The national pensions crisis produced by dishonest economic planning, several years grim stock market performance and the Chancellor's £5 billion raid on our funds is not the only cloud on the poorly paid clergyperson's horizon. Church investments have suffered too. And, as in the rapidly ageing and underbreeding secular world, less and less workers are going to have to subsidize more and more pensioners.
In 1990 11,100 stipendiary clergy beavered away while a mere 5,900 drew pensions. By 2005, it is estimated, there will be just over 9,000 stipendiaries… and 8,500 clerical pensioners! By 2010 these figures will be reversed. Keep working, chaps. Your contribution is much appreciated.
When the Church of England Sunday Attendance looked set to drop below the magic million mark some years ago, head office suspended statistical information. A new and better way had to be found to show that ' more people come to church than you think.’ The Sunday statistics, when finally released, duly recorded an adult slump to just over 800,000 and an even more terrifying decline in children's attendance. Meanwhile the new statistic was to be the Average Weekly Attendance. This enabled the parish to include all attendance at weekday services, weddings, funerals, pram services, youth praise, Brownie parade etc etc. Conservative estimates put the potential boost to attendance figures at anywhere between 40% and 250%. Unfortunately for the bright sparks who devised this apparently face-saving formula, it has not quite worked out like that. While the initial tot up managed to take figures up some 50% over the Sunday average to 1.25 million, the same inexorable process has overtaken the great experiment. Average Weekly Attendance for the Year (AWAY) 2000–2001 has shown an average decline of 5% – in just 12 months! Another few years like this and even the (gone) AWAY figures will dip under the magic million while real Sunday attendance will be heading towards 600,000.
Only the dioceses of Leicester (plus 5%) and Sodor and Man (plus 3%) showed any signs of revival. Double-figure declines include Bath and Wells (-18%), Bristol (-12%), Derby (-18%), Durham (-10%), Peterborough (-11%), Truro (-10 %), Wakefield (-15%), Worcester (-12%), York (-12%).
LOGON LOGOS LOGOFF
‘Although she never went to church, she never missed Songs of Praise’ is a familiar apologia in the crematorium address. Now vicars in 50 years’ time will be able to use a new one. ‘Although she never came to church, she always downloaded every Sunday on her laptop.’
For tired of declining numbers (see above) the Reverend Alan Bain (Vicar of St Philip and St James, Bath) is putting his services on the internet. To appeal to the young, the infirm and those too lazy to get out of bed, Broadband Bain wants ‘to see if we can attract a wider, younger audience to our church, even if they're not with us in person.’
The interactive service will allow the viewer to vote for the hymns (oh lucky organist!). A CofE spokesman said, ‘It's a great idea!’
Welcome to the virtual Church of England. Double click your icon for a screen saviour.
The nation's favourite woman priest, Dawn French, has come up with a splendid idea in a recent episode of The Vicar of Dibley. Following the ‘fat is a feminist issue’ line of thinking, Her Cuddliness was speculating on the possibilities of producing a low calorie, slimmer friendly eucharistic host. This would be a godsend to the horizontally challenged priestess faced with consuming an overcharged ciborium.
Whether the product will ever appear remains in the realms of comedic fantasy. The suggested name for such a wafer, however, summarizes very neatly the dilemma at the heart of the Doctrine of Reception.
The ‘low-cal’ looks-like, tastes-like hosts for the figure-conscious priestess rejoiced in the brand title, ‘I Can't Believe it's not Jesus’.
BEST POSSIBLE TASTE
Readers may remember the innovative 'Communion with a coffee break', pioneered to episcopal acclaim by ???. Now the modern Anglican’s answer to Cranmer and Chrysostom, ‘Bubbles’ Stancliffe (prop: Diocese of Salisbury), has gone one better.
While The Daily Telegraph markets his gorgeously bound volume of Prayers you have Loved for a mere 30 quid, the great liturgist is once again pushing the envelope of Eucharist enterprise.
The September issue of Sarum Link reports his latest worship initiative – a ‘Running Eucharist’.
Under the headline ‘Breathless Bishop Beats Bounds’, an enthusiastic Canon Richard Askew praises the peripatetic prelate's parish pilgrimage as he celebrated a bit of the Holy Communion in each team church before dashing to the next with congregation in full flight behind him.
After the ‘Coffee Break Communion’ and now the ‘Running Communion’, it is just a matter of time, surely, before a charismatic invents the ‘Jumping Communion’ followed inevitably by the really devout ‘Skipping the Anglican Communion’ altogether.
KNIGHT LIGHTS OUT
The dreary little Kiwi anorak, Len Cook, chief abacus rattler for the Government's ungodly Census has offended the religious sensibilities of hundreds of thousands of native Brits. No less than 389,000 fellow countrymen put down their religion as 'JEDI’ (knights as in Star Wars). This puts them the way ahead of Jews, Sikhs and Buddhists. Mr Cook (as in 'cooking the books') has decided to record them as having ‘no religion’, thus removing these devout warriors from any future governmental planning considerations and benefits.
Obi Wan suggests a ‘light sabre’ to Mr Cook's antipodes as a gentle rebuke. As we say in government circles, 'The Farce be with you’.
TORY PRAYER SHOCK
Has the twisted theology of the toffee-nosed Tory toffs (copyright Daily Mirror) sunk to new depths? Investigative journalist, Phil Space, took time off from a busy August to reveal the existence of an heretical and subversive website where ‘Tory Christians’ (an oxymoron to all senior members of the Church of England and serious listeners to the BBC) are encouraged to pray for Ian Duncan Smith!
Has nobody told these hopeless Henrys that the messianic age began on 1st May 1997 and all prayer to the contrary is, de facto, heretical? ‘Things can only get better!’ we sang on that glorious dawn. As true today… etc etc.
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