Death to Herbertism!

For three hundred and fifty years the Church of England has been haunted by a pattern of parochial ministry, based upon a fantasy and untenable for more than a hundred of those years. The pattern, derived from a romantic and wrong-headed false memory of the life and ministry of George Herbert, finally died on the South Bank of the Thames in the mid 1960s… and nobody noticed. In this first series of blog posts we will examine the history and structure of the false pattern (which I have christened “Herbertism”); we will recount the real life and ministry of the Saint of Bemerton; we will look at the changes in the status and functioning of English parish clergy in the last one hundred and fifty years; and we will mark the true death, the moment of passing, of “Herbertism”. None of this story happens without a cost, and our survey of “Herbertism” will conclude with an accounting of the personal cost of “Herbertism” in the lives and emotions of the clergy of the Church of England today. In a second series of posts we will explore the beginnings of a new conceptual framework for ministry, based upon a lecture given by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2003: a sustainable pattern for ministry will be grounded upon the three Ws of Witness, Watchman and Weaver. We will unpack these images, measuring them against the realities we have described in the first section. In the final series we will become entirely practical: the sustainable pattern of ministry, which I have christened “KGH”, will be laid out, with strategies for managing the constant temptation to fall back into Herbertism. If you read time management books, or life coaching books, or productivity guides, then “KGH” is for you.