Posts Tagged ‘Church of England’

Second Largest Church in the World

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

I had lunch yesterday with the Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which is located on Amsterdam Avenue near Columbia University. Known as “St. John the Unfinished” because parts of it have never been completed according to the original divine, it is reputed to be second in size only to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Maintaining such a huge edifice (and many accompanying buildings, including a school) is a task I can’t even imagine.

Yet cathedrals have in general fared better than the local parish church. In the Church of England, attendance at cathedrals has been growing while regular congregations are declining. People seem to enjoy the relative anonymity of the large buildings and the stately, even mystical worship–often accompanied by excellent music. St. John the Divine on large festivals greets crowds of 3,000 people.

I like to think that Incarnation shares some of the attractions of cathedrals. It is larger than many, seating 800 persons. We have a fine choir and formal liturgy. People can be pretty anonymous unless they want to be part of the parish family. All the better to welcome strangers in Christ’s name. —J. Douglas Ousley


Showing Up

Monday, August 6th, 2018

A recent article in the Church Times of London noted that many recent marketing schemes for the Church of England have failed. The author, Richard Nicholl suggested that instead of trying to attract new members with gimmicky campaigns, they should learn from companies like Facebook and Amazon–which never need to advertise.

First, like these companies, the church needs to show that “everyone else is in on it.” That means, says Nicholl, that those who are already members have to show up “every week, preferably without fail…It is existential. Just as ‘everyone else’ is on Facebook, ‘everyone else’ should be at church. We have an obligation to the Church and to one another…” The least we can do is show up.

Second, the Church “must, above all, be somewhere that people feel obliged to go, but do not resent attending.” As Nicholl sees it, this is not the same thing as being a place people want to go. Churches are so diverse that people will always find them a bit difficult. But if the liturgy is regular and familiar and there are other attractive programs, we will be able to participate regularly and faithfully–as Nicholl says, to “do what you know in your heart that you have to do.” —J. Douglas Ousley


Talking the Talk

Monday, May 21st, 2018

American Episcopalians could be pleased with the reception given to the sermon by the Most Rev. Michael Curry at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last Saturday.

I have been surprised at how few of the Episcopalian laypeople I have talked to knew of Bishop Curry or were aware that he is the Presiding Bishop of the whole Episcopal Church. Even fewer knew that he preached in the pulpit of the Church of the Incarnation last December 6, at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Church Pension Fund.

To those familiar with the free-wheeling preaching style of African-American clergy, the sermon wasn’t surprising. But in the formal atmosphere of the royal chapel of St. George’s Windsor, Bishop Curry’s energetic oratory came as a bit of a shock. It could not have been more different than the cerebral reflections I heard the previous Saturday from the new Bishop of London, during her installation in St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Episcopalians could also be proud of the precise Anglican liturgy, immaculately executed with lovely music. All in all, it was more than an elaborate ceremony; the wedding, even to the skeptic, was clearly a compelling act of worship. —J. Douglas Ousley


In the Olde Country

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

Yesterday, I returned from a brief trip to London. Among other things, I was there to represent the Diocese of New York at the Installation of the new bishop of our link Diocese of London on May 12.

The Rt. Rev. Susan Mullally was placed on her episcopal throne with pomp and efficiency by notables of the Church of England and the City of London. Contrasting this events with installations of past bishops of New York, I have two comments.

  1. The Church of England still has a significant following as the Established Church. The Lord Mayor of London was present for the service and hosted a reception afterwards. (He even entered and exited by his own door in the north wall of St. Paul’s Cathedral.) The church was packed and seats were available by ticket only. There was a lottery for the limited number available to the city at large. Seating has never been a problem in the Diocese of New York, and it is decades since a major of New York was present at an installation.
  2. Second, Bishop Mullally is the first female in her post, following 132 male Bishops of London. Some conservative Evangelical and Angl0-Catholic parishes apparently declined to berepresented at the service. Whether dissident parties who reject any ordination of women will eventually be reconciled with their new diocesan remains to be seen. —J. Douglas Ousley

Money and Religion

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Last night, I attended the annual dinner of the Church Club of New York, a social organization run by city Episcopalians.

The guest speaker was the Dean of Westminster Abbey, the Very Rev. John Hall. Among other things, he mentioned an enormous building project in the upper gallery of the Abbey. It is in process now and will cost over thirty-two million pounds (over forty million dollars).

This is an extreme example of the vast expenses incurred by any ecclesiastical body that has to maintain a historic building. Many such buildings in the UK–like the Abbey and St. Paul’s–have American supporters or “friends” to help underwrite the work.

While Incarnation’s building needs at the moment (about three hundred thousand dollars) are much smaller, our base of support is also smaller. In other words, we need all the friends we can get. —J. Douglas Ousley


Socialism Reconsidered

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

I have always been struck by a major difference between the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the United Sates: the way clergy are paid. In England, all clergy receive basically the same salary or “stipend;” there are minor increases over the base for bishops and for clergy in London.

This wage is not high–equalling around $40,000 a year. A clergy family of four would qualify for public assistance, though they do receive housing in most cases.

Despite the low stipends, I have heard many English clergy claim their system is morally superior to the American scheme, whereby clergy in affluent parishes can make much higher salaries than those in poor areas. But a recent book by Dean Martyn Percy of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford claims that the Church of England would be rejuvenated by the American system, which would reward initiative and encourage church growth.

This is not to deny the moral value of the egalitarian formula. But, practically speaking, giving all clergy a substandard wage buys equality without fairness–and it does little to recruit new young clergy, which the Church of England desperately needs. At a time of increasingly left-of-center politics in the Episcopal Church hierarchy, the “capitalist” proposal by the very prominent liberal, Dean Percy is intriguing. —J. Douglas Ousley


Battleship Crew

Monday, May 1st, 2017

The Church Times of London often carries stories of “church planting”–the establishing of new congregations, often in existing churches whose congregations have dwindled.

Critics of these efforts say they merely draw people from other congregations who like the enthusiastic style of worship. One planter, the Rev. Dr. Tim Matthew responded: “I’ve always tried to maintain a very high bar on existing Christians joining. We say here that we’re a battleship not a cruise ship–we don’t take passengers–so it you’re on view, you’re on the crew, and there’s a job for you to do.”

Now Dr. Matthew would probably admit seekers who weren’t church members as “passengers” on the ship of the Church because these folks need time to figure out what it means to be a committed Christian. But I think the image is appropriate for long-time parishioners. They shouldn’t just see themselves as along for the ride, looking to get spiritual comforts without giving anything back. The parish isn’t a cruise ship, it’s a battleship–fighting the good fight for Christ. —J. Douglas Ousley


A Week in the C of E

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

I just returned from a week in London, attending various services and meetings in connection to the Link Program between the Diocese of New York and the Diocese of London, which I chair.

The highlight of my stay was the farewell Eucharist for the Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Richard Chartres KCVO. The service was prefaced by Christian rock music and social media in the square in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The 20 or so bishops and 400+ priests then processed into St. Paul’s for a majestic Candlemas celebration attended by several thousand laypeople.

I was touched that I was mentioned in the service leaflet, and the Bishop made a special effort to greet me during the service and send his best wishes to the Bishop of New York.

Other highlights included taking the Sunday Eucharist at our link parish of St. Vedast-alias-Foster and then participating in the patronal feast of the parish on February 6. I met the soon-to-be priest-in-charge, the Rev. Paul Kennedy and enjoyed a festive reception in the nave of St. Vedast.

All in all, I am happy to report that the our Mother Church remains alive and well. —J. Douglas Ousley


A Rock Star

Monday, October 17th, 2016

My favorite picture from my recent trip to Rome is a photo I took of the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury as they processed right by me on the way to the altar of the church where they were to make their historic declaration. (See last post.) In the picture, the Archbishop has just begun to clap his hands, as applause breaks out in the congregation as a whole.

Applause in church? Very rare, I know–but this pope is a religious rock star. When he’s around, people get inspired and the rules are bent. (Photos in church? I disapprove in principle–but everyone around me was snapping away, so I joined in.)

pope

 


From Canterbury to Rome

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

I’m just back from an extraordinary visit to Rome.

My wife and I were in Italy to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Anglican Centre in Rome–an ecumenical outpost representing the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion in relations with the Roman Catholic Church. There was to be a grand dinner at the art gallery in a private Roman palazzo, with the Archbishop of Canterbury in attendance.

As it turned out, we were also witnesses to what may prove to be an historic encounter between the leaders of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. At a stately private service of vespers, each gave a forward-looking, hopeful homily to inspire their respective churches to work together for evangelism and service to the poor. They exchanged personal gifts: the Archbishop received a replica of the staff or crozier given to the first Archbishop of Canterbury, while he he gave the pope his own, very simple pectoral cross.

The service concluded with the commissioning of 19 pairs of Anglican/Roman Catholic bishops or archbishops from all over the world. Their duty now is to carry out ecumenical work in their respective countries.

All in all, it was an impressive demonstration that the Holy Spirit is breathing new life into the ecumenical movement. —J. Douglas Ousley