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This article is taken from PN Review 13, Volume 6 Number 5, May - June 1980.

Shared Memory C.H. Sisson

ONE wonders what some of the clergy imagine goes on in the heads of their parishioners. Have those who talk so readily about people 'understanding' the new forms of service, and the epistles and gospels in inferior translations, ever reflected on what they are claiming? An elementary examination conducted by some impartial authority would produce some comic results. Never, perhaps, since the Reformation, have congregations been so uninstructed. Where will the ordinary church-goer have got the ideas which tumble around in his head? From the newspapers, from the television and radio and-to a minimal extent-from those ten-minute sermons which are so rarely an exposition of doctrine, and so often no more than an exhortation to entertain more fervently that common stock of vague and politicised morality which is bandied about the world, day in, day out, though rarely enough acted upon, no doubt.

What is actually fed into the minds of the average congregation? There was a time, when Mattins was well-attended, when-sermons apart-there was week by week poured over the heads of the most somnolent, sizeable chunks of the Old and New Testaments, with stories which came round again and again till many had an air of familiarity, and the Psalms, the intonations and many of the phrases of which were part of the furniture of the minds of those who were brought up with them. Vain repetitions? At least the minds of the ordinary Anglican family had some religious furnishing. Everyone will have recognised, in ...


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