St martin-in-the-fields

Britain’s churches need us to survive – but do we still need them?

In the summer of 1992, Gloria Davey came upon a ruined church near Swaffham in Norfolk. It had no roof, no windows and no door. Satanists were using it for their rites; a grave had been opened, giving up its bones. Gloria’s husband Bob felt obliged to act. He disrupted their rituals, and when they threatened to kill him, he called in the local Territorial Army. They didn’t bother him again. Bob Davey was 73 when Gloria found the late 11th-century church of St Mary, in Houghton on the Hill; he died, aged 91, having visited it every day thereafter. He and a small group of friends built a mile-long

The music we need right now: James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio reviewed

The two most depressing words in contemporary classical music? That’s easy: holy minimalism. I know, I know. Lots of people love the stuff, and I wish them joy. But the notion that one simply jettisons the whole western tradition of struggle, of purpose, of wholehearted emotional argument — and that the greatest and most crucial of human questions can be answered by a mush of soothing stylistic mannerisms — well, I’ve tried and so far I just can’t do it. I can’t simply tune in and drop out amid a haze of Yankee Candle harmonies. I hear those static choral clusters and watery melismas, and it feels like being suffocated