New Mayor gets rid of Council prayers

Christian prayers have been axed from the beginning of council meetings by the new mayor of Bridport in Dorset, David Rickard. He has decided to replace the prayers at full meetings of Bridport Town Council with a “short time of quiet, private contemplation”.

The decision has proved highly controversial.Councillor Sandra Brown, a former mayor, warned that many members of the council were against the decision.

She said,

I feel very strongly about it and there are several of us on the council who are quite dismayed by it. Sadly though I don’t think there are enough of us to make him change his mind.It is one of our traditions and I think it’s an awful decision to stop it. I’m biased I suppose because I am a great believer in the power of prayer and I have seen it in action, but I think for the sake of five minutes at the beginning of a meeting, it should stay.

David Tett, another former mayor and independent councillor, said

I am a traditionalist. I am disappointed to see the prayers thrown out of the window like that. It is totally uncalled for.

And Revd Canon Andrew Evans, Rector of the Bridport Team Ministry, said

I respect his personal views but I was, of course, saddened to hear this because I believe the office of mayor to be above personal and political conviction and affiliation. It was also sad for there to be no-one representing the Christian community at the mayor-making ceremony this year.

Elsewhere in the news, Bideford Town Council is currently being sued by the National Secular Society for saying prayers at the start of its Council meetings. The Council has had prayers at its meetings since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

I don’t quite know what to make of this story… I mean, yeah I get that many people would love separation of Church and State and all that business. But I can’t help but feel that it seems like many people in the council WANT to pray before meetings. Should we axe prayers just for the sake of who don’t want it and aren’t involved in the council, or should we keep prayers because it’s our tradition, what many want and are happy with?

Obviously being a Christian, I’d go with the latter. What about you? What do you  think the argument is here?

 

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • It sounds as if the new mayor acted for himself in this matter… he doesn’t appear to have actually asked the council members, which is why I would disagree with his decision since they might find it extremely useful/rewarding in their work.
    However I suppose this article may have just promoted the side of the council members who would have liked to have kept it, and its possible that they might be in the minority. In that case, I think that this period of contemplation isn’t such a bad thing – it may not be a group prayer, but it still allows people to pray privately, and for others who don’t pray to think about things. I personally don’t tend to pray (since I am not a Christian) but when I am occasionally in a Christian environment and there are prayers, I find the time rather pleasant – its nice to just sit and think about things sometimes, without distractions. Even if not everyone agrees with the Christian idea of praying to God, they usually agree with the sentiments behind the prayer (e.g. helping the poor or something like that).
    I think in this situation (correct me if I’m wrong) that the issue is that they prayers were collective and said, or agreed on, by all the members. In that case, maybe the mayor should set the focus for the period of quiet contemplation, in the same way that the prayer would have done, so that everyone is still thinking along the same lines.

    • Thanks for the comment, Amelia 🙂

      I think you’re right – we only know one side of the story and don’t have the full picture. I can assume though that the majority of the people do want the prayers, hence the reason for it being in the press.

      But, at the same time, the period of contemplation and silence isn’t an altogether bad idea, if a compromise has to be met…

      • Yeah I assumed the same thing… which is why I think the mayor’s actions are a bit strange on the face of it.
        I suppose the moral of this story, so to speak, is compromise… If the mayor thought that this silent contemplation suits everyone in the council as a whole better then maybe it does? At least he didn’t get rid of a period of reflection altogether, whatever form it could take – I think that would have been far worse.

  • Well – people forget to realize that ‘separation of church and state’ is not in your American constitution to begin with… It is merely a phrase in one of Thomas’ Jefferson letters to a friend. What’s more – separation of church and state does not mean that the state must exclude itself from religion, only that the state cannot mandate for a specific religion. America (or certain states) have ruled that atheism is a religion (or at least, must be treated as such) as a result of a inmate, who didn’t have his ‘lack of beliefs’ respected by his prison. If atheism is to be respected as a religion, then when the state favours atheistic secularism over religion – then it is no different than if they were to favour religion (or religious practices) over secularism. The double standard is glaring…
    …good commentary Check out my blog if you feel so inclined: seewhatimseein.weebly.com/blog.html

    • Thanks for these comments Avey, you’ve shown immense wisdom here. I’m glad that there are people like you around!

      Will definitely have a look at your blog too 🙂