Tory Party at prayer or ‘charismatic renewal’?
Cranmer would abandon them too, if that were the sum total of the traditional opening liturgy. But it is not: it is a caricature as insidious as the Thatcherite 'blue rinse brigade'. There is in this opening ceremony all the reverence and respect one finds at the opening prayers before each session of Parliament. The hymn is fine and traditional: the prayers have form and meaning.
But instead ‘there is going to be a belter of a church service in the 500-seater town hall, complete with 5,000-pipe organ, grooved-up folk music and a massed gospel choir’.
David Cameron meets Jim and Tammy Bakker.
Cranmer is all in favour of well-populated churches and fine blasts on the organ. He even encourages the occasion ‘Hallelujah!’. But he is more than a little wary of ‘grooved-up folk music’ supplanting the church’s magnificent hymnody. Why ditch the sturdy ‘And Can It Be?’ for the modulational banalities of the theologically vacuous ‘Shine Jesus Shine’?
Happy-clappy songs are a dumbing down: they are something of a pestilence in church worship and tend to reduce God to a pixie. They demean those who sing them, and communicate little more than a Sunday School level of theology. And not even that, for Robert Raikes would have had no truck with the saccharine and cringe-worthy. It is music for the crèche: melodies for the nursery. One might as well replace The Book of Common Prayer with the Ladybird book of ABC.
Of course styles change, and the ‘Tory Party at prayer’ is not immune from liturgical developments. But Cranmer can hardly wait to see Eric Pickles swaying his hips or Francis Maude banging his tambourine to Dave’s evangelical beat while the mesmerised (if bemused) faithful irritatingly clap on beats two and four.
Worship should exalt: it should heighten, reach upwards and glorify God. It is not X-Factor entertainment.
But never mind the show. The Lord requires the heart.