Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Middle Class – moi?

Today we have more predictable pre Back to Church Sunday (27th September in the U.K.) chatter from some very middle class bishops ironically bemoaning the middle class image of the Church of England (and the Church in Wales.) “How do we attract the Asda (Walmart) and Aldi demographic?” they ask. Perhaps by not abandoning the apostolic faith once delivered, one is almost tempted to argue.
But a more serious question needs to be posed: when did the Church in England and Wales ever command the active allegiance of the populace? When did the population at large ever feel they owned the Church? The answer to that certainly appears to be (apart from in isolated pockets) not since the sixteenth century when the active participation of “the people” in ecclesiastical life and liturgy through the parish guilds and other associations was taken away from them by the wealthy and the literate. What do the Anglican bishops intend to do about that one?
As Fr A.H. Maconochie is reputed to have said, there is something about protestant truth which is consonant with great wealth! If 450 years ago, most of the aristocracy and the growing middle classes embraced (much to their own material benefit) a form of pared-down and nationalised Church life which effectively excluded the “lower orders,” we can hardly be surprised at the middle class image of the Church of today. Can we, my Lords?
There again, perhaps we could put together a committee of the great and the good to report back on the problem.

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