RE-PITCHING THE TENT, Richard Giles, The Canterbury Press, Norwich, 1996, pbk, xv + 237pp, ISBN 1-85311-119-8, £14.95.
IN 1948, George Addleshaw, later to become Dean of Chester, and Frederick Etchells, a distinguished architect and historian, published The Architectural Setting of Anglican Worship. It is a work of great scholarship and still required reading for those who would learn of the distinctive contribution of the Church of England, or more specifically, worship according to the Book of Common Prayer, to the internal ordering of church buildings. Surveying the period from the Reformation in England to the years immediately after the Second World War, Addleshaw and Etchells chronicled the way in which our mediaeval church buildings, themselves the products centuries of organic growth and development as liturgical fashion changed, were adapted to the demands of the Prayer Book.
Concerned not only with the modification of existing buildings, they also examined post-Reformation churches to show how the “auditory principle” – the requirement that all the congregation should be able conveniently to see and hear the minister at all times during public worship governed the design of the majority of our newly-built churches from Inigo Jones’s St Paul’s, Covent Garden, until the romantic, medieval revivalists of the mid-nineteenth century. These medievalizing architects and the arbiters of fashionable taste, the ecclesiologists, are very much the villains of the piece. Their long narrow chancels, their rood screens and parcloses, their distant high altars and above all their cathedral-like choir stalls were responsible for a regrettable departure from the style of worship demanded by the principles of the Prayer Book. Not content with building their own medieval fantasy worlds, the Victorian ecclesiologists demanded the remodelling of auditory churches on medieval lines and many centrally-planned buildings were drastically altered to conform to an eastward altar and accommodate a surpliced choir.
From the evidence cited by Addleshaw and Etchells the picture emerges of two basic and yet conflicting historical ways of ordering a church building for the worship of the Church of England. The first starts with the liturgy itself and directs that for the celebration of the sacraments and other services altar, font and officiating ministers must be placed in close relationship with the worshipping community. The building is first and foremost a liturgical space, a house for the performance of the liturgy and the gathering of the community. The second approach starts with the sacramentality of the building itself; its plan, furnishings and architectural features are organized not because they are merely necessary for the celebration of the celebration of the liturgy but because they symbolize great Christian truths and are, in themselves part of the worship. In the first, the building is wholly subordinate to the liturgy; in the second, the liturgy may have to be accommodated to the building. The two approaches – the one functional, the other inspirational – are seen as irreconcilable, but may they not be held together in a dynamic and creative tension?
Since Addleshaw and Etchells wrote their historical survey and its concluding chapter of pointers towards the development of a contemporary Anglican liturgical space, there have been all too few serious contributions to this debate. They wrote shortly after Post-War Church Building edited by Ernest Short, was published in 1947 and this was followed by the picture books of the Incorporated Church Building Society in the same year and again in 1956. The academic work of Gilbert Cope in Birmingham was influential in the ‘6Os as were the writings of Peter Hammond. Maguire and Murray’s epoch-making building, St Paul, Bow Common, was a concrete example of what ought to be done as perhaps Comper’s St Philip, Cosham, had been a decade or two earlier, but as far as the influence of the liturgical movement on architecture was concerned, England remained and has stayed far behind France, Germany and the United States.
Into the void comes a very confident architect/planner who is also a parish priest, Canon Richard Giles, the Parish Development Officer for the Missionary Diocese of Wakefield, with Re-Pitching the Tent, a handbook for those who would re-order their church building for worship and mission in the new millennium. His inspiring confidence comes, no doubt, from having had the very considerable courage to put his principles into practice in a radical re-ordering of the parish church of which he has charge St Thomas, Huddersfield. When he arrived in 1987, he found a fine, though not outstanding, church by Sir George Gilbert Scott, dating from the late 1850s which had been filled with the trappings of a twentieth-century Anglo-Catholicism. The future of the building was in doubt because of the disappearance of most of its original parish of factories and terraced housing. The mission imperative was clear and Giles responded by literally stripping the church building for action. The result, acclaimed by many, is a flexible, contemporary space, equipped with new font and altar designed by Giles and little else. Only the rood beam, with its figures, and the Clayton and Bell glass remain from the furnishings he found. What has been added is not only a gathering space/meeting room in the western-most bay of the nave, with a gallery above for music making and socialising, but also and perhaps most significantly an austerity and sharpness of focus on what Giles believes the Church should be doing in its buildings. What has been lost is all feeling for the history of the building, its story, its continuity with the past, and innumerable evidences of the piety of the generations who worshipped there before.
But Repitching the Tent is not about St Thomas, Huddersfield, the interior is illustrated in colour in the book and once or twice in black and white, but there are few references to it in the text. Rather, the book is an enthusiastic and somewhat breathless canter across the whole field of what is now known as the “liturgical environment”. Like Caesar’s Gaul, the book is divided into three parts. It approaches the question of re-ordering our churches under the heading of three basic questions. Part One asks where do we come from? and provides historical survey of the frequently changing and often ambivalent attitude of God’s holy people to their places of worship. Part Two asks the question: who are we? and seeks to examine our self-understanding as worshipping Christians in the context of contemporary Western culture. Part Three asks: where are we going and provides the most useful section of the book in the shape of a liturgical design guide. The whole can be read through continuously, used as a resource book or form the basis for three terms of group study. In this context, topics for reflection and group exercises are helpfully provided for the worshipping community wishing to undertake a re-appraisal of its priorities – liturgical and missionary – and of its existing building.
Canon Giles’s book is welcome and yet disappointing. Welcome because here at last is a serious attempt by an Anglican thinker to address the truly vital issues that arise in that uncomfortable area where theology and art, architecture and liturgy, mission and community care rub either creatively or disastrously against one another. Giles is well equipped to do this because his vision is wide and his experience extensive and so the reader’s attention is drawn to daring and bold responses to the challenge of building and re-ordering not only from Britain but from the Continent and the United States. His practical advice is sound and sensible and clearly earthed in his experience of the world of municipal planning offices and the labrynthine workings of the Faculty Jurisdiction. As priest and pastor he understands the natural conservatism of those In the pew and so the sensitive management of change is helpful and the questions he asks are thought-provoking and stimulating.
Nevertheless, the book is disappointing because, alas, the radical and challenging answers he provides to so many of the questions, and the exciting and inspiring examples he describes and illustrates, hardly engage at all with the bricks-and-mortar reality faced by majority of parish priests and PCCs. It is not only that one just cannot do to the majority of our church building stock what Giles was able to do to St Thomas, Huddersfield, it is also that one just would not want to. You cannot turn an inspirational building – to use the categories established above – into a purely functional one without robbing it of many of the qualities which bring us to our knees. You can rarely solve the problem of a long, narrow church, oriented correctly, by turning it through 90 degrees and worshipping north-south: it goes, literally, against the grain. Giles in his reforming zeal sees the church building too often as a tent of meeting and too rarely as a shrine.
Then there are the legal constraints of the 16,000 Anglican church buildings still in use, three quarters are listed as of historic interest and are consequently protected to some degree from radical intervention. For a high proportion of these buildings the planning restrictions implied by the listing extend to their furnishings and fittings; this is the reality with which most of us have to engage. Half the grand total of all Grade I listed buildings are ecclesiastical and they are treasure-houses of objects from every century, some of high quality, some of almost no quality at all, but all part of – dare I use the ‘H’ word? – our heritage. It is neither possible nor desirable to sweep these things away: we had enough of iconoclasm in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
There is little help in Re-pitching the Tent for the priests and people of country parishes. It is, in reality, a Faith in the City book, proposing urban solutions for urban problems, and failing to address many of the concerns of the rural community. If Millennium Commission money is to be spent on revitalizing our rural church buildings as centres for the community then guidance is required . Solutions that work in Wakefield diocese may well not be so successful in Hereford or Norwich or Truro.
The book is also a disappointment because it is so poorly laid out: the footnotes, for example, are placed in the wide left-hand margin (they are often more than footnotes, rather they are comments upon the main text – often valuable, sometimes amusing, rather too frequently cryptic or veiled and allusive), but so are many of the important illustrations which consequently are far too small to be of any real value. Many of the illustrations, both in the main text and in the margin have no captions to identify them: it might be very charitable of the Canon to leave his examples of bad practice unidentified, but it is not very helpful. The index, alas, is woefully inadequate, being neither a decent index of places nor of subjects covered in the text: it would have been far better left out altogether.
And so, here is a book – a one-sided contribution to a hugely important area in the life of the Church. I hope it will be read and studied but approached with caution. The definitive work is still to be written, but, who knows, Re-Pitching the Tent may stimulate someone to write it.
Jeremy Haselock is Vicar of Boxgrove in West Sussex, Chichester Diocesan Liturgical Consultant, a member of The Chichester DAC and of the Church of England Liturgica1 Commission.
SPIRITUAL THEOLOGY, The Theology of Yesterday for Spiritual Help Today, Diogenes Allen, Cowley Publications 1997, 170pp
PRAYER – The Mission of the Church, Jean Danielou, T & T Clark 1997, xvi + 124 pp
SPIRITUALITY as a technical term is a notorious fugitive from definition; a situation no doubt aided and abetted today by an explosion of interest in all matters ‘spiritual’. There is good and bad in this, light and darkness, however, if we are looking to take our bearings in the midst of so many different ‘spiritualities’ then, rather than be swayed by the seduction of the supermarket, we should remind ourselves that as late as the Middle-Ages, for Christians it would have seemed peculiar at best to engage in much reflection about God without in some sense attempting to participate in the spiritual journey marked out by Jesus himself. In this sense then theology is most properly a reasoned consideration of the implications of spirituality – doctrine a grammar of prayer.
The two books here under review represent this profound conviction of the Great Tradition although in rather different ways.
Jean Danielou (1905 – 1974) was a French Jesuit, Bishop and Cardinal, and was deeply involved in the Second Vatican Council. He was truly a man of the Church – a scholar, a pastor and as Balthasar reminds us in his brief introduction, a man whose passionate commitment to the Mission of Christ’s Church brought him both suspicion and trial. In Prayer – The Mission of the Church, the reflections of a long and energetic life are gathered together, fashioned and presented as ‘genuine pearls of wisdom.’ Contemplation, doctrine and mission are here all fused together in a text which offers both illumination and growth. What Danielou gives to us in 100 pages is nothing less than a summa of the Christian faith infused with, or rather unfolded out from the mystery of ‘Being present to God in Prayer’. This is not a book to rush through but rather live with for a good while, letting what Danielou would have us hear be said in our souls, and this only, as he reminds us again and again, so that our mission to the world may be fruitful.
Diogenes Allen’s new book, with its annoyingly silly title is, nevertheless, a fine book. It begins with an autobiographical exploration as to his discovery of ‘spiritual theology’ after years of being ‘a teacher of philosophy and theology to students preparing to be ministers.’
This introduction is helpful and sets the scene for Allen’s endeavour which is to open up the depths and vistas of the Great Tradition as a practice of holy living – a bodily practice of learning ‘to live every moment of one’s life with an awareness of God’. Allen writes fluently, and in eleven shortish chapters covers the classical pattern of the spiritual journey as it has been repeatedly performed in the tradition. Above all his work bears the very real enthusiasm of a ‘convert’ who you sense is discovering something for the first time and is exceptionally eager to pass it on. It would perhaps be a little unfair to suggest that what he is discovering is the depth of the Catholic Spiritual Tradition for the first time, but clearly something that Danielou had simply lived in, Allen needs to discover through ‘cracks’ in theology.
Two fine books then to be recommended.
David Moss is Director of Studies at St Stephen’s House, Oxford.
POWER PREACHING FOR CHURCH GROWTH: The Role of Preaching in Growing Churches, David Eby, Fearn, Mentor, 1996, 140 pp + Appendices and Index.
ANY BOOK which encourages its readers to take seriously biblical preaching as God’s means of growing and sustaining his church is welcome. As David Eby points out, much of the literature about church growth is fatally flawed by its failure to address this crucial issue. His book is an attempt to call us back to the proclamation of the Scriptures as the chief task of genuine, growth-producing Christian ministry. It appears at a time when a number of excellent contributions have been made in this area (e.g. Peter Adam’s Speaking God’s Words, IVP, 1996, and the collection of essays edited by Chris Green and David Jackinan, When God’s Voice is Heard, IVP, 1995). This insistent challenge to renew our commitment to biblical preaching is a sign of hope in the otherwise bleak landscape of English Christianity in the 1990s. Some at least are reminding us that men and women need to hear what the living God has to say to them.
David Eby’s book is principally a book of encouragement. Much of the book is written in the second person, directly addressing the pastor who longs to see growth and life in his congregation. Each chapter ends with a collection of quotations designed to excite his readers with the possibilities associated with the faithful exposition of the Bible. In two of the four appendices he includes the approach of his own congregation, North City Presbyterian Church in San Diego, as a model for how a local church might work out in practice a commitment to biblical preaching. He is convinced that the task of fostering biblical preaching is one which falls to the entire congregation, not just the ministry staff.
The title is certainly a little off-putting, conjuring up the excesses of the power-evangelism and power-healing manuals of the last decade. However, Eby defends his expression ‘power preaching’ from the Book of Acts: ‘Preaching in Acts was power preaching. It was preaching the powerful gospel in the power of the Spirit. It was power preaching because by God’s grace it accomplished the miracle of new birth and transformed broken lives’ (p22). Eby is not arguing for a new technique or a new message. He is simply calling us back to God’s message and God’s appointed method of getting that message across.
It is obvious then that Eby’s book is much more than a telling critique of the Church Growth movement. It is a reminder of the priorities of Acts 6:4, prayer and the ministry of the Word. Eby does not develop ‘a robust theology of preaching’ as Peter Adam does in his book. However, that is not his aim. Instead he wants ‘to encourage pastors and church leaders to escape the full court press of expediency and to restart an offense of biblical priorities and methods’ (p8). His book would work well as an introduction to the other, more substantial treatments of preaching which I have mentioned.
This is a book worth reading and re-reading. It is a timely antidote to the neglect of preaching even in the theological colleges of this country. I was encouraged by this book. You will be too.
Mark Thompson is returning to Australia having completed his doctorate in 0xford.
BEYOND SCIENCE, John Polkinghorne, Cambridge University Press, 1996
THE AUTHOR is a distinguished academic. He was Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge and was subsequently ordained into the Anglican ministry before becoming President of Queen’s College, Cambridge. So it is interesting to follow his thoughts on the interface between science and religion. The title Beyond Science implies that the author accepts that science does not have all the answers or ever will have.
The first section is not an easy read without a working knowledge of quantum theory. But it would be a pity if this should deter the reader, for the theme of the book (as it seems to your reviewer) is that, despite the quite extraordinary advances in scientific knowledge, the question of why the cosmos is there in the first place is as much mystery as ever, in scientific terms.
The relative certainties of Newtonian physics (which might lead to a hope that all would eventually become explicable) are being replaced by uncertainties – a principle of indeterminacy (which rather suggests the reverse).
A fascinating highlight of the book concerns the amazing balances between the various factors at work in the developing universe (e.g. electromagnetism and gravity) that have allowed the appearance of life. Another is the precise relation between the expulsive power of the ‘big bang’ and the counteracting gravitational force. Such precision may be pictured as hitting a one inch target on the other side of the universe! Is such precision due to chance?
Einstein and many other scientists, such as Paul Dirac, whose electron theory resulted from a need to reconcile quantum theory with the special theory of relativity, have been struck by a sense of wonder at the ‘beauty’ of equations that have been successful at explaining much of the workings of the universe. Such beauty seems to confer a confidence in such a theory despite initial difficulties. Yet beauty is hardly a scientific term; rather a perception by a personality. But here we enter a new dimension. For only a consciousness can appreciate beauty, and consciousness brings with it the possibility of influencing (however minimally overall) the continually changing cosmos.
So in his last section, the author raises questions about moral responsibility, not only for scientists but for all of us.
Gordon Lavy is a retired General Practitioner.
JUST AS I AM, Billy Graham, Harper Collins, London 1997, 760pp, ISBN 0-551-03116-6, £20
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH reviewer of this autobiography declared that ‘the book reveals Billy Graham first and foremost as a monster ego’. This incredible assessment is strongly reminiscent of the prejudice which was displayed before Billy Graham’s first big crusade in London in 1954. At that time one MP sought to challenge the evangelist’s admission to the country. The then Bishop of Barking, as the Crusade’s most prominent supporter, came under enormous pressure to disown Billy Graham and was ferociously attacked in the press. In the end of course the Harringay campaign brought a great renewal to Christian life in this country, and the critics were forced largely to eat their words. British arrogance about Christianity is not a very pleasant sight.
This is a large book, yet an easy and fascinating read. Even those who think they know a lot about Billy Graham will discover information about him and his extraordinary ministry they never realised. Many will be particularly interested in the account of his upbringing and the early years of his ministry before the Los Angeles crusade of 1949 brought him to that place in the public eye which he has never lost. For instance it is instructive to learn how he struggled over the authority of Scripture before that Los Angeles campaign. Having resolved the matter at that significant moment he has never wavered in his commitment to the Bible as God’s Word.
Occasionally conservative critics have questioned the use of the word ‘revival’ in relation to the highly organised preaching missions which Billy Graham has undertaken. Graham’s Arminian tendencies may have aggravated such criticisms, perhaps by giving the impression on occasions that sovereign moves of the Holy Spirit can be organised. However this convinced Calvinist has little trouble in perceiving that, especially in the period up to 1960, Billy Graham’s preaching was blessed by God in a way which can properly be called revival. This is seen not simply in the numbers responding to crusade invitations, but far more importantly in the long term fruits of the ministry. In Britain there was a noticeable surge in men offering themselves for ordination. There were also many new initiatives in other areas that sprang out of Billy Graham’s preaching. The influential magazine ‘Christianity Today’ would be one example. The movement generated by the Berlin 1966 and Lausanne 1973 conferences would be another.
Perhaps British people are inclined to assess Billy Graham by the impact of his crusades on the Western world. This book clearly demonstrates how important his preaching has been in Communist countries since Hungary in 1977. Time alone will tell how much his determination to evangelise in such hostile terrain has contributed to the establishment of new societies in those lands. This sphere of ministry culminated in 1992 and 1994 with two astonishing visits to North Korea.
Another remarkable sphere of Billy Graham’s work has been his pastoring of those in powerful positions in public life. He plainly enjoys the company of the famous and influential, but that should not be sneered at. After all someone with a calling to student ministry is likely to enjoy the company of students. In speaking with Presidents and Prime Ministers it is obvious that he has no fear of men. There are numerous occasions recounted in this book where he has shown real courage to speak the truth in love in high places. Again time will testify in due course to the impact of this pastoral work which he has so faithfully and humbly exercised.
Over the years Billy Graham has lost none of his passion for the gospel, and near the end of this book there is a typical appeal to the reader to respond to Christ. The closing chapters reflect on the team that has worked alongside him, the friends he has made, and the family that has supported him. He knows he has to face the trials of old age, including his Parkinson’s Disease, but he does so with confidence in his future with Christ.
The Daily Telegraph reviewer could not have been more wrong. This book reveals a man of immense humility who nevertheless has complete faith in God. Billy Graham is still surprised at the way God has used him, but his life illustrates that the preaching of the Word of God has a power to change the world in a way that mere human schemes can never do. The testimony of this book to that reality should give all Christians encouragement to persevere in following and obeying Christ. We must pray that out of such encouragement God will raise up a new preacher with a new ministry to address the spiritual ignorance and confusion of our present age.
Mark Burkill is Vicar of Christ Church, Leyton.
NUMBER ONE MILLBANKI; The Financial Downfall of the Church of England. Terry Lovell. Harper Collins pp263 £15:99
THE RACE BETWEEN the conspiracy and the cock-up theories of the recent history of the Church of England is always a close run thing. Like the rest of us Terry Lovell, who has produced a very readable and at times even exciting account of the Church Commissioners’ losses of 1992, is unsure which horse to back.
Poor Sir Douglas Lovelock, a self- made bureaucrat out of his depth in an unfamiliar world, is a serious candidate for blame. But the real villains of this enthralling tale are the mandarins of Millbank, the Assets Committee of the Commissioners, who benefited from and fostered an unacceptable climate of unaccountability. Vicountess Brentford ( a Church Commissioner who can be little short of formidable when the occasion demands) speaks of them in tones of barely suppressed anger: ‘You had to be enormously self-confident to get passed an extremely patronising attitude…you were left wondering what was going on. To find anything out, you either had to be very aggressive or have powerful friends …I was treated like… a minor irritant.’
Any one who in any capacity has walked the corridors of No.1 Millbank (the Commissioners’ headquarters) or Church House, Westminster (the home of the General Synod of the Church of England and of its boards and committees) will know that feeling. More perhaps than any other of our great national institutions, the Church of England has the feel of a body run for the benefit of a small and self-perpetuating elite. Cut adrift by the indifference of an increasingly secular establishment in Downing Street and Whitehall, it has been exempt from the structural reforms which might have given it credibility in a democratic age. It appoints its Bishops by an arcane process which mimics consultation, but in fact ensures ‘more of the same’; and its bureaucrats are appointed by methods even less publicly accountable. A huge amount of patronage is in very few hands and it is often difficult to discern precisely whose hands they are.
Terry Lovell has negotiated this twilight world with skill and with a feeling for nuance. He delineates the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, for example, with an appropriate felinity (how characteristic of Runcie to have written a letter of reprimand to Richard Harries and then rung him up to warn him that it was on its way!); and Frank Field, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Commons Social Security Committee, with all his formidable combination of suavity and bluntness ( how delightful to think of him closing a meeting of the Committee with the advice to the Archbishop of Canterbury that he should not ‘Let the buggers get you down’!).
If this book comes to no very firm conclusions (in fact it runs out, in the final chapter, in a welter of pious platitudes we could well have been spared) that is no surprise. In a world where it is thought appropriate for financial institutions ‘independently’ to investigate themselves and where enquiries begin by the chief executive (the Archbishop of Canterbury) announcing that there are to be ‘no recriminations’ – a world, in fact, which is all cloak and no dagger – firm conclusions are probably impossible.
Will the Turnbull Commission, which has produced proposals to deal with all this, cut through these entanglements of private interest and set matters straight? Lovell thinks there may be some good to come, but he has his doubts; and so do I. Beneath the theological veneer (with its curious doctrine of ‘gracious gift’, which sounds very like Pollyanna made Bishop of Durham) the Turnbull proposals look as though they will concentrate power in even fewer hands and so make the misuse of it all the more likely.
Of course lip service is paid to subsidiarity – ‘the diocese’ is given much prominence and importance. But acute Church of England watchers will tell you what ‘the diocese’ really means: it means the appointed coterie of each individual diocesan bishop, itself often arbitrary and largely unaccountable. Turnbull is fashionably recommending less government for the Church of England; but like all such attempts in contemporary society – even Mrs Thatcher’s and Ronald Reagan’s – less will assuredly prove more ; and the more will be in the same hands.
As they increasingly say in all areas of management: ‘No resignations are expected’.
Geoffrey Kirk is Vicar of St. Stephen’s Lewisham in the diocese of Southwark