For Whom?

When we turn to the local congregation, the traditional mould has been ‘churchy’. Since liturgy is what the church does well, much pastoral work has used the Sunday service and the occasional offices as a means of enabling the church to grow and live. Thus, for instance, because many people still want their children baptised, a church can use their request as a means of inducting children into Sunday school, and sometimes their parents into church. The growth of restrictive baptismal policies, however, is reflected in the new services, with their increased stress on the element of future commitment required of parents. Wedding preparation may not be so productive since newly-weds often move elsewhere, though funerals will bring the bereaved. Certainly here the church, unlike most other people, is not silenced. Likewise, ministry to the sick, in hospital and at home, is a point of contact. So religion gives comfort in the face of the unknown. Ministry to children can also be conducted through schools and the various uniformed organisations. The Baden-Powell groups still hold to their ‘duty to God’, and it is sometimes possible to use these organisations to fill the church with children and a few of their parents.

Children, the sick, the bereaved: is this the communion of the saints on earth? There is no doubt that such a strategy sometimes works, but it reinforces the view that religion is essentially for children and the dependent. The Church becomes a hospital ship, the spiritual arm of the National Health Service. It may even become like an elderly whore, there to provide what is needed, and with some need to be grateful that is still called for at all. (138-139)

Roger Arguile | “Parishes and People” in Essays Catholic and Radical

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