Saturday, 15 August 2009

Empty vessels

A houseful of visiting relatives is keeping me away from the blog, but I couldn’t let a letter from the pompously titled ‘Youth Group of Ramsey Independent Methodist Church’ in this week’s Indie (see go without note.
For a town of under 5,000 where nothing happens, Ramsey (in theory) has a bewildering number of tiny churches, all with their own phonebook entries and all careful to demand listings on government databases. They mostly achieve the latter by writing cretinous responses to any government ‘consultation’ on a vaguely faith-based or moral issue.
From the few times government publishes examples of these responses I suspect most were written in red crayon with stick man pictures. I’m sure writing them makes illiterate losers feel important, and it also feeds the illusion of a lively Christian community. The truth ( as press releases from ‘proper’ churches such as or show) is that the church will be dead in a generation, and knows it.
When less than a hundred are in all Ramsey churches combined on an average Sunday, beats me why they not only heat and claim tax exemption on empty buildings but get schools opened as temporary places of worship – because so many godbotherers can’t bear to talk to those in any of the currently deserted sheepsheds.
So, you see, the situation is even sillier, because it isn’t sarky, media -savvy heathens like me or ‘the other Stuart’ (Peters) bringing about this demise, just the inability of any three Manx Christians to meet for more than ten minutes without splitting into two factions.
Think of the Peoples Front of Judea and Judean Peoples Front in Life of Brian and you’ll be pretty close. I’ve monitored with incredulity and hilarity incestuous, grandly titled nonentities in the many places I’ve lived or worked, but the Isle of Man would be Shangri La for either anthropologists or situation comedy writers.
The name on this letter is a perfect example. Just a wee local history lesson here ….
Manx Methodists signed up to the current mainstream UK Methodist position about a century ago. Those who wouldn’t formed a fundamentalist faction, known as the ‘Prims’ (Primitive Methodists), which maintained separate chapels and fought to get control of the two Manx ‘circuits’ for a couple of decades.
In some cases, even a husband and wife would attend separate chapels at other ends of the same street. By the way, in small communities where being in the ‘wrong’ church could deprive you of a job or home such moves were pragmatic and practical, not faith-based.
But ‘Independent Methodists’ aren’t part of that tradition, and are not even Methodists. They’re a tiny evangelical sect comprised of lapsed Baptists and Pentecostalists. Bear in mind these ‘denominations’ have such a weird Manx history that you can only get expelled from them for being vaguely sensible, honest or public spirited. For example, alcoholism, drug dependency or fraud don’t tend to cause eviction, and adultery certainly doesn’t, but going to the police to stop a ‘pillar of the church’ who assaults your under-age child does.
And what can you say about another tiny Ramsey evangelical cult which expelled the only teenage worshipper for "singing too loud"? I’m sure their decision had nothing to do with him admitting some confusion over his sexual orientation, because despite all the sicko rants such churches print in government ‘consultations’ whose results they know will go unpublished, in public they claim to love the sinner but hate the sin.
So this letter was written by bampots who found even those madhouses too ‘high church’ – as you surmise if you read it closely. By the way, as even locals will find it difficult to recall this ‘church’ I should say it’s halfway up an alley used as a toilet by patrons of the pub at the main road end, next to a charity shop which stopped wellwishers leaving clothes outside because the bags get nicked by skip-divers.
Not, in short, an upmarket venue. And not compelling evidence of a thriving local faith community.

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