Monday, May 28

Disharmony in Dawlish

Dawlish the oh so English seaside town in South Devon is not the type of place that one would expect to hear about a church revolt.

As a historically aware retired resident commented last week: '' Other than the development of the railway major historical events have by-passed Dawlish. Invasions, the reformation, the civil war and the two world wars have by-passed the town it really is quite sleepy.''

It was with much surprise that the a large section of the congregation, the entire 20 strong choir and organist stormed out of St Gregory the Great Church in Dawlish minutes before the 9.30am Sung Eucharist last Sunday. So serious was the protest that the matter made the headlines in both The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph.

The issue that shook (well gently rocked) middle England's readers was the introduction of ''happy-clappy services'' by the Vicar of St Gregory's The Reverend Jerry Bird who discovered the hard way that churchgoers, like all British folk, can be a traditional and militant lot when they are pushed that bit too far.

As The Daily Mail reported:
''He (The Vicar) may have been trying to attract a more modern flock. Or maybe it was an attempt to bring some variety to his church services. However, Parishioners at St Gregory the Great Church in Dawlish, Devon, claim their usual Sunday worship has been pushed aside in favour of a "family" service, involving guitars and tambourines.

''Now the Bishop of Exeter, the Right Reverend Michael Langrish, has appealed for calm and reconciliation after moves were made by some sections of the congregation to have the vicar removed.

''The walkout is thought to be a reaction to Mr Bird's decisions to move the church altar and shift worship times to make room for the modern family service.

''However, it is understood that irreverent resentment over the vicar's alleged "bullying" personality had in fact been simmering ever since he was appointed six years ago. In that time, a Parochial Church Council secretary and churchwarden have resigned. When Mr Bird's appointment became permanent, a protest petition signed by 100 parishioners was presented to church officials."

So as is fashionable these days, what is the 'way forward' for the troubled Devonian parishioners. As always in our great nation a very British compromise will be sought. The Bishop of Exeter has asked a bishop from outside the diocese to investigate, yes it is that serious.
One regular churchgoer from Dawlish who asked not to be named, claimed in The Daily Mail that the Rev. Bird had ''created disharmony in the pews''. In Dawlish of all places, whatever next?


Roy Andrews said...

Its about time the british people made a stand, It would not have happend in the war, time to rise up instead of just accepting everything.

The Dawlish revolt should be taken very seriously, why should the congregation put up with a service and vicar they do not want, (it would not have happend in Dibley) Dawlish is bringing back the "backbone of Britain". Well done Dawlish. Stand up for yourselves, we did it in 1945, time we did it again, show these law makers that we will not be walked over. Down with Bullying vicars

Anonymous said...

If anything, the Revd.Bird is to be applauded for trying to encourage families and, in particular, the young into the church. Christianity is for everybody - not just the select few waiting in God's departure lounge who regard St.Gregory's as their own 'private club'. Well done Revd.Bird.
What a shame that those narrow minded few don't share your enthusiasm for spreading the word of God to a wider audience.

Abigail Jordan said...

spread the word of God by all means, but surely it would have been in Reverend Birds favour, if he had asked the congregation first what form they would like the service to take, Perhapes an agreement of a family service every other week would have been more acceptable to the congregation, and they would have been more prepared, not to suddenly have a happy-clappy service thrust upon them.

The key word should have been communication, the Reverend Bird should have been more in touch with his Parishioners.

Anonymous said...

i just want to say revd.Bird is a lovely man and should not have a single bad word said against him !

Anonymous said...

I am a member of the congregation at St Gregory's and I am deeply saddend by what has happened. Jerry Bird is a wonderful man, and had he not catered for the youth of the town, there wouldn't have been so many younger parishoners. On his depature, the youth have declined in our church, which only shows what a truly inspirational man he was. He was persecuted by the older members of the congregation because they don't like change. I think that everyone who comes to church comes with the same objective, how you do it should have no consequence. The newer, modern services are the best idea that church has had. So what is the older members don't like it? After all, children are the future.

Anonymous said...

I took over as organist at St Greg's until I moved away from the area some two years later. I never had a cross word with Gerry Bird. He was a great guy and the main Sunday 9.30 service was certainly nothing like "happy-clappy", but very traditional. There was a "drums and guitars" service for younger people later in the morning. I never understood the criticism he suffered and can only assume it was from some of the older generation (of whom I am one), maybe retirers moved into the area who were used to very old-fashioned worship. Not what I would define as Christian behaviour.