East Staffordshire Borough Council has cut its funding to the voluntary sector by over 27%. The Mayor, a member of the Borough Council, has written to ask me to support his chosen charities. Do you see anything odd here?
People who in my opinion need psychiatric care are unable to have it because the resources are not there. Junior doctors feel their voice is ignored by a government intent on spinning for the sake of cheap publicity. But look at the salaries of NHS administrators. Do you see anything odd here?
The Church of England General Synod makes decisions based on grand policy gestures without paying attention to those of us at the coal face. Indeed, it feels as if in order to put them into effect, they must needs hector the likes of me. You elect people to PCCs and they elect people to Deanery Synods and they elect people to Diocesan Synod and they elect people to General Synod. And by the time these darlings get that far up the greasy pole some of them are so intoxicated by being near the source of ‘power’ and influence and titles that they lose sight of where they came from.
Local politics and national politics affect everyone. Church politics affect very few, only those odd people whose Sunday hobby is going to a strange building that reeks of the past and who live in the past. It’s been said of academic politics (universities etc) that they are so vitriolic because they matter so little. How much more is this true of church politics.
As I keep banging on, Lent is an opportunity to take stock and look ahead, ditching what we don’t need any more. Our diocesan apparatchiks call this mission action planning – though I’ve no idea what mission is. I understand the value of assessing strengths, weaknesses, threats, opportunities, so that’s what we’re doing. The archdeacon is coming to check up on us in June. As government checks up on schools through Ofsted, it won’t be long before the Bishops check up on all our activities through OfGod.
I read in a book once that foundations are best built on rock not sand, so here are some rocks for you to consider as we plan for the future of our churches. Remember that I had a life before ordination, so I am not institutionalized. I’ve worked in the big wide world amongst people who know how the big wide world works. I’ve no interest in kow-towing to bishops or archdeacons, and I’m only concerned about my parishioners. Actually, as a cradle Methodist, I don’t know what bishops are for. Here are some of the realities that we’re up against.
- The vast majority of people under the age of 50 do not know the Lord’s prayer – have never heard of it, even.
- There are an increasing number of families in which four generations have never set foot in a church.
- Church funerals have plummeted even in the 10 years I’ve been ordained. No bad thing, less hypocrisy, though dioceses bemoan the drop in fee income.
- Some people say that there is a reservoir of affection for the church in the local community. I disagree. There may be smidgeon in the over 60s, but it does not result in significant support. Younger people don’t care two hoots.
- Some people regard the vicar as the means of tracing their family history – and that’s all.
- Some people expect the vicar – and the church – to pick up those who fall through the net of hard-pressed social services (see above) though who they think will do it, or pay for it, is not clear,
I could go on. And we haven’t even begun to consider buildings, toilets, car parking, let alone God.
Which brings me to football. Football stadia are our cathedrals. They have their own bishops and priests. They have their acolytes, their rituals, their liturgy, their hymns, their swaying charismatics. They provide pleasure and fun and community spirit. They are about living in the present and planning for the future.
Up the Brewers.