“You’ll miss it when the church is gone” was the Yahoo headline that caught my eye this afternoon. It referred to this article by Madeleine Davies who is the deputy news editor at the Church Times.
She references caustic and patronising remarks by Barbara Ellen in The Guardian in which she, along with many others, sneer at the anachronism that is Church life in the 21st century.
Except it isn’t anachronistic.
I know because I am a churchgoer, albeit not one of resolute faith and not one with an unblemished attendance record.
Like many, I am the product of a childhood of well-meaning indoctrination. In my case into Roman Catholicism.
I often read, on social media channels with unhidden glee, the defamation of this particular doctrine and it saddens me.
Firstly it saddens me that the excesses and undefendable actions of a minority of our clergy has tarnished the faith as a whole. I also, particularly on visits to Italy, squirm at the absolute lack of inhibition when building our altars of early centuries bling.
Ancient papacies (nay, possibly even recent ones) stink of hypocrisy and political pap. But not, I think, the current one. And not, as I gathered from my recent trip to Poland, that of John Paul II who is a giant of a man.
The conservative leanings of the Catholic hierarchy towards old rhetoric and the strict adherence to creationism in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary make me uncomfortable.
It doesn’t sit well with my education and lifetime of reading.
But, and it’s a big but, Madeliene Davis is absolutely right about the role of the church in today’s society (all churches, faiths, religions) because, even though they gradually reduce in number and become cheap boozers or flash penthouses, those that remain are at the heart and soul, yes soul, of their communities.
They tend the aged, they democratise the community and in some I know of they can be outstanding boozers, social clubs, restaurants, cafes.
They and their members (and clergy) provide irreplaceable social services and are hubs of charitable activity.
Madeliene Davis is right.
Even without the religious needs that churches satisfy they make an immense contribution to our society and I am proud to declare that although I am one of the worst drummers in musical history my community tolerate me, provide me with a regular gig and in some instances actually rather like that a drum, a mandolin, a violin and an organ can sometimes make sweet music.
Shalom brothers and sisters.