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Letters to the Editor

19 November 2021

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Heritage objections to solar panels on church roofs

From the Revd Martin Jewitt

Sir, — Every support possible should be given to St Luke’s, West Holloway, in their appeal against the Victorian Society and diocesan advisory committee (DAC) in blocking their application to install solar panels on the church roof (News, 19 November).

Valuable land needed for growing food is being allocated for “solar farms” while the country is full of large southward-facing church roofs, ideal for solar panels to provide much needed sustainable energy. This decision should not be allowed to become a precedent.

12 Abbott Road
Folkestone CT20 1NG


From Mr R. L. Skelton

Sir, — I cannot be the only reader who was surprised to turn from page 3 to page 4 last week and see how an attempt by a parish church to do something positive about climate change was blocked by the DAC on very dubious grounds.

It is even more ironic that the objection came from the Victorian Society: the Victorians always used the latest technology and materials and had no compunctions about knocking down anything that got in the way of progress.

I cannot see that solar PV panels look any worse than lead or slate, and in this particular case could be seen by only six houses anyway.

I hope that the church does go through the arcane and exceedingly expensive appeal process, and that if, it wins, the Victorian Society picks up the bill. Until the national Church changes the rules, we don’t stand a chance of reaching net zero by 2030. To meet this goal will need not only a big increase in renewable electricity, for which south-facing church roofs are a perfect site, but also big changes in insulating and heating our churches, all of which will fall foul of our desire to keep everything preserved in aspic.

The current just makes the church look out of date. To fit solar PV on church roofs would give a positive visual message that we do care about climate change and are doing all we can to help. We also need changes in national planning rules to ensure that local-authority planners don’t stop such schemes, church or secular, for similar reasons.

There is not much point in having thousands of buildings looking as they were centuries ago, if they are under several metres of water or it is too hot to go in them.

Magdalene College
Cambridge CB3 0AG


Congregation bypass?

From the Revd Professor Alison Milbank

Sir, — I was saddened by the denigration of existing congregations in the Revd Barry Hill’s article, “Why a mixed ecology matters” (Comment, 12 November), but not surprised, since the decadence of the Church of England has been clearly revealed in recent years in a failure to love and value our own faithful.

Every one of those people is a gift from God to us and only by fully nourishing and serving them will we have any authentic gospel to preach to others. The language of “mixed ecology” is attractive, but it masks the old “mixed economy”, which pits parish and “fresh expression” in competition rather than resourcing parishes to do their proper work.

If the hierarchy really believed in an ecological approach, we would have had shared youth workers in every deanery, enabling every parish to grow, rather than competitive bids that so often resource one church over another.

Department of Theology and Religious Studies
C32 Humanities Building
University of Nottingham
Nottingham NG7 2RD


Chester diocese and its approach to priest’s case

From the Bishop of Birkenhead

Sir, — Michael Gear (Letters, 12 November) writes about the handling by the diocese of Chester of the case of the Revd Veronica Green.

Veronica Green was indeed acquitted (News, 18 October). The fact that she currently remains suspended is not, as Mr Gear suggests, an example of “heavy-handedness” or a lack of training among our senior staff.

In any case of this nature, a risk assessment needs to be undertaken in relation to whether the individual can safely return to their role and what, if any, risk mitigation measures might need to be put in place. This would apply equally in other walks of life where the role includes contact with children or vulnerable adults, and is done at the direction of the local authority. It is also fully in line with national church practice guidance.

Safeguarding is at the heart of our Christian faith and is something for which we are all responsible. The diocese of Chester takes its safeguarding duties very seriously and is committed to creating a safer Church for all.

Pinewood, Vyner Road North
Prenton CH43 7PZ


Relationship of evangelism to embarrassment

From the Revd Adrian Alker

Sir, — The Revd Stephen Hance writes about a public perception that the Church does not know what it believes about God (Comment, 12 November). As the National Lead on Evangelism and Discipleship, Mr Hance asserts that people think that “we” (presumably speaking on behalf of the whole Church) are embarrassed about God.

Well, I can agree with, and assure, your contributor that there are many of us who are embarrassed by the unintelligent, at times infantile and dogmatically emasculated, way in which most senior clergy in the main conduct their theological discourse. The masculine sky God who sends a Son to earth to redeem sinful humanity by a blood sacrifice is alive and well in the liturgies and pronouncements of the churches. And this God-talk is delivered by “gifted evangelists” with the presumption that the Church has the complete packaged answer, unchanged since Nicaea, and all that must happen is for it to be delivered newly and attractively wrapped for the consuming general public.

Sadly for Mr Hance, there are millions of people whose experiences of life would raise far more complex questions about the existence and nature of a Creator God, and who welcome exploring spirituality in the widest sense and across all faith traditions. Until the Church of England is prepared once again to engage with doubts and questions in a way that invites honesty, as did John Robinson all those years ago, “confidence and boldness” will not even scratch the surface of people’s lives.

Chair, Progressive Christianity Network Britain
23 Meadowhead
Sheffield S8 7UA


Signs of Original Sin in the school playground

From the Revd Dr Howard Worsley

Sir, — I want to add a qualification to Canon Angela Tilby’s affirmation (Comment, 12 November) that the doctrine of Original Sin is necessary as a primal doctrine for those working with children in needing to justify their discipline and correction.

The biblical narrative suggests that there was an Original Blessing before any Original Sin, and the parent or children’s minister who recognises this will find that their attitude to children is greatly improved by realising that children contain the seeds of imago Dei and God’s blessing. (This does not deny the impact of subsequent sinfulness.)

Children’s ministers working with the concept of Original Blessing are encouraged by a theology that allows them to relax about God’s sovereign purposes of blessing. It encourages them to see themselves as working within the grain of a bigger picture of salvation. They become aware that good education depends on God, and that God is already offering this blessing through creation. The task of the person working with children is to find out what God is doing in their lives and to join in. This diminishes the anxiety of a child’s natural waywardness and increases the sense of God’s primal purpose in blessing.

Rather than fixate on a child’s natural propensity to snatch from other children by creating strict rules (as Canon Tilby observes), focus on seeing what God is doing in the playground. In my work in supporting the Church of England’s “Growing Faith” agenda (GS2121), I sense that we are joining in with God’s original blessing in encouraging adults to help children to grow in faith in church, school, and household. We are not undoing the shackles of sin, but announcing the freedom of God.

Trinity College,
Bristol BS9 1JP


From Mr Nicolas Varnon

Sir, — I have the privilege to spend four hours each week working as an adult volunteer in a primary school in both classroom and playground.

Canon Tilby writes: “In the playground and in the classroom, original sin is an observable fact.” I beg to differ.

I have observed a multitude of activities, some appearing to me to be laudable, hard-working, imaginative, and so on. Other activities appear to me to be unkind, lazy, lacking sensitivity, and so on. All this is my (subjective) adult interpretation. I have sometimes discovered the mismatch between my interpretation and how the pupils explain the reality of their behaviour.

These are not, therefore, “observable fact” or “a true reading of our human plight”. They are subjective adult observations of developing youngsters exploring their world of education.

Willow Lodge, Springwell Road
Whissonsett, Dereham
Norfolk NR20 5TU


From the Revd David Thomas

Sir, — Canon Tilby’s column took me back to my first day at school in the early 1950s. I can remember playing with a toy, I think it was a train, when this boy, whom I knew, just came along, and without a word, snatched it away. I was shocked at the time, but it reminds me of that oft-used phrase “You don’t need to teach a child to be naughty.” I have now forgiven him, and I think Ms Birbal Singh has got it right.

8 Church Estate Almshouses
Richmond TW9 1UX


Burdensome by design

From Canon Rob Kelsey

Sir, — Mr Stephen Barber asks (Letters, 12 November), in relation to the assisted-dying debate, “What is so wrong with not wanting to be a burden?”

Perhaps part of an answer might be found in the previous week’s review of Tina English’s book, A Great Place to Grow Old: Re-imagining ministry among older people (Books, 5 November), which cites “the elderly John Stott’s wonderful saying that ‘We are all designed to be a burden on others.’”

The Vicarage, Church Lane
Norham, Berwick upon Tweed
TD15 2LF


Potholes injustice

From Canon David Staples

Sir, — With reference to pothole issues (News, 29 October): I am a retired priest, nearly 86, who has mobility issues and needs his car. In March, I hit a pothole that I couldn’t avoid because of a car coming fast towards me. The result was damage costing nearly £1000 to repair. Lincolnshire County Council has accepted that my claim is genuine, but, it seems, responsibility and liability are not the same.

The Council has to “balance the interests of the individ­ual motorist with those of the wider taxpayer and take into account what the Council can reasonably be expected to do”. This, in the view of the Council, is an annual visual inspection of the road from a moving vehicle. The pothole was inspected on 2 October. My incident was six months later, after winter’s damage.

A pensioner is being required to subsidise the shortfall in council revenues to compensate for ten years of austerity: a case of legality taking precedence over justice.

1 Sycamore Close
Bourne, Lincolnshire

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