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Letters to the Editor

27 August 2021

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Western powers and Afghanistan

From Mr Charles Shefford

Sir, — Canon Angela Tilby’s defence of the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan (Comment, 20 August) on the basis of bringing democracy and women’s rights to the region omits several key factors that, when taken into consideration, paint an altogether less rosy picture of American imperialism, and make the notion of US foreign policy as a bringer of democracy and women’s rights untenable.

First, over the course of the 1980s, the US gave roughly $6 billion to the Afghan mujahideen, whose goal was to overthrow the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (a country that constitutionally guaranteed universal education and equal rights to women). The Afghan mujahideen went on to become the Taliban, and succeeded in bringing an end to universal education and equal rights for women. All this was made possible by the US.

Second, the reason for the US invasion of Afghanistan was not a determination to overthrow the Taliban: it was the Taliban’s refusal to extradite Osama bin Laden without evidence — which is the right of a sovereign nation, whether you agree with its governance or not. The US broke international law in invading and occupying Afghanistan without a UN Security Council resolution. Further, at the time of the US invasion, there were roughly five million Afghani citizens on the verge of starvation. It was estimated that the US bombing campaign would increase this by 2.5 million; and yet this did not deter the Americans.

Last, Saudi Arabia is one of the most autocratic totalitarian regimes in the world, with extremely repressive laws against women: why has the US not brought democracy and equal rights for women to Saudi Arabia? Because Saudi Arabia is sitting on oil — and the Saudi dictatorship makes sure that the oil money does not go to the people in the region, but instead to London and New York.

Canon Tilby’s claim that this is “the end of the ‘The West’ as a moral power” assumes that the West ever was one to begin with. I would argue that the evidence clearly demonstrates otherwise.


The Vicarage, Main Street

Sutton on the Forest

York YO61 1DW


Church should contribute to the review of coroners


From Mr Ashley Chaplin

Sir, — Three years ago, on 1 September 2018, I found my husband, Gerhard Venter, deceased in Regent’s Park, London. Since, I have endured a horrible process of multi-institutional failure. Most important and challenging of all has been finding my faith and holding on to it. It has been the sustenance in my journey in search of his truth and his right to justice.

At the heart of it lies his soul. In the flesh, there remains always hope of a tomorrow. But, in death, what is the hope? What is the value of our soul? In death, does it no longer hold worth to the living? What worth do institutions place on the value of our soul? What is the value of truth and justice to the deceased? Is this right only for the living?

The coroner, for many, is the last vestige of hope for securing truth and allowing peace for the deceased and, through justice, healing for the bereaved.

The coroner services are currently undergoing reform evaluation through the Justice Committee, who have submitted their first report to the Government and await a response. The public were asked for contributions. Many, including mine, made for harrowing reading.

I was saddened to notice that not a single institution of faith contributed in a meaningful way to the committee. Two UK minority faiths did, but only on their frustrations in securing release of the deceased for burial.

There was not a single contribution on the importance of the deceased in a spiritual sense or, simply, on behalf of the deceased, to ensure the greatest possible level of securing their truth and allowing their peace, providing for justice, and allowing healing for the ones who are left behind to mourn and grieve.

Would it not be fair to expect the Church to be at the forefront of understanding the part played by coroners, their accountability and commitment to truth, and the extent to which they place the soul of the deceased squarely at the forefront of everything they do or say? To challenge government on something so critical as the point of junction between life and death, peace and restlessness, healing and suffering?

What value does the Church place on our souls, and is it prepared to make a stand for it? I hope that the Church will seek the greatest assurance that the Coroner Services place at the forefront the deceased’s right to truth and peace, and the right of those left behind to justice. Without truth, how are we to find within us our forgiveness?


Address supplied


Current rules about the venue for weddings


From Mr Ray H. Hart

Sir, — I refer to the Revd Dr Nicholas Henderson’s letter (20 August) regarding the need to allow clergy to officiate at religious weddings at various venues other than churches. I feel that he is missing the point.

Encouraging couples to marry in a sacred space is to demonstrate how special marriage can be, and how a holy and blessed wedding in the hallowed and godly surroundings of the church gives that special dimension.

We have seen too much the rise of the wedding conveyor belt. If we encourage clergy to join this pattern, all we are doing is trivialising this sacred event. From a church marriage may grow more seeds to encourage a possible future new church family.

What we as the Church of England should be doing is making our churches more welcoming by easing restrictive, old-fashioned rules to help encourage couples to join us in the enveloping warmth of the Church, and not jumping on the wedding “factory” conveyor.


70 Glenfield Park, Pilling

Lancashire PR3 6HE


From the Revd Dale Barton

Sir, — My son was recently married at a Wiltshire village church. It was a wonderful occasion, with a well-led service and a good address.

My son has worshipped from infancy, to my knowledge, at least 50 times in this church. His grandfather was churchwarden for more than 30 years and remains a weekly worshipper; his grandmother was a worshipper, but is now buried in the churchyard; his mother was confirmed there; and his father has provided cover for services on at least ten occasions.

None of these connections counts as a qualifying connection for marriage. We find this puzzling, illogical, and upsetting


84 Park Road

Bingley BD16 4EJ


Rural parishes’ plan for maintaining ministry


From Mr Simon Hoar

Sir, — Here in a corner of rural Somerset we have just lost our wonderful “house-for-duty” priest to long Covid. Our six parishes are thrown back into yet another vacancy, but, as Covid restrictions end, we look forward to the reawakening of village life and the revitalising of our churches in particular.

The response of the diocese of Bath & Wells has been to say that we cannot seek to appoint a new parish priest, as there is a recruitment freeze — indefinitely (although this does not apply to bishops, administrative, or mission staff).

This group of six tiny churches (and 750 people) is self-funding. We currently pay the diocese around £20,000 p.a. in return for the services of a house-for-duty priest. For that sum, it would be entirely possible for us to rent a house for a priest — and still have something left over to send to the diocese for central costs. We don’t need central funding: all we need from the diocese is their blessing to seek an appointment.

As churchwardens of the Six Pilgrims, we are determined not to let things drift, but to grasp the nettle and seek a new parish priest. We have the will, the motivation, and the momentum to keep these parishes communities alive, firmly believing that the parish church (like the village pub) is the bedrock of village life. If you think you could help us, please get in contact.


Chairman of the Six Pilgrims

The Shieling, Babcary

Somerset TA11 7EA



Covid and the cup in the long term


From Sue Carter

Sir, — I recently visited an older church member whom we hadn’t seen since the start of the pandemic. She thinks that she had Covid early, contracted from taking communion from the one cup, and is insistent that she will never take communion again in the Church of England, preferring the individual cups that are used by Nonconformists.

I am a churchwarden with more than 40 years’ experience working in the NHS. As a churchwarden, I am concerned that this church member may not be the only person thinking this as we start coming back together during the autumn. How can I reassure this church member that it is safe to take communion from the shared cup? Priming the cup with alcohol, and then turning the cup and wiping it with a napkin between com­municants is our practice.

Has the Church of England conducted any survey to gauge whether members will be happy to return to church if the practice of sharing one cup continues? Would the House of Bishops consider revising the law, in the light of Covid, which will be with us for a long time to come?


Church Office

St Mary’s Church

Luton, Beds LU1 3JF


Retreat bursaries for carers and NHS workers


From Dr Demelza Henderson

Sir, — I was very pleased to read of the Revd Professor Stephen Wright’s initiative to offer free retreats to Carers from the Carlisle diocese at Rydal Hall this autumn (News, 13 August). It is a generous and much-needed venture to recharge the batteries of those people who have offered so much during the pandemic, and one that the Association for Promoting Retreats (APR) is pleased to have been able to support.

For carers and NHS workers who cannot take advantage of Mr Wright’s retreats, the APR is still able to offer a limited number of bursaries for retreats across the UK, to be taken before 31 December 2021 (promotingretreats.org/nhs-bursaries).


APR Administrator

c/o 2 Brookfield Cottages

The Strand, Lympstone

Exmouth EX8 5ES


Creating a welcome


From Ruth Edy

Sir, — I appreciated Canon Angela Tilby’s column (Comment, 13 August) and her insight into the importance of welcome and worship in the parish church. I would invite her to come walking in this part of the Cotswolds and visit St Peter’s, Rendcomb, one of nine churches in the Churn Valley Benefice.

She would find an attractive and informative display of photos in the porch, along with a box for donations for Cirencester Food Bank. Inside the church, she would see weekly notices with details of services and events in the benefice, a new display welcoming walkers (especially those walking the Monarch’s Way or the Macmillan Way), and an account of the recent repair work, costing about £40,000, on the church roof — and how it was funded.

All this is the work of volunteers in the small congregation, done during the past 18 months while dealing with Covid, family pressures, and their own working lives. Unsung heroes — all of them!


The Rectory Cottage, Rendcomb

Cirencester GL7 7EZ

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