Sunday, 13 March 2016

(Great) minds think alike

It is not often one can claim the Archbishop of Canterbury as someone who thinks like you, but reading "The Road to Canterbury" a book written by Andrew Atherstone about Justin Welby I was heartened to read the following about the Archbishop when he was Rector of the Parish of Southam having inherited a Victorian Church which was in a poor state of repair called St. James (I kid you not). As soon as he got there he started to bring forward an ambitious plan for restoration and development, The aim was:

"to make the building fit to serve a twenty-first century Southam, not a nineteenth century one.
The book continues:

"This meant substantial changes. As well as vital repairs to the roof, windows and stonework, there was to be new heating, a new sound system, and proper toilet and catering facilities. A raised platform was to be built at the front of the nave for worship, concerts and plays, with the organ and choir stalls moved to the back of the church. Most radically, it was suggested that the chancel be turned into a separate meeting room, and that the Victorian pews be replaced by chairs."

At this point I was beginning to wonder if Welby and I were somehow spiritually connected as the above are almost identical to the things I suggested when I first came to my Parish of St. James in Swansea. The coincidence is quite amazing. And it gets better:

"Welby turned to liturgical history to persuade his parishioners to embrace the changes, writing in his parish magazine:

"Pews are an eighteenth century invention. Organs came in during the last (19th) century, replacing the organ by a small music group. What goes round comes round. Any living building must change to suit the community. The building is the servant, not the master of those who use it. God does not demand pews or organs, and can be worshipped as well in a school or community hall, or under a tree."

The aim,
the writer continues, was for a more flexible and modern building, which would not only be used by Christians on a Sunday, but become 'a focal point for the community' all week round."

Given our recent conversations about pews in the parish and the resolute opposition to moving them by some, the above could just as well have been written by me! So it is encouraging to read that the Archbishop thinks the way that I do and although my own plans for improvement have been thwarted, at least I can have the satisfaction of at least trying to do something that was intended to save the church.

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