Tuesday 7 December 2010

A Conversion Course

'For the avoidance of confusion I have to say that as far as the Diocese of London is concerned there is no possibility of transferring properties'.
So Bishop Richard Chartres at his Diocesan Synod last week.

By contrast, here is the Property Page of the Daily Telegraph four days later:
'A recent survey conducted by a property website declared that churches are the nation's favourite conversion'.

Now London, of course, is a special case. Not that its churches are bursting with eager worshippers; indeed, it is reckoned that the average worshipping congregation across the diocese numbers fewer than forty people. No, it is its bishop which makes London different. He has fought to keep churches open, even in the City where there are few residents, and for this determination he deserves much credit. But...

In his address to the Synod the Bishop related unhappy experiences of attempting to share a church building. 'The late Cardinal Hume, whom I greatly revered, brought to an end the experiment of church sharing after the Synod’s decision of 1992'. On the evidence of that handful of failed experiments the good Bishop is prepared to condemn every attempt at church sharing.

There was similar episcopal resistance nearly fifty years ago when in a Surrey parish we dared suggest to our Bishop of Guildford and his opposite number of Arundel & Brighton that our parish church might be useful to the Catholic community. Eventually, and a little grudgingly, the two bishops permitted the experiment. So it was that between our 8am celebration and the later Parish Communion, Catholics met in the Anglican Parish Church to say Mass.

Some of the friendships which developed from this modest experiment continue to this day. I am not sure if the sharing arrangement still flourishes; but it certainly did so for more than thirty years.

It takes a very special sort of leadership to feel unthreatened by such events yet when they are entered into with generosity and charity on all sides they can produce great results, so that even non-churchgoers can begin to say "How these Christians love one another!" - and say it, for once, with no trace of irony.

The present Bishop of London is famously implacable in his views. How stoutly he recently defended the Royal Family when one of his Suffragans dared to suggest they did not always produce the most stable of marriages. There is little prospect of any of the churches in his dioceses playing host anytime soon to a Catholic Mass; even though in many of them it might appear to be the Catholic Mass which is celebrated. There are seven years before age will force him to hang up his mitre if neither he nor the Almighty has decided it should happen earlier. Then will it be economic or ecumenical pressure which determines the fate of the underused churches of London Diocese?

A shared place where Anglicans and Roman Catholics have worshipped


  1. How sad that the present episcopal incumbent of the Diocese of London is so erastian and anti-Catholic. There are 2 former parish churches left empty in my part of SW London and the beautiful parish church of the Annunciation Marble Arch was oferred to the former Benedictines of Nashdom - now former of Elmore - as a home in London, so it's not being well used whatever +London may say. I'm sure many other examples could be given. I wonder what exactly he is referring to when he talks about the past? The only sharing agreement I knew about was St Stephen's Gloucester Road and that went too well for the Anglicans because so many catholics attended mass there!
    I'm sure that there will be somewhere available for a 'good' Ordinariate Parish, then Bp Chartres can go back to inhibting his non-erastian clergy and carry on allowing those who don't believe in much to keep taking their stipends!

  2. A message to my friends...

    available at catholicgossip.blogspot.com

  3. When I arrived in St Peter's Plymouth the Greek Orthodox community were happily sharing the church of All Saints (a daughter that came home in the late 1940's) and when it was closed the happily moved to St Peters.
    At one point, when the Roman Catholic Cathedral was being restord and re-ordered, they shared St Peters too, and did so throughout Holy Week and Easter.
    Sundyas were 9am Mass for St Peters folk; 10.30am Mass for RC Cathedral folk; and 12.30pm the Greek Orthodox Liturgy.

    Everyone one so much enjoyed the the Church, East and West, being in one place, albeit at different times, there was a real sense that we had moved forward (or is it backwards) 1000years and there was real saadness when the RCs went home, and eventually, becaus eof the ordination of women the Greek Orthodox decided to purchase their own building.
    But ties of friendship still remain strong and I have no doubt that all would be open to provided each of us with hospitality.
    It is sad when christians get in the way of the fulling of Christ's prayer that we may be one.

  4. Apologies for the typos in my previous contribution - rushing things always carries risk - but the message is clear. The 'new commandment' should always hold sway among the Lord's people.

  5. I just wonder if the bishop can prevent a church being shared. surely, it's up to the PCC. mIn the parish in which Ilive, in the benighted diocese of St Alban's, services and the lady minister are shared by the Anglicans and URC; and this is a parish where once the great Peter Blagden Gamlen was once vicar. He is still remebered as a priest who walked the streets and hailed all and visited the pubs even thpough he left here in the 1960s.