Is Central Churchmanship Dying Out?

PDRPDR Shipmate
Growing up in the C of E the local house style was referred to as 'Central Churchmanship' - neither Anglo-Catholic nor Evangelical with a strong tendency to do the usual Anglican liturgies straight of the book, with a 'middlin' amount of ceremony. Usual service pattern in a small town was something like 8am BCP HC; 10:00am Parish Communion (Mattins once in a while; Family Service once a month); 6:00pm Evensong. Midweeks were a bit thin - Communion on a Wednesday or Thursday often in connection with some organisation. Various organisations seemed to keep the parish hall pretty busy during the week though.

I don't see so much of that now when I go back to England. I know voluntary organisations have faded somewhat, but the actually church side of things seems to have gone either lower or higher. Many of the places I knew back in the 1980s and early 90s as being Central are now noticeably catholic leaning in style, whilst others have become little different to the Methodists apart from the fact Communion is celebrated a bit more often.

Accurate, or the English disease (nostalgia) kicking in?
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Comments

  • Definitely accurate in London and other major cities. There must be some MOTR churches in central London, but they are definitely outnumbered by Catholics ("traditional" or otherwise) and Evangelicals. Arguably, London's been like that for a while. All Saints, Margaret Street and All Souls, Langham Place (two famous neighboring parishes) have traditions that developed over generations, not merely years.

    Of course, it's a spectrum. Southwark Cathedral is Anglo-Catholic but nothing like St. Magnus the Martyr across London Bridge. And there's at least as much diversity among the Evangelicals.

    Arguably this is less accurate in rural areas, although what central churchmanship looks like there has changed with the introduction of things like "Messy Church."
  • It sounds to me like "central" is really just pre-Oxford Movement High Church. Is that inaccurate?
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    Historically speaking, not inaccurate at all. Some of the 'Old Highs' started identifying as 'Central' after some of the less committed Anglo-Catholics started co-opting the term High Church to cover their own churchmanship.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    This is interesting, as I would consider the 'basically Methodist' type to be within central churchmanship. I would argue that central churchmanship has perhaps just diversified as evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics have done.

    I think that there are basically two branches now - the first more involved in 'lateral' outreach which often has an emphasis on ecumenism, Messy Church, and quite often some type of pioneer ministry. Depending on the area, there may be a lot of involvement in local community and wider social justice issues, such as English classes for refugees and community cafes. An example would be All Hallows Leeds. Quite often has a joint ministry partnership with local Methodists or other denomination (I forget the actual name for this!). Often has Taizé services and other less traditional services, will use more worship songs but probably played on piano/acoustic guitar rather than a praise band. Usually liberal on Dead Horses, sometimes expressly linked to organisations focused on them. Some can be considered liberal evangelical.

    The other branch is mostly involved in more traditional church activities such as uniformed organisations and the Mothers' Union. Often toddler groups and a Family Service once a month, but not as likely to have Messy Church. More BCP services, often has Evensong. Hymns only, usually played on organ or piano. May or may not have a choir. Charitable efforts tend to be via Christian Aid, Mothers' Union, and local diocesan mission partnerships rather than projects unique to the church or local area. Some can be considered Prayer Book Catholic/old-fashioned High Church. Varied stance on Dead Horses.

    I think old-fashioned Low Church places are equally thin on the ground outside of London and historically evangelical dioceses! I think perhaps the axes being used have just changed, and a simple low church<->high church axis is now less helpful at least by itself, as is conservative<->liberal and evangelical<->catholic. All Hallows Leeds for example; essentially Greenbelt in church form, it's definitely low church and perhaps could count as evangelical 40 years ago....but what 'evangelical' means now is so different that I don't think it would really be accurate. 'Liberal MOTR' I think is more accurate for your average CoE churchgoer, certainly more helpful in terms of a description eg for someone new to the area.
  • I can think of churches which are fairly Liberal theologically, follow traditional Matins, Parish Eucharist and Evensong (albeit CW rather than BCP), using traditional robed choir etc. - but would never dream of using incense, vestments or prayer to the BVM. To me they are "essentially Anglican".
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Yes, I have definitely come across that type too - I think the second type includes churches which are liberal and churches which Definitely Are Not, and those somewhere in between! It depends largely on location I think. However, I don't think vestments are unusual in MOTR or even evangelical Anglican churches anymore - certainly if there's a robed choir, there's usually at least a stole. No Vestments Ever tends to be a conservative evangelical thing now. I know evangelical clergy who wear copes on special occasions, I think vestments are now more or less the norm across the board.

    Incense and Marian prayers are definitely Anglo-Catholic.
  • When I said "vestments" I wasn't thinking of cassock and stole etc., but the "full works".
  • From what I read somewhere, incense was occasionally used in High Church parishes until the mid-1700's. I believe Lancelot Andrewes and William Laud used incense in their private chapels.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    edited June 24
    In addition - I think choir dress for Evensong and Mattins is most common in the latter type of central churches, and I think some cathedrals come under that category too. Also, hospital chapels and usually university/school chapels are pretty universally central in churchmanship!

    Also, having candles to light with nothing to light them as a votive to, if that makes sense - so a pricket stand but no statue or icon above. Maybe a generic prayer or occasionally an image of Jesus, but definitely no sense of the candle being any kind of offering. My local cathedral has this and my brain just can't process lighting a candle if it's not aimed at a particular image. Like, the candle isn't for the image but I need the image to focus the prayer.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Even incense use has its variables, from full-blown figure eight flaming handbag swirls to Taizé or Buddhist style burners placed somewhere subtle ... while I've always enjoyed the full-blown gig I've never been able to introduce more than the discreet burner, and that usually under threat of death, for I've been posted, when I had parishes, thoroughly in the MOTR realm.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    'Flaming handbag swirls' 😂😂😂
  • MrsBeakyMrsBeaky Shipmate
    We had those on a spectacular scale this Sunday at our cathedral. I was mesmerised!
  • angloidangloid Shipmate
    My introduction to the church was via a very MOTR parish: Mattins and Evensong the main Sunday services, with 8.00 Holy Communion and a monthly sung eucharist (at both of the latter eucharistic vestments were worn). But Prayer Book 'red letter days' were observed assiduously with a celebration of communion. That was in the late 1950s/early 60s. That tradition was observed as long as the clergy remained basically 'catholic' in their outlook. Later incumbents tended to be MOTR-low and (what I would consider to be) the essentials were not always maintained.

    The diocese I am currently in has never had a strong tradition of MOTR worship. The default tradition is sort of 'relaxed evangelical', with a fair number of consciously anglo-catholic parishes to balance it.

    I'm not sure if there were ever many clergy who would identify as MOTR. I agree with PDR that such parishes seem to be fewer, but I rather think that as suspicion of 'catholic' practices has receded somewhat, those who held back on introducing such things feel less inhibited. Similarly I suppose as free-form non-liturgical liturgy (sic!) has become more acceptable, clergy inclined in that direction have found less opposition. There are plenty of exceptions to all the above generalisations!
  • Pomona wrote: »
    In addition - I think choir dress for Evensong and Mattins is most common in the latter type of central churches, and I think some cathedrals come under that category too. Also, hospital chapels and usually university/school chapels are pretty universally central in churchmanship!
    .

    My university chapel was very much at the open evangelical end of things - shared services with the Methodists, communion only alternate weeks, chaplain with a guitar in the band when not leading, leavened bread (not always reverently consumed before the end of the service either). Chaplain at least in cassock alb when celebrating communion. Perhaps you were thinking more of the older universities?
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    College chapel for me was daily Mass (ASB: A veering towards Novus Ordo) and fiddleback chasubles, which were frequently compared to the leather "apron" the coal man used to wear. Non-Eucharistic services tended to be either ASB MP shortened, or a hymn/song, a reading, and a prayer depending on who got volunteered.

    In my home area, Central churchmanship seemed to be the point at which Prayer Book Catholic clergy, and Prayer Book Protestant laity had fought each other to a stand still. The few guys who were more determinedly Catholic would add daily MP and EP, and would have slightly more celebrations of HC, but not deviate from the basic pattern. In terms of vestments, choir dress for the offices; cassock surplice and stole for the sacraments; Eucharistic vestments meant town or big village church with money/ambition to be a bit more catholic.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    edited June 24
    Pomona wrote: »
    In addition - I think choir dress for Evensong and Mattins is most common in the latter type of central churches, and I think some cathedrals come under that category too. Also, hospital chapels and usually university/school chapels are pretty universally central in churchmanship!
    .

    My university chapel was very much at the open evangelical end of things - shared services with the Methodists, communion only alternate weeks, chaplain with a guitar in the band when not leading, leavened bread (not always reverently consumed before the end of the service either). Chaplain at least in cassock alb when celebrating communion. Perhaps you were thinking more of the older universities?

    No, I am not - my own university experiences have all been at new universities, mostly firmly MOTR in terms of chaplaincy. Even the most evangelical had weekly communion and reverent consumption before the end of the service, and stole worn (albeit over a coloured clerical shirt!). However, what you describe seems within central churchmanship to me, particularly shared services with Methodists. I think I struggle to think of Methodists (in the UK at least) and evangelicals sharing any space at universities nowadays, partly because there would be hardly any student Methodists.

    I think it's likely that university Christianity is far more polarised now than it was for you - outside of Oxbridge and redbrick universities (with some exceptions), you mostly find Christian Unions for evangelicals, sometimes Fusion for charismatic evangelicals if the CU is particularly cessationist, and the chaplaincy for everyone else. I've never been to a university with an AngSoc or MethSoc or even a CathSoc, and newer universities with a lot of students who commute or do placement-heavy courses like nursing (ie not spending a lot of time on campus outside classes) do tend to just have a CU. So the chaplaincy ends up being decidedly MOTR because it's where everyone else ends up.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    For Whom It May Concern - I was born in 1989 and turned 18 in 2007, but went to uni(s) late including currently!
  • Interesting. MethSocs and Ang/MethSocs were very definitely a thing and an alternative to UCCF CUs when I was a student. I knocked around with them for a while before being drawn in a charismatic direction.

    Meanwhile, Baptist Trainfan's comments, with which I agree, have reminded me to ask a question about 'central' churchmanship among the Free Churches.

    My impression is that what might be described as 'central' or MoTR churches among the Baptists, for instance, are under pressure from more charismatic or conservative evangelical congregations or from 'emergent' congregations which are perhaps more liberal in theology these days but less MoTR in terms of worship styles/preferences.

    Methodism, sadly, is on the wane. How about the URCs? They tended to be seen as MoTR to liberal on the whole.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    A friend is a member of a joint AngMethSoc but they're also at Durham, so not exactly an average university. It's also pretty tiny even there. There are of course SCM groups too - last I heard the largest were in Glasgow and Edinburgh and mostly Church of Scotland with quite a few Episcopalians. However I think outside of large universities, it tends to be an SCM-affiliated chaplaincy rather than a separate group. For universities without a big campus culture (more mature students, commuting students, those from backgrounds where going to uni isn't the norm, placement-heavy courses...lots of reasons) there often aren't the numbers to sustain lots of religious societies. Dead Horses have also naturally played a part.
  • Although American, I did all of my studies in the UK (southeastern England, specifically).

    The chaplaincy of my undergraduate institution was run out of the nearest parish and a bit higher than central. In fact, the set up looked very quite Anglo-Catholic, with six candlesticks on the old high altar (which was not actually used), and the sacrament reserved in a large brass or gilded tabernacle on a side altar. In practice, it was liberal Catholic, with the emphasis very much on the liberal. In terms of worship (at the parish church), there were vestments but also various things that would never have happened in the full-blown Anglo-Catholic parishes I more frequently frequented. At the time, being a somewhat priggish spikey undergraduate, I judged them for using Eucharistic Prayer H and not using incense, and especially for letting a reader (in blue scarf) read the gospel (which, in my usual parish was chanted by a priest a dalmatic).

    I don't know if we as a chaplaincy were officially affiliated with SCM, but it was very much along those lines.


    My master's degree was at a Roman Catholic institution, so churchmanship in the Anglican sense doesn't really apply. The chaplain in my day was a Dominican, an order that tends to be seen as rather conservative, but this was an anomaly -- looking back at the history of the chapel, they were all Jesuits for a period, and the Dominican was sandwiched between Franciscans.

    My chapel of the college where I did my doctorate was quite central, in an old-fashioned BCP sort of way. Evensong was very much the centre of chapel life. Unlike some of other colleges of that university, this was never mixed with any particularly high elements, although I would have loved to see the little Laudian chapel filled with incense. Of the two chaplains when I was there, the second was very much a conservative evangelical in his theology, but his only changes to the liturgy (other than the sermons) were to change the chapel bibles from the NRSV to the NIV and to celebrate college communion (always poorly attended) in surplice and stole rather than cassock-alb and chasuble.

    The "new" (post-1992) university where I did a certificate listed numerous chaplains for at least half a dozen Christian groups and half a dozen other religions, but I wasn't there long enough to find out anything about these.

    This is all a long-winded way of saying that, yes, college chaplaincy is probably one of the best places to find central churchmanship, although college chaplains themselves are often not central by preference (many are quite Anglo-Catholic in my experience, but some are certainly evangelicals).
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    From what I read somewhere, incense was occasionally used in High Church parishes until the mid-1700's. I believe Lancelot Andrewes and William Laud used incense in their private chapels.

    Hugh Trevor-Roper would support your belief for Lancelot Andrewes but I can't recall his saying that Laud used incense. What a pity Andrewes was not appointed to succeed Bancroft. Had he been, many of the later problems could well have been avoided.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited June 25
    Incense was used fairly often in the 17th century just simply to get rid of the smell of damp and stale air. George Herbert certain mentions it being used to sweeten the church. I remember reading several places that Lancelot Andrewes used incense in a standing censer during the liturgy, but the usage seems to have been somewhat unique to him, though a perfuming pan is depicted in an engraving of the Coronation of James II (reproduced in Dearmer, the Parson's Handbook) and Dearmer also records that incense was used at Ely until 1771.

    With my own churchmanship being about at the point where Highish Parson and Lowish congregation finally fought it to a stand still, I am open to the idea of incense at Christmas, Epiphany, and Easter, but not much otherwise. On the whole, though I would be inclined to leave the censing at the altar, gospel book and gifts (as appropriate) and not going in for the elaborate censing of persons that happens some places.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    There is that use for incense. Along those lines, in the 1620s or 30s, a Bishop of Durham was accused of Romish practices when he had 150 or more candles on and around the altar. His excuse was that it was a dark mid-winter day and the light was poor.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    edited June 25
    As a RC I find these descriptions of what constitutes "catholic" liturgy fascinating. In our place for example incense is only ever used during requiems when the coffin is incensed. I don't think we are at all unusual. But I do remember Sunday Mass in Honfleur a couple of years ago where it was used liberally and where the thurifer swung the thurible through 360 degrees during the entrance and exit processions. The church filled towards the end with camera-wielding tourists.
    This is an intereting discussion from an RC perspective from a forum where I am a lurker
    https://praytellblog.com/index.php/2013/10/24/non-solum-when-to-use-incense-at-mass/
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Is central churchmanship dying out? Round here, no, though all churches are more open to mission and are adapting in many ways to be more accessible to the community. In our deanery, there are only two real ACs.

    Recently I have worshipped in several different churches in the deanery and would not care to put a label on any of them, and nor would they, other than “ essentially Anglican”, ie MOTR, maybe with tweaks. Maybe only one would want to call itself “evangelical”, though probably all would in the sense of promoting the gospel.

    I am interested in what makes a church change.
    Is it gradual?
    Is it a change of incumbent?
    Are the changes decided by the PCC for specific reasons, ie after a series of discussions?
    Or merely rubber stamped by the PCC after the incumbent has imposed his/ her practices?
    What happens when the new incumbent radically changes the churchmanship?
    Do people leave?
    Does the new style attract new people?

    In my place, the new incumbent announced to the PCC that he was in charge and could do what he liked, that he intended to change it from high church to low church, having already imposed his own preferences. ( no vestments, no Gospel procession, cutting musical responses, truncating the liturgy, more extempore prayer, not robing, cutting out the crucifer and choir procession, alienating the organist so he left, introducing a worship band.....and that is before we get on to his sermons.)
    He said if we didn’t like the changes we should leave. There is no other Anglican Church in this small town.
    It was not a high church, just MOTR with a strong musical tradition. All changes were introduced by him, mostly without consultation, and rubber stamped by the PCC in the interest of attracting new young families. Several people have left, or stayed but are deeply unhappy, few new ones have joined, apart from those who have come to live in the parish, one new young family have stuck in 18 months.

    I am genuinely interested in others’ experience of change of churchmanship and what effect that has had.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    I think I have room to comment. I have been involved in University Chaplaincy since I was seventeen/eighteen for all but three or four years (though to a limited extent then I ended up involved in Hospital Chaplaincy instead).

    The one I know best and have known for over twenty-five years is I would say low-church liberal at present. The Roman Catholic chaplaincy until recently was generous Charismatic, go figure! It is a red-brick. Its colour very much depended on the Anglican Chaplain but it a shade or so lower. Therefore in the noughties, it was towards central Anglicanism but the chaplain changed to someone who is lower-church but liberal except on one or two points. The history here was that in the 1970s there was CathSoc, AngSoc, MethSoc & URCSoc as well as CU and SCM. Then URCSoc and MethSoc united to form the Free Church Society. This then amalgamated with AngSoc to form AFCS which was Methodist dominated. SCM at sometime collapsed and in the late 1990s or early 2000s, AFCS aligned itself with SCM and took that as a badge. I have looked this up but there are at present seven societies that badge themselves at Christian at this University: Christian Medical Society, Christian Orthodox Society, Christian Union, Christians in Sport, Just Love, Catholic Society and Student Christian Movement.

    Chaplaincy is also changing. What has long been about spiritual enquiry, faith development and community building is increasingly becoming focused on need-based pastoral care rather than long term pastoral care, often focused on situations where students and staff find their experience quite liminal to the general life of the University. This brings in a wider range of faith perspectives but also restricts the ability to do long term spiritual development, community building and worship. The last impacts on the frequency and availability of worship and therefore the general style of the chaplaincy.
  • Interesting. MethSocs and Ang/MethSocs were very definitely a thing and an alternative to UCCF CUs when I was a student.
    True for me too - I was considered iffy by the CU because I attended AngSoc worship.

  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    That must be a large university! I have never come across a Christian Orthodox Society at a UK university before. My experience has been at former polytechnics/teacher training college universities, which are not campus based and often divided between a couple of sites depending on subject. I think being campus based or not has a huge impact.

    Historically a lot of younger ordinands in the CoE get there via university chaplaincies and I do wonder how changes in chaplaincy culture will impact this. Nothing much will change for Oxbridge most likely, but outside of that?
  • Curiosity killedCuriosity killed Shipmate
    edited June 25
    Certain university towns have churches linked to the universities, in that these are the churches the university chaplaincy suggests students attend - HTB and Imperial College, Beeston Free Church and the Vineyard Church in Nottingham, St Michael's, the Minster in Sunderland. Sunderland University chaplain served on the Minster staff. That gives a very different flavour to the churchmanship.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    edited June 25
    My university chapel was non-denominational. We had a proper choir that sang BCP evensong to cathedral standards and a short morning prayer every day. These were lay-led. The eucharist was never celebrated, Chaplains were attached to the various denominational societies. I went to Cathsoc a couple of times, but was put off by the amount of spots and greasy hair that seemed to have been a requirement for membership!
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    Interesting. MethSocs and Ang/MethSocs were very definitely a thing and an alternative to UCCF CUs when I was a student.
    True for me too - I was considered iffy by the CU because I attended AngSoc worship.

    The first year the UCCF and the Anglican Chaplaincy were only on waving acquaintance with one another, as the Anglican chaplain (who was liberal-ish Anglo-Catholic) was thought dodgy. There was then a period when we had a clergyman from the town taking services, who was centre-low in churchmanship, and a very thoughtful preacher, and relations began to improve. Oddly, they improved even more when we got a conservative Anglo-Catholic chaplain, who was considered 'not dodgy' on Scripture, even though he was way too catholic for most of the UCCF types, and some of the Anglicans too. I had the fate of being thought dodgy by both the UCCF types and the AngSoc types, so apart from the occasional visit to midweek Mass, I would bugger off to one of the CofE churches in town.
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    Certain university towns have churches linked to the universities, in that these are the churches the university chaplaincy suggests students attend - HTB and Imperial College, Beeston Free Church and the Vineyard Church in Nottingham, St Michael's, the Minster in Sunderland. Sunderland University chaplain served on the Minster staff. That gives a very different flavour to the churchmanship.

    What do the chaplaincies suggest for non-evangelicals at Imperial College and Nottingham?? Or non-charismatic evangelicals for that matter...
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    The history here was that in the 1970s there was CathSoc, AngSoc, MethSoc & URCSoc as well as CU and SCM. Then URCSoc and MethSoc united to form the Free Church Society. This then amalgamated with AngSoc to form AFCS which was Methodist dominated. SCM at sometime collapsed and in the late 1990s or early 2000s, AFCS aligned itself with SCM and took that as a badge.
    As an outsider, I'm trying hard to follow the discussion, but wow—the acronyms and abbreviations. I assume "Soc" is "Society"?

  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    I think part of the issue is that people in the middle (whether students or not) have many more options outside of Anglicanism or Methodism etc that either take a firmer stance on a particular issue of importance to that person, or have more people their age, or are just more fun, etc etc. I know I've definitely attended churches much more evangelical in flavour than I actually was, because the churches which matched my churchmanship just had people twice my age or older. That is not necessarily an insurmountable obstacle, but it does make it harder to feel part of a community if you stand out for a particularly obvious reason such as age.

    At either end of the candle, the more niche you go the more likely you are to find a closer community formed around some common aims. MOTR is nowadays at least, often so broad as to be stretched rather thin, or not offer very much of anything in particular. It often feels like it doesn't have a solid identity and purpose of its own, just 'not those other things'. I think the purpose part is important.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited June 25
    SCM is the Student Christian Movement. Basically liberal, rather than out-and-out progressive in my day. It had a rude nickname in my college due to its attitude to charismatics.
    URC is United Reformed Church which is a liberal leaning amalgamation of the English Presbyterians and the English and Scots Congregationalists. Not to be confused with the US offshoot of the Dutch Reformed.
    CU is usually Christian Union these days (since the 1970s). Most are affiliated with Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF). Generally Evangelical and Interdenominational, and often in the 70s and 80s the scene of strife between Charismatic and non-charismatic Evangelicals.
  • PDR wrote: »
    URC is United Reformed Church which is a liberal leaning amalgamation of the English Presbyterians and the English and Scots Congregationalists.
    Together with the Churches of Christ, who joined later. Not all URC are liberal, there is a smallish but vocal Evangelical wing. This fact caused trouble when it tried to define its USP some years ago.

  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    PDR wrote: »
    SCM is the Student Christian Movement. Basically liberal, rather than out-and-out progressive in my day. It had a rude nickname in my college due to its attitude to charismatics.
    URC is United Reformed Church which is a liberal leaning amalgamation of the English Presbyterians and the English and Scots Congregationalists. Not to be confused with the US offshoot of the Dutch Reformed.
    CU is usually Christian Union these days (since the 1970s). Most are affiliated with Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF). Generally Evangelical and Interdenominational, and often in the 70s and 80s the scene of strife between Charismatic and non-charismatic Evangelicals.
    Thanks. The URC I'm familiar with. The others not so much, so the quick primer is appreciated.

  • Nottingham University chaplaincy didn't suggest anything else, even though there is a more AC CofE church in Beeston - St John's (not that I thought it particularly AC) - and St Barnabas, the Catholic cathedral of Nottingham in town. My daughter ended up suggesting St Barnabas to the RC students she met and attending there herself when +Southwell landed St John's with an evangelical curate.

    Imperial College, I'm not sure if anything else was suggested.
  • PDRPDR Shipmate
    edited June 25
    @Puzzler - My experience of churchmanship changes has been that when it is done slowly over a period of time you may succeed in boiling most of the frogs, but some will jump. I am one of those likely to jump - or at least I was when I was not the one making the changes. I reached the point where my home parish did not feel like my home parish anymore. Evensong was pushed to the side lines; the Parish Eucharist became very long and dreary; BCP disappeared except for Evensong twice a month; and the PCC was dominated by the Vicar's circle of incomers who were not used to the way we did things.

    On the other hand, some clergy hold that Immediate Massive Disruption is the only way to make significant changes. At best, this can result in a major turn over of congregants especially since the invention of the motor car - though 'go nowhere' is still a favourite choice with Anglicans who have been switched off by what used to be their church.

    As an incumbent I tend to avoid making rapid changes. My rule was one change or two small ones a year unless I was suggesting something new, and had support for it.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited June 25
    PDR wrote: »
    URC is United Reformed Church which is a liberal leaning amalgamation of the English Presbyterians and the English and Scots Congregationalists.
    Together with the Churches of Christ, who joined later. Not all URC are liberal, there is a smallish but vocal Evangelical wing. This fact caused trouble when it tried to define its USP some years ago.

    Ok Historical Pedant Alert.
    Please stick to the original names:
    Congregational Church of England and Wales
    Presbyterian Church of England
    Reformed Churches of Christ
    Scottish Congregational Church.

    The Congregational Church of England and Wales had some case for it being the true descendant of orthodox (i.e. Trinitarian) English Presbyterianism with Presbyterian Church of England being a Scottish Presbyterian Church in England1. The result is that Scottish Congregationalism reflected only part of the spectrum of the Congregational Church in England and Wales. In particular, it did not have the strand that was heavily magisterially Reformed in theology favouring more a combination of Anabaptist and Brownist theology.

    Thanks!

    1Rather like Methodism in Scotland.
  • PDR wrote: »
    Immediate Massive Disruption is the only way to make significant changes. At best, this can result in a major turn over of congregants especially since the invention of the motor car - though 'go nowhere' is still a favourite choice with Anglicans who have been switched off by what used to be their church.
    Not confined to Anglicans, I can assure you!

  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    Puzzler wrote: »
    ...
    I am interested in what makes a church change.
    Is it gradual?
    Is it a change of incumbent?
    Are the changes decided by the PCC for specific reasons, ie after a series of discussions?
    Or merely rubber stamped by the PCC after the incumbent has imposed his/ her practices?
    What happens when the new incumbent radically changes the churchmanship?
    Do people leave?
    Does the new style attract new people?

    In my place, the new incumbent announced to the PCC that he was in charge and could do what he liked, that he intended to change it from high church to low church, having already imposed his own preferences. ( no vestments, no Gospel procession, cutting musical responses, truncating the liturgy, more extempore prayer, not robing, cutting out the crucifer and choir procession, alienating the organist so he left, introducing a worship band.....and that is before we get on to his sermons.)
    He said if we didn’t like the changes we should leave. There is no other Anglican Church in this small town.
    It was not a high church, just MOTR with a strong musical tradition. All changes were introduced by him, mostly without consultation, and rubber stamped by the PCC in the interest of attracting new young families. Several people have left, or stayed but are deeply unhappy, few new ones have joined, apart from those who have come to live in the parish, one new young family have stuck in 18 months.

    I am genuinely interested in others’ experience of change of churchmanship and what effect that has had.

    This exemplifies exactly the reason why the church-at-large needs to start looking seriously at change management as a discipline. If this were a business ... and I rarely look to business for an example - there would be total revolt by clients, shareholders and staff alike. But out structures breed petty little god-farting autocrats whose love for fellow humans is massively outweighed by their sense of spiritual entitlement. Basically this describes spiritual rape.

    Change is a work of the Spirit, who is love, and I am not advocating blocking it. But it involves the long and gentle work of convincing and guiding, not imposing and expelling. As the Beaver-Headed One would tweet: SAD. Except he wouldn't because he and your new incumbent were made in the likeness of the Demiurge, it seems.
  • 'Except he wouldn't because he and your new incumbent were made in the likeness of the Demiurge, it seems.'

    Would that Demiurge be what I understand the Cathars and other Dualists to refer to as 'le Dieu mal'?

    If so, I agree.
    :wink:
  • I think this is a good case for the American tendency toward congregationalism, even in churches with officially episcopal polities. Not that congregationalism doesn't bring its own set of pitfalls...
  • PomonaPomona Shipmate
    PDR wrote: »
    SCM is the Student Christian Movement. Basically liberal, rather than out-and-out progressive in my day. It had a rude nickname in my college due to its attitude to charismatics.
    URC is United Reformed Church which is a liberal leaning amalgamation of the English Presbyterians and the English and Scots Congregationalists. Not to be confused with the US offshoot of the Dutch Reformed.
    CU is usually Christian Union these days (since the 1970s). Most are affiliated with Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF). Generally Evangelical and Interdenominational, and often in the 70s and 80s the scene of strife between Charismatic and non-charismatic Evangelicals.

    SCM is officially liberal rather than progressive - there's no official stance on things such as Dead Horses for instance, and there is certainly a range of views amongst the wider membership. I'm a current member and the consensus amongst the paid staff tends to be 'all are welcome' without a doctrinal basis. I and many other members feel this may be a bit of an own goal - not that I want people to have to sign any kind of statement of beliefs à la CUs, but I think people generally want a clear official statement of beliefs to either agree or disagree with (on a range of things not just Dead Horses). SCM still has links to some fairly conservative groups eg the UK Peace Churches, and I think there is a sense of not wanting to upset the horses.

    I think UCCF is pretty solidly non-charismatic, or at least solidly Calvinist nowadays (NewFrontiers is I think still pretty influential). Fusion has emerged as a charismatic alternative though it's not in every university, and many individual CUs will have a more charismatic feel, but certainly in the CUs with a lot of input from centrally hired UCCF reps....I know of cases where local Vineyard, Elim et al pastors were made to feel extremely unwelcome and criticised for not being 'Biblical enough'. Some UCCF reps are more hands-off than others.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    'Except he wouldn't because he and your new incumbent were made in the likeness of the Demiurge, it seems.'

    Would that Demiurge be what I understand the Cathars and other Dualists to refer to as 'le Dieu mal'?

    If so, I agree.
    :wink:

    Yup :smile:
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    I've always found CUs very charismatic and generally encouraging their members towards charismatic churches. Indeed it was some years before I discovered that evangelical and charismatic weren't inseparable.
  • balaambalaam Shipmate
    Can the answer to why central churchmanship is dying out be anything to do with what has happened in the last 30 years in Christian Unions?

    I think not.

    Could it be that the decline is in this thread? The fixation on the intellectuals, on students and their ilk and not on what Jesus commended. Where are the Hungry being fed, strangers welcomed, naked clothed, sick tended and prisoners visited?

    In a modern setting where are the soup kitchens? Where are the food banks? Where are Street Angels helping drunk young people get home? Where is Christians Against Poverty active. These are largely Christian led. It is here where you find Christians, and it is here you find Christ, on the other side of the counter.

    Around here these are largely Evangelical led. That is why you'll find Evangelical churches in the towns. This is also a legacy of the Oxford Movement doing their smells and bells thing in the former pit towns. The High Church has a history of going into deprived areas where others don't or won't go. (Some of these have been uncooperative with neighbouring churches with female clergy, And are paying the cost, but nevertheless, their legacy remains.)

    So central churchmanship isn't as prominent in towns and cities. The Evangelical takeover of the CofE is simple, its not down to growth, but to lose members at a slower rate than the other branches of the church.

    But you can find central churchmanship in the Cof E. It is in the country parishes where one priest is in charge of four or five churches where getting thirty to a service is a good thing. Finding two musicians to go around the five churches is hard. But these small numbers are not the CofE's failure but its success. Church attendance per head of population is higher here than in urban areas, despite the urban areas having large traditional churches and even larger Evo ones.

    Yes, central churchmanship is being squeezed in cities and towns but is alive and well where mega-churches fear to tread, out in the countryside.
  • A few points ...

    New Frontiers is avowedly charismatic, albeit with a strong Calvinist flavour. So if they do have influence on UCCF affiliated Christian Unions then it's likely to have a charismatic flavour.

    Anyhow, we seem to have digressed into a discussion about university chaplaincies and Christian societies until the timely reminder that not every corner of these islands has a university on the doorstep.

    It's an interesting discussion though.

    I'm still waiting for comments and observations about the equivalent of 'central churchmanship' in Free Church settings.

    Any takers?
  • @balaam, I don't know. Christian Unions are far more powerful than one might think. Even I once went to a dance party with sermon hosted by one at a very prominent Evangelical church in London. I don't think I'd have gone if I'd known about a) the sermon, and b) the fact that the only refreshments would be different flavors of squash!

    Apropos some comments above, I've never met a young British Methodist. This surprises many Americans, particularly from the South, as Methodism is by far the biggest of the old "mainline" denominations here. There are not nearly as many Methodists as there are Baptists and independent Evangelicals, but there are certainly one or two Methodist churches that can rival all but the biggest evangelical megachurches. This is very different from when I attended a Methodist service in a gorgeous old chapel in England with a friend (actually a CofE priest) and his (now late) grandmother. In a congregation of about a dozen, we were the youngest by probably 50 years. The octogenarian set were enormously kind to me, but I quickly realized they thought I was his boyfriend (although both gay, we had never dated). So yes, they were kind, open-minded, and dying out.

    I have known three young members of the URC. Two became Anglican. Oddly (or perhaps not) they were on very different sides of the URC. One was a super conservative Evangelical who was involved with my undergraduate CU and attended the CofE church with the "dance party and sermon" mentioned above. She later went to work for what is perhaps the most famous ConEvo CofE church in the North of England. Despite her career in the CofE, I doubt she was ever confirmed.

    The other young URC who became an Anglican was an ultra-liberal young gay man who liked the URC's social liberalism but who also liked smells and bells. He was confirmed (I went to the confirmation), although I doubt he'd be happy to be called an orthodox Christian.

    The only young member of the URC I knew who stayed was very devoted to classical Reformed theology. Before he was thirty, he was an elder, which always sounds a bit funny to those of us who weren't raised with the lingo.


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