The right to freedom of worship
From the Revd Douglas Dales
Sir, — I note from the letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London to the clergy that they were not consulted beforehand by the Government about the proposal to close churches once again. Unless the Government can swiftly produce incontrovertible proof that socially distanced churches remain a health risk, they are breaching the fundamental human right to freedom to worship. The matter should now be tested in the courts or by a judicial review.
The Glebe House, 3 Drakes Farm
Berkshire RG20 7DF
Church attention to the world of work for the laity
From Mr Hugh Williamson
Sir, — The Revd Hugh Valentine’s plea (Comment, 9 October) for the Church to “pay more attention to the laity’s daily grind” reminds me of a similar appeal decades ago. He asks how our experiences at work, “this dominant aspect of our lived lives, [can] somehow go so unattended (by the Church)”.
In 1959, a small movement of male worker priests and their wives (including my parents) launched a statement urging the hierarchy of the Church to engage with the tough experiences of industrial workers and others toiling across the country. The tone of the opening sentences has echoes today. “The Church is out of contact with the lives of most working-class people. . . Speaking generally, it does not understand them and their problems and they have little confidence in it or its representatives.”
Has nothing changed over these decades? One new element is that there are now hundreds of worker priests and minsters in secular employment in the UK: women and men who are ordained and who see the focus of their ministry in the workplace. They are in a wide range of jobs. Those whom I’ve interviewed recently for a project on worker priests include a senior NHS doctor, a hairdresser, and a care worker.
One way for the Church to “pay more attention” to the world of work would be to do exactly that to those it has trained and ordained and who have chosen to focus their lives on being in the midst of those at work. These ministers have much to share which could help the Church be more relevant to millions of working people.
10781 Berlin, Germany
From the Revd Martin Jewitt
Sir, — It is refreshing to read Revd Hugh Valentine, following the letter the previous week from Simon Friend, a Christian property developer, on the Church’s inability to recognise the relevance of the working lives of most people to God.
My career as a parish pastor was preceded by a few years working in factories and connected to industrial chaplaincies who continually struggled with the Church’s blindness to God’s concern for the workplace. Those blinkers have been widely in place ever since.
As Mr Friend points out, financial profit is often a necessary part of the industrial enterprise, but perhaps a key principle would be that the purpose of business should always be to pursue the common good. Finance and profit are always a means to that end.
12 Abbott Road
Folkestone CT20 1NG
Deans for women and chaplains to the clergy
From Canon Anna Eltringham
Sir, — I write in response to Revd Sister Judith Blackburn SSM who asks whether Deans of Women’s Ministry are still relevant and whether there should be an equivalent for men (Letters, 30 October).
The answer to that question depends on what purpose we believe the appointment serves. If, as suggested, it is a predominantly pastoral ministry, then one might argue that similar support should be available for men. Interestingly, as a dean of women’s ministry, I will sometimes receive calls (which become pastoral) from men concerning challenges for both genders such as parental leave, for example.
I believe, however, that the appointment is primarily strategic: to continue to identify barriers that prevent the full flourishing of women in ministry, and work with the bishop and others in the diocese to overcome those barriers.
Among self-supporting ministers, there is an equal proportion of women and men, but ordained women in England, including those in incumbencies (usually stipendiary), are in a minority of 30 per cent (Church of England National Statistics 2018). Under-representation still pervades many deaneries and senior posts. Addressing that remains a crucial activity of deans of women’s ministry.
Effective support and pastoral care is essential for all priests, whatever their gender. Most will turn first to their archdeacon or bishop — or to their dean of women’s ministry when the issue is more specifically gender-related. That said, archdeacons’ and bishops’ time is often taken up with management at the cost of pastoral care (as, sadly, many incumbents’ time is, too).
There is a gap that needs to be filled, especially in light of the Church of England’s current and correct emphasis on clergy well-being. The suggestion of “chaplains to the clergy” is a good one. Another would be to liberate bishops and archdeacons for greater pastoral availability. Ultimately, we need places and spaces where clergy feel that they can be honest and do not have to keep up appearances.
Handled carefully, the Clergy Covenant could help create this. But there is now a very strong case for mandatory pastoral supervision for the clergy, akin to the clinical supervision required for therapeutic professionals. Those who give out so much to others pastorally should be equally well supported pastorally.
Team Rector of Oxted and Dean of Women’s Ministry (Southwark)
The Vicarage, 14 Oast Road
Hurst Green, Surrey RH8 9DU
From Canon David Banting
Sir, — The Revd Nicholas Fincham appears to be among those who “feel like non-entities” (Letters, 30 October), now that his diocesan Retired Clergy Support Group has ceased. I retired two-and-a-half years ago after 38 years in parish ministry, and have much enjoyed settling in as a member of a congregation. I have found it profoundly necessary and reinvigorating to learn properly to be a member and no longer a minister.
My observation is that too many retired clergy hanker after some continuation of ordained ministry and clerical affirmation, and miss out on revelling in the discovery of what lay life and ministry is really all about: regularly in the congregation on Sunday mornings (and evenings?), enjoying the fellowship, support and stimulus of a weekly small group, joining the prayer meeting, getting my local giving sorted out, washing up or serving teas/coffees at the lunch-club, or International evenings, or Mums and Toddlers, babysitting or crèche-minding, delivering cards and leaflets, supporting missionary evenings, hosting a table on the Christianity Explored course, singing in the Christmas Choir, being an impromptu Barnabas in visiting or companionable walks, to name many of the things that have reframed my life.
It has been so good: almost like rediscovering normal Christian faith and service and what they are like for the vast majority of Christians.
When clergy retire from parish ministry, I want to commend as a top priority that they find a good church and get cheerfully stuck in as a member. That will keep them normal, useful, occupied, befriended, and — above all — appreciated as a sister or brother within the family of God’s people. And there’s no better place to be.
29 Hallamshire Close
Sheffield S10 4FJ
Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
From David Maxwell
Sir, — Since the United Nations treaty of 2017, leaders in many Christian denominations have asked our Government to respond to this new development attempting to ban nuclear weapons, just as other forms of mass destruction have been legally banned. The ratification of 50 states now brings the treaty into legal force from the end of January.
As a member of Christian CND and the Religious Society of Friends (News, 30 October), who was baptised and confirmed an Anglican in my childhood, I organised a local public acknowledgement of United Nations Day at midday on 24 October. Forty-nine had signed up, but more were on the way. By 8.30 p.m., we learnt that Honduras had also ratified, to achieve 50.
I was teaching in Sierra Leone when it became the 100th member of the United Nations. Memories of the pride felt locally in morning prayers that day makes me realise how much yesterday’s ratification will mean to many small nations. Let us put ourselves in their shoes.
As we approach Christmas, with its message of peace and goodwill to all, my prayer is that in Advent churches will once again, in increasingly large numbers, ask our Government (with our Lord’s Prayer vision of God’s Kingdom on earth) to reconsider owning nuclear weapons. I also pray that by the time the Lambeth Conference brings Anglican bishops from small countries all over the world to England, there will be a clear shift to “building back better” which our churches can be proud of.
UN Day was just the beginning. More than 600 partner organisations in more than 100 countries will be doing their bit. God bless us all.
Flat 1, 68 Chaucer Road
Bedford MK40 2AP
Healing ministry for abuse survivors
From the Revd Dr David Wheeler
Sir, — Two points with regard to the coverage of abuse which I haven’t seen in the Church Times:
First, do we believe the Church can offer healing to all who have suffered abuse; not just those abused by others within the Church? If we are unable to bring healing to all victims, we are falling short of what Christ would want. What is it that stops us reaching out with an effective healing ministry?
Second, with any victims, don’t just listen: rather, hear. That may be very demanding, but it is what any of us in desperate situations need: real connection.
22 Glamis Avenue
Bournemouth BH10 6DP
Cancelled. As if
From Ms Sue Primmer
Sir, — As a former director of diocesan communications, one of the originators of the “Bad Hair Day” Christmas advertisement, the Che Guevara Easter advert, and the Church of England logo still used today, may I urge leaders, communicators, and parishes to get ahead of the idea that Christmas is cancelled? What a communications opportunity!
Christ Church Vicarage
London E14 3BN