A FEMALE vicar who hit the headlines when she compared the Church of England to an abusive husband has now called on the institution to stop being so boring.
The Rev Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes was interim principal of Durham University’s Ustinov College when she branded the church an “abusive institution” after last-minute changes to plans allowing women to be bishops.
She has since left the university and become vicar of Belmont and Pittington, in Durham, but believes the church has to become more relevant at a time of falling congregations across the country.
She said: “I think it is important to answer the questions people are asking now and not those they were asking 400 years ago. There is a danger that we retreat into a historical golden age. We need to acknowledge that society has changed.
“The church needs to be challenging. It needs to be exciting for people. We need to enthuse people about the idea of Jesus so that it’s not a case of why don’t they believe but rather how can they not?”
Dr Threlfall-Holmes grew up in Lincolnshire and moved to the North East for her first job after university, with Procter & Gamble in Newcastle. She left P&G to come to Durham to do her PhD, working on the late medieval archives of Durham Cathedral Priory.
After being accepted for ordination in the church, she trained at Cranmer Hall then went back to Newcastle to be curate at St. Gabriel’s, Heaton.
She has now written a book called the Essential History of Christianity, which will be launched at Durham Cathedral on October 17 as part of the Durham Book Festival.
She said: “We do need to engage more with children and young families. There has been an increase in young families as new families move in to the area. There is a huge appetite to engage with them, through schools and celebrations as well as through church activities.
“One of the things that strikes me is that the church in Belmont is in a prominent site and people drive past it every day. That gives us a real opportunity to do things with the building and churchyard, perhaps an Easter garden involving local schoolchildren, that kind of thing.
“I want to have people talking about what the church does, to have people talking about God, whether or not they come to church services.
“We need to accept that Church has sometimes been boring for some people. So there are two things we have to do. First, we need to make sure everything we do as a church is really high quality, and secondly we mustn’t wait for people to come to us, but go out to where people are, whether it be schools, the local play park or the shopping areas.”
In May, the Rev Dr Threlfall-Holmes made news when she blogged about the Church of England’s decision to water down plans for female bishops.
She wrote in a blog post: “The question for women priests today is: do we stay with this abusive institution?”