Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 200 000 readers More than 10 000 links Updated every Sunday

New This Week
Everything new is here.

News Centre
News archive
News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Start here
Anglicans believe...
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
New Zealand

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
Awards and publicity
Beginnings, AO at 5
About our logo

Support AO
Shop for AO goods
Help support us!
Thanks to our friends

Our search engine


Hallo again to all.

Conrad Noel (1896-1942) was a fascinating Anglo-Catholic socialist crusader English priest who is not remembered as much as he should be. In his yearning for economic justice and his dedication to put an end to the abuses of those with power over those with none, he occasionally embraced too generously some of the more unrealistic socialist doctrines. But what shines through his sermons and his writings is his passion for advancing the Kingdom of Heaven, for linking what we do and say at the altar with what we do and say in our lives. Conrad Noel had no use for a beautiful liturgy unconnected to life. About his parish church in Thaxted, he wrote:

'The Thaxted experiment is by no means only concerned with the pulpit and the press, but just as much with the life of a group and the expression of that life in worship. Thaxted is becoming a place of pilgrimage for those who are tired of the sluggish routine and conventionalism of much modern Nonconformity and of the 'C. of E'. We are proud to claim membership in the Church of England for she is the Church of Anselm, of Becket, of those such as Langton and John Ball who fought for the freedom of the people, the Church of Laud in his fight against a narrow Calvinism and the oppression of the poor, and in still more modern times, the Church of Maurice and Kingsley, of Scott Holland and Stewart Headlam. All this the 'Church of England' calls to mind, but the 'C. of E.' is only another name for the Establishment, and the Establishment is the religion of the ratepayer, and the religion of the ratepayer is not a religion but a disease'.

Conrad NoelLeaving aside the political issues -- as hard as that may be with Noel -- we were struck this week by how easy it is for us 'churchy people' to slide into sluggish routine and conventionalism, doing our bit for the jumble sale and writing our various cheques to support this or that good cause. All well and good, but such a routine can be at best tepid and uninvolved and, at worst, pharisaic and judgemental. What is it that stirs our passion and connects what we pray, week after week, with the deepest energy and intensity of our lives? There are dangers, of course, in passionate intensity, but we think that Anglicans, in general, could use a little more positive passion.

We say 'positive', for there seems always to be around much energy expended in being against this or that. Pick any schism in church history and one sees the breakaway group defining itself by what it is not; the energy for the split seems to come from that and not from 'This is who and what we are and why we must go this way'. We fret a little that too many Anglicans, for too long, have been caught up in being against something that we're not very good at remembering what we're for. Lent seems the right time to look for that connection -- to find it for the first time or to rediscover it -- between the sanctuary and the street.

Of course there are men and women throughout the Anglican Communion doing astonishing things -- whether on a grand scale or at home in their neighbourhoods -- that incarnate the love of our Lord and advance the kingdom of heaven daily. Yet as we scan news from round the world, read the many Anglican-related email lists we're a part of, talk with people in our dioceses and parishes, often it seems that many of us are reacting to things rather than enabling and initiating. 'Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized' may be a truism, but it's a truism we'd like to brandish a bit more in committee meetings. So for a good part of this Lent, we'll focus on where best to put energy that builds up and enables. We'll watch for -- and fight against -- cynical criticism and negative energy.

Conrad Noel once wrote: 'To improve a church, take things out of it'.

He removed everything he could, even bad stained-glass windows. Unnecessary pews and choir-stalls disappeared. Brilliant hangings and vestments were brought in. Paint was used in suitable places, and simple things of good colour and workmanship found a home... The beauty and the atmosphere of the church silenced all heart searchings*.

What may be true of churches, we suspect, may also be true of lives.

See you next week.

Cynthia's signature
Brian's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 13 February 2005

*Quoted in TP Stevens 'Cassock and Surplus', 1947.

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2005 Society of Archbishop Justus