June 21, 1994

Humour: The Congregants' Charter

by Rabbi Walter Rothschild (ignore any other bylines!)

[This was originally published in the Sinai Chronicle, the magazine of a Leeds synagogue and is reproduced with the permission of the editor. No attempt has been made to alter the original religious context—I leave it to you to contemplate the effects on the Neo-pagan community and exactly how the Gods would react to the provisions in section 5!]

Among the mail received recently was one item which directly affects us all—Circular 94/1/7 from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, laying out draft proposals for the Congregants' Charter.

Having studied this document fairly deeply it is, I think, important that all members have the opportunity to learn about this significant new development.

The Board of Deputies has had a draft for a few months, but significantly the Assembly of Rabbis has had very little time indeed to discuss the draft proposals and have any input.

Cutting out the preambles and trying to put the document into comprehensible English (and cutting out some sections that refer specifically to Christian churches), the following major points may be described [comments in square brackets are mine]:

  1. Basic provisions.
    • 1.6. All congregants ("Clients") have a basic Charter right to receive Spiritual Care (defined below in sections 3 And 5) on demand.
    • 1.8. Such Spiritual Care should be available at least 18 hours per weekday, 24 hours per Sabbath [Here of course, different definitions of the Sabbath need to be listed; as a Reform congregation we might take issue with the traditional "hour-before-nightfall-to-nightfall" definition given in the Paper under the "Judaism" heading].
    • 1.9. Spiritual Care should be provided free of charge at the initial Point of Contact (P.o.C.), but any relevant service charges should be clearly explained to the Client and a written list of charges should be available at the P.o.C. and to be taken away.
  2. Organisations.
    • 2.1. Any Organisation providing Spiritual Care through Organised Worship should be clearly described in literature, letter-heads and by a visible signboard (minimum 1.9m x 1.6m) as a Church, Chapel, Synagogue, Congregation, Assembly, Temple, Mosque, Meeting House or other Approved Title. Any non-English words used (e.g. "Gurdwara") require in addition an English translation in letters at least 15cm high.
    • 2.2. Any such signs, literature etc., should also make clear whether attendance is totally Free of Charge (see 1.9) or whether a donation, collection or Public Appeal may be expected. In such cases an appropriate Scale of Gifts should be published in the entrance to the building.
    • 2.3. Clients should have a Charter right not to make any offering, gift, donation, votive offering, sacrifice etc. without discrimination, public humiliation or refusal of Communion, Atonement, Comfort or other privileges of Worship.
    • 2.4. Literature and publicity should make clear whether an additional language is required in order to participate in Organised Worship.
  3. Spiritual Care.
    • 3.1. Clients should have access to an approved Deity at the times defined above (see 1,8) or appropriate minions, minor deities, angels, saints and and prophets as laid out in the Charter Statement of each participating Organisation.
    • 3.2. Clients should have access to Approved Rituals at advertised times; such Rituals should be available with a maximum waiting time of 30 minutes after the advertised time, and any Charter Points may be lost if Rituals commence after this Punctuality Premium Period without due cause.
    • 3.3. Nothing should be said or done in Approved Rituals that may disturb or distress a Client by revealing Weaknesses, Sins or Poor Spiritual State.
    • 3.4. Officiants at Approved Rituals may deliver an Address lasting no longer than 7.5 minutes (in English) or 6.5 minutes (in any other language). Such addresses may not incorporate material designed to denigrate the Clients' religious, moral or political beliefs. When a language other than English is used, a certified translation should also be available to Clients.
  4. Prayer and Worship (Individual).
    • 5.1. Clients should expect to have Prayers answered within Five Working Days.
    • 5.2. Clients have a Charter right to have Answers in writing, clearly laid out and in the language in which the prayer was expressed.
    • 5.3. In cases where the conditions laid out in 5.1 and 5.2 are not met, the Providing organisation has a duty to ensure that the appropriate Deity etc. provides an alternative answer within 15 working days.
    • 5.4. Clients have a Charter right to an Appeal against an Answer with which they disagree. An Appeals Tribunal consisting of three members of the clergy of the Organisation or Denomination concerned or, where there are no professional Clergy, three Elders, prophets or Angels should re-hear the prayer and adjudicate.

It is a lengthy document, but I think the above gives a a flavour of the sort of areas where we shall have to tighten our procedures in future if we are to keep to the new Charter Standards. Issues of Funding will need resolution.

We shall have to keep many more statistics—on services, length of sermons, punctuality, number of prayers made and answered within the stipulated maximum period, and so forth. This may well require us hiring another secretary or Systems Manager.

I understand that the eventual aim is for all churches, synagogues, etc. to publish Punctuality Tables and Spritual Fulfilment Statistics etc. involving prayers heard, sacrifices accepted, consciences cleared and so forth.

Fortunately the consultation process is not yet completed and the date for implementation of the Charter Standards has not yet been announced.

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This page contains a single entry by Feòrag published on June 21, 1994 10:01 PM.

Book Reviews: Ritual Abuse was the previous entry in this blog.

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