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Letters to the Editor

18 September 2020

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Celebration of the eucharist during the pandemic

From the Revd Richard Hay

Sir, — As the Covid situation can no longer be seen as a temporary “blip”, it becomes urgent to find a way to administer holy communion in accordance with tradition, law, and safety. Inevitably, this will be different from the practices that we know and love. Needs must.

Canon Angela Tilby’s column (“Why I am hesitant about cups”, Comment, 11 September) reflect her own — admittedly limited — experience. She wrongly dismisses the issue as something of concern chiefly to “conservative Evangelicals”. Article XXX places the practice of sharing the cup with the laity at the heart of Anglicanism, and places an obligation on the ordained to respect it. How, then, is the Church to proceed?

Across parishes, a variety of ways are being implemented. One is to consecrate wine both in a chalice and in individual cups, all being grouped together on the altar (the cups covered for Covid reasons, like the bread); the cups are then given when communicants come forward, after the bread. It would be helpful to hear of others’ experiences. The essential need, however, is for guidance that looks to the long term ahead of us.

15 Fox Close
Woking GU22 8LP


From Mr Andrew Collie

Sir, — I agree with Canon Tilby that we should be hesitant about the use of individual communion cups, but to think this through properly does not mean that we should do nothing. I have not heard the suggestion that individual cups — like communion in one kind only — should become permanent practices. We want to revert to sharing the chalice(s). But, since individual cups are legal according to the six barristers (News, 28 August), please would the House of Bishops allow churches to decide their time-limited Covid-19 response in this area according to their views within the range of respected Anglican theologies.

Rowan Cottage
Parwich, Ashbourne
Derbyshire DE6 1QB


From the Revd John Chitham

Sir, — I read with interest Canon Tilby’s comments about holy communion during Covid. Our Lord’s command was, “Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” As a Christian, I have an overriding calling to obey Christ. At present, we are prevented from “doing this” by a (quite probably incorrect) legal interpretation by the Legal Advisory Commission. May I ask that it spend its energy finding ways to help us to obey our Lord’s command rather than justification for disobeying it?

The Vicarage, Kents Lane
Standon SG11 1PJ


From Canon Roger Hall

Sir, — Canon Angela Tilby’s article suggests that the consecrated bread is “received” not “taken”. May I remind her that the Book of Common Prayer says: “Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee.”

HM Tower of London
London EC3N 4AB


From the Revd Mark Bennet

Sir, — In the discussion of eucharistic theology and practice, instead of anxieties around the question “Is it consecrated?”, the questions that occur to me as a parish priest are “Is Christ present?” and “Is the Holy Spirit at work?”

So far as I can tell, God is free to act independently of particular human practices, and has frequently done so. I would like to see the Church more confident in the activity and presence of the living God in our midst. I can’t see that such confidence would in any way contradict either scripture or Catholic orthodoxy.

The Rectory, 2 Rectory Gardens
Thatcham, Berks RG19 3PR


Sir, — My church has no priest at present; so some excellent retired priests are taking services. They are all wonderful, thoughtful people, and, frankly, far better than the last vicar we had! I should, however, really be very grateful if the Church of England would reinforce its guidance on hand hygiene during this pandemic.

We have had a senior clergyman rightly sanitise his hands before administering the host — but then he put his mask on, which he had already taken on and off, touching the front of it and his face in the process. Another cleric never wore a mask until giving the host, but then touched her hair and face, and the front of her mask. She also sanitised her hands just once, long before going to the table.

Now, I suspect that in their personal lives, being older people, these priests are careful of Covid 19. Nevertheless, had they been infected but not yet showing symptoms, they could have passed the virus on to all the people in the congregation, most of whom are elderly. They probably thought nothing of what they were doing, but I, for one, was not going to take that risk.



One way hymns can continue to enrich worship

From Dr Chris Angus

Sir, — Dr Carolyn Sanderson’s letter in defence of the words of hymns (11 September) struck a chord with me. One of the things that I have really been missing over the past few months has been the chance to join in singing hymns in the Priory — an activity where the music plays a key part.

Just recently, I was pondering how to structure the prayers of intercession for an online service that we were putting together when, quite unbidden, the words and the melody of a hymn interrupted my thoughts. That spurred a thought. Why not take our intercessions from the words of some of the hymns that we love and miss? And so, that is what I did.

When you strip away the music, much loved as it is, there are words that resonate deeply. Once you remove the musical signatures to those hymns, the words that remain can be put together in quite unexpected ways. Words from quite different hymns can come together in very powerful ways when the music no longer characterises them. It was a bit of an experiment, but it was very positively received (and has since been repeated, but only once).

Burtholme East, Lanercost
Brampton, Cumbria CA8 2HH


Don’t forget to advertise housing with a vacancy

From Mrs H. Erridge

Sir, — Why is it that housing — and thereby the needs of clergy and their families — seems to be such a poorly considered item when it comes to advertisements for posted for clergy posts?

Last week, your Classified section featured some 44 adverts for clergy posts, of which 14 mentioned the type of housing available, some including helpful and encouraging details such as “four bedrooms”, “recently refurbished”, and “within easy reach of the village and the church”.

A further 30, however, by far the majority, mentioned nothing whatsoever about housing. Even adverts for “house for duty” or those saying “What we can offer . . .” made no mention of the buildings that they were offering as a home. But many went into great detail with relatively extensive lists of the characteristics, both spiritual and practical, that they would like to see in their future clergy.

Yes, full details of housing may (though, from my experience, not always) be included in the parish profile; but leaving all housing information out of an advert simply gives the impression that nothing is available, or that what is available is so poor as to be not worth mentioning.

Would the advertisers themselves be drawn to a post with tied housing which gave no information about it? Probably not. So why expect clergy to be different?

The Rectory
17 Coronation Road
Bleadon, Weston-Super-Mare
North Somerset BS24 0PG


Mutual flourishing

From Mr Stephen Parkinson

Sir, — I am so sorry that my old friend the Revd Richard Peers should find it necessary to attack Walsingham in the way that he has (News, 11 September), but, now that he has got it off his chest, I wonder whether he would like to turn his attention to the attitudes with regard to mutual flourishing of his new colleague the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and his wife, the chair of WATCH, as they expressed them in their reaction to the proposed translation in 2017 of Bishop Philip North from the see of Burnley to that of Sheffield.

Churchwarden, St Mary and All Saints, Little Walsingham
19 Wells Road
Norfolk NR22 6DL


St Just-in-Penwith and a visitor’s experience

From Cheryl Berriman

Sir, — I am the churchwarden at St Just-in-Penwith Parish Church. Those who attend the church were very upset and concerned by Dr Serenhedd James’s item (Diary, 11 September) implying St Just Church was unwelcoming because he was refused entry.

St Just Church building has been closed since October 2019 owing to a major roof project, much delayed in completion because of lockdown. When Dr James visited in July, the church building was still closed. There was builder’s rubble on the floor, dust and dirt everywhere, and workmen were still on the premises. There were no Covid precautions in place.

Dr James came to the door and was told, with apologies, that it was not safe and nobody was allowed in. Exceptions could not be made for visiting tourists who wanted to look inside any more than for our local congregation. I was at the door, waiting for a workman at the time, hence it was unlocked. I had to be very firm with this particularly persistent tourist wishing to take a friend inside to look round an unsafe environment.

St Just opened for worship at the beginning of August, and, at the same time, we started a Messy Church in a Bag project. We are not perfect; we are small in number, but we try our very best to welcome everyone into our church. The roof no longer leaks and all Covid measures are now in place. It has been professionally cleaned and looks beautiful.

At the moment, we worship on Sunday mornings for holy communion at 9.30 a.m. Dr James and anyone else is able to join us, and we will endeavour to provide as warm and loving a welcome as possible at this time. The fact that we can now worship in our building after nine months is cause for celebration. The church in St Just has never been shut, only the building.

Bosorne House, Bosorne
St Just, Penzance
Cornwall TR19 7NR

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