Letter: C of E cannot stand alone

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Dean of Wells's rehearsal (Letters, 14 September) of the traditional Church of England mantra about ministering to the whole nation is unlikely to impress "clergy at the coalface".

Sixteen thousand church buildings makes an average of more than two per parochial minister. Take into account the number of assistant curates, those on holiday, day off, sabbatical, ill or in domestic disarray and the number actually "on the beat" shrinks alarmingly. The discrepancy between what the C of E delivers in theory and in practice is vast.

Add in the vestigial confirmation rate - one person in a thousand per annum - the revolution in the marriage market, the unavailability of clergy for funerals in urban areas and the number of dioceses balancing their books by interregna, and any rational person must conclude that another way forward is necessary.

As always, the Holy Spirit provides. Ministry to the whole nation is being renewed in those places where churches of all traditions are working together in a common task, not repudiating their denominational inheritance, but laying aside the exclusive arrogance and alienation which has impeded the Christian cause for generations.

Examples of good ecumenical practice abound up and down the country. The sooner dignitaries lay aside the illusions fostered by their mode of appointment and use their ability and creativity and the resources at their disposal to work ecumenically, the sooner things will begin to look up for the churches.

DAVID PERRY

Shared Parish Church of St Augustine Skirlaugh, Humberside

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