Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Not Going to Church on Sunday

Back to the subject of busy people not going to Church. Interesting article at Standing on My Head on why Anglicans Don't go to Church on Sunday. Actually, until immigration changed the figures, Catholics didn't much either, in England. And Fr Dwight's assurance that as long as we all become Catholics and go to Mass, everything will be fine reminds me of something. Now what was it?

.....and then three priests appear with a mobile altar
Is there anything to be said for another Mass?
Oh yeah. I remember.

But I was also much taken by  John the Lutheran's quotation from Ford Madox Ford,
 Tietjens had walked in the sunlight down the lines, past the hut with the evergreen climbing rose, in the sunlight, thinking in an interval good-humouredly about his official religion: about the Almighty as, on a colossal scale, a great English Landowner, benevolently awful, a colossal duke who never left his study and was thus invisible, but knowing all about the estate down to the last hind at the home farm and the last oak: Christ, an almost too benevolent Land-Steward, son of the Owner, knowing all about the estate down to the last child at the porter’s lodge, apt to be got round by the more detrimental tenants: the Third Person of the Trinity, the spirit of the estate, the Game as it were, as distinct from the players of the game: the atmosphere of the estate, that of the interior of Winchester Cathedral just after a Handel anthem has been finished, a perpetual Sunday, with, probably, a little cricket for the young men.  
Ford Madox Ford, Parade’s End (No More Parades, part 1, chapter 4)
Fr Dwight's stereotypes - the harassed female priest in the image, soup kitchens, "a blend of the Girl Scouts, Being Spiritual and the Power of Positive Thinking" - they're unfair on the priest, the people that run soup kitchens, the Girl Scouts. He's got a beautiful line:
"...a transaction with the supernatural, the threshold of heaven, the staircase to the stars, the grittiness of repentance and redemption, the soul’s salvation and the heart’s homing"
 If Jesus is to be encountered, Jesus tells us, he is encountered in the sort of people you meet in soup kitchens. There's a transaction with the supernatural, you have repentance and redemption and the soul's salvation (if we are to take the story of sheep and goats seriously) at the soup kitchen. A direct encounter, Jesus tells us, with his body. Don't knock soup kitchens. This God isn't the absent  Lord of the Manor, or his dilettante Son. This God is here, physically, in the bodies of the poor and homeless.

But the encounter with Jesus in the soup kitchen - that is, for the average Christian, a giving-out. And, if it's not funded properly, fuelled the right way, then it is still a virtue with its own reward, but busy-ness alone, the service of the  poor or the acts of social goodness - well, they can become world-bound without their cosmic connection.

Because we do meet that body of Jesus elsewhere - we encounter body and blood in the Mass, and we know the Word alive in us when God's word is preached. A Christianity that is alive when hearing the Gospel, when gathered round the Lord's table, is alive when serving the poor. Yes, Fr Dwight is right. Let's be lifted up to Heaven in the Mass (and let's be brought to the throne of God by the preaching of his word). And then, when we've done that - let's feed the Jesus that we've fed on, And do you know what, if we're preaching the word, receiving the sacraments and feeding the poor - let's not worry too much who goes to church on Sunday. We'll leave that to God.


  1. Who thinks Jane Hough is harassed misunderstands both the image and the meaning of "suffer" in Matthew 19. She is not harassed, she is being Canadian.

  2. I never go to church, except to occasionally browse the headstones while ruminating local history.

    However, that said, last Sunday we went to a Christmas pudding making event at the church and, despite me not having a religious bone in my body, I felt I could perhaps support our local ruin, merely from a sense of continuity and communion (in the social sense) with other locals.

    Time was when the church was the centre of village life. As I get older, I feel this focus is much needed in our modern era.

  3. Thank you for this. I'd like to share this with our (Catholic) parish, if I may, as we're looking at all the 'big' questions of why we're here and what we're doing.


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