We’ve had crowded churches this Christmas – increasing Christmas congregations have been a visible trend for the last ten years or more. I was interested to see that Andreas Whittam Smith in Friday’s Independent decided to link that to the case for maintaining the Church of England as an established church. I was interested too that he somehow failed to mention that he is First Estates Commissioner of the Church of England – a game-keeper’s gamekeeper, as it were. I can’t say that I found his argument convincing – tho’ I am properly agnostic on the issue itself.
Firstly he seems perilously close to John Major’s sentimentality about ‘spinsters cycling to holy communion through the morning mist’ I’m not at all sure that the sort of residual belongingness which he describes really exists.
Secondly, what does he say to those non-established churches which have also found their buildings full at Christmas? I’ve been watching this increase gathering in both the Church of Ireland and the SEC. It’s a mission opportunity – I found myself telling a [full] Cathedral in Perth that this is a time when lots of people who might say, ‘I’m not religious but ..’ come to church. If you want to read the full thing, it’s here. And if it is a mission opportunity, how do we build on it? It probably has some affinities with the work which ‘Back to Church Sunday’ is attempting to do.
Meanwhile back at St Ninians, I found myself in middle of one of those events where our small church appears many times larger than it really is. An outstandingly beautiful building enhanced by new lighting .. wonderful music .. good liturgy. There is hope.