Can We Have a “Church” with Clergy But No Actual Churches?

In the British Church Times, Linda Woodhead, a sociologist of religion, has been thinking what might happen to the Church of England if church attendance keeps declining. She ponders that even if all Sunday services closed down, leaving only clergy remaining, the church’s most significant activities could still continue through clergy doing weddings, funerals, baptisms, being tour guides in cathedrals, and running Easter and Christmas services as required.

To be honest, I genuinely think that in the mainline churches, this is what probably will happen. Mainline churches will eventually be left with virtually no congregations, they’ll have to sell up properties to pay pensions and salaries, and will thereby be left with nothing to do but focusing on managing philanthropic ministries like nursing homes, day care centers, counselling services, overseas aid projects, etc. But I’m pretty sure that this won’t happen to all churches, religion has proved to be, after all, remarkably resilient even in the face of Modernity and Postmodernity. And I think most churches would not let it happen because they are wisely convicted that the church is a community of people, not simply an optional religious function with a secularized society.

No surprises that Ian Paul has quite a lot to say about this topic.

I also recommend that folks check Richard Bauckham’s letter to the Church Times that is conveniently available thanks to Steve Walton.

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  • Jesus:

    • Call no man your father on the Earth. ~Jesus
    $• You have received without payment, so give without payment. ~Jesus


    • You have only one spiritual father. For I became your father…when I preached to you. ~Paul
    $• Those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. ~Paul

    Folks are abandoning Paul’s model, which makes Church into a HOA.

    A dozen meddling little busybodies with a thousand little rules about the color of your siding, can you have clothes lines, how tall your bush at the corner of the house may grow, what sort of music you can listen to, are you baptized, do you watch FOX or CNN?

    De-HOA. De-Church.

    “I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.”~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Ezra Stiles Ely, June 25, 1819

  • Paul

    This is late, but thanks for the info on the Lent Experience. I have signed up.

  • James Patrick Galivan

    I am a Catholic, so I know that the Faith, and the Church, which is its vessel, will endure till the end of time, but the Church of England, and its U S affiliate, appear to be terminally ill. George Bernard Shaw, who occasionally stumbled into versions of the truth, once said that “There was nothing wrong with the Church of England until the Old Girl got religion.’
    That was over a century ago. Now the Old Girl is no longer interested in ‘Religion,” Perhaps a more realistic title for that denomination might be ‘The Museum of England.’ Far more people in the U K attend mosque than pray in church. I find that sad beyond words.