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Letters to the Editor

28 April 2017


Eclectic churches and parishes’ children’s work


From the Revd John Clarke
Sir, — As a past member of the congregation of Holy Trinity, Brompton, I was encouraged to read the article (Features, 21 April) on recent HTB church-plants; but I feel the research on how many have come from other churches asks the wrong thing. Is not the right question what has happened to the churches they have left?

This, of course, applies to all strong eclectic churches, not just HTB plants, particularly with respect to youth and children. How many groups in smaller churches, having lost their middle-class core, have had to close? And, once a church has “lost the families”, it can be very hard to re-start.

How, then, do the numbers lost to church and Christian faith by the smaller churches, adults and children, compare with the new Christians gained by the large church? There may be no easy answers, but we should ask the right question.

Most British churches struggle to achieve critical mass in youth and children’s work. One of the HTB church-planters quoted said that a “normal congregation” should have 500 members. Maybe this is right if a church is to provide ministry for all age groups; but, if so, are we not faced by some radical decisions?


St John’s House
Church Lane
South Moreton
Didcot OX11 9AF


A new way of doing chrism eucharists?


From Mr Richard Barnes
Sir, — I was saddened to see separate chrism masses advertised at Exeter Cathedral, one for Ebbsfleet traditionalists and one for the rest of the diocese, separated by two days, among other things.

Surely the church is big enough to hold both services at the same time, perhaps one in the Lady chapel and the other in the nave, or even side by side, sharing the same Liturgy of the Word and music, and having separate but simultaneous blessings of the oils and communion.

This would be a poignant symbol of our unity in Christ, but the fractured nature of our Church, and perhaps heal some of the wounds that hinder mutual flourishing.


7 Dinham Crescent,
Exeter EX4 4EF


Job-sharing might open up parish appointments


From Penny Severn
Sir, — Further to your report “Why women clergy lead so few large churches” (News, 13 April): I have explored ordination in the past and have recently been considering a post of lay minister, which our church is advertising (a full-time post leading the church). I was struck by the comments about the limitation for women of not wanting to give up family commitments.

I am at the end of maternity leave; but our church needs the applicant to work 40 hours a week. I don’t want to miss out on being with my daughter as she grows up; so I’ve asked them whether they would consider a job share.

Encouraging a job-share approach would be beneficial to the Church for many reasons: it would mean a more team-leadership approach, which widens the pool of skills and gifts available to lead a church; it would limit or reduce instances of stress and burnout among the clergy; and it would also appear more of an attractive prospect for those considering ordination or church leadership, and thus increase number of those going forward for ministry.

But mainly for me and other women called to ministry but also to our families, it would mean that we could fulfil our callings, passions, and creativity in church leadership, but not carry the entire burden, and so also have time for our families.

I would like dioceses, bishops, and the national and local Church to start recruiting for job shares.


2 Ash Grove, Kendal
Cumbria LA9 5QX


Another bastion of Prayer Book matins falls


From Miss Prudence Dailey
Sir, — It is difficult not to wonder at Bath Abbey’s decision to do away with regular Sunday choral matins from the Book of Common Prayer, despite the heartfelt desire of the congregation to retain it, in favour of another Common Worship eucharist.

I say “another”, because the Abbey already has a Common Worship parish communion service every Sunday, and there is no evidence of demand for one more. Indeed, a consultation of the congregation in 2012 revealed overwhelming support for the retention of matins, and at the time they were assured it would stay; yet five years later it is being scrapped without consultation.

Has this, perhaps, come about as much as a result of hostility on the part of the Abbey’s clergy towards Prayer Book matins, as for any positive reason? The Rector has said that he wants worship to be “rooted, contemporary, and visionary”, and feels that this is not served by the current pattern of Sunday worship at the Abbey which is “dominated by Prayer Book Services (8, 11.15, and 3.30 p.m.)”, which, he says, “does not reflect the Church nationwide” and, he fears, will “marginalise the Abbey as years go by”.

This is not, however, an unusual pattern for cathedrals and greater churches (with the additional inclusion of a Common Worship eucharist such as Bath Abbey has).

In fact, such an attitude towards the Book of Common Prayer could not be more out of date. Matins, as well as other Prayer Book services, is becoming increasingly popular with younger ordinands in particular, many of whom are discovering the Prayer Book for the first time and embracing it enthusiastically.

It can be only a matter of deep regret that Bath Abbey has risked alienating a large segment of its regular worshipping community in such an unfashionable cause.


Chairman, The Prayer Book Society
The Studio
Copyhold Farm
Goring Heath
Reading RG8 7RT


No incumbent, no Share


From Mr John Boddy
Sir, — I agree entirely with the views expressed by the Revd Simon Douglas Lane (Letters, 21 April) about what I would call the “mismanagement” of vacancies.

Another important aspect to this issue (certainly in the diocese of Lincoln) that parishes are expected to continue the payment of Parish Share during the interregnum. To many of us, this seems patently wrong, given that the diocese makes a saving through non-payment of stipend during that period.

A Parish Share “holiday” during a period of interregnum could be used to divert funds into mission work in the parish, which could well serve to hold the congregation together, instead of exhortations “to reflect”.

Sadly, these arguments fall on deaf ears. Perhaps it is time for parishes to show that they mean business, and withhold payment of Parish Share during an interregnum.


Vice-chairman, Bottesford-with-Ashby PCC
24 St Peter’s Avenue
North Lincolnshire
DN16 3PJ


First draft of a war hero’s history got it wrong


From Mr Charles Beresford
Sir, — For the benefit of your readers, I would like to confirm that Lt. Col. the Revd Bernard William Vann VC, MC, & bar, Croix de Guerre avec palme, was never awarded the DSO (Books, 21 April).

He was initially recommended for the DSO after the Battle of Bellenglise, but this was upgraded to a Victoria Cross after his death in action at Ramicourt four days later.

In the immediate aftermath of his death, much erroneous information appeared in the newspapers about him, such as his having been a headmaster, having served in the Gloucestershire Yeomanry before being commissioned into the Sherwood Foresters, and having been awarded the DSO.

These mistakes have been accepted as facts in many accounts of his life ever since. I hope that my book, The Christian Soldier, will go a long way to putting the record straight in respect of this unique clergyman. Even the citation for his Victoria Cross was wrong in one important aspect.


Lyndhurst, Brunswood Road
Matlock Bath
Derbyshire DE4 3PA


Patriarch Kirill of Moscow’s spell at Selly Oak


From Canon Dan O’Connor
Sir, — While references in the Church Times to His Holiness Patriarch Kirill tend to be critical, as in Canon Michael Bourdeaux’s review of John Burgess’s Holy Rus’ (Books, 13 April), I want to place on record a very positive recollection of Kirill when he spent the summer term of 1989 with us at USPG’s College of the Ascension at Selly Oak.

At the time, he was Archbishop of Smolensk & Vyazma, and, being then much involved with the World Council of Churches, he came to us to improve his English. It was a memorably happy experience for all of us, as he entered wholeheartedly and with gentle good humour into every aspect of college life. He talked about his experience of his schooldays, paying tribute to his mother for helping him to maintain his Christian faith in a militantly atheistic environment.

At our Ascension Day eucharist, as ever in those years a somewhat corybantic event, he joined us in the sanctuary and concluded the liturgy with a wonderfully long and sonorous Russian blessing. My late wife, Juliet, who taught in the Selly Oak English Department, was his college tutor. Before he left, he came to our house and showered her with gifts.

I doubt whether the present-day Church of England is aware that it had this distinguished and very likeable guest in our midst 28 years ago; but it is a good memory for those of us who were involved.


15 School Road
St Andrews KY16 0BA


ECJ’s conditions for legality of ‘neutrality’ stance


From Mr Andrew Todd
Sir, — It is correct to say that, according to the recent ruling of the European Court of Justice, an employer’s policy of “political, philosophical and religious neutrality” with regard to dress must be an “appropriate and necessary” means of achieving a “legitimate aim” in order not to constitute indirect discrimination (News, 17 March; Letters, 31 March, 7 April).

The judgment, however, also contained guidance to the national court concerned, to the effect that in the case before it (on which that court must make the final decision) those conditions were indeed met, at least in principle, thus implying a likely absence of indirect as well as direct discrimination.

The UK’s Equality Act 2010 implements, and must be interpreted consistently with, the same European Directive as was being applied here.

A duty of “reasonable accommodation” of religious belief has been advocated by Lady Hale, among others. This might exercise a humanising influence on any employers inclined to render their human resources “neutral”. Of course, it would need to apply to “religion or belief”, including a lack of belief, as under the Equality Act. Organisations required to provide services free from discrimination would be obliged at least to try to make provision for individual consciences.

Healthy limits must surely be set to the imposition of uniformity, not only in employees’ dress codes, but also in their personal beliefs as to the relationship between different and potentially conflicting rights.


22 Pegasus Court
Shelley Road
Worthing BN11 4TH

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