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Spectator letters: Why rural churches are so important, and the best use for them

Plus: How to protect the West from Russia, and is Dear Mary sending coded messages abroad?

28 February 2015

9:00 AM

28 February 2015

9:00 AM

The presence of a church

Sir: The challenge for the Church of England and the wider community is to ensure that our village churches are a blessing and not a burden (‘It takes a village’, 21 February). The Church of England has approximately 16,000 churches, three-quarters of which are listed by English Heritage. Most of these church buildings are in rural areas.

There are around 2,000 rural churches with weekly attendance lower than ten. It can be a significant responsibility for those small congregations to look after that church, and one has to recognise that this is a burden that falls on thriving parishes.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and, as Ysenda Maxtone Graham made clear, there needs to be a range of solutions, including greater involvement of the laity, the possibility of giving responsibility for more churches to local charities or trusts, and the setting up of ‘festival churches’, which have services only for the major festivals of the Church. We also need to see how we can make church buildings more serviceable to the wider community, so that they can be used as much as possible and not simply for Sunday worship.

For many people the presence of a church in rural England is symbolic of the nation and the rural way of life, and a source of support and comfort even for those who are not regular churchgoers. We should start with the very clear premise that the Church of England is a national church and should therefore ensure a Christian presence in every community.
Rt Hon. Canon Sir Tony Baldry, MP
Second Church Estates Commissioner,
Church Buildings Council, London SW1

A western perimeter


Sir: Anne Applebaum’s article (‘Putin’s grand strategy’, 21 February) graphically illustrates the threat that Putin poses to western unity. But isn’t it true that Putin, by showing his hand so blatantly in Ukraine, is making it easier for the West to create a defendable perimeter to contain future Russian aggression, behind which those countries that want to be part of the West can be secure? Such a perimeter would enable the West, over time, to consolidate western collective security, and build western economic and political resilience.
Clive Christie
Aberystwyth, Wales

A winning policy

Sir: Bravo James Forsyth (‘Where is the Tories’ secret weapon?’, 14 February). Extending ‘right to buy’ to housing association homes would give a positive reason for floating voters to overcome apathy. A winning campaign must follow President Reagan’s optimistic ‘sunlit uplands’ message.
Tony Devenish
Westminster City Council, London SW1

Taxing issue

Sir: Toby Young (Status anxiety, 21 February) confesses some doubt as to whether the citizen should pay only the tax which can be demanded of him under the black letter of the taxing statute, or abide by the spirit of the law and pay what the legislators have deemed to be fair.

Mr Young is pondering a problem of wider significance than he perhaps realises. He ought to consult his colleague, Matthew Parris, who in his autobiography, Chance Witness, expiates on the citizen’s need for certainty in the law, and the danger to that certainty from the application by the courts of the rules of natural justice. I think that no matter how unfair the results may sometimes be, it is better for Mr Young and the rest of us that our rights and liabilities under statute are based on the specific wording of the statute.
Robert Angus
Allendale, Northumberland

Actioning action

Sir: Perhaps Dot Wordsworth could take this up. Is there any branch of public service which has not been infected by Orwellian Newspeak? I had a telephone conversation yesterday with a young woman at a well-known museum about a refund for a course that had been cancelled at short notice. After waiting for two weeks, I am still without my refund, I informed her. Her reply, after a longish wait at my end, was that ‘the situation is being reviewed by several managers and once it has been approved will be actioned by our managers’. How many managers does it take to kick a can down the road, one wonders?
Maureen Finucane
Richmond, Surrey

Dear Mary’s secret codes

Sir: Are the first lines of Mary’s problem-solving answers taking the form of cryptic crossword clues? From recent issues: You can’t ask her without infringing it (7 February). Insinuate from the beginning that you are ringing on behalf of the petitioner (7 February). There is no need to kiss at all in this scenario (14 February). As far as I can see, this is either coincidence or someone at The Spectator is transmitting coded messages regarding Liberty, Iran and the French Connection. Considering the changeable atmosphere we’re currently experiencing over here, I advise the editor to keep an eye on what his publication is (perhaps subliminally) transmitting.
Mark Daniell
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Satire in the States

Sir: While William Cook may find no humour in certain British TV shows, to state that satire does not work on television over-generalises (Arts, 21 February). He apparently can’t see across the Atlantic. Jon Stewart, South Park, certainly Stephen Colbert and John Oliver (a Brit!) all demonstrate that satire can be — and is — communicated via the ‘one-eyed god’ of television.
William Pate
Leander, Texas 


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