Andrew Brown has written a wide-ranging column for the Guardian that asks whether it is the presence of so many older people–and the prevalence of services geared to their tastes–that keep younger people from coming to church. He isn’t thumping the tub of liturgical change, or bashing recalcitrant lay people. He’s examining the issue in a sociological sort of way, and I’d be interested to hear what people think about the article.
When I talk to Anglican clergy about the frustrations of their work, the answer that comes back in a dozen forms is that the greatest difficulty is not with the outside world. It’s with their own congregations. I gave a talk on the apparent death of Christian England in the glorious medieval church at Evesham, and when I said that it was impossible to go back to the 50s or 60s, someone angry in the audience wanted to know why time travel wouldn’t work. That was what he thought the church should do, and must do if it was to get back to health.
Such an attitude is of course self-selecting. If the congregation is run by people who feel like that and who also pay, however inadequately, for the upkeep of the building, the vicar’s opinions are of little account. And no one who would like a church comfortable for the under-50s will ever feel at home.
In that case, the biggest threat to the future of the Church of England is in fact the congregations who now seem to hold all its remaining life.