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It is unclear what is wrong with the Church of England that it appoints so many unsuitable men to become Archbishops of Canterbury.

Justin Welby is the current incumbent.

On the back of protests in Britain about an American who suffered an outrageous death at the hands of the police in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Welby makes this the problem of a large segment of Anglicans in England.

It is inexplicable, all the way round, from protests to finger-pointing at those who live an ocean and a bit away from the source of the problem.

On Tuesday, June 2, 2020, he tweeted something that got very negative responses:

Someone mentioned church closures during the coronavirus outbreak, a decision the C of E took on its own:

Yes, it’s true.

I can empathise with this next comment, too:

People found his tweet presumptuous and patronising:

That is true. It took from 1833 to 2014 for Britain to purchase the freedom of all slaves in the Empire, paid for by taxpayers’ money.

But I digress. Back to the aforementioned prayer:

There are many more comments criticising the CofE’s blind eye to child abuse, becoming increasingly secular and drifting to left-wing politics instead of religion. Others said they would question their giving to the Church, which is sad but understandable.

Someone tweeted about a Muslim family that converted to Christianity in the Church of England several years ago. They took a lot of abuse, including expensive property damage, as the Daily Mail, among other newspapers, reported in 2015. Where was the Church of England then? Nowhere. I do not know what became of them but I pray they are living in safety. The Anglican hierarchy washed their hands of this family (emphases mine):

Over the last year, Mr Hussain has had his car windscreen smashed six times at a cost of £5,000. His eldest son, a final year medical student, has also had his windscreen smashed.

A neighbour was convicted at Bradford Crown Court of a public order offence and bound over to keep the peace after one of Mr Hussain’s children recorded him on a mobile phone making threats in a furious rage in the street.

Mr Hussain insisted he has never been violent towards his tormentors but he was given a police caution for an incident last year when he lost his temper and made an abusive comment in response to a threat from the man.

Mr Hussain had worked as a hospital nurse but was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and has been unable to work. He owns several properties and now lives off rental income.

Although their faith remains strong, Mr and Mrs Hussain no longer attend church. ‘We have given up on the Church of England, they have done nothing for us,’ said Mr Hussain.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Looking at you, Archbishop.

The coronavirus lockdown has been a blessing for Church of England clergy who want to re-do worship.

At the end of March, shortly after lockdown began, the Church’s archbishops — led by Canterbury (Welby) and York (Sentamu) — forbade clergy or congregants going into church to clean or check on its condition from praying while they were there.

This did not meet with universal approval from Anglican clergy:

There is a question as to whether this prohibition is actually legal:

Quite!

Not every diocese has adopted such stringent rules, although the congregation are not allowed inside:

Therefore, services are online. Most are live-streamed and require registering as well as being able to access the right platform, in some cases:

I realise that church closures aren’t a huge deal to people who don’t attend church, but for those of us who do, it is. We were brought up to worship and that needs to be done regularly in what we knew as children as ‘God’s house’. That is an entirely different matter from a collective church comprised of people who evangelise when they are not worshipping.

This year, we missed out on worship on the Church’s greatest feast, Easter. We missed Pentecost 50 days later. We missed Trinity Sunday, which was June 7.

Churches might not open in England until July 4. A Conservative MP asked Boris Johnson at PMQs on Wednesday, June 3, if the reopening could occur sooner. He burbled a bit and said he completely understood the desire to worship in church. Personally, I doubt anything will happen before July but am grateful that the MP asked the question.

On May 14, the Church Times reported that some Anglican vicars’ priorities are different to their congregants’ (emphases mine):

Far from rushing to unveil plans for opening up their premises, individual churches showed a marked reluctance this week to embark on any kind of detailed planning. Most acknowledge themselves to be too busy and have simply ‘parked’ the issue of return for the time being.

On May 29, the Church Times had an article about church after lockdown has been lifted:

Such rejuvenation may help to release us from the prison of our church building, which, for many, have become shrines to the past which not only soak up energy and resources, but also perpetuate concepts of division and hierarchy harmful to a mature understanding of who we are.

Right.

So, all of a sudden, after nearly two millennia of gathering to worship in church buildings, we should abandon them. Apparently, those who went before us and have worshipped in churches had an ‘immature’ understanding of Christianity and themselves.

Okay, sure (not).

The article also accuses people who enjoy attending church of:

over-indulgence in churchiness

Wow.

The article advocates a strong emphasis on online services.

Are we supposed to consecrate our own hosts for Communion, too? Probably. Wrong, on so many levels!

This is the cartoon that accompanied the article. How true:

On May 23, Catherine Pepinster wrote an excellent article for the Telegraph: ‘Whisper it, but the C of E might not mind that much if the Covid crisis leads to church closures’.

She provided an insight into Pentecost Sunday, traditionally known as Whitsun, which was May 31 this year:

Could there be a quainter title for a poem than The Whitsun Weddings? Philip Larkin’s 1955 work harks back to a once familiar tradition for church weddings to take place on what was known as Whit Saturday, the day before Whit Sunday. Today, most people will have absolutely no idea that next Sunday [May 31] is Whit Sunday and that it is a Christian feast to equal Christmas and Easter, marking the moment when the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles after Christ had ascended to heaven. But this year on Whit Sunday, like Ascension Day which should have been marked two days ago, the churches will be empty as if Whitsun is indeed now a quaint festival, a throwback to Larkin’s England. There will be no choirs, no readings, no congregation.

She has spoken with vicars during lockdown, and the news is not good:

Anglican vicars around the country, from London to Liverpool, Buckinghamshire to Lincolnshire, have been telling me how fearful they are of their parish churches going bust. Reserves are being spent. They know they are storing up more financial headaches the longer they are in lockdown. Nobody has recently crossed ecclesiastical thresholds to carry out any repairs or refurbishment, storing up costly maintenance problems in historic buildings that need regular care.

It was bad even before coronavirus:

Just a few weeks before lockdown, a report with a startling statistic dropped onto the desks of church officials: that the greatest reduction in the Church of England’s stock of churches since the 16th century is under wayStruggling, Closed and Closing Churches  – produced by the Church Buildings Council – said that in the past 50 years 2,000 churches have closed, which is about 10 per cent of the stock. Now vicars fear plenty more could be shut for good.

Yes, the C of E has made loans to churches during this time, but that will not be enough:

Given the Church Commissioners have huge amounts of money tucked away this might be surprising, and they have lent the dioceses £75 million to pay salaries during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet it’s not enough to keep every church going. Liverpool diocese, for example, has already furloughed some of its curates. But it’s the money that comes in via the parishes themselves that normally props up the whole system, especially those dioceses without big endowments. That is what is lacking now.

Bishops, she says, will be eager to get rid of local churches in favour of larger ones requiring transportation to get to:

Some bishops are already saying they will bring forward decisions they have been putting off and will close some churches for good. That will be popular with the accountants – but also with the people in the Church of England who like talking about ‘hubs’ and ‘places of strength’. The jargon is used about a slimmed-down Church of England that focuses on buildings that can house large congregations to which people drive from miles around while everything else goes online.

I fully agree with her conclusion:

a church isn’t just a Facebook singalong. It’s a place that evokes those who went before us and are now remembered in plaques on the wall, in the stained glass, and in the adjoining graveyard. It’s a building that connects us to the present, that acts as the beating heart of a neighbourhood, even for those who do not attend on a Sunday. And if Covid-19 means some churches never re-open, that beating heart will be stilled.

The incoming Archbishop of York denies a Sunday newspaper report that he will begin closing churches. I bet he is considering it:

On June 2, the Church Times posted an article about the delay in reopening churches: ‘If shops, why not churches? Government challenged over restrictions’.

Based on what I’ve written above, I think it’s rather disingenuous to put all the blame on the government.

Churchgoers want an earlier opening than July:

A Savanta ComRes opinion poll commissioned by the National Churches Trust and published on Sunday suggested that the public backed the early reopening of churches and chapels, provided they could maintain social distancing. Forty-six per cent of the adults polled supported reopening earlier than 4 July: a tentative date mentioned at the start of May. This figure rose to 66 per cent among respondents who attended regularly.

At least one Anglican bishop has written to MPs asking for churches to reopen:

In an open letter sent on Monday to MPs whose constituencies lie in his diocese, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, writes: “I hope that you would lobby for an urgent review of the continued closure of our church buildings to individuals who seek solace in such places [church buildings]. . . 

“At a time when tensions run high, I believe that there is a deep thirst for access to churches and cathedrals as places of prayer for people of committed faith, or for anyone who is in search of space in which to find peace.

“I am fortunate to live near to Chichester cathedral. Each day I see individuals peering in through its glass doors. I know from personal experience what pressing and intimate needs find expression in the prayers that they write down and leave behind.

“We urgently need places and experience that build hope, trust, and endurance. The capacity of the Christian Church to engender those virtues through prayer and stillness in its buildings should not be underestimated.” 

Another bishop has been resorting to Twitter. After the daily coronavirus briefing on Pentecost Sunday:

the Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, suggested: “I think we should be arguing (a) that it is too soon to open other buildings; or (b) that our churches should be allowed to open alongside them. To suggest that our churches should remain closed while other ‘non-essential’ shops and buildings open is to condone secularism.”

The benefits of prayer were “not generally of such direct economic benefit”, but that did not mean that they didn’t matter, he observed. “The risk to a person sitting quietly to pray in a church which is properly cleaned and supervised is surely not greater than a trip to the supermarket?”

He was joined by Bishop Tom Wright, who wrote in The Times:

Absolutely!

Here’s a Episcopal priest’s view from across the pond in Cincinnati:

You can take a Church Times survey, for a limited time, on the state of the Church in England. It’s got plenty of room for extended replies.

If you love the Church and live in England, please make your voice heard.

Last week, I saw another tweet on this topic elsewhere last week and thought it was a joke.

Unfortunately, it’s true:

The Christian Institute has the story: ‘Kids as young as 11 told to define hardcore porn for homework’.

The assignment was given at the Church of England’s Archbishop Sentamu Academy in Hull. Church of England schools largely follow state curriculum (emphases mine):

Eleven to 14-year-olds at Archbishop Sentamu Academy were told to define topics including hardcore and transsexual pornography.

Local mother Mrs Taylor called the PSHE homework “completely inappropriate”, saying her eleven-year-old daughter does not need to know “things that would destroy her mind”.

Mrs Taylor said: “She was only in primary school last year living her best life, now she is being asked to search for hardcore pornography”.

She added: “Now it’s making me think what they are learning about at school that we don’t know about. We only know about this because they’re home learning.”

Coronavirus lockdown accomplished something on the home front, it seems.

A young man whose sister attends the academy said that she, too, received the same homework:

Leon Dagon, whose 13-year-old sister also attends the school, saw the homework and took to Facebook to warn parents.

He said: “Luckily I found the work otherwise she would have typed this stuff into Google and you know what would have come up and that makes me feel sick. I felt sick thinking she was going to go onto the computer to search it up.”

Well done to Mrs Taylor and Mr Dagon.

The academy tried to downplay it:

The Academy has apologised “unreservedly” for any offence caused, claiming that students were not expected to search the terms online but instead use the materials provided.

Sure.

They didn’t think that students of that age would investigate further?

What numpties.

A local vicar agrees with that assessment:

Revd Melvin Tinker, Vicar of St John Newland in Hull, told The Christian Institute: “It was naïve in the extreme to think that children wouldn’t use the internet to look up these terms.”

He continued: “The Principal has promised to ensure all materials are fully age appropriate. What does that mean? When is ‘hardcore pornography’ an age-appropriate topic for school-children at all? The answer, of course, is that it is not.”

Revd Tinker added: “The Academy needs to stop listening to the self-appointed ‘experts’ at the Sex Education Forum and start paying a lot more attention to local parents, to the wellbeing of the children and to its legal duties.”

You can hear what he has to say in the following video, which is just under three minutes long:

He says that the lessons were not required by law, even though the academy seemed to imply that, in his estimation.

While Church of England schools are required to provide lessons on relationships, pornography lessons are not included in the guidance.

Mr Tinker says that C of E schools need to pay less attention to the Sex Education Forum and more to their legal and ethical duties towards students.

Absolutely.

On Sunday, May 24, the Telegraph posted an article that brightened my day: ‘Churches must be allowed to reopen, MPs demand in letter to PM’.

We haven’t been able to attend church since the middle of March, which is also true for other houses of worship.

I am mystified as to why the House of Commons is able to social distance adequately, with alternate benches closed and designated seating, but religious leaders cannot be trusted to do the same in their places of worship.

Fortunately, 20 Conservative MPs wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, expressing their incredulity that we can go to a supermarket but not to church (emphases mine):

Boris Johnson has been urged by a group of Conservative MPs to allow churches to open for prayer, weddings and funerals as soon as next month.

The 20 MPs, including former ministers and senior backbenchers, questioned why shoppers can go to a “busy supermarket” to buy food and drinks but worshippers in need of spiritual sustenance cannot currently pray in a largely empty church.

“Weddings (whether in the church porch or inside), christenings and other services are wanted; safely and soon”, the MPs said. “Ten can gather in a crematorium yet one cannot be in a church.”

The Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy published earlier this month put churches and other public places of worship in the same bracket as pubs and cinemas, and said that could not reopen until July 4 at the earliest.

It added that some of these venues may not be able to open even then because “it may prove difficult to enact distancing”.

However, in a letter to the Prime Minister, a copy of which has been seen by The Telegraph, the MPs make clear that “many [of us] want further faster opening of churches and places of worship”.

They said: “We ask for clear guidance, rules removed and discretion allowed as local faith leaders stay alert and make churches, chapels and places of prayer and worship available to the faithful. Everyone understands the value of appropriate social distancing and the obligation to avoid contamination”

The letter was sent to Mr Johnson and his Parliamentary Private Secretary Andrew Bowie this weekend. It has been organised by Tory MP Sir Peter Bottomley. Other signatories include Tim Loughton and Sir Bob Neill as well as senior members of the influential backbench 1922 committee of Tory MPs such as the chairman Sir Graham Brady and executive officer Bob Blackman.

The group warned Mr Johnson that “the Cabinet and you know the strength of backbench feeling”, and expressed concern that some places of worship might not even be able to open in July.

They said: “Even that may be extended by delay in publishing regulations, decisions by diocesan bishops and local circumstances.

Quoting a representative Catholic pastor, they tell Mr Johnson: “I ask you to put pressure on the Government for private prayer as soon as possible. Two-metre social distancing is easy (easier than in a supermarket) and sensible hygiene precautions can quickly be put in place.

“It seems odd that you can go for a walk, enter a busy supermarket, get on a bus, but cannot go to a large virtually-empty-for-much-of-the-time building.”

They add: “We ask that our leaders, Government and church, especially the Church of England, together find reasonably safe ways to reopen our churches for prayer, for funerals even with limited congregations and for worship sooner than July.”

That day, I heard an interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury on BBC News. He said he was more concerned about Mental Health Week at that time than reopening churches. It seemed an odd remark. Surely, church can help assuage mental health symptoms as those so afflicted can focus on faith, salvation and fellowship — especially during the coronavirus crisis:

At present, the Church of England has instructed clergy that they may go in to church to clean it — but not to pray! Daft.

The Archbishop of Canterbury films services in his kitchen:

However, the Bishop of London, the Right Revd Dame Sarah Mullally, a former nursing chief, disagrees …

… although she films sermons from her home:

Her flexible instruction, it seems, was a wise one, as some clergy were unhappy with Welby’s wholesale closure:

Bishop Mullally, who was UK’s chief nursing officer from 1999-2004, said priests could livestream services from within a church building if they could access it via an internal door from their home, or without leaving the curtilage of the church.

The Archbishop’s wholesale ban upset priests who felt he does not have the right to order clergy who are answerable to their own bishops.

One said: “He’s panicked and shut everything down,” while another vicar who used Zoom to conduct a Palm Sunday for a 90-strong congregation and will do so again on Easter Sunday, said: “The whole situation is ridiculous”.

That said, this Good Friday tweet appears to contradict that flexibility:

On Good Friday, London’s St Bartholomew the Great filmed a service with priest and choir:

Hospital chapels are another area of contention, as this letter to the Times, from St Bartholomew’s rector (shown in the above video), reveals. Click on the image to read the letter in full:

I like this priest. He’s eager — and rightly so — to have his congregation return:

This is amazing (as in awful):

That brought another set of replies from a curate and a gentleman in Montreal:

I fully agree with the ‘social service agency’ sentiment.

The discussion returned to Mr Walker and a random Twitter user. This is great. I’m so glad the priest took this man on:

Excellent reply.

Whenever church opens, I hope there will be a new market for those who have begun praying at home — and perhaps watching online services — during the past several weeks:

Plans are already underway to work out methods for reopening London’s Anglican churches whilst maintaining social distancing.

Just before the Second Sunday in Lent — March 8, 2020 — a number of county and diocesan directives went out in the United States over public gatherings.

Not surprisingly, one of these was church attendance. Another, at diocesan or local level, was coffee hour after Sunday service.

Today’s post features the Revd Scott A Gunn, the executive director of Forward Movement in the Episcopal Church, a co-author of Faithful Questions: Exploring the Way with Jesus and a religious editorial writer for Fox News.

When I last wrote about Mr Gunn, he was cutting short his visit to Asia.

This was his experience in the latter days of his stay with regard to coronavirus:

On his way home:

How true. That also happened to me. Message to anyone who doesn’t want to become a Calvinist: don’t go into consulting!

Once at home, Gunn contemplated Psalm 24:3-5. He received an equally good response about the nature of sin:

I fully agree with him on keeping churches open (even though Christ Church Episcopal in Georgetown was closed for the first time since 1800). Historically, that is what was done:

ABSOLUTELY!

Those who feel that they should not attend because of health reasons should stay at home. Keep churches open for those who want to attend.

The subject of baptismal fonts has also arisen. These are supposed to be drained for Lent, as there are to be no baptisms until Easter:

On a secular level, Scott was not best pleased with the public panic surrounding the coronavirus last weekend:

Pizza also proved problematic:

Coffee hour was a new issue last Sunday. In some places it was banned. In others it came under restrictions:

Why do we always forget about flu season, which occurs every year and is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in each Western country?

Absolutely.

Now is a good time for churches to make a hygienic plan for coffee hour then stick to it even when the coronavirus threat disappears. There will always be health panics. And, I hope, there will always be coffee hour.

On the back of exploring what’s on Episcopal priests‘ minds, I am crossing the Atlantic, returning to the UK, to explore what Anglican priests are thinking about.

I will continue both series.

The Revd Marcus Walker, serving in the Diocese of London, deplores the bewilderment and criticism surrounding the recent group photograph of Mike Pence and his coronavirus team in prayer.

Note that they are not praying in public, as detractors have said. Press photographers happened to be present for the meeting.

The 1662 Book of Common Prayer has such a prayer, which can be said during the Litany. Highly useful during the coronavirus scare:

In the time of any common plague or sicknes.

O Almighty God, who in thy wrath didst send a plague upon thine own people in the wildernes for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron, and also in the time of King David, didst slay with the plague of pestilence threescore and ten thousand, and yet remembring thy mercy didst save the rest: have pitie upon us miserable sinners, who now are visited with great sicknes and mortality, that like as thou didst then accept of an atonement, and didst command the destroying Angell to cease from punishing: so it may now please thee to withdraw from us this plague and grievous sicknes, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Marcus Walker later located his ‘jumbo book of State Prayers’ and noted the following shift in emphasis in them from the 18th to the 19th centuries:

Turning to the opprobrium heaped upon the American vice president and his team, this is what Mr Walker and his readers tweeted:

Nor do I.

The Revd Giles Fraser, formerly a Canon at St Paul’s Cathedral and current Rector at the south London church of St Mary’s, Newington, told the readers of his online magazine Unherd how he has changed the Communion service during the coronavirus outbreak (emphases mine):

I have a cough. I have had it for weeks. A deep hacking affair that brings up nasty thick greenish goo. It’s not the virus — I haven’t got a high temperature or any other symptoms. But it is dramatic enough to clear the seats next to me on the tube.

In church on Sunday, too, I could feel the anxiety radiate out from my coughing away behind the altar into a twitchy congregation. We have suspended sharing the peace for the time being. Instead of shaking hands or kissing, we wave at each other. So, too, we have decided to take communion in one kind only — that is, we share the bread but not the common cup of wine. And in this context, the symbolic handwashing the priest performs before the Eucharist is no longer simply a ritual act. It feels like a necessity. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

As one of my posts explained last week, the Cup can be suspended during health emergencies under a) the Doctrine of Concomitance and b) the 1547 Sacrament Act.

The Doctrine of Concomitance says that Christ’s substance in the Eucharist cannot be divided. The bread and the wine are both the entire real presence of Christ.

Giles Fraser and one of his readers helpfully tweeted about both:

Someone responded — possibly an agnostic — taking to task Christians who are panicking over the coronavirus. He has a point:

It amazes me how those who pontificate so much about life thereafter being so wonderful succumb to panic at the thought of death. Just a pause for thought. The Lord’s supposed to be our protector but only if it means it protects us from death. Come on religious people! Get a grip.

I don’t understand it, either.

On that note, and from a Catholic perspective, Dr CC Pecknold, a professor who also writes for First Things, tweeted about the plague in Venice between 1630 and 1631:

Exactly. However, that is what stubborn secularists, such as those criticising Mike Pence and his coronavirus team, refuse to understand. Christians pray for guidance and relief during troubled times.

There was more to the conversation. Someone was disappointed that the Peace had been suspended in his diocese:

How true.

In closing, after the plague had left Venice, the citizens of that city built a magnificent church in thanksgiving:

Would this happen now were, heaven forfend, the coronavirus to become an epidemic? No. Not at all.

More’s the pity.

In Italy, churches are closing their doors for the next few weeks:

This church in Rome is open but has taken additional precautions:

Meanwhile, let’s continue to pray that we may be guided in the correct practical direction during this pandemic and ask the Lord for it to harm as few people as possible.

I do think these health disasters are ‘come to Jesus moments’. Is anyone out there listening, including some notional Christians? Or are we all going to panic?

I was not planning on featuring two of these posts back to back, however, much of the world is in a panic over the coronavirus.

In some cases, it’s warranted:

Agree on Namaste. No touching, just bowing to someone with your hands pressed together upwards, as if in prayer. I might even start doing the Peace again at church if it caught on.

There were others who liked the shoe-touch, though:

Yet, that can be problematic, depending on where one’s feet have trodden.

On a lighter note, I have to admit that, I, too, thought of the Knack’s 1970s hit, My Sharona in this context at the weekend:

On a serious note, though, in some countries, e.g. the United States, people have to be prepared to pay big bucks to get tested for coronavirus:

In churches around the world, the subject of how one takes Holy Communion during the coronavirus outbreak is a hot one.

That is equally true in the Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion.

The Anglo-Catholic priest, FrKeithV, featured before in my Episcopal priests series, thinks the hysteria is over the top:

Agree.

Back in the summer of 2009, when there was a global swine flu outbreak, I wrote three posts about Anglicans and Holy Communion.

My first, from July that year, quoted a Telegraph article saying that the Church of England was reviving the 1547 Sacrament Act for the crisis, which says that providing the Cup can be suspended in times of necessity.

My second, written in August 2009, discussed my personal experience with intinction as our vicar at the time practised it. He wanted us to take the intincted host from his fingers and place it in our mouths. I asked him afterwards whether we could dispense with intinction and just receive the host. He said that we absolutely had to have the Cup. My post explains that the Church of England frowns on intinction full stop because it does not prevent bacterial transmission.

My third post on the swine flu scare that year appeared in September 2009. I quoted various Anglican priests giving their views on intinction. Most were against it. Some dispensed with the Cup. Others continued the Cup, encouraging congregants to sip from it in the usual way. That post also mentioned advice from health experts in the Midlands who said that it didn’t matter whether people drank from the Cup, because they were just as likely to get the flu from people sitting around them in church.

Then the swine flu panic died down.

Now, nearly 11 years later, we have a coronavirus panic.

Returning to FrKeithV, he thinks that intinction is ‘theologically questionable’:

An interesting exchange followed:

A Lutheran responded:

The Revd Kara N. Slade, Canon Theologian at Princeton Theological Seminary, explained why the Cup can be temporarily suspended — the Doctrine of Concomitance:

The point about Martin Luther is also good.

I wish I had known all of that when I debated unsuccessfully with my then-vicar 11 years ago. In an unrelated outcome, he retired shortly after that and moved away.

A Pentecostalist from Northern Ireland tweeted about an Episcopal priest’s scientific views on taking Communion during the coronavirus panic:

The Revd David Sibley, an Anglo-Catholic, is the rector of St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walla Walla, Washington. He recently posted a letter to his congregation, ‘From the Rector: Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Common Cup’.

I would strongly advise anyone worried about taking Holy Communion to bookmark it. He includes footnotes.

Excerpts follow, emphases in purple mine.

Invariably, the first question asked of the church in moments like this is:
What about the common cup at the Eucharist?

The simple answer is this – peer reviewed studies and Centers for Disease Control guidance since the 1980s have consistently shown that “no documented transmission of any infectious disease has ever been traced to the use of a common communion cup” and “the risk for infectious disease transmission by a common communion cup is very low, and appropriate safeguards–that is, wiping the interior and exterior rim between communicants, use of care to rotate the cloth during use, and use of a clean cloth for each service – would further diminish this risk.” American Journal of Infection Control (Vol. 26, No. 5, 1998). 

We do all these things at St. Paul’s! Our Eucharistic Ministers are trained to wipe the rim of the chalice between each communicant, to rotate the purificator (the cloth), and the Altar Guild ensures a clean cloth is used for each liturgy.

He then explains why intinction is not a good idea:

Is it more sanitary to intinct the host into the cup than drink from it?

In short – absolutely not! As any experienced Eucharistic Minister or clergy person will tell you, it is a common occurrence when people intinct the host for their fingers to touch either the consecrated wine or the side of the chalice. This is in fact less sanitary then drinking in the first place – we can make sure our Eucharistic Ministers and clergy wash their hands, but we can’t do the same for the whole of the congregation!

For those still concerned about how to take Communion at this time, he provides three options. Note that the third refers to the aforementioned Doctrine of Concomitance:

As your priest, I can recommend three options to you:

    1. When in doubt, drink from the common cup it is the most sanitary way for you to receive the consecrated wine at the Eucharist. Christians have been doing so for centuries, and still manage to die at the same rate and pace as the general population!
       
    2. If you don’t want to drink from the cup, don’t intinct for yourself. Instead, leave the host on your hand, and allow the Eucharistic Minister to intinct it for you, and place the host on your tongue. This ensures that only people with washed hands are handling the hosts, and it eliminates the unsanitary conditions that are caused by intinction.
       
    3. Finally, if you don’t want to receive the cup at all, it’s ok not to. The church believes that all of the grace of the sacrament of the Eucharist is conferred wholly in each element – both consecrated bread and wine. To receive only the host is not to have a “half blessing” or to receive “half communion.” Instead, receiving in one kind is to fully partake in the Eucharistic feast.

Finally, let your consideration for others carry the way you would through any other sickness: if you have a fever, stay home; if you have a cold, don’t shake hands at the peace; and always, always, always wash your hands with soap and water for 15 seconds or longer.

Good man.

He holds a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Chemistry. He was ordained in 2011. That means he has finished leftover Communion wine quite a lot. This is what he says:

I’ve consumed what’s left in the chalice after Holy Communion, quite literally drinking behind thousands of people over my ordained vocation. And I promise – I get sick at the same rate the rest of us do!

Brilliant observation.

Let us not panic over coronavirus and Communion. If we truly believe that the priest is the conduit in transforming bread and wine into a Holy Mystery and the Real Presence, then, the thought of contamination should not occur to us.

In closing, what follows was my experience at Sunday morning Communion service on March 1. Our priest made no mention of coronavirus. I did notice, however, that there was a dispenser of sanitiser gel on the side altar table. He cleaned his hands with that before proceeding with the prayer of consecration.

As this was a 1662 service, there was no Peace ritual.

Today’s post features the Revd Scott A Gunn, an Anglo-Catholic serving in a Midwestern city. He is also the executive director of Forward Movement in the Episcopal Church, a co-author of Faithful Questions: Exploring the Way with Jesus and a religious editorial writer for Fox News.

Last month, I posted his thoughts on respecting the Church calendar.

Scott Gunn loves Lent. What follows are his impressions of Ash Wednesday and the season as a whole.

Before delving further, unrelated to Mr Gunn, this was the street scene in Houston, Texas, last Wednesday. These Episcopal priests are associated with the city’s Christ Church Cathedral. Excellent:

Ash Wednesday

Last week, Scott Gunn was in Tokyo for Ash Wednesday:

He wrote an editorial about Ash Wednesday for Fox News, which was well received:

Excerpts follow from ‘Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent — here’s why it’s important’ (emphases mine):

The name Ash Wednesday comes from the tradition of marking people’s foreheads with ashes in the shape of a cross. The ashes are a sign of our mortality, and they are given with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

At first, it might seem depressing to contemplate our inevitable death. But Ash Wednesday is just the opposite. Today reminds us that our earthly life is very short, but it is a gift from God. We are meant to use this gift well. In that way, Ash Wednesday is hopeful, encouraging, and inviting.

Ash Wednesday, and the whole season of Lent, invites us to turn away from what doesn’t matter and turn toward what does matter. As Christians, that means we recommit to following Jesus and to sharing his love with the world.

For some, that will be a new way of contemplating Ash Wednesday.

He then discusses the spiritual disciplines that characterise Lent:

Lent begins with an invitation. In the Episcopal Church, the invitation tells us how to observe a holy Lent. We do this “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”

Self-examination and repentance are counter-cultural. It’s much easier to go through life blaming everyone else and talking about how wrong they are for whatever they did. But Lent invites me to think about the ways I have fallen short, to say I’m sorry. Lent invites me to try again.

I am happy to see that he encourages fasting, accompanied by prayer:

Lent is a time for prayer and fasting. Prayer is pretty common, and most of us know what it is, and we have at least a vague idea of how to go about talking to God this way.

But fasting is much less common. Again, fasting is counter-cultural. In a culture that tells us our worth comes from what we have, we are always urged to acquire and to consume more and more. Fasting means we cut back on the most vital of activities, eating. We might avoid food altogether, or we might severely limit the kinds of foods we eat.

Fasting creates a void of sorts in us. Our hunger reminds us of what we are missing. The awareness of what is missing reminds us that we survive only by God’s steady provision for us. And in this fasting, we are also reminded of suffering — of Christ’s suffering for us and of those who suffer daily due to poverty. Fasting reminds us that the world isn’t about us. Amidst the glitter of this age, fasting teaches us we all need the basic stuff of life, and we all need God.

I was even happier to read that he encourages reading the Bible. There was a time when Episcopalians knew the Bible very well. That’s no longer true.

Therefore, Lent is the perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with the Good Book:

And, finally, we get to my favorite part of the Lenten invitation. We are invited to read and meditate on God’s holy word. Reading the Bible reminds us of God’s vast love for us. From the moment of creation until the end of time, the Bible tells the story of how God desires our redemption.

When we read and meditate on God’s word, we are reminded of where we fit into this love story. In a world that values short-term thinking, the scriptures remind us to think eternally. In a world that tells us to give up when it gets tough, the scriptures remind us that God never gives up on us and we shouldn’t give up on God. In a world that magnifies fear, the scriptures tell us to be fearless. In a world that tells us to look after ourselves, the scriptures remind us to look after others as we seek God.

Ultimately:

Two thousand years ago, Jesus showed us perfect love, in his life, in his death, and in his resurrection. This Lent I want to try to see that perfect love anew, so that I might share it with a world in need of hope, mercy, and grace.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Remember God’s grace, and by grace alone do we all live. Remember.

Lent

On March 1, the First Sunday in Lent, Scott Gunn was in Yangon (Rangoon, in days of yore):

Unfortunately, he had to cut short his stay:

He encouraged the faithful to begin Lenten disciplines, if they hadn’t already done so:

Excerpts follow from his brilliant explanation for Fox News: ‘What is Lent and why does it matter?’

Mr Gunn explains that, as far as he is concerned, Lent is the best season in the Church year for self-examination and self-improvement:

Before I try to convince you that Lent is the best season, let’s review where it came from.

From ancient times, one of the ways Christians prepared for Easter was by providing a time to repent of grievous sins. While that sounds severe, look at it the other way. The church gave people a second (and a third, and a fourth) chance. You could mess up badly and still have an opportunity to make it right.

Lent was also a time for people to prepare for baptism. Those to be baptized had to be taught and prepared. They had to learn the important things about the Christian faith.

Lent has always been about renewal, about second chances, about new life in Jesus through the waters of baptism. Lent has always been about the important things.

Over the centuries, Lent evolved into the season we now keep. Beginning on Ash Wednesday and lasting until the week before Easter Sunday, the Lenten season is forty days (excluding Sundays). This echoes the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry.

Indeed, Jesus’s time in the wilderness was the Gospel reading on March 1.

Here is something I did not know:

The word “Lent” comes from an Old English word that means “spring season.”

Spring is a good time to clean not only our houses but also our souls:

Many of us do a spring cleaning of our homes, and I like to think of Lent as a spring cleaning for our souls. You don’t have to be Catholic or to be part of Christian church that observes Lent to make your own journey through the season. Lent can be for everyone. It is, quite simply, a time to remember and to practice the most important things.

There is something to be said for self-denial:

No one should give up something for Lent for the sake of misery itself. Misery is not God’s desire! Instead, we might give things up that take us away from Jesus to make more room for those things that bring us closer to Jesus

In so doing, I am reminded that I depend on God, not on things. In other words, giving things up can help me notice that it’s not all about me.

Some people like to add a new religious activity to their lives during Lent:

Lately, it has become more common to take things on for the season of Lent. People might decide to read the Bible or pray more. But we might also decide to focus on something like forgiveness. How can we practice forgiving others? Who do we need to forgive?

Best of all, Scott Gunn indirectly referred to Jesus’s words to the Pharisee about the greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) …

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

… and Hebrews 13:15-16:

15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

He wrote of Lenten sacrifices of love:

We have all that we need in God’s grace. We aren’t meant to look after ourselves alone, but rather to offer sacrificial love to our neighbors. We don’t need to fear anything.

Loving God and loving our neighbors are the most important things. And Lent is a wonderful way to remember that life is about love, not about our own desires. Lent is the best season, because it’s all about the best things.

That’s a splendid, positive way of thinking about Lent.

February 23, 2020 was Transfiguration Sunday.

However, some traditionalist Episcopalian clergy dispute that, pointing to the Feast of the Transfiguration on August 6:

That’s all well and good, but most observant Christians are more likely to be in church on Sunday than on a weekday.

These were among the replies that the Revd Everett Lees received:

Agree fully.

A Canadian wrote in:

Easy mistake to make, when in our Canadian Book of Alternative Services we have Transfiguration readings that day, and we’re directed to use the Collect for the Transfiguration. Personally, I don’t think God will lose too much sleep if someone calls it Transfiguration Sunday.

So did a Lutheran:

I guess my Lutheran Book of Worship: Manual on the Liturgy is wrong.

And what about denominations that do not observe feast days, e.g. the Presbyterians?

The aforementioned Rev. Green Man did a bit more research on the scheduling of Transfiguration Sunday:

Yes, that is helpful. I had not thought about the transition in Jesus’s ministry from Galilee to Jerusalem.

It should be noted that the Vanderbilt Divinity lectionary page has no list of readings for August 6.

From this we see that Transfiguration Sunday has its rightful place at the end of the season of Epiphany.

Continuing my series what’s on Episcopal priests’ minds, the Anglo-Catholic FrKeithV posted a succinct tweet on inclusion in the Church:

I couldn’t agree more. We should be transforming our lives through the gift of faith and God’s infinite grace: becoming more Christlike and rejecting the bondage of sin.

It is unclear whether his next tweet is related to inclusion, but one of the reasons people find inclusion upsetting is that a handful of those who wish to be included do tend to demand it, rather than approach the Church in humility and goodwill.

One remedy for this is to rely on Scripture rather than one’s personal feelings — emotions:

It is hard being a Christian. Sometimes we love our personal baggage, which often keeps us in a sinful cycle. Satan can readily supply us with any number of excuses not to grow spiritually, to remain in his snare.

Our emotional resistance — wilful disobedience — to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is one of the devil’s best tricks. Don’t fall for it.

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