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Letters to the editor

01 December 2017


Ashworth’s stand has made me question my commitment to the C of E

From Erica Wilkie

Sir, — As a Christian with an Evangelical background, being trained for the permanent diaconate in a predominantly liberal diocese on a training pathway that aims to embrace the diversity of expressions of faith within the Church of England, I have experienced something of a rollercoaster ride.

While I have found the experience of training alongside a majority of students with very different understanding of our faith from that to which I have been accustomed a greatly enriching experience, it has not been without difficulty and challenge thus far.

I have come to understand and appreciate that different views are, in the main, simply different human understandings of the deep truths of our common faith, indeed experiencing subtle changes in my own understanding as a result. Nevertheless, my churchmanship remains broadly the same — perhaps unsurprising, given that I have followed it for 40 years.

This had not really been an issue for me until Lorna Ashworth’s resignation (News, 17 November) brought home the reality that perhaps there was a point where different interpretations of our faith may no longer sit comfortably together and might potentially lead to very real division.

I felt deeply disturbed, wondering why a person who had hitherto felt able to contribute to the General Synod, representing an Evangelical voice, had reached the point where she felt that a line was being crossed. Her resignation forced me to consider where I will fit as a minister in a Church in which my views are perhaps increasingly at odds with the direction in which others are travelling.

My hope is that a broad range of views will continue to be faithfully represented at both national and local level, and that we will work hard not simply for “good disagreement”, but, rather, for good understanding and genuine heartfelt tolerance of those with whom we disagree.

Furthermore, I sincerely hope that, regardless of future decisions, we may continue to work hard together as Christians, across boundaries and divisions. Our primary purpose surely remains to support the building of God’s Kingdom and to bring light to the communities in which we live and serve.

We must ask how we can do that well if we are publicly at odds with one another.

c/o The Portsmouth Pathway
St Luke’s Church Centre
Greetham Street
Southsea PO5 4LH


A good business case for telling Google

From Mr Nick Ellis

Sir, — Who owns your church? This is not an obscure question of Ecclesiastical Law, but, rather, a much more pressing issue relating to the digital world of today.

Whether looking for a day out, a location for a wedding, or as part of their family history investigations, people will now turn to the internet to answer questions relating to your church. By turning to the internet, they will most probably start with a search engine; so where will that lead?

In the UK, the reality is that “search engine” will mean Google, with 85 per cent of the market, or Bing, which follows well behind with 11 per cent. Carry out a search on Google for your church, and you may or may not get a quick link to your church website or A Church Near You. Also with Google, you probably will get a panel, on the right, showing details of the church. Look closely at this panel, and there is a question, “Own this business?”

As part of some work that I am doing in our deanery, I took a random sample of the churches in the diocese, and Googled each one. Of those, only 40 per cent had been claimed, and the remaining 60 per cent still had the question “Own this business?”.

Google makes claiming a business rather too easy; so I would suggest that all PCCs look at their own entry on Google and claim “their business” before someone else does. Once this has been done, the contact details and website will need updating, as for unclaimed business these are either incorrect or empty.

The Microsoft search engine Bing has a similar feature, but in general does not seem to recognise churches as a business.

The Rectory, Church Street
Great Maplestead
Essex CO9 2RG


Losing a screen is like having a limb amputated

From Canon Peter Doll

Sir, — Warm thanks to Michael Tavinor for his lively exploration of the vicissitudes of the screen created by George Gilbert Scott for Hereford Cathedral (Feature, 24 November). While the Dean makes a plausible case that a screen of this design was never appropriate for Hereford in the first place, he ducks the deeper issue of how such a cathedral works as a liturgical space without a screen.

The removal of the screen in favour of the all-seeing vista was an application of a Jesuit Counter-Reformation liturgical ideal of a single unified space to a medieval building of many spaces created for a processional form of liturgy which leads the believer by stages into the Holy of Holies.

The screened choir and sanctuary at the heart of the cathedral was a distinct vessel within the larger whole: to remove the screen and leave the choir open and exposed flies in the face of the essential spirit and functionality of the building.

This is not a question of having a nave altar or not. Most medieval cathedrals would have had one, not as a “people’s altar”, but as an altar of the Holy Cross, in conjunction with the rood on the screen.

The Dean and Chapter of Hereford have admirably recovered something of the medieval spirit and energy of the cathedral through the restoration of the shrines of St Thomas Cantilupe and St Ethelbert, but an ancient cathedral that has lost its screen is like a body with a limb amputated; it may still function, but not to its full potential

56 The Close, Norwich
Norfolk NR1 4EG


Come to leafy, trip-free Sheffield

From Veronica Hardstaff

Sir, — If Joe Ware had researched a little more carefully (Feature, 24 November), he would know that Sheffield City Council has planted millions of trees, over many decades, and is the greenest city in Europe. He might also have mentioned that every tree felled to improve pavements is being replaced, and additional trees planted.

I recently delivered Christmas service leaflets on two of Sheffield’s steeper streets, my usual Christian Aid patch, and was delighted to experience smooth pavements and road surfaces completely free of potholes. As a local councillor, some years ago, I got several requests for trees to be removed from pavements because of problems being caused by roots in cellars, or pavements’ becoming impassable for pushchairs, invalid scooters, or wheelchairs.

I would be very against trees being felled and not replaced, but what are saplings now will be fully grown in a few decades’ time, and will replace the older trees which will, by then, be coming to the end of their natural life as city-street trees.

I urge Mr Ware, and your readers who have never been to Sheffield, to visit our wonderful green city. Which other major city has a large green open space with many trees stretching up above one side of its main railway station?

43 Northfield Court
S10 1QR


Hard to find information for a bus stop

The Revd David H. Clark

Sir, — The letter from Primrose Peacock (Out of the Question, 24 November) reminded me of an incident in my former parish in the 1990s, when the PCC found itself in disagreement over proposed donations to the Jerusalem Embassy and the Exobus project.

The latter was dedicated to busing Jews, mostly from Eastern Europe and Russia, into Israel. Both these charities supported Evangelical activities based on a dubious interpretation of eschatology, believing that the Second Coming could be hastened by the “in-gathering” of the Jews into the “Holy Land”.

What the supporters of the proposal appeared not to have considered was that such a policy increased the pressure on Christians (mostly Palestinians) who had been in Israel for hundreds of years, and was effectively pushing them out. When this was clarified, the PCC voted against the proposal decisively. But it was difficult to obtain an accurate assessment of this proposal at the time.

46 St James Road
Leicester LE2 1HQ


Pizza excess

From the Revd Toby Crowe

Sir, — The marketing department of a national pizza chain has sent us a glossy poster, presumably in the hope that we will display it in our church building. It advertises their Christmas special: the “Saviour deal”.

Am I alone in finding this offensive, even blasphemous? Or could it be, rather, a sign of how marginalised the Christian faith has become, when nobody in the marketing department of a national (in fact an international) retail chain either recognises its offensiveness or cares?

Of course, the worst-case scenario is one in which they know exactly what they’re doing, and are hoping for the additional publicity that a boycott would give them. But nobody would stoop that low, right?

Elmdon Rectory, Tanhouse Farm Road
Solihull B92 9EY


Swapping lamb for pork

From the Revd Martin Jewitt

Sir, — Without seriously commenting on the wisdom of expounding the sheep metaphors in the Bible (Faith, 17 November; Letters, 24 November), I would point that there are few more rural countries than Papua New Guinea, but sheep are virtually unknown there. Pigs, however, are an expression of wealth; so my students, on our patronal festival, performed a very Melanesian drama of the Parable of the Lost Pig, and very entertaining it was.

12 Abbott Road
Kent CT20 1NG


Y oh Y . . .

From the Revd Chrys Tremththanmor

Sir, — Never mind being touchy about tutus. I do protest at the comment that “Y-fronts and Argyle-pattern socks” are exclusively male (Leader comment, 17 November).

I and many other women I know wear Y-fronts. Men’s underwear is more comfortable and durable than the products that are aimed at women. In fact, a few years ago, Y-front underwear for women was aggressively marketed.

Second, any casual search online would reveal many ranges of Argyle socks for women. Again, this is what I wear myself.

I rarely spit out my morning coffee whilst reading the Church Times. You have succeeded in making me do so.

1 Bouverie Court, The Lakes
Northampton NN4 7YD

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