From THE DIOCESE OF LICHFIELD:
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.”