Pulling Together


The Church: Right or Wrong?

Not welcome here

Today, I finally tried to make contact with my local Parish Church. I got as far as the door.

Having lived here for over a year through lockdowns and abnormality I’ve not tried to explore local churches before as with nothing normal there was no way to assess their usual community or activity. Now the restrictions have ended and my life has been returning to something a little more normal with the end of a disastrous attempt at marriage, yesterday, Passion Sunday 2022, was the day I finally got everything lined up and I set out to see what these people were like.

The walk was quite uneventful in the Spring sunshine. The roads, even the main A38 dual carriageway, were quiet and I found the walk pleasant. I entered the churchyard through what appeared to be the main entrance and headed toward the large porch and doors, but these were closed and clearly locked. I saw two elderly people moving along the side of the building from the car park wearing masks, so I followed them to another entrance, and what I saw there turned me away.

A large sign declared masks must be worn in the building, and another man approaching the door was putting his on, just to confirm the point. Many weeks after the government decided the Covid restrictions do more harm than good and it is time to become acclimatised to a virus which, for the vast majority of the population, is not currently dangerous and will never go away, this little community was still only admitting people willing and able to wear masks for the duration of the service. Since I am not one of those, I decided not to go in. The fibres in masks irritate my throat and lungs and make me cough. Who knows what long-term consequences they could have? There is no way I could sit in a church for an hour in one. So I turned away, saddened and dispppointed.

As I passed the Catholic church where the car park was full and their service was in full swing, if that’s an appropriate description for worship, I wondered whether to pop in, but as it was well underway and I could not communicate there, I declined to interrupt them. I wondered about the Baptists just over the bridge, but again felt unsure about disturbing a community not in my normal style, whatever that is. So I headed home again.

I know some people are still scared of this thing and don’t realise it will simply be part of the environment from now on. It is still spreading wildly but is not causing much harm. Over half the people in hospital recorded as having it are not ill because of it but are simply carrying it while ill with something else. The same presumably applies to the deaths within 28 days. We have daft statistics stoking daft fears while the ordinary person cannot work out what danger still remains, or even how much danger there really was to begin with. We know some people died, and some probably still do, but we have insufficient data in the media to allow us to know how many and how exceptional that might be. Without being able to assess the scale of a risk, how are people to calibrate their activity?

The weather was beautiful. At least I got out to enjoy it.

Well meaning, but the implications...

Yesterday, Churches Together in England organised silent vigils for Ukraine. The Bristol one took place on College Green and was advertised with two points which caused me concern.

The first was a suggestion attenders should dress in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. The second was an odd sentence in the notice:

“The event is designed to be inclusive so any banners which are not in tune with this key point will not be allowed.”

Now there’s an obvious irony! The inclusive event would exclude anyone making a point the organisers considered out of step! That makes me very uncomfortable. What definition of inclusive were they working with?

Yet my main concern was connected with the clash of values the war in Ukraine represents. It may seem benign to suggest people dress in a style showing their allegiance to Ukraine. Surely nobody would object to that? Well, actually, I do. You see, if this conflict means anything, it underlines the difference between countries ruled by law, enforced without fear or favour, and those ruled by the whims or preferences of controlling elites or individuals. In the former the law governs what we can do and we should be able to say anything within it. In the latter, messages friendly to the regime are permitted, and others are silenced. The law is less important than whether your actions suit those in power. A distinguishing feature of democracies is that it matters not where one stands so long as actions are legal. In autocracies, legality is less important than the ruler’s favour.

It so happens that in this country it is illegal to demonstrate “wearing a political uniform”. That should be heeded and enforced without fear or favour, for fear and favour are exactly what distinguish autocracies from democracies. If we ignore that point we throw away everything that matters in this conflict.

About the Author

K J Petrie has a Full Technological Certificate in Radio, TV and Electronics, an HNC in Digital Electronics and a BA(Hons) in Theological Studies.

His interests include Christian and societal unity, Diverse Diversity, and freedoms from want, from fear, of speech, and of association. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party.

The views expressed here are entirely personal and unconnected with any body to which he belongs.

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