Letters from the week of 8 - 14 January 2017
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A House of Prayer?
Your editorial of January 7, 2018 on church tourism leads me to an interesting observation from a family holiday to Great Britain this past summer. There is a move afoot to encourage all churches - especially those in the C of E - to remain open for tourism, prayer, shelter, quite, a time of reflection or to investigate faith. In speaking with a Church Warden at a parish in Keswick, Cumbria I was delighted to learn that churches are endeavouring to be open during the week and for volunteers to be on-site to meet and greet.
While I understand that it is not always possible to have a volunteer available for every time slot in every church, the very notion of churches being open beyond Sunday worship brings joy to my heart. Be it the wandering pilgrim or the homeless - the church should be a place of welcome, comfort and security.
As a pilgrim who takes interest in visiting isolated village churches in North Wales as much as grand basilicas in London, I am taken aback when I am expected to pony up 10 pounds or more to visit a Cathedral. Even amid Canterbury's layers of scaffolding, there is an expectation that tourist or pilgrim alike pay on entry. As a church fundraiser I am neither naïve or unsympathetic to the financial burdens facing churches today. Declining parish rolls - and sometimes increasingly stingy donors - make for challenging times. Day to day costs have increased while maintenance is routinely deferred. It is not easy.
Still it seems to me that we would fair a lot better if we encourage free-will giving or sought out sponsorship to allow for the free visitation of pilgrims. On one hand we encourage churches to remain open and then on the other we try to squeeze as many shekels as possible from history buffs. There is a contradiction here.
Fortunately there is not a tax on prayer even if there is a tax on access (though I suppose some enterprising capitalist has thought of this). The fee for entry will not prevent my visitation (I'm sure parish treasurers sleep better knowing that) but I wrestle with having to pay to visit a house of prayer. I know Rome does it as much as Canterbury. It just doesn't sit well with me.
Anglican Diocese of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
9 January 2018
Several years ago we had the worst Christmas Eve service ever at Washington National Cathedral. The service itself was great and beautiful, but we were surrounded by tourists barely masked as worshippers. Hardly anyone around us participated, and we got strange looks and stares because we were participating in worship. It was the weirdest experience I've ever had. Felt like I was in a zoo - "Ohhh look at the Episcopalian in its native habitat." There might have even been some pictures taken of us worshipping.
Holy Trinity, Wenonah, New Jersey, USA
9 January 2018
Many years ago I attended the Good Friday liturgy at the Washington Cathedral. The cathedral was inundated with tourists who chose the most inopportune times to move about the cathedral as a group. Had this been almost any other occasion, their presence would not have seemed quite so intrusive. I wrote the powers that be to complain and received the response that the tourists could not be controlled! I leave the interpretation of that to your readers.
Fr. Carlton Kelley
St. John's, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania USA
9 January 2018
A friend and I decided to have a half an hours prayer in a chapel in Guildford Cathedral. We nearly got thrown out because a guide thought we were up to no good, staying in a chapel so long!
St Mary Magdalene's
Adelaide South Australia
8 January 2018
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