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Letters to the Editor

23 September 2022


Research findings and the afterlife

From Dr Ian Todd

Sir, — I enjoyed reading the article by the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge (Comment, 16 September), and I fully agree with him that “What we have to offer as Christians in the face of this stark reality [of death] is hope.” I would, however, like to question Dr Inge’s assertion that “We know next to nothing about the nature of the afterlife.”

In my article “Secularisation and the scientists” (Comment, 3 December 2021), I made reference to the burgeoning, rigorously conducted research on near-death experiences (NDEs), which has been progressing for more than 50 years. I recently reviewed this research, and its compatibility with Christian faith, elsewhere (Why Are You Here? The spiritual reality that reveals your purpose in life, SacraSage Press, 2022). In particular, the testimonies of thousands of individuals who have undergone NDEs from all parts of the world, of all ages, and of all religions or none, provide a consistent picture of a spiritual dimension to reality which we might call “the afterlife”.

Of course, there are those with a materialist/atheist world-view who would argue that NDEs are a figment of the imagination produced in a dying brain. Equally, there are likely to be Christians who would say that NDEs are not compatible with “orthodox religion” and so should be disregarded. In either instance, my first question would be “How much NDE research data have you read before reaching this conclusion?”

Furthermore, the degree of compatibility between NDE testimonies and spiritual assertions in the Bible is remarkable. It’s my view that this provides some grounds for confidently addressing the passage Dr Inge quotes from his late wife’s book that “Resurrection . . . is a hope about which we know little, and so about which we hardly dare speak with conviction.”

Perhaps NDE testimonies are God’s novel way of helping us to “make disciples” in our increasingly secular society. Indeed, one person who underwent an NDE recalled that the last and most powerful thing that God said to her before she returned to her body was “Tell them what you can remember” (McVea and Tresniowski, Waking Up in Heaven, Authentic Media, 2013).

66 Yokecliffe Drive
Wirksworth, Matlock
Derbyshire DE4 4EX

Refugee problem calls
for a global solution

From Mr Paul King

Sir, — Hats off to the many people who are opening their homes to refugees from Ukraine. In Chesterfield, we are also doing our bit, and a number of the people and their hosts are gathering on Saturdays for mutual support and for experts to pass on advice about housing, job, health, etc.

Fine, so far. But, as the war in Ukraine drags on, and the prospects for early return reduce, difficulties are already arising about the six-month permissions and arrangements. People who offered six months may well not, with the best will in the world, be able to offer longer. “Moving on” may be necessary, but where to? and for how long? Jobs are difficult, even for a plastic surgeon I read about, housing is at a premium for British people, and for Syrians and and for Afghans and countless others, staying in hotels (pro tem.?)

Even without unpleasant backlashes, which are predictable, there have to be international solutions to a global pandemic that may put Covid in the shade. That cannot be achieved quickly, but a start must be made.

In 1960, World Refugee Year, as it was termed, a big effort was made to crack the problem in Europe. Now, it is a global issue, and only global solutions can match the need. Preventative and pre-emptive actions are needed, and there is a climate-change dimension, of course, as we have seen so vividly in Pakistan.

All credit to those who are busy putting sticking plaster on wounds round Britain. But the UN and its agencies, formal and informal, must step up, and quick. The End may be nigh.

10 Rossendale Close
Derbyshire S40 3EL

National mourning puts
parishes in spotlight

From the Revd James Rodley

Sir, — In the past fortnight of national mourning, our parish churches have been centres for every community in the land: places to pray, reflect, honour, and give thanks for our late Queen.

Countless volunteers have given their time and effort at short notice to make our buildings available in the special calling we have as the Established Church. And the parish clergy have used their training, skill, and experience to present offerings of worship which have captured, at a local level, the nation’s desire to grieve, to give thanks, and to wish well our new King.

But, only just over a year ago, we were being told by Canon John McGinley that our churches and our trained clergy were now “key limiting factors” to mission. I wonder whether our Archbishops, fresh from their TV and media appearances, might wish to reflect?

Priest-in-Charge of Hellifield and Long Preston
Kellwell House, Kendal Road
North Yorkshire BD23 4HEI

‘Ad lib’ is of help to the unaccustomed churchgoer

From the Revd Pam Rose

Sir, — I freely confess that I am one of those who “ad lib” during services (Letter, 26 August). I grew up in the Anglican Church, and am fortunate to be able to understand what is happening.

Yes, “Cranmer et al. knew what they were doing.” But, then, so did their congregations, having been baptised as infants and been regular churchgoers ever since. The liturgy was part of their everyday life.

Today, the general population of our country are not in that situation. They come to church, if at all, for the occasional offices. I am sure that one reason for the ubiquity of full service sheets at these services is to prevent general embarrassment for people unable to find a hymn in a book, never mind follow a service from a book.

A case in point: I recently conducted a funeral service for a lady of 73. The two hymns sung were “Love divine, all loves excelling” and “Guide me, O thou great Redeemer”. To my astonishment, one of her nieces, of about 45 years of age, told me that she had never heard either of these hymns before.

We want our churches to be people-friendly, welcoming everyone. Handing visitors a couple of unknown books and a piece of paper as they enter does not make them feel welcome. The least we can do is to help them to understand what is going on, and when to sit or stand.

2 Kirmington Close
Lincoln LN6 0SG

Retired cleric besieged with requests for cover

From the Revd Simon Douglas Lane

Sir, — How right the Revd Malcolm Liles (Letter, 9 September) is to highlight the way in which retired clergy are used and undervalued: most weeks I have at least five requests for Sunday cover. One is covering long-term sickness (often stress through overwork), holidays, and vacancies, and the problem seems to be worsening.

This is tied up with the current policy of making parish clergy redundant. Retired clergy are being asked to take services in churches where the celebration of the eucharist is infrequent, to say the least.

I am happy to attend leadership safeguarding, but the PTO version needs to be rolled out universally. As for fees, some parishes pay promptly, but others give us the embarrassment of having to ask.

All dioceses should publish a list of the retired clergy with PTO (permission to officiate), as many of us have diocese-wide permission. In my deanery, a retirement group meets online, and the faithful few participate, but it is few.

If we were appreciated more, that would help. There are other obstacles, such as exclusion from participation in deanery synods unless elected, as I am, as the PTO rep, and being unable to sponsor clergy for Synod positions, unless elected at deanery level, or licensed to a parish.

We are an increasing band of brothers and sisters who want to be valued, not just tolerated when it suits.

30a Belgrade Road, Hampton
Middlesex TW12 2AZ

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