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Keeping the faith, quickly

Keeping the faith, quickly

What do you make of this idea reported in The Telegraph?

The Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, the Bishop of Lichfield, said worship has become too complicated and time-consuming, leaving people who are not regular churchgoers feeling confused and excluded….

In a speech to clergy in his diocese, which has seen growth in recent years, Bishop Gledhill said there had been a tendency to devise “more and more intricate and beautiful services for our own use – forgetting those who might come if we made things simpler for them to start with”….

“Holy Communion is very important, but you need a lot of stamina to get through these. If you’re trying to attract newcomers, these services need to be much shorter. We are excluding people who we should be welcoming.”

The article cites some research turned up by mystery-church-shopping site Ship of Fools showing how sermon lengths ranged from five to 80 minutes on April 24th, with Church of England preachers averaging around 20 minutes.


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C. Wingate

To all these excellent comments I just want to add that it matters a great deal why the service is running long. There are people who can preach well for twenty minutes but most long sermons are five minute homilies with a lot of rambling padding. I’ve also seen services that got long because the celebrant couldn’t resist a lot of momentum-killing commentary on the liturgy. If things are going well, people want to be there for all that time.

Jim Harrison

It frustrates me a bit that this discussion seems to be wrapped entirely around the one hour(or two, or four) spent on Sunday morning – as if that is the only time we spend with God. If this is the only time we expect people to spend with God, or in any spiritual mindset, then yes liturgy that is done poorly or for an overly long period of time will indeed drive people away – newcomer or longtime member. Even this priest, for God’s sake.

Our liturgy – Eucharist (thanksgiving) should be about gathering to give thanks – for all of the myriad ways in which God has acted in our lives in the week prior (or since our last gathering as a community that is focused on the good news). If “church” were only about Sundays, I wouldn’t be there, so I can’t blame others for being less than inspired if that is where a priest (or bishop, or entire community) puts their all of their energies.

A community that gathers in the name of Christ should be all about partnering in God’s mission of reconciliation and love for the world – 24/7 – and how the lives of those both in the community and those with whom the members have contact are effected by their contact with the risen Christ in their day to day living out of a gospel life.

If a community of followers of the will of God gathers to give thanks for the ways in which their lives have been blessed since last together it seems to me that anyone present will see and feel and experience an authentic outpouring of the spirit of God, whether it be for an hour, or two, or four. I could sit (or kneel, or stand)for that.

Gregory Orloff

Bishop Gledhill needs to apply his line of thinking to any other relationship in human experience. How long does he think any courtship, much less marriage, would last if we insisted on spending minimal time with our signficant other? And how deep does he think that relationship would really be, with such quick and infrequent encounters? A break-up or divorce would be no surprise if we spent as little time on courtship and marriage as we do on worship. If we love God so much, why are we so unenthusiastic about spending time with our divine Significant Other?

Susan Hedges

I have never had to sit thru an entire service at an Episcopal Church! At mine, we’re up and down and some are on their knees in places when others are standing up. If the sermon is longer than 10-15 minutes, it’s taking too long. And we have a lot of music. It’s a very important part of the liturgy here, which our singing congregation is very much a part of. Eucharist takes a while if there are many congregants and fewer in the altar party. It takes as long as it takes. I agree about the time spent in front of the computer and the uncomfortable chairs we are willing to sit in.

Matthew Buterbaugh+

Clearly Bp. Glendhill has not been to a Pentecostal church service that lasts 4 hours. They seem to be doing fine.

I think if the liturgy is accessible and explainable to everyone, it’s fine and enjoyable for newcomers. I have the whole liturgy in a booklet that doesn’t change for a season. And, whenever I do something new or different, I explain it before the service starts.

Never had any complaints.

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