And the point here is

Sixteen years ago, St Stephen’s church in Bradford was on the verge of closure. Its congregation had dwindled to half a dozen, and the building – a “big old barn of a place”, in a predominantly Muslim area – was in poor repair. “People thought it had had its day,” said the Rev Jimmy Hinton.

Now, St Stephen’s is a vital hub, providing support and activities in an area of acute deprivation. The nave has been cleared of its pews, and heating has been installed. On a typical day, you might find an exercise class, a support group for asylum seekers and refugees, community meals being cooked and served, singing and stories for infants, mosaic-making, and people hunting for jobs or claiming benefits online.

Yes, sure, community stuff is good. And yet the point here is that the CoE can only fill the barns by not being religious any more. Which is odd really, as the places that do pack them in to the rafters for religious reasons are the places that do the fire and brimstone version.

8 thoughts on “And the point here is”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    So like my local library, it is a highly subsidised homeless shelter?

    Fair enough. If that is what they want to do. But religion ought to be about transforming lives. Not encouraging more dysfunction, but making sure people are born again. With the lower or the upper case.

  2. The Methodists were on the ball here, they built their church buildings as multi-function buildings rather than the CofE single-use grand edificies.

  3. ‘ But religion ought to be about transforming lives…’

    Religion always was about crowd control.

    Traditional religion has been replaced by the ersatz religion ‘the science’, still crowd control.

  4. “The role of religion is to console the unfortunate people of the world.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

    The West has become too prosperous to need consoling.

  5. If the C of E had some properly fierce fire and brimstone preachers rather than the present set of limp wristed milquetoast appeasers, then their congregations might return. People want their church to lead them, not be their pals.

  6. Agnostic bloke in Cumbria

    @ jgh
    As I understand it, and I’m really no expert on church history, until a couple of centuries ago churches were typically open, flexible, multi-use buildings. Then people came up with the idea that church buildings should be churches, and all the other stuff was “not appropriate”. AIUI it was also around this time that pews were inflicted on congregations.
    Of course, when you turf out all the community things, then the church loses part of it’s link with the community. Much of what many churches are doing is just turning back the clock by a couple of centuries – where the church building is a church on Sunday morning, and a community hall/events venue/whatever for the other 6 1/2 days of the week.
    It’s exactly what we’re trying to do at our church. Unfortunately, apart from the issue of finding the funds, there are those who object to such changes – typically people who never ever actually go to church ! I recall reading an article a little while ago about a church where it had taken something like 20 years and four incumbents to exhaust all avenues of complaint and appeal, and they could finally get rid of the pews.

    Of course, you get some interesting ideas. I noticed that the church mentioned installed heating as part of their changes. We have heating, but some people think we shouldn’t be using it yet (the weather isn’t cold enough yet) – “church is supposed to be cold”. When you’ve a congregation where most are already retired, and those who aren’t are counting down to it, sitting in the cold doesn’t hold much appeal !

    The reality is that having a building that’s only used for an hour a week, supported by an ageing and reducing congregation, just isn’t viable – there just isn’t the money coming in to pay for the upkeep of the building, and the costs of providing clergy to support it. To survive, the buildings need to be adapted to flexible venues – no fixed pews – that can be used for meetings, concerts, dances, and other uses that will bring in the cash needed to keep them going.

  7. Cumbrian: In my home town after the Quakers had expelled 40% of the membership, and another 50% followed them out in support*, they had to seriously rethink the use of the Meeting House. Luckily, it was a fairly generic ‘box’ building, and for decades it was the pre-NHS and early-NHS community doctors’ surgery, and Meeting House on Sundays. So much so that many residents think of it as “the old doctor’s” more than “the old Meeting House”.

    *There’s some fascinating history about the Quakers in Whitby, with “Head Office” coming into town and complaining about the locals making practical compromises as part of the community, resulting in most members leaving by 1900.

    **I don’t know the exact details, but in Sheffield the Friends sold the Meeting House in the ’70s and built a community centre, where the Meeting is Just Annother Community Group that hires the rooms***. Exactly how I’d run the local Liberal Club if the party hadn’t gone and sold the damn thing for thuppencehappenny.

    ***Soooo weird going to a Meeting where it was standing room only! My local has about five members!

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