The last few weeks have led me to midweek services in various Cathedrals – Winchester, Durham, Canterbury, St Paul’s and for an RC flavour Westminster.
It leaves me asking a basic question. Do we have any interest in the conversion of England – or even the survival of faith within the CoE?
In all the services I have attended (bar a nearly deserted Durham) there have been scores of onlookers and often scores of would be participants. Yet only in the Catholic cathedral did anyone make even the slightest attempt at a homily – let alone a succinct, compelling presentation of the Christian faith.
One might argue that the ambiance and worship might be sufficiently attractive in itself, but a) St Paul’s had all the atmosphere of being a hen in a petting zoo as tourists at the north, south , west and east ends of the sanctuary surrounding the hapless worship pets (literally) like children on a field trip; and b) the lectionary readings at Durham/Canterbury were so objectionable without context or explanation that a casual inquirer / chance visitor / faith seeker would most likely be provoked to run away (screaming).
Given that a tourist couple would have spent £36 merely to look around you might well argue they had a right to roam, chat and frankly scream if they wanted to to test the acoustics.
Missionally, if there was some explanation of the extraordinary news of Jesus – even a brief reflection on the Gospel reading – then who could argue that we should get as many as humanly possible to gather round and hear the good news! But the Church of England should not indefinitely spend the millions it does each year (£9.1million in 2013 on stipends / staffing) propping up Cathedral ministry partly on the basis of it’s alleged attendance statistics if no serious attempt is made to communicate the Christian faith when people attend public worship.
The apostle said ‘woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.’ Woe indeed. If the Deans really can’t find a preacher for a five minute gospel homily I’ll happily send one of our highly talented interns for what, at St Paul’s at least, would feel a lot like open air preaching with people milling round all about you – but just done under a glorious dome and inside.
Next post: The Gospel? Aghh don’t ask me to share that!