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Hallo again to all.

This week's Anglican News has several related reports of the decline of Anglicanism and of attendance at Anglican churches. You've heard these sky-is-falling reports for years, so you probably didn't read these. (Two recent reports are linked in our News Centre this week.) These reports add authority without adding information: you've already heard what they say, whether or not you find it relevant. Yes, it's true. Fewer and fewer people go to church on Sunday (Anglican or otherwise) than once did. (The Revd Erik Parker, a Lutheran pastor in Canada, has written a brilliant reflection about whether or not this seeming decline is real and whether you should worry.)

Cardboard Cathedral, Diocese of Christchurch, NZ

We are always fascinated by the finger-pointing that accompanies every report of a decline in attendance at worship services. Everyone seems to try to blame someone else for it. 'People aren't attending churches because they have become too permissive!' 'People aren't attending churches because they are hidebound, stuck in the past.' 'People aren't attending churches because the church leaders (do/don't) condemn this or that behavior.'

This week we saw a new allocation of blame for the decline in church attendance. It was in a weblog on the site '', which leads us to believe that it was written by someone named Richard Moy. It is the fashion in weblogs to write almost anonymously, requiring the reader to work hard to determine the identity of the writer. We chose not to research it, though we are fairly certain that the weblog author Richard Moy is not the California bunion surgeon turned up by search engines.

In any event, the semi-anonymous Mr Moy has written a note entitled 'Dear Deans', in which he laments that in his numerous recent visits to cathedrals around England, he was dismayed to find that in general no one was preaching. A few days later, the Provost* of St Mary's Cathedral in Glasgow, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth, answered with 'A Scottish Response'. We find Fr Holdsworth's points to be so compelling that we are going to quote parts of his response as well as urge you to read it.

'... once you hang the word cathedral outside a building it somehow takes on a whole bunch of expectations that arise from that world.'

Catedral Cristo Rey, DiĆ³cesis Litoral, Guayaquil

Yes, turning a church into a cathedral by putting a placard outside and making no other physical changes will change drastically the way that the public understands and experiences the building. Fr Holdsworth goes on to note

'God meets people in silence. God meets people in music. God meets people lurking behind pillars wondering who they are and where they fit into the grand scheme of things.'

We recall a song from a motion picture a few decades ago. The song was 'Looking for love in all the wrong places'. So often we feel that people are looking for God in all the wrong places. We know several who have given up on church attendance but still firmly believe in God, and tell us from time to time about their visits to seashores and mountain tops and dark forest glens, hoping to encounter God. Looking for God inside a cathedral would seem to be a sensible choice as these things go, but having someone standing over there giving a homily over the public address system while you are trying to find God could be an impediment, couldn't it? The role of the priest in a cathedral might evolve from intercessor to docent, but the goals are constant: help communicate the Christian faith. As oft attributed to St Francis of Assisi, 'Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.'

Don't forget to read Fr Holdsworth's brief essay. We think it's important.

See you next week.

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All of us at Anglicans Online

7 June 2015

*The phrases 'Dean of a cathedral' and 'Provost of a cathedral' mean pretty much the same thing.

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