Friday, 11 February 2011

"Let me entertain you" - or "Let us pray"?

Across on Countercultural father on a post about the Methodist "ordinations" at Liverpool's Catholic Cathedral (see also James Preece) a comment was made by Richard Collins (who's blog is always worth reading) ...

The thing that buzzes around in my head is WHY? Do they not have a Hall of their own to hold the service in?

As the above photos show, the Methodists did have a splendid hall. Grand Central Hall, a Grade II listed building, was opened in 1905 as the Central Hall of the Liverpool Wesleyan Mission, and had a capacity of 3,576 people. It seems to have been a little large for it's original use and was also used from its opening until at least 1944 as the New Century Picture Hall cinema.

In the Liverpool Echo, dated 28 October 1922, the mixing of religious services with cinema shows was explained thus by the Reverend T.A. Turney:
"Cinematograph entertainments are given every Saturday night from the first Saturday in October to the last in March. They were designed to introduce "down-and-outers" to the (Methodist) Mission. Our prices of admission are 3d and 5d. We have an organ recital, a hymn, and short prayer, and then a concert, followed by one long picture.
"Though we select our pictures very carefully, we have no difficulty in finding those of the right type. The films include such as "Torn Sails", "All Sorts and Conditions of Men", by Walter Besant, and "Andy Hardy"."We have very large crowds at the concerts, and also at the Sunday night services. We can seat 2300, but often we are packed so early that I have to begin the service a quarter of an hour before time.
"As I have said, the concerts and services are designed for those whom others might term "undesirables", and a great deal of good is being done."

From 1933 to 1939 the hall was the home of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra while the Philharmonic Hall was rebuilt following a fire.

In 1990 the Methodists sold Central Hall and the building became the Barcelona bar and nightclub. A seemingly strange transaction considering the Methodists traditional disdain for alcohol! (Although we as Catholics are not guiltless in this - St Peter's in Seel Street, Liverpool (the oldest church in the city built in 1788) is now "Alma de Cuba" Bar
Here are some photos (from their "Vampire Carn-Evil" in October 2010) to give you some of the reasons why a sacred place should not be sold to the highest bidder.

But ... back to the Methodists. What it also shows is that the desire to attract people to religion by tossing in some entertainment doesn't really work - the Methodists have obviously been trying it since the 1920's and they no longer have their building or even the ambition and enthusiasm that led them to build such an impressive edifice. Putting on Mass with a Disco afterwards to lure in the young still doesn't work in our own day. The challenge of radical Catholicism - the fullness of the Faith - perhaps speaks more to idealistic young people looking for something different from what they see in the world around them; something that gives a strong group identity.

The Church should never say, "Let me entertain you" - it never works.
It should always say, "Let us pray" - that always works.


P Standforth said...

At first glance I though that picture was of a part of Westminster Cathedral. on a trip to Edinburgh recently I noticed that the Methodist Hall there was also up for sale.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, from all the reports and photographs of Youth Ministry activities 'Let me entertain you' seems to be the watchword, rather than 'let us pray'. The Youth Ministry has been going for more than 15 years and all we hear is how wonderful it is, and how it is deepening the faith of our children. From the always glowing reports that come out of these youth events it would follow that our churches should be packed with young people between the ages of 10 and 25. Where are they? Most have lapsed before they leave school. Youth Ministry, despite the best intentions of those who are deeply involved, has been a disaster for Catholic youth. In the best interests of our young people the youth ministry projects should be abandoned and the previous norms should apply where R.I. (Religious Instruction - not Religious Education) should be taught in the classroom using the basics of the old catechism, and this should be reinforced in the home and in church by the priest on Sundays. I often wonder how St Bernadette, St Dominic Savio, and St Therese, grew in faith without the advantages of Youth Ministry.


Jacobi said...


"and in church by the priest"

May I take up a point from the anonymous contributer which I feel strongly about. We are now living effectively in a pagan society again, and that includes many Catholics in the pews who after two or more generations of so-called "Catholic" religious education in our Catholic schools have but a rudimentary knowledge of the Faith or worse still consider it acceptable to pick and choose.

I see no signs that this is changing so it is essential that Catholic priests return to the old practice of teaching the Catholic Faith, including specifics of Catholic doctrine as part of the Sunday, and week day, sermon.

Some might get up and leave but then you will only be hastening the inevitable, and in any case these things are ultimately in the hands of God.

torchofthefaith said...

These photos from the old St. Peter's in Seel Street reveal the depths to which we have plumbed.

This is nothing short of sheer evil.

Quite honestly we should all be in sackcloth and ashes from the Archbishop down to ourselves.

Adulio said...

Quite honestly we should all be in sackcloth and ashes from the Archbishop...

Quite frankly, why should we make reparation for the faults of the clergy? The current crisis in the church is something of a top-bottom problem: a revolution from the papacy down to the pew. The confusion that ensued the church, after Paul VI, has been devastating. No: the blame lies squarely on the post conciliar popes, who have let the church rot with their reforms.

torchofthefaith said...


What I am referring to here is the distressing and grave evil of half-dressed drunken young people promoting vampyrism on the sanctuary area of a former Catholic Church.

We would all well to do penance for this advance of Anti-Christ - whether we be priest or laity.

Also - your argument that we should not do penance for the faults of the clergy is not what one reads in the lives of the saints.