Friday, 7 August 2009

Mission opportunity ham-strung by church’s ‘clunking fist’

A probationary minister who planned to offer communion in Trafalgar Square as part of a unique arts initiative was blocked by officials within his own church. Revd Kenneth Chalmers - see my post on 24th July - wanted to create ‘a sacred space’ on the square’s vacant fourth plinth as part of the ‘One and Other’ arts project. But Methodist Church headquarters intervened after complaints that a probationer was not authorised to conduct communion.

Instead, Mr Chalmers led a worship service while the superintendant minister of Methodist Central Hall stepped in to offer communion from the foot of the plinth. Revd Martin Turner was dismayed by the church ruling, saying that a ‘wonderful initiative’ had been hampered by ‘the great clunking first of the Methodism establishment’. Nevertheless, Mr Chalmers said he was elated by doing the ‘God thing’ in public in the historic tradition of Methodists like John Wesley and Lord Soper.

Source: Methodist Recorder (6/8)


Rev Tony B said...

'Clunking fist' is about right. Yes, the rules say the authorisation is for work in his own circuit - but since when did we have rigid parochial boundaries? If he'd been my prob, I as super would have authorised him to do the communion in Trafalgar Square as a mission initiative on behalf of my circuit, therefore he as a prob would have been acting within the terms of his authorisation.

I share Martin Turner's anger and dismay at the attitude of the Connexion on this - it showed a lack of imagination to say the least. Who was complaining? I can't think of many Methodists who'd object. I did hear that St Martin in the Fields queried it. If they did, I'd love to know exactly why they thought a Methodist communion in a public space was anything to do with them - and why the connexional officers listened.

Sorry, but this whole episode has left Methodism with egg on its face, and very publicly, too.

Olive Morgan said...

Thank you, Tony. I was hoping someone like you would comment in the way that you have done. As a lay person, i could not be quite so specific. All credit goes to the probationary Minister who had this idea of missionand I was sad to learn of the curb put on him, not least because, as you say, it has left Methodism with egg on its face. But the egg will eventually wash off. Methodism is still bigger than the 'clunking fist' that appeared on this occasion.

Rachel said...

Silly me - I'd thought that the reason that Kenneth wasn't presiding was because of the difficulty of dispensing bread and wine from the top of the plinth! Would he have lobbed it down from on high or would people have had to scale a ladder to receive??
However, I totally agree with you and Tony, Olive.

Olive Morgan said...

That's such a good comment, Rachel! My fertile imagination had also conjured up all sorts of ways he could do it, but I refrained from articulating them in case it was I who was being naive! How would he have offered communion from such a height? Does anyone know? Do you, Tony?

Rev Tony B said...

It's a good question. I have no idea what he'd planned to do. Some Hoffnung-type remedies come to mind:
- Have a set of long thin, chutes, reaching from the table on the plinth to a rail at the foot, and have communicants position themselves with their mouths open at the end of the chute - roll the bread down the chute into their mouths, followed by a glug of wine poured immediately after the bread.
- Use catapults to fire the bread from the top of the plinth into the mouths of communicants; wine could be either squirted from a water pistol or previously prepared into a jelly blob and fired from the same catapults.
- Position trampolines around the plinth - communicants should bounce in sequence so that the elements could be inserted into their mouths at the apex of the jump. (Giving a blessing would be so much easier - not so much laying on of hands as holding out the hands for the ascending communicant to meet.)
- Have a ladder up to the back of the plinth, and a slide from the front: communicants ascend the ladder, receive the elements, and slide down - shouts of "Wheeeee!" become a chorus of praise.
- Fit a bungee to a frame on the plinth: after the consecration, the minister jumps, placing elements into hands or mouths at the foot of each boing.

You see, it's not so difficult when you think about it! Although if I'd been doing it, I'd have probably just had people on the ground to distribute bread and wine after I'd said the great prayer. Don't think our circuit insurance covers bungee jumping or being attacked by hungry seagulls...

Olive Morgan said...

Now that I've stopped laughing - thank you so much, Tony - it would be good to know what the Minister himself was expecting to do and also what he thinks of your suggestions.

Fat Prophet said...

Some wonderful suggestions on how communion might have been administered if the rules had not been applied with Pharisaic fervour.
There are times when I worry about the future of Methodism when we seem to be so tightly bound by rules and regulations - I wonder what Jesus would have done or said about all this.

PamBG said...

I've come to this late but I agree with Tony. I won't add any more!