Should we change church service times for football?

At the end of last week there was a bit of a kerfuffle in the press and on social media about the relative importance of the final of the women’s football World Cup (which England lost to Spain 1–0) and church service times. Kaya Burgess at The Times posted a report under the headline:

Skip worship and pray for the Lionesses, says church

and quoted Libby Lane, the bishop of Derby, as saying:

I know lots of people will want to watch the match live. That is fine from the Church of England’s point of view. Others will prefer to go to church and avoid knowing the score until they can watch the match on catch-up, and that is fine, too. Church services happen at different times in different places, so people can choose one that is right for them.

The reaction to these comments from many Christians and clergy was not warm. ‘Why do we have a bishop for sport?’ asked one. ‘I can’t wait to hear from the bishop for “Going to church on a Sunday”‘. After some pressure from C of E comms, Kaya changed the headline to:

You can change Sunday worship plans to cheer on Lionesses, says Church

The story continued with four examples of people doing just that from a range of places around the UK.

I thought this story was fascinating, since there are multiple layers of issues wrapped up in it. The first and most obvious is the relationship of the church and its leaders to the media, and some basic issues of media training. Some of those commenting on the story leapt to Libby Lane’s defence, saying that the headline, and even the story as a whole, misrepresented what she said. But here’s the basic question about dealing with the media: why say something that is so easily ‘misrepresented’ (if that was what happened)? I have done quite a bit with the media, including appearing on both television and radio, locally and nationally, and I don’t think I have ever once been misrepresented in this way.

Part of engaging well with media of any sort is anticipating the ‘elephant traps’ into which they want you to fall, and speaking in a way which prevents that happening. I noticed that Kaya Burgess was quoting from a ‘statement’, and had not conducted an interview—so there is even more reason to get this statement right. I suppose the statement could have been made as guidance for diocesan clergy (but why would you do that?), though she is quoted in her capacity as ‘bishop for sport’ (why do we have one?!). Whenever the question of football comes up, my go-to comment is that the number of Christians in a church on any Sunday morning far, far outnumbers those attending football matches at every level combined that weekend. Whenever I say that, those interviewing me practically fall off their chairs in disbelief.

Here are the sums: C of E regular attendance is around 850,000, and (according to the work of Peter Brierley) this represents less than a quarter of all attendance, which would then be at least 3.4 million, or around 6% or the population. Research from the Bible Society tells us that weekly attendance is around 7%, and those attending at least monthly is likely around 10% of the population. During football season match days, total attendance at matches of the first four divisions is 720,000. In 2020/21, a record breaking 26.8m people or 40% of the population watched a live Premier League match at some point during the year—which is still lower than the 27.5 million identifying as ‘Christian’ in the latest ONS survey of religion. So the Christian faith is still far more popular, in terms of commitment and affiliation, than football!

So a great strategy for any bishop talking about football would be to say that ‘Since involvement in church is more important to people than football, perhaps the match should be rescheduled to fit around church services’. That would make an interesting headline! Or what about saying, as one friend of mine suggested: ‘Church going is a privilege and joy and we get to meet with God when we worship together.’

But it does raise the question of why say anything at all? Why did the Archbishop of York feel the need to publish a video wishing the Lionesses ‘good luck’? What is the point? Why say anything if you cannot say more than this? Bishop Lindsay Urwin noted:

The tendency to need to say something on everything has been around a while. I remember a media course I was sent on for new bishops. It must have been early 1994. We were told that we must be ready to give a 45 second comment on anything. Much as I love the sound of my own voice, even I suggested that such a policy was probably a bad idea.

Surely the point of commenting at all is to challenge some lazy preconceptions, say something intriguing, and (heaven forbid) perhaps even talk about Jesus, faith, and discipleship! But saying something anodyne, which has more than a whiff of wanting to sound popular and conformist, just sounds rather needy.

Part of the dynamic here involves some strange assumptions about both bishops and football. The assumption around bishops is that they speak for the whole church, which they clearly do not. I have no idea why Libby Lane felt able to pronounce ‘from the Church of England’s point of view.’ Unless she was citing canon law, or something else that has been widely agreed, I don’t see how she can do this.

Even in the Church Times, there appears to be a consistent assumption either that bishops speak for the Church, or that people in the Church of England are just waiting with bated breath for their bishops to pronounce on something before they know what to think or do. Hence the headline on this issue: ‘Other service times are available, Bishop tells fans worried about World Cup clash.’ Gosh, what would we all have done without this helpful clarifying statement?!

One of the current challenges for the Church of England is precisely the opposite: the views of bishops often do not line up at all with the views of either clergy or members of the C of E. As one cleric commented on this pronouncement by Libby Lane:

I find myself increasingly conscious of a widening spiritual chasm between myself and many of my fellow CofE clergy, bishops far-from-immune. Often it feels like we’re not even trying to do the same job.

And this sense of disconnect applies to large sections outside the C of E too, as Niall Gooch comments on UnHerd:

Consider Christian leaders’ public political stances: anti-Brexit, pro-action on climate change, “anti-racist”, sceptical of border control, liberal on crime and punishment, and so on. Regardless of where you stand on these matters, it is hard to deny that, to the outsider, the churches’ political views look a lot like standard soft-Left politics laundered through the language and aesthetics of Christianity.

The faith often seems to have embraced a new mode of bourgeois respectability — not the old-fashioned kind, which was focused on keeping up appearances around dress and sexual propriety and social standing, but a new iteration, where correct political positions are the key to appearing Good. No wonder then if this all appears unattractive to those mystified or bored by the current preoccupations of the bourgeoisie.

What is even more galling for the 75% or 80% of Christians who attend churches other than the C of E is that, not only are bishops assumed to speak for Anglican clergy and congregations, C of E bishops are assumed to speak for all Christians! Perhaps we need a little more education of journalists about what is really happening in churches in the UK.

The other odd thing is the media assumption of uniform interest in football, and adulation of footballing stars. There was a time when this was, in a much more obvious sense, our national sport. After all, more than half the population tuned in to watch the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley, even though you could only see it in black and white. But there are many more things to be interested in now, and interest in sport has suffered the same fragmentation as other features of our national life. So it should be no surprise that an average of only 4.6m tuned in to the Lionesses semi-final victory against Australia. The claimed uniformity of interest is media hype—or bias.

This then leads us to the issue at the heart of this discussion: does Christian discipleship make demands of us, and should weekly attendance at gathered worship in our local faith communities take priority over other interests? My favourite comment on this came from someone in quite a different ‘tradition’ from me, but made the point eloquently:

Our principal act of worship takes place at 10.30am…For those wishing to watch the match without turning down the lavish invitation the Lord makes to share communion at his table, there’ll also be a celebration of the Holy Communion at 8am lasting around 45 minutes. All are welcome, and there’s no charge to enter. And we’ll warmly cheer on England in the World Cup Final once our obligations to the bread of life and the cup of salvation are honoured.

As Niall Gooch notes:

It’s easy to roll one’s eyes at these stories, but there is perhaps a serious point to be made about how British Christianity—not just the Church of England—so often appears to be apologising for making any demands at all on its adherents.

In fact, the statement about Sunday worship on the C of E website is rather good, and it includes this quotation from William Temple:

The fundamental business of life is worship. At the root of all your being, your intellectual studies, the games you play, whatever it is, the impulse to do them well is and ought to be understood as being an impulse towards God, the source of all that is excellent. All life ought to be worship; and we know quite well there is no chance it will be worship unless we have times when we have worship and nothing else.

Perhaps it is telling that this statement comes from a previous age. By contrast, the impression given by Libby Lane’s comments was that gathering for worship with other Christians on a Sunday was an optional extra.

Even a cursory glance at the gospels makes it clear that Jesus was unafraid to make demands of those who would follow him. Matthew gathers together some of his most challenging statements in Matt 8.18–22, but in fact they are threaded all through the gospel, from start to finish.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matt 7.13–14).

His invitation is sometimes quoted as telling us that ‘my yoke is easy’ (Matt 11.29) but the word here is χρηστός, which has the sense of kind, the yoke put on an animal by a kind master, enabling the animal to work well and effectively. It is a yoke that does not chaff as we go about the hard work of being a disciple of Jesus.

We don’t want to put unnecessary obstacles in the way of those who are on the fringes of faith, or wanting to explore, or who are at critical junctures in their transition in both life and faith. That is why it is sensible to have a flexible approach to ensure, for example, that teenagers with sports interests are still able to be part of Christian fellowship as they grow in faith. And Jesus never tells us that we must ‘come to church’ at a particular time!

But in terms of our missional engagement, it seems to me (both locally and nationally) that those churches which are clear and honest about the serious demands of faith are the ones that are growing. I wonder when the Church of England’s communications strategy will catch up?

Additional note

There are two other interesting issues which need exploring, but which I don’t have space to deal with at length here.

The first is the quasi-religious function of sport in Western cultures.

The second is the value of a missional pragmatism which can turn these moments into an invitational event. Here is an interesting comment made online in response to the article:

We moved our service time back to our normal 10:30am (normally 11am in the summer) slot and did an all age communion service based on Zaccheaus. We then continued our worship with fellowship, food and watching the football. I’d love to see more discussion shaped by the truth that true worship is 24/7 and how our gatherings and services are not all that worship is.

We had 15 guests come to our service specifically because it was continuing into food and football. We had a number of church folk bring friends/family along at a rate greater than normal. We had a good time. I’m struck in Acts by the many different ways the church gathered. The hospitality and fun they enjoyed. I’m aware too of the linking by Paul in his letters to sports events and culture in a way that implies personal engagement. As a pastor I’m constantly fighting people have a spiritual/secular divide in their lives.

Plenty of food for thought here—but note how different this is from giving the impression that gathered worship of the people of God is optional or less important than football.

Second additional note

Tom Watts asked ChatGPT to compose a statement. I thought the result was too good not to post.

Statement from Bishop [Name], Church of England:

“While the World Cup final is undoubtedly an event that captivates people’s attention worldwide, the Church of England places its primary focus on the spiritual well-being and worship of its congregants. We understand the excitement surrounding such global events, but our commitment to Sunday worship remains unwavering. Our worship services provide a sacred space for reflection, community, and connection with the divine.

We encourage our congregations to consider balancing their commitments, ensuring that both their spiritual growth and enjoyment of the World Cup can coexist harmoniously. While individual parishes may decide on adjusting service times within reasonable limits, we urge everyone to uphold the sanctity of our worship gatherings and the values they represent. Our doors remain open to all who seek solace, inspiration, and fellowship, regardless of external events.

In times of celebration and fervor, let us remember the importance of nurturing our faith and coming together in worship. May our actions reflect the values of unity, compassion, and respect for all aspects of life.”

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46 thoughts on “Should we change church service times for football?”

  1. (A pedant writes: if the bishops spoke with ‘baited breath’, maybe that bait would intrigue people and draw them in. On the other hand if the people had ‘bated breath’, held back, waiting for something spiritually nourishing from the bishops, I fear that they would die of asphixiation.)

    • But you might like this:

      If you thought this phrase was spelled ‘baited breath’ you are in good company. Even in one of the best selling books of all time, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (whose publisher could surely have afforded the services of a proof-reader), we have:
      “The whole common room listened with baited breath.”

      Geoffrey Taylor, in his little poem Cruel, Clever Cat, 1933, used the confusion over the spelling of the word to good comic effect:
      Sally, having swallowed cheese
      Directs down holes the scented breeze
      Enticing thus with baited breath
      Nice mice to an untimely death.

  2. Thank you for this helpful overview. I too shared the post from All Saints, Northampton (my 2nd curacy was there).
    Like the quoted comment, I too find myself increasingly at odds with the episcopal views publicly expressed. My bishop even included a monitory paragraph in the letter renewing my PtO; I wonder if it shall be withdrawn on the grounds of “not in accord with the values of this organisation”.

    (And, yes, as already noted, “bated”)

  3. Good article.

    I don’t identify with the so-called lionesses. Like the vicar at my church and unlike lionesses, no fewer than four of the squad are lesbians. In my opinion, it would be more appropriate to warn the country that the normalisation and celebration of homosexual relationships is ungodly and will lead to no good.

    Regarding regular church attendance, C of E statistics indicate 613,000 in 2019, falling to 447,000 in 2021. I would be interested to know where the 850,000 figure came from.

    • The Spanish squad also included four lesbians.

      According to the BBC, 12 million watched the final on TV and a further 3.9 million on the internet. It was the most watched event of the year on BBC TV after the coronation, beating the men’s Wimbledon final.

      The most robust way of calculating Sunday church attendance is of course to count the number attending in each parish week by week. That’s the basis of the 447,000.

      • The comparison needs to be made between equivalent things. So we need to compare armchair football fans with armchair Christians, and attenders at both.

        Something like 10% of the population attend church at least once a month. The equivalent figure for football matches is less than 2%. Christian faith is five times as popular attendance wise as football. Surely that is worth a comment from a bishop or two?

        The figure is 12m is a ‘peak’ figure, which is the number who tuned in at a particular moment. From previous patterns, it suggests a figure of around 4m who watched the whole match.

  4. This debate raised a couple of issues for me. I found myself wondering to what extent the church should engage with whats going on, and to what extent should it preserve its separateness? The other issue was about the fact that it was the women’s world cup. My own church has fairly readily abandoned its schedule when the England men have been playing a big game ( not necessarily a final). Not yesterday! Was that a good call?

  5. It’s only when I was on Twitter (now X…) that I realised how often newspaper headlines are unrepresentative of or simply misleading about the story they’re headlining. You could get reams of outraged comments from people who read an (outrageous or stupid) headline, only to discover that the actual article was quite reasonable. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that Kaya Burgess not only did not write the headline to her article, but had no role in approving it.

    As for the Bishops: I suppose having a Bishop for Sport is a reflection of being an established Church where the Bishops are in the legislature and are expected to participate and have views, and that the institutions of the Church encourage the idea that the Bishops do speak for the Church publicly and therefore divvy out the responsibilities amongst the Bishops so it doesn’t all fall on the Archbishop of Canterbury. I wish the Bishops weren’t quite so “establishment” in their media statements and appearances, and I may think that hoping for universal praise is a fool’s errand when so many (including within the Church) are determined to find fault with them at every turn, but I have to accept that if they did chart a course that courted more controversy the rest of us would have to be prepared to leap to their defence. Are we willing to do that?

      • A beautiful example of a misleading (and baiting) headline offered from today’s Sun (suggested article on Google for me):

        “Major coffee chain with over 2000 stores shutting shop after wave of closures”

        Actual story:
        Costa Coffee is closing its cafe in West Bridgford next month. In recent months (i.e. the last year) it has closed 4 other cafes nationwide, relocated one, and temporarily closed one for redecoration.

  6. Something of an own goal. There needs to be a 360 degree VAR analysis though the lens of some as set out in the article, is focussed on the crowd, the wide angle and telophoto views show it is a clear sending off offence.

    Who or what do we worship? What are brought to light as our God replacements our de facto idols, from the idol factory that is our hearts.

    Christian church services follwing on from, a type of resurrection day are, at heart, serving, and devotion to, God.

    It is our (collective) worship that serves Him.

    We serve Him, by worshipping Him: a time of service, glorifying, and gloring in, Him.

  7. Just a small point – headlines are usually written by a sub-editor rather than the author of the piece, so it’s possible Kaya may not be guilty.

  8. “I find myself increasingly conscious of a widening spiritual chasm between myself and many of my fellow CofE clergy, bishops far-from-immune. Often it feels like we’re not even trying to do the same job.”

    Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby

    Well, quite so. This is the bishop who let the Anglican Chaplain of Trent College (an evangelical foundation!) get sacked because he told students there they didn’t have to go along with LGBT-ism but could instead follow Anglican teaching.

    Lane even joined in the persecution of the faithful priest, who was maligned by Derby Diocesan functionaries when he took his case to an employment tribunal. So we know whose side she is on.
    (And the idea of a ‘bishop for sport’ is certainly silly unless it denotes chaplaincy and evangelism among sportspeople. These silly titles foster the illusion that the CofE hierarchy is some kind of shadow government, with spokepersons and “positions” on everything – except safeguarding the vulnerable or sex and marriage or opposing euthanasia, in other words, things trhat actually matter.)

    Incidentally, on another website I saw a reference to 2 Maccabees 4, which says that in the days of the Maccabees Hellenisation in Judea reached such a peak that the temple priests were neglecting their sacrificial duties and rushing off to the Greek games. The author of Maccabees didn’t think was a commendable attitude.

      • ‘Maccabees’ means of course ‘hammers’, although the Jewish team of choice is Spurs. Hyam Maccoby fancied himself the Hammer of St Paul. The passage from 2 Maccabees reads:
        “10 When Jason received the king’s approval and came into office, he immediately initiated his compatriots into the Greek way of life. 11 He set aside the royal concessions granted to the Jews through the mediation of John, father of Eupolemus (that Eupolemus who would later go on an embassy to the Romans to establish friendship and alliance with them); he set aside the lawful practices and introduced customs contrary to the law. 12 With perverse delight he established a gymnasium at the very foot of the citadel, where he induced the noblest young men to wear the Greek hat. 13 The craze for Hellenism and the adoption of foreign customs reached such a pitch, through the outrageous wickedness of Jason, the renegade and would-be high priest, 14 that the priests no longer cared about the service of the altar. Disdaining the temple and neglecting the sacrifices, they hastened, at the signal for the games, to take part in the unlawful exercises at the arena. 15 What their ancestors had regarded as honors they despised; what the Greeks esteemed as glory they prized highly. 16 For this reason they found themselves in serious trouble: the very people whose manner of life they emulated, and whom they desired to imitate in everything, became their enemies and oppressors. 17 It is no light matter to flout the laws of God, as subsequent events will show.”

      • Yes, I knew the organisation a bit and used to promote their work when I worked in higher education. It’s evangelical so not Libby Lane’s cup of energy drink.

        • To be fair, I’m not sure someone who trained for ordination at Cranmer Hall in Ian Cundy’s time can be thought of as against evangelicalism.

  9. I did find it frustrating that this was being discussed openly by several non-Anglican ministers I am friends with too.

    Much as with the coronation earlier this year and the men’s world cup final clashing with the carol services last year, the excuse of “an opportunity for witness” comes up repeatedly as the justification for paring back/cancelling any pre-existing service or event, but I think most would struggle to provide anything objective showing what they’d done, or how it was beneficial, evangelistic etc. I’m not sure screening the event in churches really has any measurable impact, but I’d love to hear examples of when it did. Cynically, I suspect for several ministers it is/was a decision for their own convenience.

    There was no suggestion in my own setting of cancelling or rearranging the service on Sunday, although it was clear that a few people would rather have stayed at home (and a few did), but I was pleasantly surprised that we have a better-than-average number in congregation, including several guests.

  10. Perhaps some of our leaders lack confidence in their message or just reluctant to get out of their kindergarten or have a vested interest in keeping their flock in the nursery.

  11. BTW, The soccer World Cup Final on July 30, 1966 was a Saturday.
    It was a year, an era, when Abide with Me, was sung at FA Cup Finals before kick-off, when matches were held on Saturday afternoons. Perish(ed) now is the thought, the very idea, now a cultural heresy.

    Here are the lyrics in full:

    Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
    The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
    When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
    Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

    Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
    Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
    Change and decay in all around I see;
    O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

    Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
    But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
    Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
    Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

    Come not in terror, as the King of kings,
    But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
    Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
    Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.

    Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
    And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
    Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
    On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

    I need Thy presence every passing hour.
    What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
    Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
    Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

    I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
    Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness.
    Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
    I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

    Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
    Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
    Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
    In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.[2]

  12. >>The second is the value of a missional pragmatism which can turn these moments into an invitational event.<<

    Just how far should one take 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 without risking compromising the Gospel?

    There is a reciprocity between life and worship – Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi (As we Worship, So we Believe, So we Live).

  13. The principle of expediency recognizes that all people are different. There is not just one way to win people to Christ because they are all different. We use the right kind of bait for the right kind of fish. We reach the lost on their ground, not ours. We come to people at their point of interest and approach them on their accessible side. By this, we establish rapport with them so that they can hear the gospel without encumbrance.
    Abide with me is still sung prematch at The Rugby League Cup Final.

  14. re. “To be fair, I’m not sure someone who trained for ordination at Cranmer Hall in Ian Cundy’s time can be thought of as against evangelicalism.”

    I can’t be sure what Ian Cundy was like as Principal of Cranmer Hall, but certainly by the time he was bishop of Peterborough he was no longer evangelical. Presumably he had been ‘on a journey’ even while in Durham. For some years now, a necessary condition for episcopal office.

      • I met Cundy only once, he was speaking at a conference in 1996 and he seemed pretty smitten with postmodernism then. When I suggested that postmodernism was a passing intellectual trend and one that didn’t sit easily with the revealed nature of Christianity and the Bible, he brushed aside my criticisms. It was clear to me that he wasn’t an evangelical, nor much of a deep thinker either.

  15. As one of the four churches mentioned, can I clarify that The Times took this from our social media post advertising the football screening after our 10am service. They did not interviews us. We only knew about the article when we saw it. But social media is public, so we didn’t mind.

    However, your article implied we changed worship in favour of the football. We DID NOT change or cancel any service, we did not do it to attract people to Christ.

    We had all three worship and Eucharist services, normal refreshments with the addition of screening the football so we could watch it together. This meant that those in the community could join us and those isolated congregation members had people to enjoy the game with. Those not interested still had refreshments as always. We are a parish church and part of our vision is to be for community and in the community.

    I don’t mind the differing views or the discussion, but I would us like to be fairly represented as part of the argument.

  16. Far more people used to watch Morecambe and Wise, albeit not on a Sunday.

    Remind me… Was there a Bishop for Comedy? ()

    Seriously… The millions show watched live were dwarfed by the millions that didn’t. Why is the “everybody is watching” narrative being bought? Our own church numbers were probably a bit down but it’s August and very variable. I know very few who decided to watch instead of joining in worship.

      • Social conformity.
        On national, terrestial TV news, BBC I think, a dog- collared man (if the denomination was mentioned, I missed it) was shown inside a church. His message was clear – come and watch the game here, bring food and drink, hinting something stronger, alcohol, would be fine.
        So much for a missionary opening.
        But I do wonder why anyone in the media was interested in what churches would be doing, in a nation hyped up, in the thrall, grip of soccer, and if there was input from religious correspondents the focus was on flag flappers, (with no quelling balance) ultimately defeated, deflated, forever in history, beaten, not cross lifters, defeat defeated, forever raised in glory and joy in eternity.
        Who made the first moves media or church? The main story, event, was soccer and the church was corralled to bow the knee, in support, and the main media message was that the church genulfexes to sport or some sport and national acheivement.
        Theologically, it is interesting that we may take the credit as we identify, * we won* even though we didn’t take part. How much more so for Christians, in union with Christ!
        Adam or Jesus, the last Adam?

  17. (Church) history repeats itself. Rewind to 1967. A new BBC blockbuster Sunday evening serial, ‘The Forsyte Saga’, started at 7.30pm. In an age before videos and streaming you either watched it live or missed it. The press got hold of the fact that there were a number of clergy who moved their 6.30pm service (remember Evensong?) to an earlier time in order to enable worshippers to get home in time to watch the programme. A furore ensued with identical arguments to the ones now being used regarding the Women’s World Cup Final. Plus ça change ….

    • What a great reminder John! Thanks. Have we done any better this time…?

      (Worth also noting that most people will be going to church for the second time that day back then too…!)

      I think the curious question, again, is whether being a following of Jesus requires us to meet at 10.30 am and 6.30 pm every Sunday. If so, why? (I suspect any argument for that would rest on the history of monastic hours…)

      • If we were to meet at the traditional monastic hours then we would be in church at around 2.30am, 4.30am, 6.00am, 9.00am, 12.00noon, 3.00pm, 5.00pm and 8.00pm!
        But, more seriously, one of the discussions that I saw on social media after this furore drew attention to the fact that so mnay churches now only have one service on a Sunday, in the middle of the morning. Part of that is due to Covid – many churches dropped their 8.00am Holy Communion after lockdown, and Evening services were already becoming rare. This is a far cry from the pattern in many parishes of previous generations. My own parish, for instance, in the mid-twentieth century, had Holy Communion at 7.00am and 8.00am, Morning Prayer at 10.30am, Solemn Eucharist at 11.00am and Evensong and sermon at 6.30pm. For good measure, there was also the option of attending the mission church within the parish which offered a Solemn Eucharist at 9.40am and Evening Service and sermon at 7.00pm. Whatever one’s other commitments or interests, there was no reason not to be able to attend worship at some point in the day! Of course, few parishes have the resources to offer quite such a range of services these days, but some serious thought ought to go into the spread of times of services available. Even when the football isn’t on, there will be people working shifts, dealing with family circumstances and all sorts of other factors that make the expectation of everyone being in church at 10.30 unrealistic.


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