An interview with The Revd. Canon Maisie Frogmorton-Smith, founder & chair of the “I don’t Need to Go to Church” Church and a member of the Committee of the Meet People Where They Are Campaign.
I went to University and did my degree in Business Studies and it is there I met my husband. We started our relationship in a Trial Marriage just before he was ordained. I had debts in excess of £90,000 when I left University so entering a Trial Marriage with someone who had a house as part of their job specification was very useful. My first job was working for a London based Bank but I soon found that it was not fulfilling enough. It was tedious and boring so I decided I would take the distance learning course and become a priest myself. Finding the time to do the course, to run a family (by then I had two children) and continue with my job a little difficult but the demands upon my husband (by then we had married) at that time were not too demanding so he was able to offer me a lot of help.
We decided to take advantage of the right to polygamous/polyandry marriages to which the church has now given its approval and we both have taken an additional partner. My husband is still in a relationship with another priest Jessie whilst I have just split from my additional partner and am thinking of starting a new relationship soon.
I finished the distance learning course after three years and passed the exam being ordained soon afterwards. Visiting people in the parish I discovered there were many people who followed the ideology of “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian” and many who stated that they could worship God just as well in their back garden or out in the fields and therefore didn’t need the church. They might not need the church, I said to myself, but the church certainly needs them if it is going to survive financially. I knew from the numbers of funerals I took when people assured me that the deceased was a good Christian but, who I knew, never entered a church except for Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals and perhaps the odd Christingle with grandchildren that here was an untapped market which I felt I could exploit. I also knew there were many people who came to the church, to put it in their words “to have the baby done proper” when they wanted Baptism and who had never darkened the doors before or after, until they wanted the form signed to get their offspring into the church school. There were also a number of people who would suddenly turn up at church a couple of years before they wanted to get their child into the local Church School. They just stayed long enough to get the form signed and once their child was accepted, we never saw them again.
It was from that humble beginning that I devised the” I don’t need to go to Church” Church. We met in the local pub, enjoyed a meal and a drink together and had a talk about all sort of religious and semi-religious things. It sort of snowballed from there. Soon groups of people were being set up all over the place and they would meet in local pubs and restaurants. We meet on any weekday but we avoid Sundays as people want to go shopping or visiting family then. I insist that we always take a collection for the church and this helps the local church where the people live. When they need a service like a Baptism, a wedding or a funeral they are considered to be part of the church and, of course, they qualify as regular members of the “I don’t need to go to Church” Church for admission to local Church Schools. We have our own Electoral Rolls. Altogether it is very satisfactory, the local church gains financially and the people gain as well, as I’ve just explained. As you know, the “I don’t need to go to Church” Church has now expanded all over the country and we’ve done a wonderful deal with the pub chain “Eat-a-Lot” who give us a percentage. It is a possibility that next year we will expand to the USA – isn’t it wonderful that instead of something coming from the States this has come from the UK. This is one example of the Church meeting People Where They Are, of course the Committee of which I am a member spends plenty of time in thinking about other ways we can fulfil our objectives.
We have three new schemes we’re exploring. The first is the idea that we will hold meetings at football matches. We haven’t worked out all the details yet but we are thinking that we could hire some seats at football grounds, invite fans to occupy them and meet at half time, providing refreshments and a little religious input – nothing too heavy, of course. There are still many details to work out but it seems to me that we have a winner in this scheme. The second is that we could hold parties in people’s homes like the old days of Tupperware Parties. People would be invited and the host, for a suitable remuneration would provide refreshments. We would chat, play a few adult games and then invite the people present to hold their own parties. I can see this spreading like wild fire because it will be such fun. Finally, we are looking to revise the Church’s Calendar to bring it into line with the way people regard church. We would feature Mothering Sunday, Harvest Festival, Remembrance Sunday, Christingle, Bereavement Sunday, Pets Sunday, Christmas, New Years Eve and May Day which with Easter and Pentecost would be festivals of the first importance.