While we can stream services, and are still able to help people through our food banks, most priests and churchgoers have been feeling impotent and frustrated over the last few months. Those feelings have bubbled over into anger about priests not being able to be in our church buildings, streaming from there rather than from our kitchen tables — as the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, did on Easter Day.
This article is not about that debate, and indeed we are now back at our altars. Don’t get me wrong — it raised important questions, and I took part in it. It was however a brittle debate, with a lack of charity on both sides. And that is not the voice the country wanted or needed to hear in the midst of a national crisis. Rather than speaking to the nation, we spoke to ourselves. And that was a major failing as the established church. Job, early on in his proverbial sufferings, is told: “Your words have supported those who were stumbling, and you have made firm the feeble knees. But now it has come to you, and you are impatient; it touches you, and you are dismayed.” That is the Church of England right now.
The reason for our failure is a lack of confidence. We have so much to say at a time like this — about how to cope with death, how prayer can give structure to our days, about the nature of sacrifice for the good of one another, how love conquers death. We are saying these things in our parishes and putting it into action. But we shot ourselves in the foot when it came to the kind of spiritual guidance the country needed. Some were saying those things, including Justin Welby, but they weren’t heard because of the white noise we were also producing by our internal fractiousness.
The Church of England faltered when our country needed spiritual guidance | London Evening Standard https://t.co/wMEOYNnzxa
— Giles Fraser (@giles_fraser) June 9, 2020