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Letters to the Editor

15 May 2020

Church Times letters: letters@churchtimes.co.uk We regret that we cannot guarantee consideration of letters submitted by post under present working conditions


Covid-19 crisis: humane and pastoral concerns

From Suzanne Fletcher

Sir, — There is a worse situation in the current crisis than prison (Comment, 1 May; Letters, 8 May). Immigration detention is bad enough as it is. People are there for an indefinite time, not knowing what will happen to them when, and they are not committed there by any judiciary.

While they are supposed to be detained only for the minimum time before removal or deportation to their country of origin, some have been there for years, and many for months. Obviously, nobody is going to be flown elsewhere for quite a time yet. While a number have been released into the community, hundreds are still left incarcerated. For some, there has been no crime committed at all: it is just that their asylum claim has failed, or their visa has run out. For others, they have been imprisoned for an offence, and released, not into the community, but to a detention centre, awaiting deportation — goodness knows when.

The Home Office says that they must remain locked up for “public safety”, but they are no more likely to reoffend than a UK citizen. In the mean time, they are all at risk of Covid-19 and being even more restricted.

There are petitions to sign, but also, please, Bishops, Peers, or MPs, or anyone in touch with them, ask them to keep on raising the issue in Parliament, and empty the immigration detention centres now.

3 Hoylake Way, Eaglescliffe
Stockton on Tees TS16 9EU


From the Revd Richard Stranack

Sir, — In the 17th century, the poet-priest George Herbert said that Rogationtide should be not only about asking God’s blessing on the fields, but also about rekindling a sense of justice and a commitment of care for each other. For his generation, the model of the village walking together offered a time for reconciliation and friendship, and showing care for the poor by the distribution of charity.

This year, there is nothing to stop our celebrating the Rogation Days spiritually as individuals. We could start by thinking of our meals and who got the ingredients “from field to fork”; we can look around our home, and our garden if we have one, and pray for those who contributed to making them; a glance at a bookcase will open up another world of those who have contributed to the enrichment of our lives.

A virtual Rogation procession can take us in heart and mind around our “village”, passing the school, the surgery and the library, a variety of places of worship, shops, and offices. We will be looking out for buses and trucks whose drivers often work long and lonely days, and, on our mental route, we will find an assortment of homes, including, perhaps, high-rise flats, prompting us to wonder how the occupants of the latter manage shopping and exercise during lockdown. Some dwellings will be of single occupancy; quiet corners and alleyways will be sites for rough-sleepers. None of these must be left out of our Rogation picture.

If we are in sight of the sea, that will open up a wealth of prayer topics. Merchant shipping, poorly paid seafarers, coastguards, and lifeboat crew, like other more familiar emergency services and the wide range of healthcare providers, will all feature in our celebration of community life, our prayers for God’s continued blessing, and in our penitence for past and present self-centredness and greed.

8 Sunwine Place
Exmouth, Devon EX8 2SE


From Mr Paul Taylor

Sir, — I was really irritated by Canon Angela Tilby’s column (Comment, 8 May) when she accused the C of E of becoming “member-only”, and said that the “hours creating novel acts of worship from home” were “absurd”.

The Church has for a long time been largely “members-only”: the Sunday-morning eucharist is impenetrable to the unchurched. Long gone is the time when people had at least some acquaintance with the Bible and Prayer Book.

Church buildings may be shut, but the Church isn’t. Foodbanks continue to help those in need and some church communities at least are helping the vulnerable in the wider community. Even closing the church buildings was an act of solidarity and sacrifice. Rather than criticise churches’ attempts to hold things together in these extraordinary times we should applaud their efforts. Streamed services have not always been a success, and Zoom meetings can be comical as people not familiar with this technology struggle to use it.

The Church is not even on pause, but has been forced simply not to continue the way it has been. The Revd Dr Mark Hart points out (News, same issue) that numbers reached via Facebook Live do not mean full engagement, but include those who just watched for a minute or so. Great, I say. How many people pop their heads around the door on a Sunday morning for a few minutes to see what’s going on? What we need to do is respond to this fleeting interest and grow it into something more.

I feel that what Canon Tilby is so desperate to get back to is just another form of Mrs Moore’s “poor little talkative Christianity”.

4 Highfield Road, Blackwood
Caerphilly, NP12 2EA


From the Revd Michael Hopkins

Sir, — Canon Angela Tilby queries the status of clergy as key workers. This was surely only ever about ensuring that people were able to conduct large numbers of funeral services, and was stated less bluntly to avoid undue distress to the public. Since mid-March, I have conducted as many funerals as I might do in six months or more; so if this was the Government’s intention, it was surely right.

23 Hillary Road, Farnham
Surrey GU9 8QX


From Canon Peter Holliday

Sir, — My copy of last week’s Church Times was delayed by the Bank Holiday until Monday. Having read with increasing incredulity a vitriolic Twitter feed condemning Canon Angela Tilby’s column about the closure of churches, I turned straight to her column to see what terrible gaffe she had committed. Finding I agree with her, I write in support.

First, throughout April, I have been able to stream the mass from St Chad’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Birmingham (and services from Methodist churches), but not from within our own St Chad’s Cathedral in Lichfield.

Second, the euphoria regarding new ways of worship needs tempering: I am already aware of the temptation to dip into different services online, and the piece from the Revd Dr Mark Hart, pointing to very short viewing episodes, is timely and challenging.

The body of Christ is a sacramental, physical community. In these strange times, to see online the “common ground” of which Canon Tilby speaks, the place where worship has habitually been offered, reminds us that, although isolated, we are one body. Thank God that now we can be reminded of that once again.

60 Needlers End Lane
Coventry CV7 7AB


Mutual flourishing and the Guiding Principles

From Canon David Banting

Sir, — The Implementation and Dialogue Group (IDG) was called into being in 2018 as a result of the Independent Reviewer’s report on what happened at the first round of the nomination to the see of Sheffield in 2017. It is about to submit its report to the House of Bishops for consideration and possible recommendations to the General Synod.

The IDG’s work re-discovered the Faith and Order Commission (FAOC) booklet The Five Guiding Principles: A study guide, and recognised that it is probably still the only material to help people involved in appointment processes to understand the 5GPs and commitment to the principle of mutual flourishing throughout the Church.

There is, however, scant good evidence that this booklet is known or actively used as a resource in the training of archdeacons and other senior appointees. One person involved in the archdeacons’ training programme in the past 18 months commented that “the training in this area (of appointments) was thin, and primarily involved giving archdeacons a pile of papers which they could refer to if needed. There was no mention of the Five Guiding Principles at all.”

May I use your pages to ask whether this comment would be echoed as true or fair enough across the board for such training? Is that FAOC booklet seriously known and used? From such other evidence that I have gathered, my fear is that so few of today’s senior appointees have actually lived through and understand the debates and decisions that went into the women-bishops settlement that there is now little understanding of and commitment to its tensions and balances to make and secure its good working. What value is it to gain the settlement if its implementation is not secured?

29 Hallamshire Close,
Sheffield S10 4FJ


From Canon Emma Percy

Sir, — Noting the news (1 May) of two bishops appointed in the diocese of Chichester, we at WATCH hope that there will be a joint consecration service for them both, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

This will honour the Fifth Guiding Principle’s aim for the highest possible communion. We acknowledge that there may be special arrangements within the service for those who do not accept the sacramental ministry of women, but we do hope and pray that where things can be done together, they will be done together, to witness to our shared ministry in the Church of England.

Chair of WATCH
Trinity College
Oxford OX1 1DP


Muswell Hill liturgics

From Canon Raymond Lee

Sir, — I was the curate at St James’s, Muswell Hill, 1959-62. I was also leader of the Children’s Church and Youth Fellowship. I refer to letters (8 May) with memories of that period. I can confirm that Sunday matins was indeed called morning prayer, attendance around 150. Evening prayer was definitely at 6.30. Youth Fellowship members (numbers around 80) attended evening prayer, then met afterwards as a group.

The celebrant at holy communion did, however, wear a stole with his surplice, sometimes with academic hood also! This was known as the “Dunn rite”, having been the custom when the greatly beloved Prebendary E. A. Dunn was Vicar.

We did use The English Hymnal. The church had planned to introduce the new Hymns Ancient and Modern Revised, published 1950, but this was strongly opposed by H. A.Bate, our organist. He had submitted an excellent tune, Collingwood, to be sung to “O for a thousand tongues to sing”. The publishers printed the tune (180), but set it to a different hymn. A large order for the new AMR was, therefore, cancelled.

The organist, I can confirm, was known as “H.A.” I kept in touch with him until his death. He introduced his daughter Jennifer to the organ at Children’s Church in 1960, the beginning of her very distinguished career as a musician (Obituary, 1 May).

15 Barkfield Lane, Formby
Liverpool L37 1LY

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