30 days APRIL 1998
RUB BISH FOR LENT
Clergy of the Dunstable Deanery (St Alban's Diocese) were intrigued to receive a Lenten invitation to a "House Eucharist" at "Wellsprings" - a holistic spirituality centre near Hockcliffe. Further enquiries revealed that the mystery celebrant was to be Mrs Judith Harris, Team Vicar at Dunstable Priory and the whole enterprise had the blessing of the Bishop of Bedford, John Richardson and "has enjoyed Episcopal support at every stage".
Those who have been to one of Jolly John Bedfords touchy feely Confirmations will not be surprised at his enthusiasm for "Wellsprings". However, the dreary old stick in the muds of Dunstable Deanery have been slow to follow his inspired lead. Very few of them have rushed to try the "Professional therapies available at "Wellsprings" which include:
Full Swedish Massage £20
Reiki Counselling £15
....and Counselling £30
Those interested in "Flower energies", "one to one visualisation" and "energy balancing" will not be disappointed.
INCLUDE ME OUT
Hollow Laughter of the Month award went to the Rt. Revd, John Saxbee, Bishop of Ludlow. Speaking at "The Modern Churchmans Union" centenary celebration, he claimed that liberals were "being excluded" and "oppressed" in the Church of England.
As any analysis of the Episcopal bench would reveal that the vast majority are now in the liberal tradition, whatever their liturgical clothing, this seems rather an ungrateful remark by the bishop. Indeed it is frankly unlikely that the Patriarch of Ludlow would have found himself "oppressed" by the weight of office in any other circumstances. But Saxbee, matured by his suffering, is a tolerant man. "When members of the church seek to marginalise those who dare to think the unthinkable, question the assumptions of the powerful and pursue the truth wherever it may lead, such behaviour could be considered more appropriate to a sect!"
So he would obviously be tolerant of the traditionalist position? Apparently not... his principles do not quite stretch that far.He would like to see the Act of Synod abolished.
OLD GIRL POWER
The Mothers Union is the latest in the line of Anglican organisations to go up the relevance road. Originally founded to help mothers "train their children for Gods service" and "strengthen family life", the Union has wandered into strange byways of late and are now blaming their decline, in Britain, on their traditionalism. In fact its decline, like that of the rest of the C of E, has gone hand in hand with departure from it. In 1973 the Union accepted divorce, showed itself ambivalent about abortion, embraced feminist priests, widened its scope to unmarried mothers and, surely the least qualified of all, - MEN!
The new M.U. policy, by Oasis Media, urges its members to "Get into Drugs - Education, HIV and Aids counselling". They are even considering dropping the name - Mothers Union! Quite how this will go down with the trad. members or indeed Third World countries where the M.U. is strong, remains to be seen.
Still , few people could be better placed to find a solution to these tensions than the current worldwide president - Lady Eames, wife of Robin, Archbishop of Armagh. He it was who was entrusted with the delicate job of deciding how to run a church when those who belonged wanted a traditional church and those who governed wanted something wholly different. A case for another Eames Commission?
The fear that statistics may lie has prevented the release of figures for the C of E attendance this year. According to Raymond Tongue, Head of the Statistics Board at the Board of Finance. The present method of compilation of average Sunday attendances etc doesnt tie in with the feeling, held by many in senior positions, that more people are coming to church than we think.
Mr Tongue is quoted as saying that "People have been saying anecdotally that more people come through the church doors than statistics show. Weve felt that for a number of years but have nothing concrete to prove it. Were now looking for evidence."
He is not disheartened by the more recent figures because he hasnt seen them! And as we arent going to we can, presumably draw our own conclusions. The Church Times noted darkly that the 1996 figures showed baptisms up but...Confirmations down, Christmas communicants down and Easter communicants down.
30 Days offers a small prize to anyone who can discover another organisation whose head of Statistics refuses to give the information he is paid to produce for the members. As usual no resignations are expected.
...AND STATISTICS II
Caution about Church statistics appear to be well founded. Some months ago church spin doctors were entertaining the press with impressive statistics about a revival in vocations. Numbers were up, General Synod was to asked for more money to cope with this revival. A C of E spokesman was quoted as saying that this dramatic improvement reflected a general shift in Societys mood, a deepening sense of spirituality and a new spirit of confidence in the Church!
The reality is ever so slightly different. Actual numbers of candidates presenting themselves is scarcely changed. What has happened is that a much higher percentage were accepted last year.
Does this mean that Directors of Ordinands were doing a better job of weeding out the unlikely? Apparently not for the huge rise in percentage acceptances was confined to one category - males presenting themselves for full time stipendary ministry (up from 50% to 70%)
Informed insiders suggest that, at the highest level, it is now perceived that the present glut of part timers, woman priests and post-retirement ministers will not be able to cope with future demand for leadership in real parishes.
We can only pray that those who so lightly rejected the doctrine of headship are not resorting to the deplorable practice of sexism.
ALL TOGETHER NOW
What do the Bishop of Newcastle, Bishop Penny Jamieson, Bishop John Spong, Bishop John Saxbee, Primus Richard Holloway and the Archbishop of Canterbury all have in common?
Yes.....They all have star billing in the programme for the Modern Churchpersons Union Centenary Year Events.
What else could you have possibly thought?