The Spectator

Letters: save our churches!

Free the C of E

Sir: Patrick Kidd’s article on the shortcomings of today’s Church of England maintains the importance of the ‘volunteers in the pews’ who bind the church together (‘Miracle workers’, 18 May). He warns that these people ‘can so easily run away’.

This is exactly what happened to the Church of Scotland in 1843 when the hierarchy got things badly wrong. The Great Disruption was caused by a disagreement over patronage: should a patron be the sole arbiter in hiring and firing ministers or did this undermine the spiritual independence of the congregation? The exit of more than 400 ministers from the Kirk’s General Assembly and the formation of the Free Church of Scotland (the Wee Frees) was the answer.

I would happily join a Free Church of England if this meant fewer bishops, more parish clergy, no Church Commissioners and all of Cranmer’s collects.

Rohaise Thomas-Everard

Dulverton, Somerset

Endangered churches

Sir: Patrick Kidd is spot on when he says that volunteers are key to the future of our churches. That’s exactly why our plan to save the country’s church buildings, Every Church Counts, makes more support for heroic volunteers a top priority.

We can’t expect the volunteers who look after these buildings day to day to be experts in historic building repairs, or in the complex task of large-scale fund raising. But we can expect dioceses and denominations to do more to support them, and to simplify the bureaucracy that makes the work harder than it should be and deters new people from getting involved.

Half the country’s most important historic buildings are churches, but many are at risk and an increasing number face closure. We need action by government, the denominations, philanthropists and local churches themselves, with local people at the heart of securing their future.

Sir Philip Rutnam

Chairman, National Churches Trust

London SW1P

Faith in politics

Sir: Douglas Murray (‘Why is it so hard to be a Christian in public life?’, 18 May) is partly right. But as a Christian, I found that neither the Conservative party, nor my constituents, made it hard. I was also encouraged to read in Katy Balls’s interview with Labour’s Shabana Mahmood (in which she stood up for Kate Forbes) that she would as a Muslim oppose loosening of the abortion law and assisted dying – views that I share, and which are almost certainly not held by the majority of her colleagues. That implies to me that the Labour party is accepting of the implications of faith in public life, as presumably it would offer the same freedom of conscience to Christians, Jews, Hindus and those of other faiths.

It seems to be mainly the Liberal Democrats and SNP who have a problem in this area, although the recent appointment of Kate Forbes as Deputy First Minister is a welcome sign of a more broad-minded approach. I pray that it lasts and that the Lib Dems follow suit. In the meantime, we can thank God that we can still worship and proclaim the Gospel freely in this country. We do not face the persecution and even murder which so many Christians and others suffer for their faith across the world and which Fiona Bruce MP speaks up against as the Prime Minister’s special envoy on religious freedom. However, there is no room for complacency. Such freedom has been hard won over the centuries in our country and is easily lost.

Jeremy Lefroy

Conservative MP for Stafford 2010-2019


Sir: Having read Sean Thomas’s article about exorbitant tipping in the USA (‘Slippery slope’, 18 May), may I suggest he does what a friend of mine does? He only tips for the food – which in fairness has to be prepared and served – but when ordering a $300 bottle of wine refuses to pay $60 for the removal of the cork. He has met some resistance but persists.

Rob Phillips

Lymington, Hants

Underground, overground

Sir: Rory Sutherland is right about how marketing transformed what we now call the London Overground (The Wiki Man, 11 May). When it was managed by British Rail, few knew of the existence of the North London line and it was actually proposed for closure in the post-Beeching era. The transfer of ownership to London Transport and its marketing as part of the Tube network transformed its profile and it is now so popular that it is sometimes difficult to get on the trains.

An interesting example of how – just as with private ownership – there can be good state organisations and bad. Also, BR was not the only one to get things wrong. The Spectator itself opposed the extension of the Jubilee line as offering poor value for money. Once again, it is so popular that it is often hard to get on the trains.

David Reed

Mirfield, West Yorkshire

Avo alternative

Sir: Mystic Martin Vander Weyer does it again, in a far-sighted reach into the future (Any other business, 18 May). I almost choked on my ‘old school’ porridge at his gag about mushy peas in the avocado analysis. Mushy peas as a super substitute? They are already here, in a nice little breakfast venue in Piccadilly, hiding in plain sight and labelled ‘No Avo on sourdough’ (naturally). The ‘No Avo’ is mashed or pressed peas with some watercress, chilled. It was pleasant enough, while others might resurrect an old City label which Martin will remember: ‘Cannot recommend a purchase.’

W. McCall

Kippen, Stirlingshire

Holy wine

Sir: Domaine de la Vieille Eglise is not, pace Jonathan Ray (Wine club, 11 May), France’s only working winery in a church. The Cellier des Dominicains inside a Dominican convent built in 1290 in Collioure, Roussillon, is a flourishing cooperative.

Christopher McKane

North London

Big island

Sir: Toby Young refers to Britain as ‘a small island in the North Sea’ (No sacred cows, 18 May). Britain is actually a large island, the ninth largest in the world, far larger than such sizeable ones as Iceland, Cuba, Sicily and Corsica. If you want a small island, think of one of the Greek Cyclades or the Inner Hebrides. Toby may well have meant ‘a small country’, but even that description probably needs qualifying.

Stephen Terry

Lustleigh, Devon

Dead cat strategy

Sir: Toby Young’s article on accidentally abducting cats reminded me of a friend whose cat died days before he was due to exchange contracts on a new house. His wife insisted he bury the cat in the ‘new’ garden which they did not yet own. So my pal crept out at 2 a.m., slipped into the garden and buried the cat. The sale fell through two days later.

Peter Fineman

Barrow Street, Wiltshire