Saturday, 8 December 2007

Bringing life back into the parishes

As a new curate in a Durham mining village, Trevor Beeson was surprised to hear that a complaint had been made to his vicar about him being unfriendly. It transpired that this was because when he knocked on the door of a cottage he waited for someone to open it in instead of stepping straight in.

But 1951 was a different world, when a young clergyman would spend every afternoon visiting the houses of the people in his parish. Someone was in when he called; the community was alive. And there was a community spirit in death, too. The mortally ill would normally die in their own homes, not an anonymous hospital, and the funeral rites would begin at home, with neighbours making a point of calling.

Trevor Beeson's career has matched the span of the Queen's reign, beginning the year before her accession. He has been a Canon of Westminster and the Dean of Winchester, chaplain to the Speaker and adviser on religious programmes to commercial television. In a new book, Round the Church in Fifty Years (SCM, £19.99), he does not chart his (rather influential) life in the Church of England, but sketches the changes in five decades of Christian life in Britain. Read more
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