Damian Thompson

Is the Church of England dying in the countryside?

Is the Church of England dying in the countryside?
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English country churches: everyone loves them, no one wants to actually pray in them. 'People have a massive sentimental attachment to the buildings, but they don't actually come to services,' says my guest on this week's Holy Smoke podcast, the Rev Ravi Holy. He's a country vicar in Wye, Kent, where he regularly attracts 150 worshippers in his main church – but, in the smaller churches he looks after, he's sometime confronted by just six people.

Do listen to our incredibly frank conversation. Ravi is an ex-Pentecostalist, a liberal Catholic 'post-evangelical' who believes in the Resurrection but isn't too bothered if some of his flock don't. He's even conducted a funeral for an atheist with no reference to God in the service. (I put him on the spot about this.)

He also says that, if his local parish were 'captured by evangelicals', it would be 'an unmitigated disaster', because they would drive away ordinary people.

I wasn't surprised to learn that Ravi would happily conduct a gay wedding if the law allowed him to. 'I can no more marry a gay couple than I can confer a degree from Cambridge University,' he says. 'It's an insane situation.'

This is a discussion that takes us right behind the scenes of the rural Church of England. You can listen to it here:

And if you enjoyed that, do subscribe on iTunes for a new episode every other Monday.