Is there hope for Anglicanism?

I have been in three very different Church Services today. 
First, I was listening to a Wycliffe student preach well at a tiny Church, literally in the middle of a field in Wheatfield.  The congregation was just over a dozen people and only meets in the summer months because there is no electricity in the building.  The service was a said 1662 (i.e. traditional language and no music).  But it was nicely done, and it reminded me that Cranmer was a wise old bird in the way that he allowed his Protestant theology shape the flow of the liturgy.  I guess it is a bit demoralising for a Rural vicar who looks after several small congregations over a wide geographical area.  However, I think it should be remembered that the Church of England is the only denomination that has retained a commitment to have a church community in every town and village across the land.  And whilst coverage is no guarantee of theological orthodoxy or effectiveness, I think that we should at least try to live to this ideal.

Secondly, later in the morning, I joined the St Ebbes joint congregations meeting in Oxford Town Hall.  Combining together the seven congregations gave a congregation of 700-800 people.  It was good to be among a large gathering of young adults who are enthusiastic for the Lord and Mission, many of whom will soon be in parishes around the country.  It is also good to remember that the Gospel still is attractive and student churches which clearly proclaim the good news about Jesus buck the national trends and grow.  Vaughan Roberts did a great job reminding people that the Lord’s Prayer invites us to pray.  We need to know to whom we are speaking before we can have a meaningful conversation, and that God, is, unlike any in the world religions, one who we can call Father.

Finally, this evening, I went to hear another student preach in Merton College Chapel in Oxford.  This was a very formal sung Evening Prayer.  The choir was amazing.  The acoustics in the Chapel are very good, and the Chapel is often used by the BBC to record.  There were about 25 in the choir and maybe 40 in the congregation.  It was enjoyable and the music was very high quality.  Personally I enjoyed both the volume and informality of the drums, guitars and singers in the morning as well as the marvellous formal music tradition found in the Chapel tonight.

What are my conclusions about the experience of three very different corporate worship services today?  They are very tentative.  I actually enjoyed all three services and I think that there is a place for the diversity of church which I have been in today.  However I also think I feel that the age profile and numerical attendance at the St Ebbes service does speak volumes as to what young adults need to hear today.  However, I feel challenged that the growing churches seem to be located in University Towns or suburbia in the South East of England with largely ‘yuppie’ congregations.

I think that the vision of the Church of England is sound.  But we do need faithfully to reach the diverse communities and localities in which it is located … which requires us to be outsider-friendly and mission minded up and down the land.  There is a nation which needs to be won for the Gospel of Christ, and that should shape everything we do in the church and in the communities in which they are located.




2 thoughts on “Is there hope for Anglicanism?

  1. Russell Smith April 28, 2008 / 4:06 am

    Thoughtful post … I praise God for the Anglican committment to cover every village … for with your book of Common Prayer, the gospel will be proclaimed no matter what the theological orientation of the vicar. The ministry at Wycliffe Hall gives us all great hope for the future of the Anglican church…
    Now if only you’d post a little more often here….



  2. Steve Walton May 19, 2008 / 10:57 am

    Hi Simon-
    as an ex-Merton, rural vicar with three parishes spread over a large area, thankyou for an encouraging post. Do you mind if I dispute one thing you send? :

    “I think it should be remembered that the Church of England is the only denomination that has retained a commitment to have a church community in every town and village across the land.”

    The C of E has no such thing! The largest village in my benefice has no church community in it. A church needs to be planted there; but the obstacle is the parish church which is miles away from the centres of population, on a dangerous corner on a busy main road, has a tiny congregation (6 last night), is resistant to any change, and is spiritually dead. However, time and resources spent on the parish church block doing anything in the village. This is an illustration of the fact that in rural areas the parish system is a disaster.

    Now if you’d like to send me one of the pioneer ministers you’re training at Wycliffe…



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