Multi-faith unity and Christian witness to Christ
From the Revd Paul Boulter
Sir, — I was intrigued, in reading the Revd Dr Marcus Braybrooke’s advocacy of multi-faith unity (“Faiths should sing in harmony”, Comment, 25 November), to see him quoting St Paul’s writing.
I wonder whether we might reflect on St Paul’s encounter with other religions in Athens in Acts 17. Rather than commend their faith, he was deeply distressed at their worship of other gods. Consequently, he took what was good in their faith, and used it as a springboard to proclaiming the one true God to them, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ (17.31).
The concept of an “only Son of God” is apparently a stumbling-block to Hindus, and problematic to Muslims and Jews. This sounds reminiscent of St Paul, describing the cross of Christ as a “stumbling-block to Jews” and “foolishness” to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1.23), which St Paul didn’t seem to view as a problem to be solved. Rather, it was a manifestation of the wisdom of God.
I have a sneaking suspicion that, if St Paul had taken the approach that Dr Braybrooke is advocating, the apostolic Church might not have made it out of the first century at all.
161 Dudley Street
Bedford MK40 3SY
From the Revd Howard Peskett
Sir, — The Revd Dr Marcus Braybrooke has not said all that needs to be said on the subject of Christian witness and mission in a world of many faiths.
It is good that world faith leaders should meet and talk together. We should love one another; help one another; work together; and learn about each other’s most cherished beliefs and commitments. World Christianity is hugely diverse, and has embedded itself in countless cultures.
But we cannot abandon our conviction, quietly stated, that “Jesus Christ is Lord.” And we need to pay attention to those who have thought it necessary and worth while to move from their ancestral faiths to worship and follow Jesus.
If the World Congress of Faiths’ view of the idea that “love transcends religions” had prevailed in past centuries, we Western Gentiles and barbarians would not be Christians.
7 North Parade, Penzance
Cornwall TR18 4SH
Insurance Premium Tax in the Autumn Statement
From the Revd Christopher Wilson
Sir, — In February 2014, I wrote about Insurance Premium Tax, which was inflating insurance premiums on Listed Places of Worship by six per cent. The Chancellor has increased the IPT rate from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent in the Autumn Statement.
This is a hidden tax on those striving to maintain a large proportion of our national heritage and to use it for the public good. Like the premiums on which it is based, it is entirely unrelated to the current wealth and income potential of each church. It produces an amount that is trivial to the Exchequer, but significant to the Church.
Perhaps it is now time for every PCC and deanery and diocesan synod to consider the matter and lobby for change.
Clive House, Kenilworth Road
Leamington Spa CV32 5TL
Senior appointments in the C of E and BAME representation levels
From Vasantha Gnanadoss
Sir, — I have three issues with Prebendary John Root (Letters, 25 November).
First, to write that “it is hard to think of any names” in relation to future appointments of black and minority-ethnic (BAME) bishops is to betray an ignorance of the talent available in the Church today. The subtext is, of course, the racism that Canon Julie Conalty named (Letters, 18 November).
Second, about alleged lack of strategy, Prebendary Root could refer to the suggestions I made early this year (Comment, 29 January).
Third, as for sending names of suitably qualified BAME candidates to dioceses, several of us have been doing that for years.
242 Links Road
London SW17 9ER
From Mr Alexander McCulloch
Sir, — I feel impelled to put pen to paper in response to the cri de coeur from Prebendary Tunde Roberts and others (Letters, 18 November) regarding what is described in their letter as “the shameful statistics on the lack of BAME leadership in the Church of England and, in particular in the senior leadership of that Church”.
The writers continue: “The last time the Church of England consecrated a BAME bishop was in 1996, when Dr Sentamu was consecrated as Bishop of Stepney” — and look what happened to him!
All that I, as a member of the laity, look for in my parish priest and diocesan clergy is the ability to connect with everyday problems in the context of the gospel, ethnicity being irrelevant.
Please, no more “B(L)AME” game. Just go for it. To borrow a phrase from Henry Ford, “Statistics [is] bunk.”
30A Mill Hill Close
West Sussex RH16 1NY
What Jesus ate: certainly not carp or catfish
From Professor Richard Bauckham
Sir, — The interesting article by Dr Susan Weingarten (Features, 25 November) on what Jesus ate is inaccurate with regard to fish from the Sea of Galilee. Jesus would not have eaten carp, which were introduced only in the 20th century, or catfish, which are not kosher (since they do not have scales).
He would have eaten tilapia (St Peter’s fish) and barbel. Probably most often, he would have eaten “Galilean sardines”, which are small but readily available in large numbers. (The two small fish with which Jesus supplied the five thousand were probably Galilean sardines that had been preserved by drying in the sun.)
It is rather surprising that the disciples, according to John 21, fished all night but caught nothing. Experienced fishermen should have known where to find fish at that time of year. It is possible that the lake had been over-fished, since the population around the lake had increased considerably over the preceding century and there were at least 200 boats fishing in it.
Fresh fish would have to be sold the same day as they were caught (and so would not have been available in Nazareth, as Dr Weingarten notes), but fish were salted on a large scale at Magdala. Families who lived around the lake could easily preserve fish for themselves by drying it in the sun. I know of no evidence for the smoking of fish in this area.
The fish sauce known in Latin as garum seems to have been consumed by all classes of society. There were many varieties, depending on the ingredients, and, while some were very expensive, others were probably cheap. Locally produced sauce would have been cheaper than sauce imported from the western Mediterranean.
The fish workshops that have been excavated at Magdala are especially important because they are the first that have been found in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Magdala’s Greek name, Tarichaeae, actually means “fish factories”.
11 Archway Court
Cambridge CB2 9LW
Cathedral finances: time for a national trust?
From Mr G. P. Humphreys
Sir, — In Sarah Meyrick’s feature about England’s Cathedrals (Books for Christmas, 25 November), the book’s author, Simon Jenkins, says that “tourism is booming, and cathedrals are big tourism” — a statement of undoubted fact with which no one could disagree.
It is difficult, therefore, to deny the logic of his conclusion that “they ought all to be charging.” Yet, as practising members of the Anglican Communion, we may bridle at the prospect of paying an entrance fee (a voluntary donation is a different matter) to a building that is “public”, part of our heritage, and should be freely available for private prayer and contemplation, even when a service is not taking place.
Mr Jenkins mentions the National Trust. May I suggest the establishment of a National Cathedrals Trust, where supporters pay an annual subscription to obtain a membership card that will grant them access, without let or hindrance, to any cathedral, in much the same way as membership of the National Trust or English Heritage does to that organisation’s own properties?
Cathedrals would still benefit, and being a member of a formal body, and paying an annual subscription, seems a much more satisfying way of giving support while avoiding the irritating — and perhaps degrading — need to pay an entrance fee and pass through a turnstile, as if the cathedral were a commercial attraction like a football match or a theatre. It might also attract many who wished to support cathedrals but had little or no opportunity to visit them.
69 Park Avenue
London N13 5PH
Power of a blue scarf: the joy of being a Reader
From Mr Roy Tricker
Sir, — What a joy and encouragement it has been to read and re-read my sister Reader’s honest and thought-provoking “Not ‘the Revd’ — but still called to ministry” (Comment, 11 November).
How well I can identify with so many of her experiences and feelings over my 46 years’ Reader ministry in Suffolk country parishes, and in a wider ministry of proclaiming from pulpit, projector, and coach-seat that our amazing old churches (which hooked me at the age of four) are fascinating and fun, and are inspiring and powerful holy places. I have had the privilege of preaching all over the country, broadcasting, lecturing, and writing — my blue scarf having helped to assure more than 200 churches that the author of their church guide is “one of the family”.
The blue scarf has fitted me beautifully, and I still feel that I am a lucky boy. Reader ministry has its own dignity and integrity, and I value the freedom it gives me to be “me”, using my character and what gifts I have, mostly via my “gob” and my pen.
Having had the privilege of researching and writing the story of Reader ministry in this diocese (Readers: Ministry pioneers since 1866), I am amazed at the kaleidoscope of skills, talents, wisdom, and service of my colleagues — skilled in evangelism, counselling, hospice care, work in prisons, etc. (all of which I couldn’t even begin to attempt), as they plough their individual furrows through church and community life. All that is in addition to the thousands of services conducted and sermons preached.
I have worked alongside wonderful priests, from whom I have learned much, but I remain a Reader to my fingertips. Here (even in the amazing world of the Church Bureaucratic), we have no pecking order, no titles, no collar, no promotion ladder, no payroll, and the minimum of bureaucracy. Just a blue scarf, which accredits the likes of me to face hundreds of lovely people in the name of Christ and to try to scratch them where they itch.
Reader and Emeritus Lay Canon
329 Felixstowe Road
Ipswich, Suffolk IP3 9BU
The spirit of generosity
From the Revd Mike Smith
Sir, — The Archbishop of York (News, 25 November) helpfully encourages a spirit of generosity, and reminds us that God is interested in “what you’ve left behind”. I will want to follow his encouragement to be generous, as the Lord has been generous to me.
I wonder, however, whether the Archbishop sees the irony. As someone who receives a stipend of 2.7 times the National Stipend Benchmark for incumbents, the Archbishop certainly has a lot left behind, even after his 20 per cent.
The Rectory, 20 Church Road
Reading RG4 7AD
Disquiet at Manormead nursing-home closure
From the Revd Rachel Sturt
Sir, — It was with great shock that I received the news that the Manormead Nursing Home is to close in March (News, 25 November). This will be devastating for the residents, all of whom are extremely frail and very elderly, and some of whom have dementia. These are people who have served the Church of England for well over 1000 years between them.
As part of the chaplaincy team and as an ex-nurse, I have observed the high standard of care at Manormead. Furthermore, there is a lovely family atmosphere, and the hard-working staff excel themselves in terms of respect, dignity, and patience.
It is stated that the nursing home has a problem recruiting and keeping staff, but that is not unusual in nursing homes in affluent areas where carers, who are paid low wages, cannot afford accommodation. I wonder whether the Church of England Pensions Board should have rethought the management structure and asked the staff first.
The families of the nursing-home residents are all distressed by this sudden announcement. The impact is also felt in the Supported Living section of Manormead, where some of the residents have spouses in the nursing home. All are frightened and insecure.
I have written to the Pensions Board to urge them to reconsider this decision. The nursing-home residents moved to Manormead expecting this to be their last home. This is a poor way to treat such people.
14 Arthur Road
Farnham, Surrey GU9 8PB
From Mrs Elizabeth Dunnett
Sir, — I have learnt with considerable sadness and disquiet of the proposed closure of Manormead Nursing Home. As the relative of one of the residents in the supported-housing complex, I have always been reassured to know that my loved one would have nursing and end-of-life care when the time came.
Now the Pensions Board has removed that security from all the current patients, spouses, and residents. This, of itself, speaks of lack of charity; to have accepted patients to the nursing home and spouses to the supported housing as recently as one month ago is immoral and shameful.
I plead with your readers to bring pressure to bear to have this decision reviewed; if staffing is the problem, cannot the cause be addressed?
12 Hardwicke House
55 Abbey Road
Malvern WR14 3HH
From Gloria A. Jennings
Sir, — I could scarcely believe it when I read in your paper that the Church of England Pensions Board has decided to close Manormead Nursing Home.
Do you mean to tell me that the C of E can no longer care for the most vulnerable members of its society, priests who have given years of loving service to its adherents? No wonder people are turning their backs on the Church.
I write as a friend of one of these faithful priests, who is now in dementia care there. What a reward for years of service!
GLORIA A. JENNINGS
15 Worthington House
London EC1R 1XQ
Review of the C of E’s green strategy is needed
From Mr Ernest Nelson
Sir, — It is now a full seven years since the Church of England launched “Church and Earth 2009- 2016” with the following fanfare:
“The Church of England has gone beyond rhetoric in producing Church and Earth, a challenging plan for action which makes serious demands on our community, our schools and churches. This has been conceived as part of the preparation for the Copenhagen Conference. At today’s gathering in Windsor in the presence of the UN Secretary General, we shall set out our commitments which include [as follows]:
“Carbon-reduction target of 80 per cent by 2050, with an interim target of 42 per cent by 2020; annual carbon and energy reports for all parishes and dioceses by 2016; all church buildings to have carbon footprints calculated and recommendations made by 2012; advice for all parishes on choosing green energy tariffs by 2010; tree-planting to be encouraged on church land; ‘eco-twinning’ between UK and developing-world parishes, faced with early effects of climate change; new Climate Justice Fund offering aid to Churches in the developing world.”
I remember my excitement at the time in feeling that the Church was finally making a firm commitment to addressing this most urgent of challenges, and presenting a credible plan. It was a beacon of hope.
In 2013, Bishop David Atkinson (Comment, 31 May 2013), a member of the board of Operation Noah, suggested that it was time to take stock of the extent to which the ambitious plans and commitments made in 2009 were on track to being delivered.
May I suggest that now that the full seven years have run their course it would be fruitful to review what has been achieved and what remains to be done. Unless we take time to consider the effectiveness of past measures, and learn from our experience, we can have little confidence that our present initiatives will fare any better. Is there evidence that we have really “gone beyond rhetoric”?
We know that time is short and the Church can appear to move slowly. May I urge that we refocus our efforts to fulfil our promises. I do not underestimate the challenge, but I retain hope that the Church as an institution is capable of managing its physical impact on the environment.
In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
41 Blencathra Street, Keswick
Cumbria CA12 4HX
Healing and curing
From Dr Aubrey Norton Hill
Sir, — A child falls down in the garden, grazes its knee, and runs in to mother crying. Mother looks at the abrasion, decides that it is minimal, and kisses the knee better. The child stops crying and runs back to the garden. This is healing.
So much confusion exists because the difference between healing and curing (Letters, 25 November) is not made clear. In my Complementary Cancer Care Clinic, many of my patients arrived terminally ill, and died, often quite soon. I hope and pray that they were healed. They were certainly not cured.
AUBREY NORTON HILL
29 Friars Quay
Norwich NR3 1ES
Naming and shaming?
From Mr John Hutchinson
Sir, — Regarding the Bishop of Salisbury’s assertion that Jesus never once named an individual whom he judged to be in error (Letters, 18 November): Jesus came pretty close to it when, on being warned by some Pharisees that Herod wanted to kill him, he instructed them to “tell that fox . . .”, which left little doubt about the identity of the individual to whom he was referring (Luke 13.32).
3 Park Lane
Devon EX9 6QT