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  1681: Selly Oak Methodist, Birmingham, England

Read this report | Other comments

17 March 2009

I read Mystery Worshipper avidly, and I am not usually easy to offend, but I found this report to be one of the most offensive, malevolent, waspish reports I have ever cast my eyes over, and I am actually quite surprised that you published it as it is, without editing, since from start to finish it is one long sneer which says more about the writer than it does about the church and the service it condemns, and reflects no credit on Ship of Fools.

Whoever wrote it betrayed his or her own personal animus. I suspect that the person concerned is either an ex-Methodist, a religious historian with militant Anglican tendencies, or a failed candidate for the Methodist ministry. Possibly all three. Whoever he or she is, the writer clearly knows Methodist history, as he or she pseudonyms him- or herself by the name of one of the most divisive, autocratic and unpleasant snobs Methodism ever produced, one Jabez Bunting, and the author clearly managed to live down to her or his 19th century anti-hero.

I have to declare an interest. Although I am not a friend of the minister attacked in this boorish way, I am (as Methodist presbyter myself), a colleague of Rev. Doreen Hare (oh, and by the way, if the review's author was as knowledgeable as he or she tries to convey, then he or she ought to have known that the correct form of address is "Rev. Doreen Hare", "Ms Hare", or perhaps even "Rev Doreen" - but never "Rev Hare". Petty, I know, to point this out, but entirely in keeping with the lemon-sucking rasp of the review), who was Superintendent in Birmingham South-West Circuit when I was Superintendent in neighbouring West Bromwich.

I have been in services which Doreen has led, and quite frankly I do not recognise the description of Doreen's mannerisms or style of leadership of worship. It seems to consist in cruelty beyond caricature, and a personal attack which is unworthy of the website. Personally, though I would not do it myself, I do not see how rendering the baptism service into more understandable and less starchy form (at least as quoted by your correspondent) in any way demeans or lessens the baptism service: but even were I not in tune with Doreen's very feminist, and even somewhat postmodern approach to worship, or her no-nonsense attitude towards liturgy (and I am not, in all probability, in tune with much of it), that does not excuse this kind of personal and – I am sorry but this is the only appropriate word – snide diatribe written by one who hides behind a conveniently secret pseudonym to offer a report, whilst claiming the right to perform an act of completely unjustifiable character assassination on a minister who has given her life to the service of God, the Methodist Church, and virtually anyone who calls upon her for her help, and who is conscientious, loyal, warm, and loving (unlike, it would seem, her critic).

Whoever "Jabez Bunting" is, he or she should be thoroughly ashamed of her- or himself, and I believe that at the very least an apology to Doreen Hare is in order. I hope you will convey these sentiments to your reviewer.

Alan Jenkins ("Ondergard")

Superintendent Minister, Pembrokeshire Circuit
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