15 MAY 1936, Page 21


SIR,—In connexion with my recent letter about church services, &c., I was interested to note the suggestion that one difficulty which arises when changing services is that in trying to attract a more youthful congregation, the old people are driven away and no one takes their place. In my previous letter, I mentioned two churches which I frequently visit and where one can listen to really beautiful services. I should now like to refer to, the vicar of one of these churches. When he took up his living in his new parish, he found that the congregation was small, and consisted almost entirely of very old people, Although he is elderly, he is very active and keen and he determined to change this state of affairs. In his first address to his new congregation, he told them very frankly that he did not agree with the way some of the services were conducted and that he proposed to make certain alterations. He then added that he would do nothing until he had submitted his proposals to the congregation for their criticism or approval. By being so frank and reasonable, the vicar got little or no opposition to his plans. The services were modified and beautified and no one was " frightened away." The vicar also realised that the changed services would not attract young people into the church unless these young people. were told of the change, so he did everything in his power to get the members of his congregation to bring along any young friends they knew, and in one way and another that church has been filled, sometimes to overflowing— and if one man can do it, others can too !

As regards the form of service to be adopted, many sug- gestions have been . made. To my way of thinking, two considerations are paramount : firstly, the service must be simple but inspiring, and secondly, the man conducting the service must make every endeavour to make it a success. Christ impressed everyone by His simplicity, which in itself told of His greatness. This was an example which we must follow in our religious worship. It seems fairly obvious by their popularity that .the .Sunday evening wireless services have approached the nearest to this ideal. They are just the right length, and the hymns and psalms chosen are always beautiful and an encouragement to hearty singing. I suggest that all services . would be improved by the introduction of four or five minutes' complete silence, when the congregation could make their own supplications in their own way. In this connexion, I should like to say that what is meant by the phrase " really enlightened prayer " is prayer that is natural, sincere and spontaneous, as opposed to repeating centuries-old prayers monotonously and in parrot-fashion after the parson, occasions when few people, often including the parson himself, are taking little or no notice what they are saying.

The second consideration about the minister conducting the service is very important. So often nowadays does one go into a church and listen to a minister gabbling through the prayers and lessons at such a rate that no one can hear him and he himself can certainly not be concentrating on what he is saying. There is apparently no very strict method of obtaining suitable men for the Church. How often does one hear of men going in for the Church because they cannot do anything else ? Only the other day I heard of a clergyman who 'confessed that his heart had never been in his work, but that his parents had made him go in for the Church in order to uphold a family tradition.

Several suggestions have been made for the improve- ment of church services, but not one correspondent has yet Made any concrete proposal as to how these reforms should be carried out, who should be approached on the subject, &c., &c. Letters are constantly appearing in the open columns of the Press, but how often is anything done as a result ? I appeal to those churchmen who have already shown their agreement that these reforms are needed to do something about it, as they will know the channels through which this end may be achieved.—I am. dear Sir, yours truly, J. N. LE ROSSIGNOL. 122A Barnhill Road, Wembley Park, Middlesex.