Thursday, October 15, 2015

15 October 2015 A.D. Schadenfreude? 1 in 4 rural CoE parishes (about 2000) have 10 regular worshippers and 2 in 4 are unable to muster 20 on Sundays (about 8000)--there are 16,000 CoE parishes, hence, over 1/2 are very troubled and near extinction

15 October 2015 A.D. Schadenfreude? 1 in 4 rural CoE parishes (about 2000) have 10 regular worshippers and 2 in 4 are unable to muster 20 on Sundays (about 8000)--there are 16,000 CoE parishes, hence, over 1/2 are very troubled and near extinction
        Mann, Stephanie. “No Schadenfreude Allowed: “C and E” C of E Churches?” Supremacy and Survival: The English Reformation. 15 Oct 2015. Accessed 15 Oct 2015.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

No Schadenfreude Allowed: "C and E" C of E Churches?

With the decline of Anglican church attendance and population shifts, many Anglican churches might have to close except for Christmas, Easter, and other special "hire" dates, according to this story from The Telegraph:

Historic village churches across England could be closed down except on holy days such as Christmas and Easter under radical plans being considered by the Church of England to cope with decline.

A major report on the future of the 16,000 Anglican places of worship in England acknowledges that parts of the centuries-old parish system may soon no longer be “sustainable” as existing congregations age and overall numbers dwindle.

It discloses that one in four rural parishes – or about 2,000 churches – now have fewer than 10 regular worshippers and half would now be unable to muster even 20 on a Sunday.

At the same time parishes collectively spend about £160 million a year on maintaining their buildings, which include almost half of all the grade one listed buildings in the country.

Rural churches have been hit not only by a general decline in religious observation but long-standing population shifts leaving some once-thriving parishes effectively marooned in the midst of fields.
Thus these churches will become "C and E" C of E churches.

Looking at the list of churches maintained or supported by the Churches Conservation Trust, many of these parish churches would have been Catholic before the English Reformation (281 out of 363 were built in the 16th century and earlier). I've just picked one from the 14th century, St. Mary the Virgin in Shrewsbury, Shropshire (see the glorious pictures there):
The spire of St Mary’s is one of the tallest in England and for over 500 years it has dominated the skyline of Shrewsbury's old town. In 1739, showman Robert Cadman attempted to slide from it, head first, using a rope and a grooved breastplate. His engraved obituary stands outside the west door. 
The church is now the only complete Medieval church in Shrewsbury. It dates from Saxon times and has beautiful additions from the 12th-century onwards. Inside, the atmosphere is peaceful with the soaring stone arches giving way to the church's great treasure - its stained glass. 
There are panels in glorious colour including the world-famous 14th-century 'Jesse window’ filled with figures of Old Testament kings and prophets, and scenes from the life of St Bernard - a Medieval cartoon strip that shows him ridding flies from an abbey, riding a mule and curing the sick. 
No other church in the country has a collection to equal it. Most of the glass was brought from elsewhere, much of it from Europe, by two remarkable clergymen, and installed in St Mary’s during the 18th - and 19th-centuries. 
Warmth and richness is also provided by superb Victorian coloured tiles on the floor; and lifting your eyes upwards, you will see the wonderful 15th-century carved oak ceiling of the nave, with a profusion of animals, birds and angels. 
Other details delight you wherever you look: an ancient font, Medieval stone carving on the arcades, interesting monuments...The beauty and variety of this church and its contents, all on a grand scale, blend into an uplifting and memorable whole.
From that description you'll note the beauty that was added to the church long after the Reformation era. Nevertheless, the Catholics of Shrewsbury had endured the changes--the iconoclastic destruction--not only of the fabric of their parish church but of the Catholic Sacraments and rituals over the course of the Reformation (the stripping of the altars). While this church may have been spared the utterly destructive forces of the English Civil War, we know that others were wrecked, but then perhaps restored by High Church Tractarians in the 19th century. Hundreds of parishioners, first Catholic and then Anglican, gave their tithes to their parish to maintain these churches. Former parishioners are buried there, World War I dead are remembered there, etc.
So no rejoicing in the misfortune of others here (that's what Schadenfreude means), although I regret that the break from the universal Catholic Church occurred in the first place. Sometimes I see suggestions that the Church of England should return the churches that once were Catholic to the Catholic Church, but how practical that would be I don't know--is there a Catholic population in the area to attend Mass, maintain the artistic unity of the building, build up the parish life? As the Churches Conservation Trust site notes, some of these churches have "lost" their villages, so probably not. Perhaps it is part of the penance of the English Reformation that the C of E is responsible for these churches with funds raised by lotteries and two pound donations.

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