Last week's Church Times does as it always seems to and got me despondent and mildly vexed in equal measure (in other words, it challenges me to think afresh many things).
Tucked away on p7 was a little article by Ed Thornton covering 'church numbers', a perennial exercise in poor news made amusing by those trying hard to see the good in all things. Gawd blessem.
Church attendance numbers are, gently, going down. That is not good and news that displeases me. This year has, though, offered news that church weddings are 'up' which is alright innit. Oh, and half a dozen more people worship God in a skater-cafe ice-rink so that is good too.
I am blessed with a particular autism, and that is a fascination for statistics. I used to discover petty larceny by staring for hours at tables of number in Font 4 in my old job. Church-based numbers are no less fascinating to me, for I am one weird saddo who ought to get a life.
So, what has happened in 2011? Allow me to be uncharitable for a moment. Fifteen or sixteen disgruntled Anglo-Catholics suddenly changed their sacramental theology and became half-cast half-baked Roman catholics, which is not good. Fear of Breasts in Clerical Shirts, otherwise known as Boobincollarphobia, is a debilitating scourge on many 'traditionalists'. So go they went and went they did. But surely we are laughing in the Church of England because we have the pasta-based Gospel marketting machine reeling people in for the Lord. Yet numbers are still tumbling despite gazillions of people who have partaken of Ruarchioli, so either churches of a given flavour do not complete their registers, or something is not as rosy as we would like to pretend.
Fortunately, the good Lord doesn't worry like we worry. The good Lord probably doesn't become gussett-rotated (if the Ominpresent Omniscient Omnivorous Lord has such an article of clothing) about numbers like we humans do. God has given us faith, and would direct us to, in the words of my wise and most excellent training incumbent - 'avoid the numbers game'.
Amusingly though, at the foot of p7, my dear friend had posted a very nice advert for a gathering of WATCH folk suggesting (possibly) that they may be in the wilderness. I encourage them to take heart. Only twenty-four people go to church, so that wilderness is a very very tiny place.
Still, the good news is that I have tidied my study. There must be a liturgy for that somewhere!