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January 2013 Archive:

Intercessions for Candlemas Year C: 3 February 2013

Almighty and ever-living God, clothed in majesty, whose beloved Son was this day presented in the Temple, in substance of our flesh: grant that we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts, by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

First Reading: Malachi 3.1-5

Thus says the Lord God: See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight – indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years. Then I will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.


Psalm 24.(1-6)7-10

The earth is the Lord’s and all that fills it, * the compass of the world and all who dwell therein.
For he has founded it upon the seas *and set it firm upon the rivers of the deep.
‘Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord, *or who can rise up in his holy place?’
‘Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, *who have not lifted up their soul to an idol,
nor sworn an oath to a lie;
‘They shall receive a blessing from the Lord, *a just reward from the God of their salvation.’
Such is the company of those who seek him, *of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, O gates;be lifted up, you everlasting doors; *and the King of glory shall come in.
‘Who is the King of glory?’ *‘The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord who is mighty in battle.’
Lift up your heads, O gates; be lifted up, you everlasting doors; *and the King of glory shall come in.
‘Who is this King of glory?’ *‘The Lord of hosts,he is the King of glory.’

Second Reading: Hebrews 2.14-18

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Gospel Reading: Luke 2.22-40

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons”. Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marvelled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, coincides with the Second Sunday before Lent, but most churches will be following the lectionary for Candlemas. In a commentary on the gospel we read: ‘How little is told us, how much is suggested; and the only appropriate response is that of Mary who ‘treasured and pondered‘ all these things’ (Luke 2.19).

Let us pray to the Father through Jesus Christ who is our Light and Life

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, you sent a light to lighten the Church, which is not the light of earthly pomp and splendour, nor the light of power and dominance, but the light of a child whose life will lead to the cross and be lit by the resurrection. We ask that Christ, as the light that redefines and makes all things new, may bring his transforming radiance to bear on our Church so that it may truly and fully reflect your glory.

Lord, who sent us the light of the world to enlighten our lives, in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, we ask you to give us the vision to see your love in the world in spite of human failings. Give us weak eyes for things of little worth, and eyes that are clear-sighted in all of your truth. Lead us in the ways of justice and of peace, that each may live for all and all may care for each.

Lord, who sent us the light of the world to enlighten our lives, in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

Lord, inspire us with your love so that we in turn may hope to bring light to those with whom we live and work. Daily renew in us all the sense of joy, filling every corner of our hearts with love and gladness so that we may be diffusers of life and meet all that comes with gallant and high-hearted happiness, giving you thanks always for all things.

Lord, who sent us the light of the world to enlighten our lives, in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we ask you to pour your healing light on those who suffer physical or mental pain.  Give our spirits power to climb to the fountain of all light and be purified. Break through the mists of earth, the weight of clay. Shine forth in splendour, you who are calm weather and quiet resting place for faithful souls. You are the journey, and the journey’s end.

Lord, who sent us the light of the world to enlighten our lives, in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we pray for those that are now with you on that glorious shining hill, where there is no cloud nor sun, no darkness nor dazzling. May your one equal light shine on those whom we love and those whom we pray for, now and for all eternity.

Lord, who sent us the light of the world to enlighten our lives, in your mercy, hear our prayer

The illustration is via Veritasse. It is ‘Heaven’s Door’ by Tim Steward – but to me it is also a wonderful image of Christ being welcomed into the temple.

Cells, the Body of Christ and the Church of England

Ten-Cells and Committees for the Defence of the Revolution

In the letter to Bishop Justin Welby, I referred to the ‘Ten Cell’ system in Tanzania. Today I thought we might look at the possible implications for governance and pastoral care in the Church of England of this system.

First, a brief description of how it works. I imagine Tanzania got the idea from Cuba, with its ‘committees for the defence of the revolution‘ – also exported to  Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador. It may have originally been Marxist-Leninist (or, more likely, Stalinist or Maoist) but it has been used as the basic building blocks of the secret police in all these countries. The Cuban CDRs are described as follows by the Cuban government (my bold type):

Eighty per cent of Cubans over the age of 14 are members of their local Committee for the Defence of the Revolution – a committee composed of members of about 60 households living in a district or area. CDRs are found in every neighbourhood throughout the country. They are responsible for a variety of aspects of the life of the neighbourhood, from civil defence… collecting waste for recycling and social events to voluntary work and discussing proposals of new laws from central government.

Francisca Diaz says:

“we do a wide range of work,” mentioning vaccination campaigns, blood banks, recycling, practicing evacuations for hurricanes, and backing up the government in its fight against corruption. On her list of 110 neighbours, she knows everyone personally, and has their names, addresses and occupation data.

As you might imagine, the CDRs are not universally popular amongst Cubans. This is what the blogger Yoanni Sanchez writes in the Huffington Post:

I learned that within the doors bearing the alarming slogan, “Always Vigilant,” lived the most adroit editors of reports to denounce other neighbors. I also knew those who, because of a false report–a stroke of the pen from the committee president–lost a promotion, a trip, or the chance to have a new home. I even knew someone who wore the title, “Vice President of the CDR,” who was also the biggest criminal in the neighborhood.

What does this have to do with the Church of England?

I am not of course suggesting that the Church of England should remodel its governance on totalitarian lines, with spies on every corner to tell the nearest priest every time one of the ten commandments is broken by a neighbour. But amongst all the dross, and accretions that have grown up around it, there is a kernel of truth about human nature in the middle of this idea. I think there are two different but related ways in which the Church might reconsider its future in the light of this insight. (The Neighbourhood Watch scheme, which bears some similarities – surely unconscious! – to the CDRs does not have a pre-defined geographical size of unit).

Pastoral Care

I think that the Church could do worse than follow the example of the CDR in setting up lay pastoral workers – or at least the eyes and ears of the priest – in parishes. There is a delicate balance between neighbourhood care and a snoopers’ charter, but it should not be beyond the wit of the Church to achieve that balance.

What is a Worshipping Cell?

I apologise for this horrible expression, but cannot at the moment think of a better one. A ‘worshipping cell’ in the Church of England has, historically,  been a parish, with its parish church (and occasionally dependent chapel) and parish priest. The interlocking network of parishes covered the whole of the country and every individual in it. Since ‘that’ book, we tend to think of this as the George Herbert model.

First gradually, and then with increasing rapidity, this model has broken down because the Church can no longer afford to provide a priest in every parish. Where I live one priest covered two parishes in the 1970s. Then in the 1980s two lots of two were combined to form a benefice. Now this benefice of four is to join two others to form one huge benefice of 10 parishes.

If you are a bishop, this obviously makes for administrative convenience –  many fewer priests to deal with. But can a benefice of ten parishes, with ten parish churches, really become a single worshipping cell? I suggest not. The Church of England chattering classes are much given to decrying the unwillingness of parish congregations to drive even a few miles to the adjoining parish in the same benefice for services. For example, in our existing 4-parish benefice, the 5th Sunday in the month (ie four times a year) is a service for the benefice as a whole in each of the parish churches in turn. This does not really work in practice: of a normal congregation of 30, perhaps 5 are prepared to travel to the neighbouring parish for a service. The remaining 25 regard it as a day off worship.

Just for a moment, instead of criticising the members of the congregation who vote with their feet (by refusing to budge) I think it behoves us to consider whether something else is going on.

Why do people go to church?

Private prayer and worship is of course possible. Thanks to the internet, we can worship online through, say, the London Internet Church, from the comfort of our own homes. But people go to church, surely, because they do understand and feel that they are part of the Body of Christ. They need to worship in community, together with their neighbours. They need to have a word with Mrs Jones to see if her bunions are any better, and with Mr Smith to see if his daughter has safely returned from her gap year and so on and so on. They are ‘members one of another’.  Someone in the congregation where I now worship asked me to do something for her in the village where I live. I hesitated for a moment, and this person quickly told me ‘surely it is your Christian duty’. Before I had a chance to respond to this (just as well!) she added that her Christian duty ended at the boundaries of her own parish. Now this may be wrong, but it is also intensely human.

Shouldn’t the Church work with human nature rather than against it?

We are now back on familiar territory. Because of the parish communion movement, the rules stipulate that there shall be celebration of the eucharist in every parish ever Sunday. As there is no longer a priest in every parish, this is impracticable. Some churches therefore have services only occasionally. Congregations do not move from church to church as the Church would like them to, but continue to attend services when offered in their own parish church. Weekly worshippers become monthly worshippers.

If the Church could be persuaded to revert to the status quo ante, services of the word (which could be taken by lay people) could form the bread and butter of worship, with services of eucharist offered as often as practicable by a priest (either the priest in charge, or a self-supporting minister or a neighbouring priest on ‘the list’ called in – and paid – for the purpose).


Open Letter To The Bishop Of Birmingham: Chris Fewings

Dear Bishop David

I am writing this as an open letter from a half-faithful irregular worshipper delighted by the hospitality of various parishes in your diocese which welcome me as a fringe member. It will be published on the web. I would like to publish your reply but will only do so with your express written permission. However, I will let people know whether I receive a substantive reply.

I would like to thank you for your openness in calling a public meeting in Birmingham Cathedral just after the Synod vote on the gender of bishops. It was good to hear individual clergy and laity freely expressing their views and feelings.

In my view the ‘official’ Church of England (represented by Tim Stevens and anonymous press statements from Church House) is making a fool of itself on the subject of gay relationships, willing to sacrifice the innocence of gay couples who simply wish to celebrate their love openly and unequivocally before God and their community. (I welcome Tim Stevens’ strong statement on homophobia to the House of Lords, but in the current context it will not be heard.)

And yet these official pronouncements do not represent the range of opinions among Anglican clergy, laity and even bishops in this country. They are not even consistent with the known views of Rowan Williams. They show a woeful ignorance or ignoring of the history of marriage. The Bishops of Buckingham, Salisbury and Grantham have made their alternative views known, although to my knowledge among serving bishops only Alan Wilson has spoken out repeatedly, and Nicholas Holtam is the only serving diocesan to have raised his head above the parapet in recent years. Richard Harries assures us that others in the House of Bishops dissent but dare not speak their minds. What is stopping them?

In the past some de facto marriages (such as that between Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten) could flourish privately in a culture of secrecy. It may be that some gay bishops and others still see such secrecy as a protection against homophobia. In a society whose culture and legal framework has changed hugely since the bishops (and I) were growing up, to most people now secrecy seems like an undermining of loving commitment and an endorsement of homophobia. My impression is of a powerful lobby determined to create the public perception that the Church of England regards same-sex unions (however committed and long-term) to be at best second-rate or suitable only for non-Christians – and generally they are succeeding, as most non-Anglicans probably now assume this is how we all think.

I would like to hear every bishop tell his own story. How does each of you interpret scripture? Have your views of human sexuality changed over the last few decades, a period of intense study and re-evaluation of sex and gender issues in the fields of psychology, biblical studies, and cultural history? Could some bishops (of whatever orientation) tell us how they were called to celibacy in the service of Christ? How do they experience love and joy and pain in that context? Surely such stories would be a witness to love.

It seems to me that the silence of individual bishops promotes a simple message to those outside the churches: Christians oppose gay relationships. The nuances of stances within and between churches are lost. And opportunites to nurture life-long loving relationships (including those of many couples who are very active members of the Church of England) are missed. To be a locus of unity in the Anglican tradition surely implies acknowledging the diversity within that unity.

If silence is the best policy, are you free to explain why?

Wishing every joy of the last week of Epiphany as the light bursts into our world once again

Chris Fewings

The illustration is a statue of Bishop Charles Gore, the first Bishop of Birmingham, uploaded to Wikimedia by  oxyman

Intercessions for Epiphany 4: 27 January 2013

The Collect

God our creator, who in the beginning commanded the light to shine out of darkness: we pray that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ may dispel the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, shine into the hearts of all your people, and reveal the knowledge of your glory in the face of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Nehemiah 8.1-3,5-6,8-10

All the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’


Psalm 19

Refrain: The commandment of the Lord is pure and gives light to the eyes.

The heavens are telling the glory of God *and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
One day pours out its song to another *and one night unfolds knowledge to another.
They have neither speech nor language *and their voices are not heard,
Yet their sound has gone out into all lands *and their words to the ends of the world.
In them has he set a tabernacle for the sun, *that comes forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber
and rejoices as a champion to run his course.
It goes forth from the end of the heavens and runs to the very end again, *and there is nothing hidden from its heat. R
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; *the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right and rejoice the heart; *the commandment of the Lord is pure and gives light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever; *the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, *sweeter also than honey, dripping from the honeycomb.
By them also is your servant taught * and in keeping them there is great reward. R
Who can tell how often they offend? * O cleanse me from my secret faults!
Keep your servant also from presumptuous sins lest they get dominion over me; *so shall I be undefiled, and innocent of great offence.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, *O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Refrain: The commandment of the Lord is pure and gives light to the eyes. Christ, the sun of righteousness, rise in our hearts this day, enfold us in the brightness of your love and bear us at the last to heaven’s horizon; for your love’s sake.


Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12.12-31a

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.

Gospel reading: Luke 4.14-21

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’


Let us pray for the Church and for the world

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, we ask you to illumine the Church with the light of your truth. We pray for Justin Welby, as he prepares to take on his responsiblities as Archbishop of Canterbury next week. For the clergy, and all those who lead services. For members of Synod, churchwardens, organists, choir members and all who make our churches welcoming places of worship. As the days begin at last to lengthen, give them also renewed strength to make our churches beacons of light for those we live amongst.

 Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer, enfold us in the brightness of your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, who has sent us a light to enlighten the nations, we pray for the troubled places of this world. We think particularly today of the events in Mali and Algeria,  for the families of those involved, and those who have fled their homes in fear. We ask you to shine your divine love on those trying to keep peace in the Maghreb and the nations of the Sahara. We pray that your kingdom may come and your will be done on this earth, as it is in heaven.

 Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer, enfold us in the brightness of your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The local community

We thank you for those people who sustain us by their love and forgiveness. Thank you for the network of people with whom our lives are inextricably linked and who make up the fabric of our family and community life. Make us alert to each others’ needs and quick to serve and encourage one another. May our gentleness with each other reflect your gentleness with us.

 Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer, enfold us in the brightness of your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we pray for those who are going through times of trouble and difficulty. We ask you to touch with your all-encompassing love those who are on our hearts today because of their suffering. May your love flood their lives with hope and healing and may they know your comfort, both now and in the coming days.

 Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer, enfold us in the brightness of your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer

¶The communion of saints

We thank you for those who have lived and died in quiet holiness, and whose prayers have helped sustain the world. We pray also for those whose faith is known only unto you. May your light shine upon them for ever, and our lives be richer because of their memory.

 Oh Lord, our strength and our redeemer, enfold us in the brightness of your love: in your mercy, hear our prayer

The illustration, which I hope you will agree is very powerful, is ‘The road ahead’ by Oliver Pengilley. The original painting and also prints of varying sizes can be purchased on-line from Veritasse here.


A reminder that the readings for today, the 4th Sunday of Epiphany, are taken from the readings for the 3rd Sunday in Epiphany. The readings for Epiphany 4 are not used this year.

Reblogged from ‘Unheard Melodies’: Dorothy Kerin

The following extract is taken from the Unheard Melodies Blog, where you can read the whole article…


The Friendship of Dorothy


“I blogged recently about the ordinariness of my suburban parish. Such places can be the context for the extraordinary.  Exactly 50 years ago this Saturday, on another snowy January day, died Dorothy Kerin, visionary, mystic and healer, who received the stigmata (the marks on her own body of Christ’s wounds on the cross) in the vicarage of the parish I serve as assistant priest.

Here is a piece I wrote for the Bishop of London, who recently preached about her at the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, central London.


Perhaps within the pantheon of the ancient Church, Dorothy Kerin might have been viewed as a great saint. Within the Anglican tradition, during her own lifetime, she was considered a pioneer in the recovery of the Church’s healing ministry.
Aged 22, she suffered from tuberculosis and its complications. After two weeks of very considerable poor health, she was, it seems, miraculously healed. She claimed to have not only seen the Risen Lord but to have actually met him. In this meeting, she was given a commission: to go into the world and perform an important work for Him.
‘I seemed to be going somewhere with a definite purpose.  For me it was a time of indescribable joy and bliss in a place and environment of exquisite harmony, when suddenly I was aware of a lovely form in dazzling white. He was coming towards me and I knew it was Jesus. He said “Dorothy, will you go back and do something for me”, to which I answered “Yes, Lord”. Then I was told to get up and walk.’
In 1915 Dorothy began a period of spiritual direction under Dr Richard Langford James, vicar of St Mark’s, Bush Hill Park in north London. He was well versed in mystical and ascetical theology particularly in the Carmelite school; and Dorothy lived in the vicarage through the London bombings of WW1 and beyond. Her faith was informed by the mystical tradition, with a clear Anglican sense of appropriateness and dignity.
During this period, and while in extended prayer in St Mark’s vicarage, she experienced the manifestation of the marks of the wounds of Christ on her own body, her hands, feet and side.  She is thus one of the few attested Anglican stigmatics….
[please now turn to the Unheard Melodies blog to read the rest of this remarkable piece]

I have used the photograph of Dorothy Kerin from the website of the Community of Saint Ita and Saint Fillan

Letter to Bishop Justin on the Laity in the Church of England

I have just sent the following message to Bishop Justin Welby:


Dear Bishop Justin,

I am taking advantage of the few days remaining, before you assume your archiepiscopal role, to send you some thoughts on the place of the laity. I do so with some trepidation, but in the hope that you will accept these ideas as offered with all due diffidence. I have been encouraged to write by your own background as a lay leader at Holy Trinity Brompton, and the fact that you have made several references to consultation with lay as well as clerical leaders. I write as an individual, but also as the editor of the Lay Anglicana website, and have sought  and drawn on the comments of our members.

I have genuinely written in humility, but it would read tediously like the utterances of Uriah Heep were I to reiterate this in every sentence so I hope you will forgive the occasional trenchancy.

1)     Church of England Hierarchy

a)     Although Cranmer’s prayer book has been continually updated as the prescribed liturgy of the Church of England, many attitudes of the priesthood to the laity (and vice versa) still stem from those of the sixteenth century: in particular there is a lingering sense that priests are the educated, Brahminical class and the laity are either landowning squires, shopkeepers or serfs – all perfectly useful in their way  but not worthy of admission to the chancel, except by formal invitation to the communion rail.

b)    This is reflected in the preface to the ordination of clergy: ‘it is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been…Bishops, Priests and Deacons‘ (essentially unchanged in Canon C1).

c)     As one of our members put it, the laity are ‘done to’ by their clergy: in other words, ministry is perceived as strictly a one-way process, with only the incumbent authorised to minister.

d)    The catechism of the 1795 (1979) prayer book of The Episcopal Church has: ‘The ministers of the Church are lay persons, bishops, priests, and deacons…The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.’

e)     We seek a similar ‘priesthood of all believers’ practised in the Church of England.


2)     Church of England Polity

a)     Are our bishops still ‘princes of the church’ and, if so, should our episcopate model itself on an absolute monarchy (by divine right), Magna Carta or some other point in English political history? The Church seems not yet to have fully accepted the 1689 Bill of Rights, with its introduction of election to parliament, since the electoral base of deanery synods is so very narrow.

b)    Two anecdotes: the previous Bishop of Winchester, Michael Scott-Joynt, visited our parish church and said to the churchwarden, ‘welcome to St Peter’s!’, to which the churchwarden replied, ‘well, I am sitting in my pew’. If the church does indeed belong to the bishop (undoubtedly the legal position), it is curious, is it not (and unique) that it is the churchwarden and other lay parishioners who bear sole financial responsibility for its upkeep?

c)     Secondly, the current +Winton, Tim Dakin, addressed Andover Deanery churchgoers in November, saying: ‘The Church of England is an episcopal church. It is not presbyterian, nor is it congregational, it is episcopalian‘.  Again, the legality of this statement is unquestionable, but we hope and trust that Bishop Tim will avoid the risk of delivering diocesan governance, like the ten commandments, from on high.

d)    The vote on women bishops vividly demonstrated the un-representative nature of the laity in the House of Laity (probably because of the narrowness of the electoral base). The move to unseat the Chair seems, from the outside looking in, a curiously oblique attempt to solve this problem.


3)     Ideas For The Future

a)     To coin a phrase, ‘we’re all in this together’. Instead of emphasising the chancel steps, we need to bring together the clergy and laity (whether Marys, Marthas or a mixture of the two).

b)    I ask you to consider making greater use of the laity to lead services of the word. This might involve borrowing some ideas from the Presbyterians and Congregationalists, but it should be possible to adapt these to our episcopal model.

i)      Most of the existing schemes, from Licensed Lay Ministers to the less stringent system in Ely Diocese, require lengthy formal training .

ii)    Yet there are existing provisions for churchwardens to take services with no training at all in leading worship.

iii)  Could one not extrapolate from this to adopt nationwide, for example, the system of  Lay Elders in the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich or the Lay Worship Leaders in Andover Deanery, Winchester Diocese (of which I was one)?

iv)  By definition, many of those willing and able to fill the role of ‘lay elders’ are retired or approaching retirement. It is not realistic to expect them to train and qualify as Licensed Lay Ministers – their long service as practising Christians should be regarded as sufficient (assuming their candidacy is backed by the PCC and incumbent).

v)    The matter is urgent in order to compensate for the increasing amalgamation of parishes to form mega-benefices. Without clergy to take regular services in each parish church, their place needs to be taken by lay people during intervening weeks if the congregations are not simply to wither away.

vi)  The alternative, proposed for example by Michael Turnbull and Donald McFadyen in ‘The state of the Church and the Church of the State’ (eg pp149-153) of a minster model where congregations move from church to church each Sunday is, I suggest, difficult to introduce because the general concept of neighbourhood is not so broad.    It may be worth noting here the ‘ten cell’ system used in Marxist regimes: ten residences formed one unit, the largest group in which it was thought people would feel a strong sense of belonging.

c)     It is not my suggestion that the Church should attempt to dragoon into leading worship those who prefer to sit in the back pew and take a passive role. Undue stress on ‘lay leadership’ could risk a failure to celebrate the unsung sacraments such as tea-and-coffee after church, an important community glue for many. There is surely room for both.

d)    It has been suggested that voting for General Synod should move to a system of  “One Member: One Vote” by Paul Bagshaw. If it were possible to introduce this, the vote by the House of Laity would be more likely to reflect the overall views of ‘the people in the pews’.

I close by sending you the good wishes and prayers of the contributors to, and members of, Lay Anglicana.

The illustration is a Petition by Eli Whitney to the Selectmen of Westborough, Massachusetts, showing a sample of his penmanship. Westborough native Whitney went on to be a highly successful inventor. Date 1785-1791  Source Yale University Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database via Wikimedia

Intercessions for Epiphany 3: 20 January 2013

The Collect

Almighty God, whose Son revealed in signs and miracles the wonder of your saving presence: renew your people with your heavenly grace, and in all our weakness sustain us by your mighty power; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, now and for ever. Amen.


First Reading: Isaiah 62.1-5

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch.  The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.


Psalm 36.5-10

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens *and your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness stands like the strong mountains,

your justice like the great deep; *you, Lord, shall save both man and beast.

How precious is your loving mercy, O God! *

All mortal flesh shall take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

They shall be satisfied with the abundance of your house; *

they shall drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the well of life *and in your light shall we see light.

O continue your loving-kindness to those who know you *

and your righteousness to those who are true of heart.


Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12.1-11

Concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.


Gospel Reading: John 2.1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”  “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”  This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.


We thank God that, at Epiphany, Christ was revealed in flesh, proclaimed among the nations and believed in throughout the world.

¶The Church of Christ

We pray for your Church today, gathering all around the world, whether in tiny chapels or in great cathedrals, to praise you, to hear your word, and to meet you in the eucharist. Give us a sense of expectation as we enter, and a sense of inspiration as we leave. Help us to unite behind the great commission of Christ, to go through the world, turning its water of ordinariness into the wine of your kingdom and make disciples of all nations.

Lord, help us to turn the water of the world into the wine of your kingdom: in your mercy, hear our prayer.


¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, who has given us this world and all that is in it, help us to use its resources properly, that we do not waste today what should be saved for tomorrow. We thank you for all who enrich our world by their time and talents. May we daily exercise the gift of discernment as we distinguish the true from the false. Govern the hearts and minds of those in authority  and may the good of all be their principal and constant aim.

Lord, help us to turn the water of the world into the wine of your kingdom: in your mercy, hear our prayer.


¶The local community

Lord, we thank you for those people who sustain us by their love and forgiveness. Thank you for the network of people with whom are lives are inextricably linked and who make up the fabric of our family and community life. Make us alert to each others’ needs and quick to serve and encourage one another. Keep us faithful to our friends, family and neighbours as you are faithful to us.

Lord, help us to turn the water of the world into the wine of your kingdom: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

We pray for those to whom this day will seem long and hard, for those in hospital or ill at home, those struggling with depression or despair. Lord, we ask you to touch with your love all those who are on our hearts today because of their needs.   May your love flood their lives with hope and healing, in spirit, mind and body.

Lord, help us to turn the water of the world into the wine of your kingdom: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

We remember with deep gratitude those who have left their mark on our lives by giving us love and laughter, but have now gone before us to be with Christ. We hold them in our hearts, knowing that you, Lord, hold them in yours.

Lord, help us to turn the water of the world into the wine of your kingdom: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 The illustration is Star cross by: Rosemary Humphrey via Seed Resources

A reminder that, although today is the third Sunday of Epiphany, the readings for the Second Sunday of Epiphany are being used.

As is usual, the prayers are taken from many sources, some of them interwoven. Today I have made particular use of John Pritchard’s ‘Intercessions Handbook’, which I find very patchy and difficult to use in my rural parish church as they stand. But he has flashes of brilliance and insight, as you would expect from a man who is Bishop of Oxford.

The phrase in the prayer for the Church (to go through the world, turning its water of ordinariness into the wine of your kingdom) comes from Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury. He is quoted in ‘The Meaning in the Miracles’ by Jeffrey John, which I thoroughly recommend. His chapter on the wedding at Cana quotes Lang: ‘it is not too much to say that the main business of the Christian life is to go through the world turning its water into wine‘.

‘The Underground Church’: Wendy Dackson


The Underground Church, by Robin Meyers.

Jossey-Bass, 2012.  288 pages, $24. 95


Robin Meyers is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, a liberal American denomination.  This is one of a small number of Christian denominations in the United States that do not necessarily adhere to the letter of the historic creeds.  Meyers indicates (although does not explicitly claim) that this may be in part due to a rejection of the Constantinian compromise which made the Church the ‘official’ religion of the Roman Empire, and thus caused its collusion in the Empire’s corruption.  The main point of the book is that the Church began its life as a subversive movement, and to reclaim its authenticity it should return to its ‘underground’ origins—adapted, of course, for the contemporary (and probably implicitly, American) situation.  As in a number of other recent books (notably Ken Howard’s Paradoxy:  Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them), the author emphasizes the need to move beyond the liberal/conservative boundaries that mark  one congregation or denomination off from another, and even cause divisions within denominations and congregations.  He admits that he is making some gross generalizations—that ‘conservatives’ tend to equate religious faith with assent to verbal formulae about God, and that ‘liberals’ tend to emphasize practices and social action when they speak about the role of religion in their lives.

Meyers identifies the single most urgent reason for a reclaiming of the Church as ‘underground’:  nobody expects anything important to happen in church any more.  “Every Sunday morning, countless people wake up with both a desire to go to church and a gnawing sense that it won’t be worth it.”  In a culture where it is safe and respectable to go to church, nothing much happens there.  While the church was still a persecuted, illegal sect, something happened in the secret gatherings that was life-giving and made it worth the risk of freedom and even life.  Now that church participation is a respectable, even expected, part of life, it has become ‘for the most part, dull and dishonest’.  We are not hearing vital truths from the pulpit, and we are not challenging ‘deep and destructive illusions by which we are living unsustainable lives’.  Prophetic speech in church would be treated ‘as if a wild animal had suddenly wandered into the sancturary.’

What would it take to return to the pre-Constantinian, ‘underground’ subversive Church?  It would mean far less emphasis on doctrine and more on practices (with a special emphasis on hospitality).  Meyers argues for more openness to the other (especially in terms of setting minimal requirements for receiving communion), but also a higher level of commitment (in terms of more rigorous requirements for baptism, and sacrificial financial giving to the church).  There is a particular criticism of the Constantinian compromise in terms of Christian support for the military (which, for Meyers, trickles down even to contemporary enthusiasm for contact sport).

Like many other current books lamenting the current state of church (Diana Butler Bass’s Christianity after Religion comes to mind), I am on board for about a third to a half of the book.  I think Meyers has made a more or less accurate diagnosis of the state of the church in terms of in-fighting, preaching, and ill-advised priorities concerning resources.  I think he is right in his assessment that the churches are not connecting with what really matters to most people—we still have passions and commitments, but they are not anything we encounter in the nave on a Sunday morning.  (This was also the subject of a recent blog post on Episcopal Cafe).


However, it breaks down for me at the point where it becomes an unreflective anti-Constantinian diatribe (beginning around chapter 4).  Although Meyers complains that the church has, to its detriment, become tainted with Empire values (and the new ‘Empire’ is the United States), he also claims that it is supposed to be the yeast in the ‘three measures of flour’ (Matthew 13:33)—and he identifies that flour with the Empire.  But how could the church have leavened the Empire (and he points out that ‘leaven’, in the first century CE, was a taint) unless it had been taken in, even hidden in that Empire?  At some level, the Church had to become intimately involved with the Empire to do that—not to maintain some kind of separate purity.  And although Meyers (along with others) decry the Church’s having taken on Empire values (hierarchical structures, accumulation of wealth and earthly power), he seems to ignore that the Church has had some leavening effect on society.  Stephen Pinker, in his Better Angels of our Nature:  Why Violence has Declined, makes this very case in that things like just war theory and proportionality (which temper the effects of violence) are ideas and practices that would not have existed apart from the Church’s interactions with the Empire.


Meyers’ book is worth reading, and there are many points, especially early on, that will likely resonate with those of us who are dissatisfied with ‘church-as-it-is’.  But the Church was never meant to be primarily for its own benefit; it was meant to transform the world.  I am not sure how an uncritical anti-Constantinianism contributes to that.

The Lay Mutiny?


The Caine Mutiny (1954) – Case of the missing strawberries

Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg uncovers the dastardly plot of the missing strawberries, in Edward Demytryk ‘s film of Herman Wouk‘s 1951 novel. If you have no personal experience of mutiny, this is a good place to start. Or, if you prefer an 18th century example, you are just in time to catch the screening on Channel 5 at 2.50 this afternoon of Mutiny on the Bounty. What do the two stories have in common? Unreasonable behaviour by the captain provokes rebellion by the crew, who depose the captain and take over the running of the ship.

Goings-on in the House of Laity

There are strange goings-on in the House of Laity, which even the Church of  England website fails to make boring. In case you have been preoccupied with other matters in the last month or so (like Christmas) and have failed to notice what is happening, I offer you a summary of what has been published.

There is to be a meeting of the House of Laity on 18 January with the sole purpose of discussing the motion  ‘That this House have no confidence in Dr Philip Giddings as Chair of this House’

My reason for asking members of the House to debate this motion is that I do not have confidence in our Chair since:


  • His speech against the measure followed directly after Justin Welby’s and therefore I believe directly undermined what the Archbishop elect had said


  • Since it was against it did not support the views of the House of Bishops as a whole


  • Speaking as the Chair of our House his speech was instrumental in convincing some of the undecided members of the House to vote against


  • I believe the speech was therefore a significant contributor to the reputational damage the Church of England is already suffering at the hands of the press, which is also manifest in the comments of the Prime Minister, the emerging reports of withdrawal of financial support, the angry reaction of church members and the disbelief and ridicule expressed by many of our secular friends, all of which I believe will damage the mission of our church


  • The failure of the Measure is already giving momentum to the idea that the only likely solution now is a single clause Measure, which would result in a worse outcome for the minority groups than was on offer on Tuesday


I have always been one of the first to say that individuals must vote according to their consciences; however leaders have other responsibilities and accountabilities. I feel that if I am to support the leader of a group of which I am a member then that leader must show wise and good judgement and I do not believe that this has happened.

Canon Stephen Barney Leicester 325

Well, this sounds pretty much like mutiny to me – what do you think?

And who is the brave Canon Stephen Barney?


First of all, if you are wondering as was I  how a Canon is proposing a motion in the House of Laity, the simple explanation is that he must be a Lay Canon (Crockford’s has no record of him as a member of the clergy).  This is kindly confirmed by He is also a Reader.


Reactions in Cyberspace

As you might imagine, the motion has attracted strong opposition in the blogosphere from the usual quarters: TitusOneNine, Peter Ould, Cranmer and Anglican Mainstream, which re-posts Cranmer’s piece.  You may like to read the reactions to these events on Thinking Anglicans. Thinking Anglicans also summarised the position yesterday, 11 January.


The equally brave Gavin Oldham

Gavin Oldham, a self-described fellow Conservative Evangelical member of the House of Laity from Oxford diocese, writes:

On 18 January the House will be debating a ‘No Confidence’ motion in its Chair, a motion which has arisen directly from the General Synod debate on women bishops in November. I have given my support to the motion being debated, and it is my intention to support the motion on the day unless by the grace of God there is clear evidence of change.

I owe it to my friends in the House who voted against the women bishops’ legislation to explain why I have given my support, and how my views have changed since that day in November. Let me first explain that I have been a member of the General Synod since 1995 representing Oxford diocese: as does Philip Giddings, who I have been fortunate to regard as a friend over these last 17 years. I am also a member of EGGS, as he is and, although I have been a consistent supporter of women bishops, I regard myself very much as an Evangelical, albeit one who places a high importance on the place of reason alongside scripture and tradition.

This is not in any respect a personal issue.

Over the past years my position on women bishops has been to support the maximum provision for those who have found it difficult to accept the change, consistent with the solution being convergent for the Church as opposed to divergent. I explained this position in July 2012 at the meeting of the House which took place before General Synod. I have never been prepared to contemplate a solution which could evolve into a schism.

However my position has hardened considerably since the November debate, as I have come to realise that it is the destructive ideology of male headship which lies at the root of our problems.

Our deadlock over women bishops has, of course, resulted from a combination of Anglo-Catholic and conservative Evangelical opposition. The Anglo-Catholics naturally look to Rome for a lead, and while Rome might prefer to see a clear resolution of the matter within the Church of England, it is not about to give that lead.

However it is the concept of male headship, espoused by many of my Evangelical friends as theology, which presents the major problem: as was clear from speech after speech during our debate. For while valid questions may have been asked about the representative quality of the House of Laity in the General Synod, the Church should – and does – acknowledge the vibrancy and growth of Evangelical churches which have so much to offer. This vibrancy is not dependent on the adoption of male headship ideology by conservative Evangelicals, but on the working of the Holy Spirit through people of faith.

I have come to realise since the November debate that male headship is to be seen alongside a number of similar major historical issues where prejudice and discrimination have been justified by selected biblical references. These include slavery, national socialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Male headship has its roots in the same soil of prejudice and discrimination. It is another elitist creed which, in my view, has no place in the Church of England, nor indeed in the Christian faith.

It may be helpful to consider these selected biblical references through the filter of the two great commandments from which hang all the law and the prophets. For example, how can a man who is a male headship advocate claim to ‘love his neighbour as himself’ if he is not prepared to accept that she can carry the same roles within the church? Obviously it can’t be ‘as himself’, or perhaps he is denying that women are his neighbours by virtue of their gender? I don’t think Jesus was making that distinction.

The Bishop of Liverpool spoke clearly in the debate setting out how he had come to understand St. Paul’s teaching, and why it should not be used as a prop for male headship ideology. The bishops are the seat of theology within the Church, and I do feel that conservative Evangelicals should listen carefully to, and be prepared to accept, what they say.

The ideology of male headship has come to have assumed the status of doctrine, but even doctrine is shown as capable of change from a biblical perspective. St Peter was clearly of the doctrinal view that the Gospel was meant only for the Jews, and yet his vision at Cornelius’ house (Acts 10) made clear that he must change. And thank God that he did, because otherwise we would not have the opportunity to receive Christ’s salvation today.

So I have come to realise that male headship ideology must be confronted and not appeased, just in the same way that St. Peter confronted his erstwhile interpretation that the Christian faith was reserved for the Jews. Male headship is simply the latest in a long line of elitist creeds, and it is time to consign it to history, as with the others.

Finally, let me say again that the 18 January debate is not personal: it is about the integrity of the House of Laity. Nobody will be more delighted than me to see Philip being prepared to encourage Evangelicals to pursue their zeal for Christ unencumbered with elitist ideology.

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? 🙂

There is an interesting further assessment of the ‘mood of the House’ by John Townsend on his blog here. (Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans for pointing me in his direction).

The question now must be: “Does Philip Giddings have our confidence to do that job?”

Speaking to members of the House of Laity, there is a strong feeling that, rightly or wrongly, we are ‘standing in the way’ and that it is our responsibility to do something about it. There is no doubt that the strength of reaction in the dioceses against our vote in November has been powerful. We will not be able to fix everything on Friday, or indeed very much at all, but from what I have heard members are very keen to take the first steps towards making amends.


Introverts In The Church: Wendy Dackson

Contemporary church culture, perhaps especially (but certainly not limited to) American evangelical culture, is geared toward extroversion.  The emphasis on ‘sharing’ faith, and personal evangelism, is particularly suited to those who are naturally comfortable with self-revelation, extemporaneous speaking, and multiple simultaneous sensory inputs, and who does not question that faithfulness (to God, to the local church community) is equated with increasingly visible involvement.  The American ‘mega-church’ phenomenon would indicate that ‘successful church leadership’ requires bold personalities who can quickly engage with, and win the loyalty of, large numbers of people.  As Adam S. McHugh points out, this is not necessarily an easy environment in which people who are naturally inclined to deep relationships with smaller numbers of people, defined roles, silence, and reflective space in which to think before speaking.  Indeed, his opening question is ‘Can introverts thrive in the church?’

For the most part, McHugh is far more focused on introverts as church ‘leaders’, with an overwhelming focus on ordained leadership, and the book includes a great many extracts of interviews with introverted pastors, and much of his own struggle as an introverted minister who, in various settings, felt that he was working very much against his own inclinations and strengths, inauthentically attempting to take on a more extroverted persona.  The author suggests strongly that, if a church has the luxury of multiple staff, it would do well to balance the leadership with a good blend of extroverted and introverted ministers—although he notes that many advertisements for pastoral work are worded (explicitly or otherwise) practically to exclude or at least discourage introverts.  McHugh cites many of the strengths of introverts as ordained leaders, including a love of study and preparation (which serves the preaching task well), a preference for individual relationships which is particularly suited to crisis-care pastoral work (such as hospice chaplaincies and spiritual direction), and an inclination toward quieter and more structured forms of worship (which are seeing a revival in the evangelical churches, with many thanks to Brian MacLaren’s championing of ‘ancient practices’).  He gives what appears to me as sound advice to pastors concerning care of the self so that the introverted church leader can function well and authentically from his or her own strengths, even when the demands of the job require more input and interaction than the pastor prefers.

McHugh is weaker, I think, in his assessment of introverted lay people in the church.  Although in the introduction, he promises that his own story will include his church participation as a lay and ordained introvert, I detected no mention of his involvement prior to ordination (or even after, as part of a church community where he was not a member of staff).  He praises introverts’ involvement as lay members of congregations mostly for their willingness to take on ‘behind the scenes’ tasks diligently and dependably, and (rightly) points out that without their help with jobs such as running audiovisual equipment, editing the newsletter, and the like, more extroverted ministers’ work would be hampered—and that the more visible ‘leaders’ should be thankful for the support provided by introverted Christians.  While this is undoubtedly correct, it is not without its problems, especially as it is not a long stride between the attitude of being grateful for this low-key support and assuming that introverts are simply there as handmaidens to the ‘real’ (extroverted) work of evangelical ministry.  McHugh does nothing to counter the possibility of making this step, and is silent on the dangers to extroverts of assuming that a ‘behind the scenes’ person is happy not to receive credit for his or her ideas and contributions, and is somehow less important to the life of the church.

A major point of disagreement I have with Introverts in the Church is the repeated refrain that introverts have less energy and move more slowly than their extroverted co-religionists.  I would argue that introverts (amongst whom I count myself) are less demonstrative about our expenditures of energy—our gestures are smaller, our facial expressions are less dramatic (although in my case that is partly due to an incomplete recovery from Bell’s Palsy)—but we do not have less energy.  We may put considerable energy into the ‘quiet phase’ of a project or activity, where planning and analysis are key, so that the publicly visible manifestation goes more smoothly and efficiently.  And as  Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power, notes, swimming, ice skating (figure and speed), gymnastics, and long-distance running are all athletic activities geared toward those who work best alone—and certainly do not move slowly.

In general, I agree with McHugh that the church—and not just evangelical churches—are often not the easiest environment for introverts, and that the natural gifts of introverted Christians are less appreciated than they should be, for the good of both the individual Christians and for the ecclesial community.  I think the church needs to be considerably more counter-cultural in this regard, as our general secular society is more geared toward extroverts, and the church has taken on that characteristic.  But I think we also need to be considerably more nuanced about introverted Christians—lay and ordained—than McHugh appears to be.


Introverts in the Church:  Finding our way in an extroverted culture, by Adam S.McHugh.  Downers Grove, Illinois:  InterVarsity Press, 2009.  (Kindle edition) 222 pp., $9.19.

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