‘A church without walls’: Anglicanism divided on shift away from tradition

Aug 31, 2021 by

by Harriet Sherwood, Guardian:

Plan for new communities led by lay people in unconventional venues has prompted Save the Parish campaign.

One Sunday afternoon in September, a small group will gather at the Whisby nature reserve near Lincoln to explore its trails and marvel at the wildlife. Before they set off on a two-hour hike, they may fortify themselves with a hot drink and a slice of cake from the cafe; they might apply sunscreen or don waterproofs. One thing they are certain to do is join together in prayer.

This is Lincoln Forest Church, part of a growing network of Christian communities that meet outdoors to worship and engage with the natural world. “We are a church without walls,” said Melanie Carroll, who started the group five years ago.

Worship is no longer confined to traditional buildings led by vicars in dog collars. The Church of England plans to set up 10,000 new Christian communities over the next 10 years, many led by lay people and based in village halls, cafes, warehouses, empty shops and other unconventional venues.

But not without a battle. Many in the C of E are alarmed at the idea of a shift away from the centrality of the traditional parish church, and they are rallying support for a resistance movement drawn from the nation’s pews.

Save the Parish, a campaign launched this summer to preserve “the system that has defined Christianity for 1,000 years”, is calling on supporters to stand in elections this autumn to the General Synod, the C of E’s parliament, explicitly to oppose the vision set out by the church’s top brass.

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