Thursday 8 July 2021

It’s all so cringeworthy...

 New and exciting liturgies to augment that dull old Eucharist we've been stuck with for the last 2,000 years.

I've just read an interesting article by Giles Fraser on the Unherd site.  It's focus is the Church of England and while I don't feel myself competent to commentate on the details of the Anglican situation, some of his observations seem cannily close to my own opinions on what is transpiring in the Catholic Church, at least here in the UK. Not surprising, as there seems to be an element in the Catholic Church in England that looks to the C of E as a great example to emulate. I don't approve of this back to front reasoning but it is in the same mold as those Catholics who think we should follow the shibboleths of the secular world around us, so that we might impress them with our trendiness.

Giles Fraser is definitely against the glossy, big production makeovers that focus our attention on doing something new (for which, read passing fad) rather than remaining faithful to great gifts God has already given us to live and preach the Gospel of Life. I'm afraid I include in this category of great fan-fared initiatives the recent Synod here in my own Archdiocese of Liverpool. We're so busy having meetings about evangelization that we never get around to the actual evangelizing.

Here and the results by number here.

You don't need to read far into it before you realize the preponderance of all the sacred cows echoing so noisily from every woke campaigner the BBC seems so keen to promote whenever it can. 

I particularly liked Giles Fraser's final paragraphs.

So, what is the answer? After all, the proponents of evangelism first do have a point – the Church of England is dying fast. First, I would say that all efforts to put evangelism first are self-defeating. The Church feels like a gauche teenage boy going out to the pub deliberately to find a girlfriend, covering himself with cheap aftershave and rehearsing his unconvincing chat-up lines. It’s all so cringeworthy and needy. The way you make yourself attractive to others is by being fully yourself, and having confidence in what you are – even if that is a little strange and different. It’s when you stop obsessing about attracting others that you become more attractive to them.

But also, the church is not called to be successful. It is called to be faithful. I would prefer for us to die with dignity, being faithful to our calling, rather than to turn ourselves inside out trying to be superficially attractive, thus abandoning the faith as we have understood it. Indeed, the Bible is full of stores of the faithful remnant. In Biblical theology, the remnant are those faithful people that survive some catastrophe. Today, these are the people who come to church, faithfully to say their prayers — people of devotion and not necessarily of evangelistic vim and vigour. They are the beating heart of the parish. Eleanor Rigby, Father McKenzie: these are my heroes. And long term, these are our most effective evangelists. I am deeply offended that they are now called passengers.

Secularisation is indeed a catastrophe for the churches. But we won’t outlast this period of history by being more business-like or by adopting slicker models of evangelistic marketing. We won’t be saved by panicky spread-sheet evangelists, Indeed, we must be more of what we have been called to be – more thoughtful, more prayerful, less fearful, more obedient to God’s call. We are resurrection people after all. Institutional death should hold out no terror for the faithful. And it will only be this lack of fear that can make us attractive once again.


David O'Neill said...

BRAVO Fr Simon!! An erudite expose on the situation. I've also just read "Fr Z's Blog" which is much in line with yours. God bless

F Marsden said...

Very good passage from Giles Fraser!