Manchester Cathedral: From Via Media to Via Medium


By Charles Raven, SPREAD

The success of the nineteenth century Tractarians and their successors in promoting the idea that the Church of England represented a ‘via media’ between Protestantism and Catholicism was such that it is still accepted by many today as one of Anglicanism’s main defining features. But this mythology is being replaced by another and it is not a change for the better. It is what we might call a ‘via medium’, a project which is already well under way in TEC, to reshape Anglicanism into a New Age style spirituality which bypasses the cross and promises personal fulfilment through connection with a mysterious and many faceted world of ‘the Spirit’.
Yesterday, some enthusiasts for this movement slightly overreached themselves and attracted headlines in the national and regional press after it was announced that  Manchester Cathedral would be the venue for a diocesan ‘New Age’ style Festival themed as ‘Spirit of Life’. Planned for 2 May, Manchester Diocese’s website promised ‘about 25 workshops and stalls covering poetry, Franciscan spirituality, arts and crafts, healing, icons, angels, meditation, personality profiling, music and blessings, labyrinths, dream interpretation, Christian symbolism of gem stones, tarot and Celtic saints, prayer bead making, choral evensong, foot and hand massage, Jesus Deck readings, Taize chants and, finally, fire breathing!’
And the Bishop of Manchester, Nigel McCulloch was quoted as adding ‘Practitioners from all over the country will be on hand to offer their experience of how God speaks to us today through the cultural language and practices so common in mind, body, spirit fairs.’
Not surprisingly, the press ran headlines such as “Manchester Cathedral to host tarot card readers and healers at ‘new age’ festival”, almost immediately followed by the unmistakable sound of crunching gears as diocesan communications staff struggled to engage reverse.

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