My eye was caught by a headline in a well-known church newspaper the other day. It read: “Church urged to help save the hedgehog.”
I sighed inwardly. The Church of England is capable of almost any kind of bizarre activity, and to be honest the salvation of hedgehogs is no odder than many of the things they get involved in, like pet services, civic services, the House of Lords and in the case of my own city’s Cathedral, building a nesting platform for peregrine falcons.
The Church of England, as we know, is broad church. As one eminent writer put it many years ago, “anything is possible in the Church of England – even Christianity”.
Hedgehogs are something else again, although I can see how they might fit in. Parochial church councils are notoriously prickly, for instance, and many congregations appear to hibernate for long periods.
The same newspaper report describes the hedgehog as a “near-endangered species”. Whatever this means (is it worse than slightly endangered, for example?), it seems to describe pretty accurately a number of Anglican communicants.
The prickliness of such church members, and their tendency to hibernate, may of course have something to do with their being nearly endangered. Perhaps if they could be more accurately described as bunnies, they would be more resilient, and church growth would not be a problem.
The Bible on the other hand has no truck with hedgehogs. It describes us all as sheep, which are not prickly but easily led. They also have a tendency to bleat, which many of us will identify with.
Would the salvation of sheep or rabbits be more straightforward than saving hedgehogs? I think it would, and one has to admire the determination of the church in tackling hedgehogs, especially when its avoidance of prickly questions at a national level is almost legendary.
Some might argue that Jesus is never reported to have said “Go into all the world and make disciples of all hedgehogs”, but of course one can’t prove anything from what is not mentioned.
We must applaud the Church of England’s radical outreach to all prickly creatures, to those who have many points to make, and to those who are asleep a lot of the time. And to hedgehogs, of course.
I understand the new Archbishop will be making a statement shortly. Or, possibly, not.