‘Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of
positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s
life or the world at large.’
Less than six months ago, I placed a post on this site entitled ‘What’s the purpose of the Church of England?’
In view of yesterday’s announcement that the Church of England is suspending all church services ‘until further notice’, I felt that I had to title this post ‘Is there any purpose to the Church of England?’
I should start by saying that I have complete sympathy for every organisation, whether secular or theological, which is trying to cope with the current situation of the COVID19 virus. I have tried to imagine myself back in the position I filled for many years, of running companies, and having to make very finely balanced decisions. But I feel drawn, I must even say called, to question whether this is the right thing for the Church to be doing at the moment. I understand that this is the first time that this has happened since 1208 (and hence the first time ever for the Church of England).
The Church authorities put out a statement yesterday which included these phrases:
“This is a defining moment for the Church of England. Are we truly a church for all, or just the church for ourselves.
“We urge you sisters and brothers to become a different sort of church in these coming months: hopeful and rooted in the offering of prayer and praise and overflowing in service to the world.”
The questions that I have are these:
- ‘A different sort of church?’ Even trying to be generous, I must ask what is that supposed to mean? If, as I fear, it means what might be subscribed as a ‘virtual church’ then I would have to suggest that the Archbishops have been listening to too many business consultants.
- What is the purpose of a Church that holds no services and is even, to my absolute horror, suggesting that funerals should be for ‘close family only’? Did they actually intend the phrase ‘overflowing in service’ to be comical?
- Does the Church of England now have no feeling for the crying need amongst its people, not just for spiritual nourishment, but also for the deepest human need for fellowship? When did it lose that (or throw it away?)
- If the Church of England feels that services are now optional, then what need would there be for these buildings to reopen in a few months, or even a year or two?
- In what way is the Church showing ‘hope’ to the world, by shutting all its doors to services? Don’t we need to remember that so far globally, as at today, an estimated 8,000 people have died, which is roughly the death rate for an entire normal ‘flu season for the whole of the UK only. Of course precautions have to be taken about Holy Communion and sharing the Peace, but those guidelines were issued some time ago. Our church buildings are enormous and, sadly, almost empty in most places, so keeping two or three metres apart is hardly a challenge!
- Is it really, genuinely, scientifically, necessary to cease all services for an increasingly worried population, paralysed by the fear generated by the Main Stream Media, or is this reaction being driven partly by the same media and partly by the corporate fear of being sued?
For some time, I’ve worried that our Church is increasingly becoming nothing more than just another Corporation, driven by all the same considerations and increasingly run by management folks, rather than spiritual folks. Is this the right response, or has the Church of England just latched onto something that will further hasten its own more or less inevitable demise?
This blog reaches very few people, no more than a small Evensong congregation, but it might be that some will be feeling the need for some spiritual nourishment in the months to come. For that reason, I’m intending to post a sermon and some prayers here every Sunday (starting on 22nd March when the Church of England says we should put a candle in our windows!) until the Church sees fit to reinstate services. The sermons won’t always be following the Lectionary for that day, but I hope you may gain something from them.
In the meantime, look after yourselves, stay healthy and please stay positive, cheerful and hopeful!