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Letters to the Editor

28 June 2019


Parsonages: social sustainability

From Mr Lyndon Sheppard

Sir, — It was refreshing to read the item by the Revd Dr Philip Lockley (Comment, 14 June) reviewing the historic role of parsonages, and identifying the lead that the Church of England could take with its clergy housing stock.

I endorse it wholeheartedly, and hope that diocesan boards will not see it as a burden, but as an opportunity to call for new people to get involved and take such a project forward.

As well as energy sustainability, I would hope there will be a discussion about social sustainability for church communities in both urban and rural areas.

The principles of Cohousing could be employed, and, with some innovative design using connecting doorways, the parsonage unit could “flex” in size to accomodate the range of family circumstances of the clergy serving there. These intentional communities that balance privacy and community can help to reduce loneliness and isolation, and the need for medicine or paid-for care, can encourage creativity and enterprise, and could be the beating heart of many a village or neighbourhood.

I hope the Church can build prophetically, and I’m sure there will be many willing to invest along with it.

55 Queens Terrace
Newcastle Upon Tyne NE2 2PL

Think ‘vocation’, not ‘retirement’, to resist ageism

From Canon Hugh Dibbens

Sir, — It was good to read Ted Harrison’s article, “Positive about ageing” (Features, 21 June) in which he highlights the opportunities and benefits of being older and the need to resist ageism.

Perhaps we could be even more positive, if we started with the reality of Christian vocation rather than “retirement”. Louis Armstrong said: “Musicians do not retire: they fade away when the music stops.”

A large proportion of those who leave salaried employment are reasonably fit with many years of active life ahead of them. They have skills and life experience, and are in charge of their own time. For many Christians and others, the music of the gospel is loud and clear in their souls, even though our ageist culture designates them as “yesterday’s people”.

In the diocese of Chelmsford, the average age of regular worshippers is 63 years. This is often seen as a problem, and we put our faith in youth workers and children’s workers to help lower the age profile of the church. Yet senior people can be brilliant at crossing presumed age barriers. The “grandparent image” is a positive one in our culture; so this opens up the possibility of seniors as volunteer youth or children’s workers.

Also, most parishes have significant opportunities for pioneer mission, which are often so time-consuming and challenging that they do not get done. A group of seniors may well enjoy such work. Often, our most committed people are deployed in keeping the show on the road rather than fulfilling our primary tasks of mission, evangelism, and discipling.

From the perspective of the age profile of the Church today, we are well resourced by the numbers of our seniors, and could have a greater mission impact on our communities. Praise God for the many good news stories to this effect. But we are held back by an ageist culture both inside and outside the Church.

Changing cultures is a long, hard slog. It can be achieved by encouraging those most affected to identify their gifts and assert their ministries, with the support of church leaders. I have written a five-session course to help inspire seniors into mission, and would be pleased to send a copy of the workbook to any interested in pursuing this.

Evangelism Adviser to the Barking Episcopal Area
9 Stonehill Road, Roxwell
Chelmsford CM1 4PF

Tensions between the United States and Iran

From the Revd Dr John Cameron

Sir, — I was surprised it took till 20 June before the Iranian Revolutionary Guard shot down a United States’ surveillance drone. President Trump immediately ordered a retaliatory military strike on Iran, but then changed his mind while fingers hovered over the buttons.

It is difficult to imagine a performance more likely to send the wrong signals to the religious fanatics who run Iran and whose record for allowing brinkmanship, political miscalculation, and provocation to spill over into armed conflict is legendary.

When the US last tried to protect neutral shipping against Revolutionary Guard attacks in the Gulf in 1988, the gung-ho crew of the USS Vincennes managed to shoot down an Iranian civilian airliner full of pilgrims, mistaking it for an attacking jet.

Most neutral intelligence experts believe the Lockerbie atrocity was masterminded by Iran in retaliation. Donald Trump should get on the campaign trail, tell the good ol‘ boys how great America is, and leave the Levant strictly to the professionals.

10 Howard Place
St Andrews KY16 9HL

Anglican-Methodist ministerial interchangeability

From Mrs Mary Braybrooke

Sir, — I hope when the “Methodist question” (News, 21 June) is put, that members of the General Synod will consider the pastoral implications as well as the theological and historical ones.

I am still sad that the then Bishop of Ely refused permission for my husband Marcus’s vicar to celebrate communion in the Methodist church where we were married — even though the minister kindly agreed to the use of wine.

I “gladly bore” with being confirmed as a “temporary anomaly”. I should have remembered that in God’s sight “a thousand years is like a single day” (Psalm 90.4)

17 Courtiers Green
Clifton Hampden
Abingdon OX14 EN

From the Revd Geoffrey Squire

Sir, — In 1983, I was ordained in Exeter Cathedral, but the following year I had to return to that cathedral to be ordained again that I might preside at the eucharist and pronounce the absolution after confession. So, was my first ordination invalid? Certainly not. My first ordination was to the diaconate, and my second was to the ministerial priesthood of the Catholic Church, a different form of ministry.

Methodist ministers have not been episcopally ordained to the diaconate or the priesthood, but yet they have a form of ministry that is valid and should be recognised as such. Therefore to hasten the goal of eucharistic unity, should we not invite all Methodist ministers to accept ordination or conditional ordination to the ministerial priesthood of the Catholic Church at a service that has such wording as “For the avoidance of all doubt” (as with Anglican priests transferring to the Roman Catholic Church) and recognises their previous ministry as Methodist ministers?

Little Cross, Goodleigh
Barnstaple, Devon EX32 7NR

Monitoring websites led to sinister phone calls

From Ann Jennings

Sir, — So. the makers of sinister, anonymous phone calls to clergy homes have been revealed (“Survivors monitor websites for safeguarding information, News, 14 June”)!

I wonder whether they gave any consideration to the effect that a phone call from a male, refusing to identify himself, and making subtle threats, might have on a clergy wife alone in the evening in a vicarage in deprived area? My friend felt threatened, vulnerable, violated, extremely worried — and, dare I say it, abused.

I hope they feel proud of themselves.

36 Harris Close, Romford
Essex RM3 8PQ

Impact of suspensions

From Lt.-Col. (CCF) retd L. G. T. Retford

Sir, — How welcome it is to see a letter by a senior clergyman, the Ven. J. H. C. Laurence (21 June), expressing justified concern at our present situation with the suspensions in Lincoln. We have “lost” two senior clergy from the cathedral, including our Dean, and now our Bishop.

This imposes additional demands on the rest of our clergy, who have coped magnificently under great pressure; but of equal concern is the impact on the congregation. There is an unhealthy cloak of secrecy covering the whole affair, and a conspiracy of silence. Where there is a vacuum of secrecy, it gives rise to all sorts of speculation that is probably entirely unjustified. It is reminiscent of the atmosphere of medieval heresy trials, at which the accused could, in effect, stand condemned by church courts without proper defence.

If the law of the land has been broken, then clear charges should be made and the matter should be heard publicly without needless delay. As members of the cathedral family, we have a right to be better informed.

Swan-Hart, 11 Frome Close
Lincoln LN6 3DA

Two organs at Orford

From Mr Paul Hale

Sir, — In her report “Faculty granted for ‘bold’ modern organ” (News, 21 June), Shiranikha Herbert states that the recently installed Peter Collins organ at St Bartholomew’s, Orford, is a replacement for the church’s Bishop & Son instrument. Not so. The little Bishop organ still sings away sweetly in the chancel — and was, indeed, played during one of the concerts in the recent Orford Organ Festival.

The 1977 Peter Collins formerly at the University of Southampton was installed as a nave organ, for both liturgical and concert use. Its remarkably small footprint, general proportions, and striking appearance ideally suit the otherwise empty north aisle, and it has been received with great enthusiasm.

Organ consultant
3 Trefoil Close, Bingham
Nottinghamshire NG13 8TX


Facial recognition

From Mr John Puxty

Sir, — I wonder whether I was the only reader of the Church Times to think that the pictured 1800-year-old carved head, thought to be that of a Roman god (News, 21 June), bore an uncanny resemblance to one Boris Johnson?

32 Summerfields Way
Ilkeston DE7 9HF

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