not only by me but by predecessors such as Bishops John Brown and Clive Handford. A distinguished example from 1993 is Bill Schwartz, now Archdeacon in the Gulf.
What we have done in recent years is to foster a climate of vocation and to structure and fund selection and formation a bit more intentionally.
Incidentally the first woman to be priested from and in the diocese was ordained in our second Cathedral, of St Christopher, Bahrain, in 2011, after serving her diaconate at Christ Church, Aden.
MICHAEL CYPRUS & THE GULF
2 Grigori Afxentiou Street
PO Box 22075, Nicosia
Chichester needs to explain itself, publicly
From Marilyn Billingham
Sir, — The police are to say sorry to the surviving niece of Bishop George Bell because they did not take steps to let her know that the investigation about her uncle’s alleged abuse of a child in the late 1940s was to be made public. This much has been reported accurately in the national press and in the press local to Chichester. The police said far more than this, however.
In a letter to the journalist Peter Hitchens, prompted by his correspondence with the Police Crime Commissioner’s Office, the Head of Sussex Police Professional Standards Department stated that the handling of this affair was “complicated by the fact that the release was generated by the diocese, with whom (the police acknowledge) they should have been working more closely”.
Further, she continues, “It was never our intention to be pro-active; in other words, there was no intention to release a police statement about the alleged criminality of Bishop Bell.” The police, however, were asked by the diocese to make a statement — a statement which, they now acknowledge, was less than clear, and “could be considered contradictory”.
The people of Chichester diocese and your readers deserve a clear explanation about the basis on which the diocesan office made public this alleged uncorroborated crime that the police were not planning to pursue, and why, despite this, they have continued to besmirch the reputation of a man who can no longer defend himself.
51 York Road
Growth: clergy or mission communities?
From Mr Michael Watts
Sir, — I was interested to read the report that Dr Fiona Tweddle’s research found that growth is linked to more clergy (News, 5 August). Carlisle diocese seems bent on reducing the number of clergy and replacing them with mission communities, which, in my opinion, are doomed to failure.
Raven Gill, Parkhead
From Canon Andrew Warner
Sir, — Isn’t modern research wonderful? You inform us that “Growth is linked to more clergy, research finds”.
I recall that the (Leslie) Paul report, The Deployment and Payment of the Clergy, also discovered a direct relationship between the number of clergy in a parish and the size of it congregation — back in 1964.
5 Pearman Drive
Andover SP10 2SB
The squeeze of the Lord be always with you
From Canon Hugh Broad
Sir, — I have much sympathy with Canon David Winter’s comments on the Peace in the eucharist (Diary, 5 August).
As a fellow retired priest, my experiences have been very similar. When I returned to this English diocese after a decade working in the diocese in Europe (in Spain), I, like David Winter found that expressions of the Peace were so often just a time for a chit-chat of many kinds, but often not in keeping with the act of worship.
So I decided that some innovation was called for, and, thanks to a very tolerant and co-operative parish, where I was interim priest for some months, and since then an even more supportive parish priest where I am now privileged to minister, this is what we do at the Peace.
I invite all those present (and it works equally well with a small congregation, or a larger one) to link hands not just with the person next to them, but across the rows and the aisles; the words of the Peace to each other are accompanied by a squeeze of the hands and, we hope, a smile.
It is over in a very few minutes, allowing us to proceed to the heart of the eucharist in a good spirit of togetherness.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I now discover that some of my clergy colleagues are trying this, with similar positive results.
44 Vensfield Road
Grumpy about frumpy
From the Revd Lindsay Llewellyn-MacDuff
Sir, — While the article “Divine service with a style” (Features, 29 July) had some interesting and thoughtful things to say about women’s identity in clerical dress, the line on your front page “farewell to frumpy” had me spitting tacks.
It strummed every nerve that has been made raw by article after article defining women principally by their looks, dress, shape; it was in tune with every advert that has suggested that I am less competent, less professional, less worthy if I am not smart, stylish, chic.
I very nearly dropped the whole paper in the bin, unread.
24 St Margaret’s Street
Rochester, Kent ME1 1TS