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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Getting serious about the Parish

The parish church here, barely 150m away, is a wonderful late Victorian affair and bears testimony to the new parishes carved out out of the old Mediaeval ones as the rail lines out of central London spawned a ring of new development in what is now Zone 2. With the new terraces and rail stations came parades of local shops, pubs and churches. In 15 years, I've never been inside it. But neither, in 15 years, has the vicar, who lives in a rather splendid ivy-clad attached dwelling, ever knocked on my door to invite me to do so. In fact he (or she, as far as I know) has been invisible, never even once seen in the corner co-op, never a single glimpse of a clerical collar on the street. And never, in 15 years, has a single parish newsletter ever dropped onto my doormat. Coming from a Suffolk village in which one bumped into the vicar on the village street at least once or twice a week, and greeted him by name, this is extraordinary. 

I'm a firm believer in the potential of the local parish church to be the centre of the whole community, whatever the caste or creed of those in the parish, the duty to one's neighbour coming rather higher on the list than either the 39 articles or the Catholic catechism. In Suffolk, villagers of all faiths packed the church for carol services and harvest festivals and the like, each having a moral lien on the physical church if not any clear tie to the church spiritual. 

So come on, London vicars all. Eschew all that introvert obsessioning that's seen you turn your backs on your parishes and get your coats on. Walk your streets pushing a parish newsletter through each letter box; stand outside the convenience store and give sweets to the kiddies, visit everyone who newly moves in, use the church as a meeting place, clearing house, bazaar and living room for the community. Few will be offended, many more will be delighted. It's time you learned from your country cousins. 


talwin said...

"... give sweets to the kiddies,..." Well, nowadays, sadly, only if you want to risk finding yourself on the child protection register!

Anonymous said...

Its not just in the urban areas that this happens either. I live in a small Cornish village of about 120 households. The parish church is 2 miles away in another bigger village. I have never seen the vicar here. We have a parish magazine but it is not run by the vicar or the church.

In effect the Church has just abandoned us to our fate.

malpas said...

Sounds like you all want a good socialist church who will do all the work.
Why cannot you do a bit spontaneous like?

malpas said...

Sounds like you all want a good socialist church who will do all the work.
Why cannot you do a bit spontaneous like?