Charles Kenyon: The rural church offers a welcome to all - even me

Following in the footsteps of previous generations of his family, our columnist gives in to his local vicar's request

I have become a churchwarden. Each generation of my family succumbs, while protesting that it is not for them - they're too busy and don't believe.

All of this is true in my case, but when the hard-working, well-respected, unpaid vicar, who looks after eight parishes, sits in your kitchen and says the church might close if he can't find anyone, it is difficult to refuse.

This church is in the next village, not the redundant church next door that we look after already. In addition to this permanently lapsed Anglican, our Roman Catholic neighbour and my liberal Jewish wife have volunteered as honorary assistants, showing that diversity is more than skin deep.

The church in rural areas is desperate to get more people involved, so it must adapt to be a comfortable place for everyone. Many people want a spiritual space and to share this within a community, even if they find faith no substitute for experience. Of all faiths, the Church of England is best placed to cater for everyone - indeed, it has an obligation to do so, to celebrate and console for the comfort of all.

The wise Elizabeth I said there was no desire to make windows of men's souls. The Church of England, in whom she vested these wonderful country churches to bring peace to her country, has a special duty to offer a spiritual, joyful and equal welcome to all, in a manner that avoids strange and uncomfortable ceremony. Perhaps I will be invited to leave my new post somewhat earlier than I thought.

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