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Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 8

2 March, 2014

This is the second of the Vicar's Musings drawing on articles from a four-part series in the "Church Times" on the state of our Church.

Dr Abby Day is a senior research fellow in Anthropology at the University of Kent. Her current research into the state of the Anglican Church is not with Gen. X, Y or even Z; she studies church-goers who belong to "Generation A". These are Anglicans, mostly women, born in the 1920s and 30s, mothers of the baby-boomers, "laity, often invisible and unacknowledged as they lead from the pews, who rarely have time to take tea ... because they are too heavy hauling heavy boxes up and down church stairs for jumble sales, or dusting and polishing, or organising the roster of duties. This may be the final active generation of the Church of England - because their descendants are not replacing them."

As a good Anthropologist, Dr Day immersed herself in the culture of those she was studying, "I joined the congregation of a church, and with the permission of the clergy and laity, became involved in many aspects of church-work led, and largely carried out by Generation A". After a year in the church, she retained her membership, while also visiting other churches to see if her findings and themes were common to other faith Anglican communities. The study resulted in three specific conclusions: (1) Not Just Sunday. Generation A are responsible for sustaining much more than just Sunday morning church activities. There are numerous week-day ministries that would collapse without them. (2) Where There's Piety, There's a Party. Most church social functions depend on the voluntary efforts of older parishioners. "The space will be decorated, and tables set ... there will be plenty of talking, a great deal of laughter ... and with Generation A the last to leave after the washing up." (3) The Roster is a Sacred Text. Nearly all Generation A church members have a job, and these shared tasks create belonging: "the effect is not only to keep the church building functioning, but the people involved and interdependent ... it is also a safety net, as the women look out for each other, and members of the congregation, enquiring after people's health, family and work ? no one will be neglected or forgotten".

Dr Day concludes: "when organisations lose their most loyal members they tend to decline quickly ... as I probe these issues with Generation A, I cannot detect panic. They have seen worse, and survived. And what is the point of faith, if not to sustain hope in the face of futility? Priests may need to think quickly about how to replace that kind of leadership".

For the full article see: Generation A — the dwindling force.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

Illustration for Ordinary Sunday 8 Musings

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