In response to the decision of the new incumbent of St Selpulchre without Newgate, London, known as the Musicians' Church because of its long history as a rehearsal and performance space for classical musicians, as reported in the Church Times on 18th August, our new General Secretary Jonathan Draper has issued the following statement which was published on the Church TImes letters page on 1st September.
Andrew Brown in his Press column (Church Times, 25th August) referred to the recent events at St Sepulchre Without Newgate – the "national musicians’ church" where apparently bookings are no longer welcome from choirs and orchestras because their music is not religious, after a church-plant from Holy Trinity, Brompton — as a significant act of “disevangelism”.
We in Modern Church would wholly endorse this comment. It is all the more distressing since the action arises from a movement that claims to promote evangelism.
Classical music, secular or even sacred, may not figure largely in some narrower interpretations of the Christian gospel, but has played an enormous part in mainstream Anglicanism. It is a point of contact between the Church and the spirituality of very many people, as well as in our national life, to which our Church aims, of course, to minister.
At this time, in the middle of the Proms season, it seems particularly regrettable that the church where Sir Henry Wood’s ashes are buried should apparently repudiate its important and unique ministry. This cannot be in the service of a generous gospel that claims to speak to the whole of human experience. Music is a gift from God: it is an essential expression of the essentially creative nature of God and an element of the imago Dei, and is not in any way opposed to the gospel — far from it.
We support the action taken by Dr John Rutter and other musicians in protesting against this development, which is sadly all too representative of the lack of generosity and liberality which has been making inroads into parts of our Church. We hope that the authorities in HTB, who elsewhere have been more sensitive in their plants within churches of traditions different from their own, will reconsider this decision as soon as possible; and we would be happy to work with them to demonstrate how a more generous theological approach would enhance evangelism and church growth.
Very Revd Dr Jonathan Draper
General Secretary, Modern Church