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Letters to the Editor

14 December 2018

‘Contemporary’ music, NDAs in abuse matters, and the metal-theft epidemic


Irish Anglican voice must be strong

From the Archbishop of Dublin

Sir, — Continuing concern about Brexit, not only in the UK, but throughout Europe and further afield, prompts me to say something about Brexit and the Church of Ireland.

While much of the anxiety centres on the backstop designed to ensure “no hard borders” on the island of Ireland, members of the Church of Ireland live on both sides of the border and in both political jurisdictions. A considerable number of our clergy have served during their ministry in both parts of the one Church, and have done so happily.

As everything hangs in the balance, and with the prospect that the Republic of Ireland will be the sole primarily English-speaking country in Europe, it is the duty of, and the opportunity for, members of the Church of Ireland living and witnessing in the Republic of Ireland as Anglicans to continue to contribute, not least in Brussels, to the sorts of encounters around civic and cultural issues proffered in the EU Treaties and through the European Institutions.

It is incumbent on us to be a strong and continuing Anglican voice at the table, confident of discussion and consideration of areas that, through the critical contribution of Christianity in the Anglican way, are germane to the nurturing and development of European society.

Our hope would be that by this means we might keep “the rumour of God” alive in the making of generous and far-sighted policy both within the EU and in relation to all our neighbours, old and new.

Dublin & Glendalough Diocesan Office
Church of Ireland House
Church Avenue, Rathmines
Dublin 6, D06 CF67, Ireland


‘Contemporary’ isn’t necessarily more colourful 

From the Revd Chris Routledge

Sir, — While the article by the Archdeacon of Hastings, the Ven. Dr Edward Dowler (Comment, 7 December), regarding “traditional” and “contemporary” worship was an interesting read, with much to reflect on, I was disappointed by the accompanying cartoon, which seemed to perpetuate the myth that worship that includes vestments, liturgy, and sacraments is grey and boring.

This flies in the face of reality, at least in the parishes where I serve as Vicar, where we use all of these, as well as incense, to enrich our worship of God, in a way that is truly multi-sensory. The colourful vestments enhance our appreciation of the seasons of the church year, along with other images throughout the building. The liturgy enables young and old to worship together, as the repeated poetry becomes part of each one of us. The sacraments, especially the eucharist, transport us into the presence of God in a way that is both intimate and unique. And the aroma of the incense adds an extra dimension of holiness to the worship.

I don’t pretend to claim that this “traditional” worship suits everyone, and Dr Dowler’s article raises questions that are definitely worth exploring (I particularly liked his suggestion in his final paragraph, regarding raising up a new J. M. Neale).

But please, as we explore these questions, let us put an end to the lazy stereotyping that “contemporary” worship is youthful, colourful, and dynamic, while “traditional” worship is old, dull, and staid. The truth is far more nuanced than that.

St Barnabas Vicarage
Oldcastle Avenue
Newcastle-Under-Lyme ST5 8QG


From Dr Brendan Devitt

Sir, — Madeleine Davies’s excellent piece on contemporary worship (Features, 7 December) merits serious consideration. One outcome might be that instead of being allowed to turn the apse into a weekly rock venue, worship bands should be required to play at the back of the church so that worshippers can focus on God and on God’s glory alone.

2 Maytrees, Hitchin
Hertfordshire SG4 9LR


NDAs in abuse matters 

From Mr Richard Scorer

Sir, — The Church of England promises “guidance” in respect of the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), to which it says dioceses should have “due regard”. We should not hold our breath.

“Due regard” to guidance in an organisation with autonomous dioceses with a vested interest in secrecy is going to be almost impossible to enforce, as the present Birmingham case demonstrates.

As important in securing justice for victims and ensuring as many lessons as possible are learned from historic failures is the need for transparency, including the removal of any past abuse-related NDA restrictions relating to reviews, reports, and settlements

Protection of the identity of witnesses and complainants is a convenient pretext for NDAs, but easily overcome by limited redaction.

Birmingham’s refusal to release even a redacted version of the Walker review shows that the only realistic way in which this removal can be achieved is by an independent review of all such NDAs, and an end to their use in the future, except in very exceptional circumstances.

(Lawyer for victims and survivors in IICSA)
Head of Abuse Law
Slater & Gordon
58 Mosley Street
Manchester M2 3HZ


Is the C of E turning its back on pastoralia, too? 

From the Revd Graeme Anderson

Sir, — I read with great interest your report regarding Dean Nunn’s comments about the Church of England’s downgrading theology, and replacing it with leadership skills (News, 30 November).

I would like to add that I hope the pastoral shepherding responsibility is not being left out of our thinking.

As a vicar, I greatly benefit from whatever theological, leadership, and management skills that senior staff have. Great, super. But if they don’t love me, then I and, I would say, we clergy are in deep danger.

I am reminded that our Saviour, our great Shepherd, laid his life down for us, and gave the example of being a shepherd rather than a hireling. A difference was that a hireling, no matter how expert he was, would not put his body inbetween the sheep and danger.

Let us not presume that theological, leadership, and management skills naturally produce sacrificial pastoral service.

So, I want senior staff to be theological. I want them to have great leadership and management skills, etc. We also need them to follow the example of Jesus and be pastoral to us; otherwise, we will have expert hirelings rather than dedicated shepherds. When we engage with our beloved senior clergy, we need to see that look of sacrificial love in their eyes.

4 Bishop’s Walk
Coventry CV5 6RE


Sir, — It is with great sadness that I write this letter. Having been married to a vicar for 30 years, I did not ever foresee feeling the sense of disillusionment and disengagement which I feel for a Church that I have loved for so long. My faith is alive and well, and my trust and hope in God is as strong as ever. I am not stuck in a rut, and neither do I have a sentimental yearning for the past or the way things were. I embrace change and the need to encourage the Church to be relevant.

My disillusionment is due to the lack of care and concern which is shown by the hierarchy in our diocese. For many of our years in this diocese, we felt part of something bigger. We knew there were people who cared for us and our welfare. We knew whom to talk to for wise counsel and support when needed. There were people who had time, who made an effort to get to know us, and who were interested in how things were going and how life in the parish was. Of course they wanted the churches to flourish, but that went alongside clergy who were flourishing. The two went hand in hand.

Sadly, under the new regime, I don’t think we are even known by name. We have doubled the number of archdeacons, but, contrary to expectation, their pastoral care is almost non-existent, and it has been replaced by a culture of diocesan goals and targets. This, we are told, has to be our priority. Alongside this, those who have experience and wisdom feel sidelined and that they have little to offer in this brave new Church.

There is unhappiness among many clergy, who often feel unloved and unsupported. The structures appear to be authoritarian, managerial, and lacking humanity and love. Sad, indeed. We have the most wonderful friends, clergy and lay, who keep us sane, but it is not thanks to the formal structures that we are still standing.

I very much hope this is not the blueprint for the Church of the future.



The metal-theft epidemic and the replacement of lead roofing with steel 

From the Chair of the Church Buildings Council

Sir, — It has been suggested before that (Letter, 30 November) we should make a pre-emptive strike and remove all the lead from church roofs, sell it, and use the money to pay to put up stainless steel. Although the scrap value of lead is higher than of steel, the costs of scaffolding and labour leave the church with a significant funding gap. The experience of the Council has found this to be the case.

The Church Buildings Council would strongly prefer that where lead is in place it remains in there, with effective measures to secure it, and ensure that any loss is fully insured. Some dioceses, including the diocese of Ely, have provided grant schemes to assist with the cost of alarms. Where the number of protected buildings in an area increases, the number of thefts falls.

The Church Buildings Council realises that, in the face of metal theft, almost any deterrent can seem weak. I recently met national police representatives on heritage crime to discuss this issue. The police crime-reduction specialists continue to advise that small steps taken at a local level will make your church a less attractive target.

Good relations with neighbours to look out for the church, up-to-date noticeboards, signage to show that an alarm or forensic making is in use — all these contribute to making the church less attractive to theft. Also, invite your local police community officer to visit, especially if you have a coffee morning or community event. Help them to get to know the church and local people, and also to understand your security concerns.

The Church Buildings Council
Church House
27 Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ


From Mr Mick Oliver

Sir, — Historic England is giving its support to the use of stainless steel as a replacement for stolen lead (Letter, 7 December). These materials are visibly different: if stainless steel is to be used, a more appropriate alternative would be to use stainless steel with a terne coating, a lead alloy that has the appearance of the traditional lead that was previously present.

19 Woodcroft Avenue
Stanmore, Middlesex HA7 3PT

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