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Tony Grist

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Thoughts Of A Former Anglican [Jun. 14th, 2012|11:25 am]
Tony Grist
I started writing an angry piece about the Church of England and gay marriage and then pulled up short. What was the point?  I left the church a quarter century ago because everything about it was so annoying and that really should have been the end of the matter. How does it hurt me that it's placing itself "on the wrong side of history" again? It's what it does. What it's persistently done. It's not as if it'll win.  

It's the assumption of the moral and spiritual high ground that offends me most- that people who know so little about God should presume to speak on behalf of Him/Her/It. Bah! I persist (I don't know why) in expecting better of them. It saddens me that all they seem to care about is what goes on in other people's bedrooms.

I have, I suppose, a vision of what the Church might be. A city set upon a hill. The New Jerusalem. A light to the world. I joined the gang with that vision in mind and quickly found it was all about- other things. 

Individual Christians do sometimes embody that vision. The Church does its best to smother them.

Happily the Church matters less and less. A Tory PM is defying it in the knowledge that it can't really hurt him. How odd that I should be backing a Tory P.M against the Church!

I worry about the buildings. I love old churches. They hold the history and culture of their communities and some of them are (or contain) amazing works of art.  Who will maintain them when the silly old Anglicans are so reduced they can't afford to keep the roofs on? 

[User Picture]From: petercampbell
2012-06-14 10:55 am (UTC)
The churches will end up as houses if they're lucky, or will be used for storage, or will end up as rubble: which is a shame, because they are such beautiful buildings. Impractical though, that's the problem
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-14 11:15 am (UTC)
I hope the best of them will be handed over the Heritage organisations.
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[User Picture]From: theperfectfool
2012-06-14 11:17 am (UTC)
I have these same thoughts and it saddens me.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2012-06-14 11:46 am (UTC)
We have that issue here, where there is no established church. In our little neighborhood of a little more than a square mile, we've lost one Roman Catholic church and several flavors of AME. The RC building was sold to a Baptist congregation that decided the neighborhood wasn't for them, so it's now going to be repurposed as condos. Three AME churches with two blocks have been demolished to be replaced with condos. We are worrying about our block -- the entire south side is taken up by two large building churches. One is RC and was intended to be the "cathedral" for South Philadelphia. The other is originally Anglican and now Baptist, also intended to be the Episcopal large footprint in south Philadelphia. Both have massive education buildings. The RC buildings have been repurposed as a senior center, an independent school, and "for sale." The massive sanctuary with basement-level basketball court remains. Judging from the activity in the Baptists' education building, I gather that they've rented out the space, which is a good thing.

Last time I looked, your old parish church here in Kingsessing was still standing.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-14 12:39 pm (UTC)
This surprises me. I thought the Churches were flourishing in The States, but perhaps that's more of a rural phenomenon.

I'm glad St James is still there. It's a pretty church.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2012-06-14 12:24 pm (UTC)
We are already getting begging letters from our church, which is unremarkable apart from a John Piper window. The missive says "make sure your church is here for christenings, weddings and funerals". They've already given up on anyone actually wanting any more than brief ceremonials out of the C of E.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-14 12:37 pm (UTC)
And if the Church throws a hissy fit and stops doing weddings...

Really they'll be cutting their own throats if they carry through with the threat.
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[User Picture]From: faunhaert
2012-06-14 12:32 pm (UTC)
i've seen some make great museums-

the church building and art is preserved
the class rooms become galleries
and they use the hall for public gathers-art fairs & concerts

just not the sunday propaganda shindigs.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-14 12:41 pm (UTC)
That happens over here as well.

We were in York quite recently. It has many medieval churches- most of them now converted to other uses.
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[User Picture]From: cluegirl
2012-06-14 12:33 pm (UTC)
I spent my honeymoon in the Trossachs district of Scotland, where several of the churches had been converted into museum spaces, to the horror of the local faithful. To me though, it seemed a lovely symmetry -- the thatrical architecture of performance religion turned over to the theatrical recreation of ages past.

We have a turn-of-century Catholic church in a neighboring borough that is ground zero for a big civic fight at present. The church sold the property, and now the developers want to level the structure and put up a strip mall. Needless to say, the townspeople are LIVID at this idea, but it's not yet clear if anybody can do anything to stop it.

As a witch, I'm not that attached to the idea of God's House for his Mouthpiece. As an artist and craftsman, however, I am sick at the idea of that beautiful creation being thrown away because someone feels they need another goddamned McDonalds.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-14 01:04 pm (UTC)
I'm afraid we're going to face more and more of these dilemmas.

Obviously we can't keep all our redundant churches, but...
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[User Picture]From: wlotus
2012-06-14 01:26 pm (UTC)
I walked away from fundamentalist/conservative Christianity years ago, and I still rant and rave from time to time about them. Like you, I wonder why I still care what they do. Perhaps it's because they are still hurting people, and I care enough about people to want that to stop.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-14 05:23 pm (UTC)
Yes, they hurt people: that's the fundamental reason for continuing to fight them.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2012-06-14 01:28 pm (UTC)
Was the C of E ever on the right side of history?

Honestly? I expect the cupidity of your ruling class to win the day. Anything of value will eventually be stripped and sold at bargain prices. Since neither Labor nor the Tories have any intention of fixing the economy, and since there is no reason to think that the confidence fairy will magically appear and fix it for them, I expect the fire sale to begin much sooner than you imagine.
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[User Picture]From: negothick
2012-06-14 03:52 pm (UTC)

Some random thoughts. . .

France went through this 200 years ago!Think of the Revolution turning cathedrals into "Temples to Reason." And any number of churches were repurposed as government offices, which is why the Sainte-Chappelle is still reached by way of courts and a prison. At least they valued the architecture and the stained glass and didn't destroy those.
And how about all those ruined abbeys in Britain? "Lines from Tintern Abbey" come to mind. Many ruined cloisters in France ended up in America: See The Cloisters in Manhattan, along with the Unicorn Tapestry, bought (some would say at fire-sale prices) by medievalist billionaires. Today's generation of nouveau super-riche are not inclined to collect ancient parish churches. . .
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[User Picture]From: ooxc
2012-06-14 04:47 pm (UTC)
Or sell them to the Roman Catholic dioceses - admittedly, I know of only four - or share them with the Roman Catholic parishes - I know of four - or turn them into Arts Centres - I've been to jazz concerts in two - the sounds were amazingly good
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-14 06:11 pm (UTC)
Do the Catholics- whose congregations are shrinking too- have any need of them?
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[User Picture]From: veronikos
2012-06-14 05:52 pm (UTC)
We're going to turn them into museums and stock them with the cultural treasures that Mother Church has swallowed over the centuries.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-14 06:12 pm (UTC)
Like Hagia Sophia in Constantinople...
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[User Picture]From: daisytells
2012-06-14 08:06 pm (UTC)
Although fundamentalist Christian sects and structures like the famous Crystal Cathedral are flourishing here in the States, age-old RC churches and some Methodist and other mainline protestant churches are rapidly being sold off by their several archdioceses or conferences.

One magnificent old structure in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts (the Blessed Sacrament Church and its school, rectory, convent and church hall) has been turned into condos and stores. We have no idea of what became of some of the beloved statuary and other works of "art" that adorned the interior. What is alarming is that this was one of Boston's largest and richest parishes as recently as twenty five years ago.

It is not just this one church that has suffered this fate. There are literally hundreds of them.

Sometimes parishioners stage a "Live-in" keeping twenty four hour vigils for months at a time in order to prevent closings, all to no avail. My own sister was part of one of those at St. Albert the Great in Weymouth, Massachusetts. They stalled off the inevitable for almost three years, but ultimately the church was sold and converted to other uses.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-15 08:38 am (UTC)
There's a church in Salford- early 19th century- very prominently placed- that has been converted into flats. Whenever we drive past we speculate on what it must be like to live there.

I'd rather churches were converted to other uses than demolished. Once they're gone they're gone.
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[User Picture]From: faunhaert
2012-06-15 12:46 pm (UTC)
i found this looks liek others feel the same

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-15 01:36 pm (UTC)
There's also an organisation called The Churches Conservation Trust. I've visited one or two of their buildings.
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[User Picture]From: qatsi
2012-06-15 07:46 pm (UTC)
It always surprises me that the Church is always headline news. To me it's an irrelevant organisation.

Still, I agree with your earlier comments about the crypt of St Martin's-in-the-Fields. It's a splendid central London venue for a quick meal.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-06-16 08:47 am (UTC)
Journalism is caught in a time warp. It still thinks Bishops and their opinions matter.

My bro-in-law introduced us to St Martin's. The food's good and the ambience unique.
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