On Saturday, driving through Winchcombe at teatime, we saw guests streaming out of St Peter's after a wedding (not this one), all the men wearing dinner jackets and the women slinky evening dresses. Yesterday, I went to a party given by friends whose daughter's wedding (again, not the one in this picture) had also taken place the day before: a mother of another bride-to-be was bemoaning how the village churches around her home only seated "about 60 at a squash", and were therefore far too small for the wedding they had in mind. Two others I spoke to at this same party were discussing the probability that their parish church would be declared redundant: "there were only three of us at Morning Service today."
Clearly, there is still a strong wish amongst many for a church wedding, albeit attenders dress for them with the subsequent dancing in mind. Yet there is insufficient commitment to keep the parish church going week in, week out.
The Jesuit theologian Fr. Gerald O'Collins, giving the Tablet lecture earlier this month, set out seven dreams for the future of the church. One dream is of a church reaching out to others - to those who have lost touch with the church, as well as to other Christians and to members of other faiths. "At times they feel that they have intruded on a rather cosy club, made up of the regular parishioners."
And another of Fr. O'Collins' dreams is prompted by the human race seeming bent on destroying the earth and itself. "The cry of the poor earth must be heeded." He dreams of a church serving those in distress - linking the altar and the soup kitchen. "Young people... sense the difference between what we say and what we do. They respond when there is no gap between our words in church and our actions in the world."