THE parish is “essential” and is not under threat, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
In an interview for the Church Times, Archbishop Welby responded to the Save the Parish campaign by stating: “There is no ‘threat’ to the parish...There is no conspiracy to abolish the parish.”
It was “rubbish”, he said, to suggest that the parish system was outdated. “We are the Church for England. If we are going to be for England, we have to be in every community, or as many as we can possibly manage. We have to be open to every person, not just the congregation, precious as they are.”
He continued: “I am not just in favour of the parish, I am passionate that the parish is essential.” He was sympathetic to clergy and laity currently struggling, especially after the pandemic. He described his ten years as a parish priest in Coventry diocese as “far more stressful than what I do now”.
During the interview, the Archbishop conceded that the money invested for church growth “has not so far” produced results. “If that happens, it happens. But it’s not us who grow the Church. It’s God who grows the Church.”
His message to clergy and laypeople was: “We can only do what God enables us to do, and the rest is his problem. So, if you can’t do things, don’t be guilty. . . Keep a sane home life, and keep up with your friends, and do what you can having done that, and spend time with God in prayer.”
Church-planting initiatives such as Myriad were “not saying to parish clergy who don’t have any more to give . . . ‘Never mind, you have got to give more, you have to got to somehow plant three churches,’” he said.
“Myriad is only one part of the story. Another part of the story is: let’s try and lighten the load — make it easier to run ancient buildings, find ways of resourcing.”
Archbishop Welby said that he knew how demoralised clergy felt: “I led a small church. . . I used to go to New Wine. I would come away so depressed at what we weren’t doing. And we would always have a bit of a bicker on the way home. . .
“And my wife would say: ‘No, of course we’re not: we’re a small church in a small town in the Midlands. We are not HTB . . . Don’t fret about it. That’s their job. Let’s do our job.’”