Monday, 13 February 2012

Bothering God

It's not a surprise that Heresy Corner has been discussing the ban on saying prayers as part of the agenda of local authority meetings. Along with other local clergy, I've led the prayers at the start of Hornington Town Council meetings on a couple of occasions and couldn't actually remember whether they were part of the formal agenda or not. A congregation member who's an ex-councillor recently confirmed it for me: they aren't, but were quite intentionally put before the formal calling-to-order of the meeting when the practice of praying publicly was revived some years ago. It's a moot point, though: prayers only occur when the Mayor has been led in and the mace put in its place, even if attendance is only recorded from the end of the prayers onwards.

I feel conflicted about leading prayers on these occasions. I'm very aware that there is, let's say, a possibility that, even if none of the councillors positively objects to being present, their degrees of devotion may differ. I therefore find myself framing the petitions in such a way that, if you are serious about offering the business of the Council to God, you can use the time in that way, or if (the Lord forfend) you're indifferent about doing so, you can let the words wash over you. It's not exactly an intense demonstration of faith - not that I am very prone to intense demonstrations of faith. Would the prayers be more genuine, the faith more profound, if the Christian councillors were praying privately on their own without the formality of the meeting and the intervention of a professional?

The Hornington prayers were instituted by the Lib Dems on the Council. I wonder if Dr Evan Harris knows?


  1. As an atheist and a lawyer I’m disappointed that this issue ever reached court. The world would be a better place if people could manage to be a bit less offended by other people. Until then we have the consolation of humane religious people like you.

  2. I may be wrong, but I would guess that the intention of those who want prayers at these meetings is to invoke the promise implied in the phrase "Where two or more are gathered in my name...". Perhaps it would be appropriate if those who wish to pray went separated themselves from the assembly beforehand to pray in private?

  3. Mr Howlett, thank you, it's some compensation for the abuse I get now and again. Peruda, indeed, that's part of the issue and I do wonder whether that may actually result in more faith rather than less. At any rate I don't think it behoves Christians to fight for privileges in a free state. (not your Free State!)