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Letters to the Editor

12 May 2023


Apology: A letter published on 28 April contained a quotation purporting to be from Philip Stopford, describing mixed choirs as exclusive. Not only has he not said this: it is the opposite of what he believes and has advocated. We sincerely apologise to Mr Stopford for the fictitious quotation attributed to him.

Reflections on Coronation Day

From Mr Jonathan Salt

Sir, — What a tremendous and uplifting event the Coronation was, and how superbly planned and executed! The music was stunning. Especially moving was the moment after the anointing when the King stood there alone, simply wearing a white linen shirt: a reminder to us all that, in the centre of the event, is a simple human being standing before God.

One aspect, however, that I did find confusing, was the inclusion of the eucharist. Although not a member of the Anglican Communion, I am a practising Christian and I also teach religious education in a secondary school.

I am hoping that someone might be able to clarify this for me. My understanding is that receiving communion is a sign of belonging to the Church, in this case. I was trying to work out why it was distributed to only four people, apart from the Archbishop of Canterbury. I have never understood it as reserved for a tiny elite.

6 Sayer Street
Huntingdon PE29 3HA

From Mr Robert Leach

Sir, — As a church organist, may I point out that the most watched church service this year had 48 pieces of music and one sermon that lasted less than three minutes?

19 Chestnut Avenue
Epsom, Surrey KT19 0SY

From Canon Paul Oestreicher

Sir, — To me, participating in one of His Majesty’s far-flung Dominions, the Coronation came across as a well-produced biblical drama. At the Archbishop’s invitation, we had all been invited to play our part. Taking holy scripture seriously, how many of us were aware that some of the action had already taken place offstage? To complete the drama, the Metropolitan Police had arrested — for disturbing the peace — those demonstrating against both Church and State.

In Jerusalem, Rabbi Jesus, in whose name the Coronation was produced, had himself staged a deeply disturbing demonstration in the Temple Forecourt. With none of the British restraint of the London police, the Roman militia arrested, tortured, and killed Jesus with the Temple’s approval.

Archbishop Welby’s sermon made clear that that was not the end of the drama. Jesus lives on.

42/8 Leeds Street Te Aro
Aotearoa New Zealand
Wellington 6011

From Mr Derek G. Bevan

Sir, — The BBC has four main TV channels and two serious radio programmes, never mind the red button. Yet not one of them was allowed to relay the Coronation Service without some journalist or commentator interrupting what was going on, especially the music being sung and played, as if that was some irrelevant background to the proceedings.

Given that the order of service was freely available for downloading, there really was no reason that one TV channel and one radio station could not have been left to broadcast the whole service uncontaminated.

On Radio 3, Katie Derham’s introduction to the preceding concert was properly done, although the engineers she praised could have done something to compensate for her repeatedly dropping her voice at the end of sentences. Alas, once the service started, she descended to the level of self-indulgence common to other commentators.

DEREK G. BEVAN (Reader Emeritus)
Address supplied (Ingatestone, Essex)

From the Revd Dr Michael Brydon

Sir, — The Revd Professor Ian Bradley (Letters, 5 May) is a great scholar of the Coronation. I am grateful for his appreciative comments regarding my piece (The Coronation, 28 April).

I am in full agreement that the anti-Catholic declaration lasted until 1910, but I was seeking to convey that it ceased to be uttered at the actual Coronation by the end of the 18th century, even if it continued to be made before Parliament.

My truncation of the title of the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is indeed an error: one that many Anglicans are often guilty of. Professor Bradley has helpfully given us a good example of why the correct use of titles can matter a great deal.

62 Ballabrooie Way, Douglas
Isle of Man IM1 4HB

Living in Love and Faith
implementation work

From the Revd Paul Burr

Sir, — The Bishops have set themselves a lot of work preparing for same-sex blessings (News, 5 May), but who is interested in any of it?

Firt, revised LLF prayers will be permissive, not mandatory. So what can stop anyone from using prayers they like, including prayers from the marriage service? If you believe in gay marriage, isn’t that what you would do?

Second, who is going to worry about “Pastoral Guidance”? Those who want gay marriage will now contrive services that look and feel like gay marriage, and the Bishops have neither the desire nor the moral authority to inhibit them.

Third, “pastoral reassurance” is an impossibility: the Bishops can’t offer themselves as guarantors of fairness to clergy when it is discrimination by bishops that is at issue. Pretence of episcopal neutrality is absurd — no one can be judge in their own cause — and the Bishops have already trashed both process and principle to get here.

The whole thing is a political charade. What is missing is the one thing needed: theological justification. But that is impossible; for there is none. The consequent collapse in trust is catastrophic.

The Vicarage, The Common
Norwich NR14 8EB

Church’s relations with survivor community

From Mr Martin Sewell

Sir, — The Soul Survivor story develops, and may need independent investigation, just as the Archbishops and their advisers have soured their relationship with independent members of the ISB and the wider survivor community by the imposition of Meg Munn as chair against their advice and wishes (News, 5 May).

The root of the problem is longstanding, deep, and fundamental. Church House and Lambeth Place see such matters as problems to be solved, whereas the the reality is that they represent relationships with survivors in need of healing. You cannot bully those you have harmed into wholeness.

General Synod member for Rochester diocese
8 Appleshaw Close, Gravesend
Kent DA11 7PB

Understanding the thought of Iain McGilchrist

From Dr A. J. Bean

Sir, — In his critique of the Very Revd Hugh Dickinson’s article on Dr Iain McGilchrist’s right-brain thinking (Comment, 14 April), it seems that Mr Gregory P. Smye-Rumsby (Letters, 21 April) has either not read Dr McGilchrist’s profound work or not properly understood it. In The Matter With Things, Dr McGilchrist sometimes does criticise mainstream science, but his main beef is with scientism and the New Atheism.

He very clearly compares the left-hemisphere thinking here with various forms of religious fundamentalism. This includes types of Christianity which conflate the Bible with the “Word of God”. Indeed, in The Master and his Emissary (page 323), he concludes his discussion of the Reformation as follows: “In essence the cardinal tenet of Christianity — the Word is made Flesh — becomes reversed, and the Flesh is made Word.”

2 Little Stoke Road
Stoke Bishop
Bristol BS9 1HQ

From Canon Peter Liddell

Sir, — I share the Very Revd Hugh Dickinson’s response to discovering Dr Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary and The Matter with Things. I am a long way behind Dean Dickinson in completing the three volumes, but I am enjoying going backwards and forwards in them while being held by their encyclopaedic and immensely readable unity.

In the mean time, I have re-watched Dr McGilchrist’s presentation to Modern Church (modernchurch.org.uk and on YouTube) and the discussion led by Professor Elaine Graham. Some jewels that I take away are: McGilchrist’s gracious, cautionary introduction. “He that tells does not know; he that knows does not tell” (Tao Te Ching); 90 per cent of emotional communication is non-verbal, of which most is expressed through the face; 95.3 per cent of Nobel Prizewinners in physics describe themselves as religious; “physics is the language of poetry” (Niels Bohr); St Augustine: “If you understand it, it is not God.”

For his own testimony, Dr McGilchrist reaches to his favourite poet, Wordsworth: “I have felt A presence that disturbs me with joy Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime . . .” (“Tintern Abbey”).

25 St Mary’s Court
Ottway Walk, Welwyn
Hertfordshire AL6 9AU

Advantages of insisting that voters produce ID

From Mr Bob Timmis

Sir, — Mr Norman Harper (Letters, 21 April) regrets the need for voters to produce ID. As a non-driver (though a UK passport-holder), I am able to bring photo-identification, though I realise that others may have difficulty. Before they grumble, however, may I suggest that potential voters think hard.

In this area (Warrington), we vote for councillors once in four years. At a previous election, I was amused to note the anger expressed by the chap in front of me in the queue when he was told that he was not allowed to vote on behalf of his wife (besides casting his own vote), because “She’d rather I cast her vote for her, today.”

Given that voting is a privilege, fought for by generations of men and women, I am keen that voters should have to ID themselves. When I moved into the first home that I owned, after living with my parents, I received two polling-cards: one in my own name, and another in the name of the previous owner (who was then living in another town). I could have voted in my own name, using my own card, and returned later, with the other card, voting as a different person.

St Barnabas’s Vicarage
Lovely Lane, Warrington WA5 1TY

Synodsman on dioceses’ ‘motivation structure’

From Professor R. G. Faulkner

Sir, — The letter from Virginia Stourton (28 April) asks what the C of E has done to its parish clergy. The simple answer is that dioceses have devalued the most important position in the Church. The mission statement of the Church should be to bring people to God through worship in their community. The central officer responsible for this is the parish priest.

Dioceses have progressively developed management structures in which it is seen as a promotion to be relieved of these front-line responsibilities. Add to that the creation of many well-meaning and well-paid posts dealing with inclusivity, social responsibility, mission, safeguarding, youth work, environment, PA work, and archdeaconry, and you have a recipe for disaster.

The salary and motivation structure of dioceses needs to be turned on its head. Potential candidates are completely demoralised by the recruitment techniques currently used by dioceses.

Rules need to be introduced whereby no employees in diocesan offices are paid more than traditional front-line parish priests. This will release much money that is currently being wasted in diocesan administration to provide proper funding for more parish priests. The recent increases in the parish clergy’s administrative workload is also a disincentive to potential new recruits to parish ministry.

Since most of this additional work has originated from the diocesan office in the form of surveys and box-ticking exercises, potential incumbents will be further encouraged to join an organisation that puts first its main mission statement: that of bringing people to God in the community.

I hope to raise these issues in a private member’s motion in the General Synod in July.

General Synod member
51 Tynedale Road
Loughborough LE11 3TA

BBC starts with a hymn

From Canon Philip Cousins

Sir, — May I correct one error in the letter from the Revd Barbara Watson Hammond (28 April)? I can assure her that on Easter Day, the 7 a.m. news on Radio 4 began with one verse of “Jesus Christ is risen today”. Furthermore, two days earlier, that same news bulletin began with one verse of “When I survey the wondrous cross”. I listen each year and am never disappointed. So please let’s give the BBC some “liturgical” credit.

17 Chalfonts
York YO24 1EX

Century’s difference

From the Revd Ian Walter

Sir, — I’m afraid that your reprint (100 Years Ago, 28 April) of a piece about the royal wedding of April 1923 included a misprint. The chapel at Glamis Castle was consecrated in 1688, not 1588, and the subsequent events quoted from Scottish church history followed from the departure of King James VII & II and its consequences up to and beyond the battle of Culloden.

56 Dalriach Road
Oban PA34 5JE
[The extract should have been dated 27 April 1923, too. Editor]

Sticking their necks out

From Chris Elliott

Sir, — Whatever our feelings about an alternative deanery chapter in the City of London (News, 6 April), it is disappointing to see that in the photo neither the Revd Chris Fishlock nor the Revd Phil Martin is wearing a clerical collar. Do they just want to be part of the crowd?

2 Wray Lane, Reigate
Surrey RH2 0HS

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