A great part of the genius of the Church of England authorities is their limitless ability to find ever new ways of wasting money to no significant purpose.
One of their wheezes is to finance congregations which model their worship on the pop concert. Prepare to clap and wave your arms in the air. Guitars at the ready. Bawl out times without number choruses so void of content that they weren’t worth singing once. This has been the trademark practice of Holy Trinity – chianti and pizza – Brompton for decades. It’s religion, but not as we know it, Jim. So what? It puts bums on seats and it brings in the cash.
Now the authorities are hoping it might just postpone the church’s final demise – for a few weeks, anyhow.
This method of “being church” has proved itself so successful that HTB now exports it in what are called “church plants.” Churches in Derby, Portsmouth, Chelmsford and Bristol have…I suppose the word I am looking for is “benefitted” from this scheme and £1.35million has been given over two years to six of these HTB plants. In addition, St Luke’s, Birmingham, a church planted by the former director of worship at HTB, the Revd Tim Hughes, was given £350,000, while other HTB plants, St Swithin’s, Lincoln, and St Matthias’s, Plymouth, each received £200,000. St Swithun’s, Bournemouth, St George’s, Gateshead, and St Mark’s, Coventry, were each given £150,000.
Seven projects were paid for by the central authorities and, though six of the seven were operated by Holy Trinity Brompton, Andrew Brown, the secretary and the chief executive of the Church Commissioners, insisted, “There is no bias towards HTB.”
Indeed not. For another new jape was launched in the Midlands when £2.6 million was given to Birmingham diocese’s Growing Younger programme.
I’ve just had a look at this jape and so I can tell you something about it.
It was started by the Bishop of Birmingham and the Archbishop of Canterbury with “star baker” Martha Collison. The two senior clergymen stood together on a platform in a darkened city centre church where they teased and chafed each other for a few minutes as if they were a comedy duo – which alas! they are not. Then they stepped down from the platform and called forth a group of teenagers called “The Sparklers,” Guess what they did next? That’s right, you’ve got it in one: they lit a sparkler and passed it around. This was supposed to symbolise something, but I forget what.
Those, myself included, who find it difficult to understand what Growing Younger is all about are in luck, for a commentary (in perfect Welby management-speak) is provided on their website. Let me try to give you the flavour…
There will be “facilitators” who will “work in a focussed way” be “highly skilled” (at what?) and they will “work flexibly.” The facilitators will bring “fresh thinking” to the project and “discern vision and strategy” while they will also “model good practice.” Then there will appear “a piece of commissioned evaluation” and the assurance that “research has been integrated” to provide “a baseline assessment” using “evaluation tools.”
There, there – don’t distress yourself: the mental nurse will be along in a minute, as soon as she’s finished tending to the Archbishop and the Bishop of Birmingham.
In fact I don’t feel very well myself. I know what usually wards of my hysterical collapses: it’s to quote Tom Eliot’s Sweeney Agonistes:
“And perhaps you’re alive. And perhaps you’re dead. Hoo ha ha. Hoo ha ha. Hoo. Hoo. Hoo. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock.”
There, that’s better – just a bit, anyway.