Away for the weekend to a wedding in Pennsylvania in a tiny and rarely used country chapel in the Catoctin Mountains on the Maryland border. I was able to finish reading Roy Strong’s A Little History of the English Country Church full of marvelous nuggets like the fact that in the 1700s Confirmation was often considered and believed to be a cure for rheumatism causing a number of people to seek it regularly. Strong is convinced that the village church must find new ways to use some of the buildings. We may not expect (or demand) that many of the village churches in the countryside have any reasonable hope of continued existence without adaptive use (rather than straight conservation). I think he is right and also think about the hardy few who keep two churches going in the village where my parents live and its neighbor (Little Thurlow and Great Thurlow), total population around 300 combined, and how sad they will be when one or both of these churches is no longer used for its original purpose except perhaps on occasion. I confess that when I am there, I would rather go to Cathedral worship in Bury St. Edmunds or Ely. Even in those places I lower the average age of the congregation considerably.
The other book is an idiosyncratic journalistic history of the General Synod of the Church of England by a participant and latterly bishop, Colin Buchanan. It is called Taking the Long View. He follows the English debates on matters like Christian Initiation, Eucharistic prayers, children in communion and the ordination of women. They are parallel conversation to those of the American Church and in most instances they come to conclusions rather more slowly than we do. The process is not that different however and Bishop Buchanan enjoys it. He makes comments like “Delicious indecision was succeeded by clear-cut stupidity.” He makes what could be incredibly dull reading quite fun. But I read with the question as to whether anyone cares about the C of E and if not, why they should. Are we different? And if so, why? Or has the post-Christendom train left the station and we can see our fate if we do not adapt?