The Bishop of Lichfield, Jonathan Gledhill, told his Diocesan Synod, meeting in Stafford on Thursday night, that “One of the reasons for our recent decline is that we have stopped creating a fringe, and one reason for a declining fringe is that you have got to be quite tough to come to some of our services if you are not a regular attender.”

The bishop made it clear he was not attacking the Eucharist, but added: “the truth is that we Christians like Eucharists and we like them too much to make concessions to others. Paul had to rebuke the Corinthians for eating the Eucharistic bread and drinking the wine without thinking of their poor neighbours. Perhaps that is a little like us devising more and more intricate and beautiful services for our own use – and forgetting those who might come if we made things simpler for them to start with.”

He said the increased use of Eucharists had resulted in longer services that were less simple and inclusive; and that lay ministers had become disenfranchised. He said: “Morning Prayer used to last 50 minutes with a good sermon; Family Services only 45 minutes. But a sung Eucharist can take anything from an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half. Sometimes I find myself thinking that this is a good way of saying ‘Go away’ to young people who come to visit us.”

He added: “Anglicans are actually very good indeed at devising non-Eucharistic services at certain times and seasons: Harvest, Remembrance, Crib Services, Carol Services, and so on. Then there is the Family Service phenomenon, Taizé services, Messy Church and all sorts of things which build up a fringe of occasional worshippers.

“What I notice about these special services is that far more people come to them. They work because they put the thoughts and feelings of ordinary people into words that connect their lives with God. It is as if these services are for the whole community. That is one of the reasons why there is a Church of England – to serve the 75% of the population who call themselves Christians; and even beyond."

He added: “There is work for us all to do if we are going to raise our game and ask how different age groups who don’t normally come; and different sorts of people who don’t normally come; how they might be enabled to put their worship of God into words that make sense in this generation. And we can look at our regular pattern of worship from the point of view of those who might come and try us out; but as yet don’t come. Let’s provide a welcome for the outsiders and the occasional people as well as the regulars.”


WELL, WHAT DO YOU THINK? — 17 Comments

  1. What???

    Oh, goodness. There’s a lot I could say here but it’s really too early in the morning where I live…

    For now, let me just say that a Eucharist does not HAVE to last an hour and a half.

    Also, I had to put up with those dreadful “family services” when I lived in Dublin. For the life of me, I don’t see the appeal.

  2. Sung Eucharists taking anywhere from an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half? Not down here matey. Ours is done in 40 minutes. Any longer and I won’t make it to the next service in the next parish in time.

    And we sing. Though not the Eucharist setting, just 4 hymns. But even if the setting was sung, it wouldn’t add another 40 minutes to the service.

    I suspect this is another example of a Bishop not experiencing normal Sunday worship in a normal church, for everywhere he goes a special service is put on.

    And it’s not always the fault of the host parish. I once peeed off a Bishop for refusing to postpone a baptism already booked for the Sunday he decided he wanted to come and visit the church. He wasn’t impressed. And neither was I – with him and his self-importance.

  3. Once again we are hung up on “our numbers”. If we would get on with the wotk of Christ throughout the world and stop worrying about “our numbers”, stop making a scene because some of us are holier than others and stop being stupid our numbers would be just fine.

    There is nothing to say about the Eucharist that this guy is gonna get. Sounds to me like a very capable recruit for AMiE.

  4. MP,
    Your answer from our discussion the other day can be found both at Off Topic and real Anglicans. Thanks for your able assistance and great discernment.

  5. Just goes to show you that plopping a mitre on the head of an ignorant priest just makes him (or in more enlightened provinces, her) an ignorant bishop.

    Where did he go to theological college? Moody Bible Institute?

    That being said, where the heck is he seeing an hour and a half services? He’s not been to St. Matthew’s at the Elephant, so it can’t have been here. It’s perfectly possible to have a complete service with sermon and hymns and sung setting in 50 minutes.

    What he wants to substitute is a short service with a long sermon, methinks.

    Is he close to retirement, I hope?

  6. Wow! Talk about explosive subjects! Ahem! as one who has lived on both sides of the Tiber…..I would say that the style (and therefore to some degree, the length ) of service depends a lot on the financial and cultural and theological state of the parish.)
    Within a 2 state area, I have attended Episcopal churches that vary wildly. One I visited was so Protestant that the program listed the scripture readings as “Bible”. time: in and out 40 min. My last parish next to a University- Every Sunday except summer, all sung liturgy, classical Anglican chant, works of Turner, Byrd, etc. At least an hour and fifteen min and sometimes an hour and one half. There an Anglo Catholic theology with an Evangelical Rector is practically a cult managed by a tight little crew, and pastoral care is also for that little crew.The liturgy is beautiful, long and sometimes it would have helped to have a PhD to follow it.Beautiful but tedious at times.
    During the Vii period, liturgy in RC churches sometimes varied a lot – not the Mass form itself, but style and music etc. A missionary returning from Africa told me that there, Anglicans, following the PB carefully, were known as “People of the Book’. I think what this bishop is trying to get at is that there is a certain formalism in
    Anglican liturgy which is so ‘correct’ that it is hard to make it come across as personal and intimate.
    I went on retreat with a group of Confirmation candidates to a new to me retreat house once and learned a big lesson. As we came into the main room, every student (about 30)was casually (but purposefully) asked to do some little task. So no sooner there than involved in the work of the retreat and therefore a little bit of ownership of it. Boy! did that work to get them into the community of it! You can have all kinds of liturgy, but if you don’t accept and really include people in activity and perhaps some task in or around the liturgy then it becomes a performance to be heard and seen but not really ‘owned’, not truly experienced by the heart.
    Gee, that’s a long 2 cents worth, bye for now!

  7. He’s quite right. You go to a Cathedral service and by the time the choir have sung various incomprehensible anthems well over an hour and a half has passed and you are none the wiser.

    Even my lowish church takes an hour and fifteen.

    Last time I went to Dublin, Ellie, there was more than one church.

  8. Yes, of course, Agatha! Except I’m talking about the parish church where I was on staff. I sort of had an obligation there….! 🙂

  9. “raise our game”


    Is it just me, or is +Gledhill (relation to Our Ruth?) calling for an Either/Or approach?

  10. Nonsense.

    A spoiled child who is complaining because he has to spend too much time away from his games.

    God forbid you should actually take time to introduce people to the service, or produce anything to help them, or have people willing to guide them in the service. It sounds like it’s a “show” to this bishop – this is a bishop? Really? – who feels it’s going a little long and not leaving him enough time for golf. I guarantee you he’s spent a good deal of sermon time, too, lamenting how many Christians think Church is something you just “do” Sundays! Wonder why?

    The rebuke from Paul – did he actually read the passage he’s quoting, or just come across a paraphrase on the back of a cereal packet? Because it sounds like he’s not actually familiar with it.


    If he wants to increase the “fringe,” a better suggestion, given their recent performances, would be for the CofE to get rid of their bishops!

  11. A while back I was visiting New York and had a lunch engagement on Morningside Heights, my old university stomping grounds. The service at St. John the Unfinished…er…Divine was at 11 and I thought that I’d have lots of time to get to lunch at 12:30 after the service.

    Well, it started on time, but there were several commissionings, a long sermon, and then a large number of Baptisms. At 12:30 they’d just gotten to the Offertory (1.5 hours, remember…) and I had to duck out to get to my lunch date.

    I realise that like many Cathedrals, St. John the Divine has a parish, and parish life includes baptisms, but piling everything up in one service risks boring the tourists (of whom there were many) and upsetting people who were expecting a reasonable length service.

    Canon West of saintly memory, the Sub-Dean in the 1970’s when I was attending Columbia and flirting with the Episcopal Church (we didn’t consummate our relationship until 1988), would never have countenanced a Sunday service that long. I’m sure his ashes underneath the Compass Rose at the crossing were heating up in indignation.

    The captcha below is “verses”–how appropriate.

  12. Each Sunday, we have two Eucharists in my church, an early service without music, which doesn’t run much over 30, or at most, 40 minutes, including a sermon.

    At the later Eucharist, we sing maybe 6 hymns along with the Gloria, sometimes the Psalm, Holy, Holy, Holy, and th acclamation after the consecration. The entire congregation sings all of the hymns, except on special occasions. We leave church about 1 hour and 10 minutes after the beginning.

    What I do think would be a good thing is to have Morning Prayer services perhaps once each month. Morning Prayer is inclusive in a way that the Eucharist is not. Even if communion is completely open to all, not all will want to receive for various reasons. It’s possible that visitors who are not regular members of the congregation may be more likely to attend a Sunday service occasionally if Morning Prayer was available.

  13. Fine, if you offer Eucharist as well as the Morning Prayer, otherwise, no!

    Wow. Have we finally gotten so McDonaldized that we can’t wait more than an hour for one freaking day a week? Do we have so little gratitude, committment and sheer joy in our faith? If you don’t like the length of cathedral services, don’t go. If it goes too long to suit you, leave. If you’re bored, you went for entertainment, and, guess what, that’s not what a church service is.

  14. Mark, my reason for suggesting Morning Prayer services is not to save time or have a short service. And I don’t see how Morning Prayer is like McDonald’s. Morning Prayer was, at one time, more the norm than Eucharists every Sunday.

  15. And . . . again . . . as long as you offer the Eucharist in addition to the Morning Prayer service, that’s fine. Otherwise, it is simply another Bible study, and we say the Eucharist has no meaning for us as sustenance – it’s just another show we put on occasionally as the Baptists do.

    I find it “McDonald’s” because it homogenizes it for everybody’s tastes, and so no one gets all offended at not feeling welcome to take communion. Call it accessibility if you like – what it boils down to is one size fits all to increase our market share.

  16. I’m sorry if you’re offended, Mimi, but this is one of those sticking places for me – if the Episcopal Church decided to go back to the old norm of Eucharist once a month or so and Morning Prayer every other Sunday, I would not stay on like some and harangue about losing your way, but I would believe TEC had lost its way and its charism and I would leave.

    I simply cannot fathom how people for whom communion means nothing more than a little symbolic act to be done like Christmas or Easter have any desire to be in a liturgical church, when there’s the Methodist Church – which has a little liturgy here (Baptists in robes, as they’re called), more elsewhere. Why bother? Just go and sit and listen to a preacher for an hour. I say that the same way I say that Covenanters have Rome or the Orthodox to look to.

    I’m sorry, but this is one of those few points in ecclesial discussion I get absolutely ferocious about, even with friends and allies. Rather than looking at what market-based approach we can use to get bigger crowds, why don’t we see what’s wrong with the message that we each present that our worship and faith, in themselves, offer no compelling attraction to those around us.

  17. Mark:

    I believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

    I love the Eucharist service.

    Morning Prayer is a liturgy.

    I have no power whatsoever to bring my suggestion to pass, so you can relax. 🙂