Truthful journalism is under threat
From Canon Alison Joyce
Sir, — Heartfelt thanks are due to the Revd Alexander Faludy for his important article “Speak up for journalists in peril” (Comment, 9 August) on a subject that should be of pressing concern to us all, and for drawing attention to our distinctive ministry to journalists here at St Bride’s.
We live in a culture that increasingly assumes that news should be instantly available and free of charge. The true cost of our newsgathering (in human as well as financial terms) remains largely hidden and is easily overlooked.
The kind of painstaking investigative reporting that enabled the Times journalist Andrew Norfolk to expose the full horror of the Rotherham child-abuse scandal took months, and was possible only because his editor was willing to resource the investigation (to give but one example).
The memorial services that we conduct at St Bride’s for journalists who are killed during the course of their work, or who take their own lives as a result of the pressures that they are under, tell their own story.
We continue to hold in our prayers daily those journalists who are currently held hostage or whose fate is unknown, among them John Cantlie and Austin Tice.
Our need for quality journalism has never been more acute, nor so greatly under threat.
St Bride’s Church
London EC4Y 8AU
From the Revd Peter Crumpler
Sir, — The Revd Alexander Faludy is right to encourage church leaders and Christians to speak up for journalists facing persecution around the world.
His call echoes that made earlier this summer by Dr Courtney Radsch, director of advocacy of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Speaking at St Bride’s, Fleet Street — which Mr Faludy rightly praises for its support for journalists around the world — Dr Radsch called on other church leaders to follow the example set by Pope Francis in advocacy on behalf of jailed and oppressed journalists.
She pointed out that governments that suppress the freedom of the press often also have a poor record on safeguarding freedom of religion and belief for their people. If a country’s journalists lose their voice, who will highlight the persecution of believers for following their faith? The recent report by the Bishop of Truro highlighted the extent of this persecution for Christians and others.
One action that parish churches could take would be in supporting the annual day of prayer for the media organised by Christians in Media, this year to be held on Sunday 3 November. Resources for this year’s event, including prayers by the Archbishop of York and the Bishops of Norwich and Repton, are available on the group’s website.
4 Belsize Close, St Albans
Hertfordshire AL4 9YD
Saints’ beliefs matter as well as their lives
From Canon R. H. W. Arguile
Sir, — Andrew Brown’s sharp comment about the meaninglessness of Christianity apart from the saints (Press, 23 August) neglects the fact that the saints are part of the Church, but what sets them apart from the rest of us is their embodiment of what they believed. Other than that, they differed widely. The Church can be defended only in so far as it, too, embodies belief.
Archbishop Nichols’s grave error is to have defended it in principle and at all costs. What stands at the end of all of this is not merely the saints, but the truthfulness of what they believed. Mad and deluded people can be heroic in their defence of their convictions. Given the widely diverse truth-claims of our world, the ancient wisdom of the Church is the more vitally necessary, and the loss of credibility of its institutional adherents is the more serious. Even democracy, heralded as the bulwark against tyranny, requires deep values and convictions if it is not to be overturned or become the instrument of demagoguery.
R. H. W. ARGUILE
10 Marsh Lane,
Norfolk NR23 1EG
Marriage registration and the cost of weddings
From the Revd Christopher Miles
Sir, — After your report (News, 16 August) on the proposed new arrangements for registration of marriages, there are three points that I wish to make before all is finalised.
First, the married couple will set off on their honeymoon, possibly abroad, without a marriage certificate to prove their married status. Are there any situations where this could create a difficulty, either in the country that they are visiting or on return to this country? I am thinking particularly of the situations in which one partner has either dual nationality, including that of the country being visited, or solely has a passport from a country other than the UK.
Second, will the new “marriage document” provide a specific place beneath the signatures for clearly written names? Most clergy pencil in names in one copy of the marriage register in preparation for subsequent completion of the quarterly return. I can, though, foresee problems otherwise where the marriage document is sent to the registrar with illegible signatures.
Third, a small point. In the initial advice sent out by our diocese and identically in your report, it refers to the registrar’s issuing a marriage certificate. Many couples ask for two certificates. I have on one occasion had a French bride who said that they needed eight certificates, which I duly provided. I trust that the same facility will be provided by the registrar.
2 Spa Close, Hadlow
Tonbridge TN11 0JX
From the Revd Ali Chesworth
Sir, — I would like to thank you for implying that my marriage is somehow “lesser” than an English church marriage (“Sparing clergy the anxiety of incorrectly filling in a certificate . . . might be too small a gain when compared with the loss in status of a church wedding,” leader comment, 23 August).
I was married in the Scottish Episcopal Church, where the completion and returning of a wedding schedule is the norm. There is no devaluing of the status of a church wedding in returning a schedule: the sacrament of marriage remains the sacrament of marriage.
St Philips Vicarage
67 Beechcroft Road
Swindon SN2 7RE
From Mr Nigel Haywood
Sir, — I smiled wryly at the report “Weddings at home or in open air contemplated” (News, 5 July), and pondered the comments of Canon Sandra Miller, notably: “You don’t have to be a christened, you don’t have to be a churchgoer [to marry in church] — just ask and you might be surprised at the answer.”
Surprised, indeed, you would be — at the costs involved.
Our daughter’s marriage at our home church (all involved were longstanding Christians and C of E communicants), where, despite our providing the music group, the preacher, and our own group to say prayers, we were charged the £540 fee.
As it was a hot July day, we had no heating, no choir, no bells, no extras. I understand the costs can rise in certain rural “pretty churches” to close on £1000 if you have such extras.
Worst of all (and my key point in writing) was that, when discussing the costs with others, we were ashamed to hear of at least two committed young Christian couples who, when faced with such C of E charges, decided to go for the all-inclusive hotel venue. So, no discount for believers (not that I advocate this); indeed, when I married my wife, the Vicar’s daughter, back in 1985, I was shocked then at the bill presented to me by my father-in-law-to-be — a sizeable dowry.
The Church of England needs to wake up: if young committed Christians cannot afford its wedding prices, what would Jesus do? I am sure that he would not advocate going to the local pub’s beer garden instead.
No wonder a growing number of young Christians attend growing lively free churches, where, on the basis of some ad-hoc research in my area, I understand that church members marrying are charged the basic registrar’s fee of £50 and are asked for a donation towards upkeep and cleaning. This is in churches with far bigger buildings and far higher overheads than many in the C of E.
119 Kestrel Way
Staffordshire WS6 7LQ
Contemplation needs to be Christ-centred
From the Revd Peter Dodson
Sir, — Sonia Mainstone-Cotton’s new book, Using Christian Contemplative Practice with Children, explores “mindfulness and silence . . . in worship” (extract, Faith, 23 August).
The current general interest in the “therapeutic” effect of “Mindfulness” needs to be treated with caution. There are several online sites that warn of its limitations, especially its tendency to be entirely self-centred and, therefore, possibly damaging to vulnerable people, especially children.
Christian contemplative prayer is Christ-centred and, therefore, works far more deeply towards, not only mindfulness, but towards the involvement of the heart and the will. Properly understood and practised, the discipline of contemplative prayer enables Christians, including very young children, to discover something of the overwhelming joy of being filled to overflowing with “all the fullness of God” (see Ephesians 3.14-19).
I write as a long-term member of the international and ecumenical Fellowship of Contemplative Prayer (FCP). Its teaching and practice deserves much wider acknowledgement, especially its focus on biblical first-person “sayings” that express the creative wisdom, burning love and boundless power of Christianity’s Threefold God: e.g “I AM full of compassion”, “I AM filled with tenderness”, “I AM full of strength and power”, ad infinitum.
I once astonished a primary-school head teacher when I was able to reduce a school hall of small children to utter stillness and silence by encouraging them, with their surrounding staff, silently to breathe in the “spirit and life” of divine language, spoken through the spiritual genius of Isaiah: “You are mine . . . and I love you.” Afterwards, one of the little ones told the assembly that he had given Jesus’s words back to him: “You are mine and I love you”!
What God has to say to us is of prior importance to anything that we could possibly say to, or about, him, including such mantra words as “Maranatha”. Jesus eternally exhorts his followers to “Come to me . . . and rest.”
Roseville, Studley Road
Ripon HG4 2QH