Eucharistic theology and practice
From Mr David Lamming
Sir, — Publication of the six barristers’ Opinion (News, 28 August), challenging the answer given at the online July meeting of that General Synod that the use of individual cups to distribute the consecrated wine at holy communion is unlawful, is timely.
Since there is no end in sight to the current Covid-19 restrictions, the House of Bishops must surely now give urgent consideration to Mary Durlacher’s question. But the restrictions have highlighted more general issues about the nature of the eucharist.
Current practice varies widely. In one church in Suffolk, the priest is telling the congregation that you cannot have a body without blood, so that they are receiving “in both kinds” when receiving the wafer, and that his consuming of the cup “is done on behalf of the whole body of Christ in this place”. In another, the church noticeboard reminds worshippers “to bring your own bread and wine when it’s a Communion service”.
The need for a wider review is acknowledged in the latest advice about communion on the Church of England website, “Covid-19 Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion”, version 5.1, dated 17 August 2020. This states in an appendix: “In some cases, participants in online services have consumed bread and wine in their own homes during the service. Whilst we recognize that this practice may have spiritual value for some, participants should not be encouraged to believe that any bread and wine brought before screens during online Holy Communion has been ‘remotely consecrated’. However, we commend the questions raised by this practice for further theological reflection.”
That “theological reflection”’ should, I suggest, also include reconsideration of the issue of lay administration.
General Synod member
20 Holbrook Barn Road
Boxford, Suffolk CO10 5HU
Church closures and their pastoral implications
Sir, — Your leader comment concerning the financial issues faced by the diocese of Sodor & Man (28 August) was concerned primarily with the disposal of church buildings that can no longer “pay their way”. Whatever their finances, these buildings are the places where “two or three” can “gather together”, not just to worship, but to provide spiritual and emotional (and sometimes physical) support for themselves and their communities.
My experience of being part of a congregation threatened for more than 30 years with the closure of our “safe place” is that dioceses rarely consider the impact of such changes on their congregations. In Sodor & Man, the division of the church buildings into those that can be easily disposed of by sale or by handing them on to other organisations to maintain as heritage sites seems to typify this approach. Is any consideration being made for the souls who take their spiritual solace from the people with whom they worship in these buildings?
Churches do not all “sell the same product”. Our PCC has recently been told to make the decision to close, and the congregation, which has a longstanding liberal tradition of churchmanship, has been airily told that it has to choose between attending the noisy Evangelical church down the road, or the extremely High church with which it was forced to become a team on the retirement of its previous vicar three years ago.
The timing of this decision, at the heart of the pandemic, seems particularly cruel. Attendance at the first service post-lockdown was 17 people out of a normal congregation of more than 40. Within walking distance is a church with a regular congregation in normal times of fewer than 12 people which is structurally unsound but apparently cannot be considered for closure because it is “next to Church House”. Our late-Victorian church, which is both architecturally unusual and (as we have learnt over our years of trying to stay open) extremely difficult to repurpose, is in excellent condition.
We have been without a regular priest for three years as the diocese tried to make up its mind what to do with us. The men (it is only men) making these decisions do not seem to think it part of their priestly ministry (mission?) to care for our souls as well as the financial needs of the diocese. The wider Church appears to be of the same mind.
I would prefer that my name and address is not published as I do not want to make our PCC’s position more difficult by public identification of the church.
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED
Governance changes at Islam Relief Worldwide
From Naser Haghamed
Sir, — Andrew Brown (Press, 28 August) has inadvertently repeated misreporting by other media, misrepresenting the circumstances surrounding the election of a new board by Islamic Relief Worldwide.
It is correct to say that two trustees, now former trustees, resigned their positions as a result of anti-Semitic social-media posts dating back to 2014 and 2015, before they joined our board. The board acted swiftly and decisively when these offensive and unacceptable comments recently came to light, ensuring that both men stepped down and will play no further part in our governance.
The misleading part was the suggestion that the rest of our trustees also resigned because of this controversy, perhaps giving some of your readers the impression that the whole board had something to hide or feared media exposure. The reality is very different.
Our old board were all due to step down on 22 August under far-reaching governance reforms that have been six years in the making. Under these changes, we are replacing a small self-appointed board with a larger body of trustees elected by a new International General Assembly, whose members are nominees of Islamic Relief offices around the world. The aim is to create a board that is more diverse and globally representative, with provision to add independent trustees from outside the organisation in the coming months and thus to ensure additional outside scrutiny and accountability.
One of the first actions of our new board has been to echo the old in apologising for the hurt caused by past social-media posts, rejecting anti-Semitism as counter to Islamic Relief’s values, and pledging an independent commission that will conduct a thorough review of our trustee vetting and code of conduct. These are the actions of an organisation that is committed to dealing firmly with misconduct and learning lessons for the future.
Islamic Relief is widely respected for saving and transforming lives in some of the world’s poorest and hardest-to-reach places. In Syria alone, we provided vital assistance to 906,000 people last year. In Yemen — described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis — we are feeding over two million people each month, as the main implementing partner for the UN’s World Food Programme.
We are more determined than ever to do all we can to support those we serve, through operations that now extend to 40 countries across five continents. We will also continue to assist people of all faiths and none, working closely with the Christian, Jewish, and secular organisations that we are proud to call our partners.
Our new trustees have a golden opportunity to build on a legacy of humanitarian and development work that has touched the lives of more than 120 million people in our 36-year history.
Chief Executive Officer
Islamic Relief Worldwide
19 Rea Street
Birmingham B5 6LB
Proposal for doing Remembrance differently
From Canon Stuart Morris
Sir, — Regarding a broader kind of Remembrance (Comment, 28 August), the best Remembrance that I ever attended was on 11 November at 11 a.m. last year at a Sainsbury’s superstore.
It was announced in the store that an act of Remembrance was to happen. The checkouts all stopped, those taking goods off the shelves all stopped, and we silently remembered those who had given their lives for our country.
There were no bands, no bugles, no flags — simply silence and remembrance.
18 Malthouse Cottages
Dereham NR20 3AW
From Mr Bob King
Sir, — I do hope that Ted Harrison will delay messing up Remembrance Sunday until I and all other veterans have passed on. I should warn him, however, that we have no intention of going for some time to come.
BOB KING (aged 98)
9 Church Hill Drive, Tettenhall
Wolverhampton WV6 9AS
At the Proms, music, not words, matters most
From Dr John Kitchen
Sir, — Paul Vallely (Comment, 28 August) discusses the now annual and predictable controversy around the singing of “Land of hope and glory” and “Rule, Britannia!” at the Last Night of the Proms. I do not believe that more than a small fraction of Prommers who lustily belt these out are rampant imperialists, or even think much about the words. They simply enjoy the great tunes. Elgar himself said of his melody “This will knock ‘em flat,” and he was right. At the Last Night, with the Albert Hall organ roaring away, the tune is irresistible.
When you are singing a great hymn in church, do you enjoy it more because of the words or the tune?
Honorary Fellow, Reid School of Music; Edinburgh University and City Organist; Director of Music, Old St Paul’s Church
27 Minto Street
Edinburgh EH9 1SB
Twelve days to avoid an unwanted Christmas gift
From Mr Stewart Trotter
Sir, — It is becoming clear that Covid-19 spreads most rapidly in households, where social distancing is hard to maintain. So Christmas Day will pose a particular threat.
Might it not be a good idea to revert to the old Tudor way of celebrating the festival?Why not take the focus off Christmas Day itself and extend it to the whole 12 days of Christmas? For Queen Elizabeth I, 25 December was a day of retreat and prayer: celebrations began only on St Stephen’s Day and culminated with Epiphany.
If we were to adopt this scheme, people could meet in smaller groups over several days. Of course, this scheme would need the support of the Government, but it could be led by the Church of England and its Supreme Governor. Perhaps even the Christmas Day Service and the Queen’s Christmas Broadcast could be rescheduled.
226 Shirland Road
London W9 3JF
Legacy of the Bishops’ response to the pandemic
Sir, — I have a great deal of sympathy with Mrs Rosemary Bowden (Letters, 21 August). I have been ordained 34 years and cannot wait for my retirement, which should be reached in three years’ time. While I delight in my priesthood and do my best to serve the Lord who has called me, I have great difficulty in representing the Church of England at present. I feel that we were let down badly during the shutdown by the Archbishops and the Bishops
When I read of the Archbishop’s discomfiture at the General Synod (News, 17 July), I had no sympathy. What did the nation see of the Primate of All England? A eucharist, dumbed down and celebrated in his kitchen. Unlike the parish clergy, he has his own chapel in which to celebrate. We wanted inspiration. People asked for bread and were given a stone. Where was the spiritual encouragement? His discomfort was nothing to what the parish clergy had to put up with when, time and time again, people contacted us to ask why the Church of England had deserted them when they needed it most. Church buildings locked and no public worship.
It is all very well applauding the internet facilities of live-streaming services. Most of my parishioners do not have access to a computer. Please, when will the hierarchy of the Church get a grip on the real world that many of our people live in, and not assume that everyone is living with the latest technology?
As for the finances, how many bishops and archdeacons will grasp the opportunity to spread the clergy ever more thinly by not filling vacancies and making multi-parish benefices even larger? Meanwhile, bishops and archdeacons and endless diocesan advisers will keep themselves safe in diocesan offices. And still the faithful will be expected to maintain payments of parish share, as well as their own parish expenses. That is not to mention the financial hardships that many of our people are now experiencing.
The Church of England will, I feel, be remembered for a long time as not being present in the hour of need.
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED
From Mrs Rosemary Bowden
Sir, — First, thank you for publishing my letter (21 August). I applaud your editorial policy of publishing letters with a variety of views, even some, like mine, highly critical.
Second, thank you to the many people who have written to me and rung me to express their support for what I had to say. Those who gave me contact details I will be writing to personally, but to them and to those who did not, I just want to say that I have been deeply touched by their warm and encouraging words.
It is sad that so many — clergy as well as lay members — feel as I do. I hope that those in positions of power and influence will ponder on this and not dismiss my letter as the ramblings of a disaffected (older) woman.
2 Warwick Road
Northants NN11 6DH