Sunday, 30 May 2010

Trinity Sunday

I am not going to explain my understanding of the Trinity, not because we are averse to heresy on this blog, rather that it is liable to bore you rigid. I was rather taken with this sermon from the wonderful Liturgy blog. It really clarified things for me, especially the blah, blah, blah bit at the end. On the other hand, there is the reassuring thought of Henry Brook Adams,
"I tell you the solemn truth, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not so difficult to accept for a working proposition as any one of the axioms of physics."
The trouble is I never understood the axioms of Physics...

Saturday, 29 May 2010

That don't impress me much!

Well, I told you it wouldn't be popular (Rowan William's Pentecost letter below.) Ed Tomlinson and John Richardson are not impressed. What on earth did Rowan Williams mean when he said that his decision to exclude those who had broken the moritoria should not be a cause for celebration?

"no-one should be celebrating such public recognition of divisions" (section 5)

Do you see mass rejoicing? Any rejoicing? No? Me neither!

Rowan William's Pentecost proposal

There has been some level of speculation concerning the Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost letter . Much of the missive is comprised of the usual hand wringing about how we can’t all seem to get on , wrapped up in a lot of language about finding a common voice and those who have chosen a different direction. Much of the letter is also very descriptive, no surprise there, I have said before that Rowan Williams sees his role more as one who describes to us the various conflicts and then offers God’s grace, than as someone who manages or dictates. I have some sympathy with him here, for a start I think he is trying to model a Christian rather than a worldly response, and anyway who could manage this situation in a way that is going to please everyone?

What is new is that the ABC is going to take action this time (I know, hold onto your seats, now!)
As usual, you have to search to find it, but there it is in section four:
“I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. “

He does note that other bodies, such as the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by his decision alone and so will be “inviting the views of all members of the Primates Meeting “ in January 2011 (well, that will be fun...)

Now, if those who have breached the moratoria are to have their powers in the Communion diminished, this will not affect just TEC but also provinces which have engaged in cross border interventions. Simon Sarmiento named Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and the Southern Cone on Thinking Anglicans.

Overall, I do not think anyone will be particularly pleased with the ABC’s decision- sorry –proposal. Liberals will feel aggrieved that he has bowed to pressure to “do something”, traditionalists will feel aggrieved that it does not go far enough and angered that their own are subject to the same slap on the wrist as TEC.

I do also wonder (I really don’t know) how far TEC will actually be bothered by being excluded from “ecumenical dialogue in which the Communion is formally engaged”, I suspect some of the traditionalist provinces will be more hurt.

The ABC has finally acted, but I cannot quite decide whether his intervention is a wily move – “if you can’t play nicely, both sides will suffer” that will have the desired effect of making provinces reconsider their behaviour (though I can’t see this), whether it will appease the moderate middle ground, or whether it will just accentuate the divides that already exist.

I would plump for the latter; whether this is an attempt to rebuke or pacify, it will not work. It is futile to rebuke those with a strong conviction of the rightness of their cause and I suspect it is too late to pacify and heal, unless we can access that grace which Williams continues to hold out to us as our only real hope.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Tired all the time

I was going to blog on something topical, but I have contented myself with the link below on the basis that half term has arrived!
These last few weeks have not been easy and I have resolved that, now that things are looking a bit more settled and work is less demanding, I am going to look after myself. I have been suffering recently from tired all the time syndrome. You know the one? You wake up tired, feel tired most of the day, come home tired, fall into bed exhausted...wake up tired.
The looking after Sue plan consists mainly of eating well, going to the gym more regularly, spending some time with family and catching up on sleep. It has started this evening with a ( gentle) session down the gym, a glass of wine and a delicious chicken and chickpea curry, courtesy of Kev.
I recommend it to everyone!

Link to Cranmer's blog

It is not often I agree with Cranmer, but I did think this post showed a lot of sense and the courage to speak his mind when some of his readers might not agree.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Growing flowers

I enjoyed this contribution from Lesley's blog about Richard Holloway's book Doubts and Loves. I first read this book in 2003 when I joined PCN ( Progressive Christian Network) a group that I joined largely in response to the Jeffrey John affair. PCN turned out not to be quite the right organisation for me (not sure I was progressive enough!) but I did thoroughly enjoy Holloway's book.
Yehuda Amichai's poem, from which the title Doubts and Loves is taken , speaks to me about how the doubts in our faith can lead to growth.

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.

Yehuda Amichai

I have some distaste for the sort of faith that aggressively proclaims, "I am right and you are wrong", it is hard and trampled like a yard. Doubts, not necessarily just about doctrine but about our approach to faith or our ability to use faith to reduce complexity to simplicity, seem to me to truly revolutionise and bring growth. Doubts do "dig up the world" , but only when our doubts are coupled with love.

I do doubt more and more these days , I am not sure I always love more and more - but I try!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

All the lonely people

A report from a leading mental health charity confirms that loneliness is a common human experience and suggests it may be more common than ever in today’s society. One in ten participants suffered from extreme loneliness and most were “too embarrassed” to admit to this emotion.
I have to admit that I am always a bit cautious about studies that say we are lonelier than ever, because how do we actually know? Do we have reliable data from the past and might it be that previous generations were even more inhibited when it came to owning up to loneliness, or that we have different expectations than we once did?
However, I am not at all sceptical about the reality of loneliness, I can well believe that one in ten of us is “often lonely” and when I read that only one in five lucky souls is “never lonely” it makes me wonder many of them were too embarrassed to say so?

For the record, I will admit that, although I am not exactly a party animal, I do thrive best if I have regular contact with other people. I have been really busy at work this year and so I have neglected to keep up friendships and social activities (I am aiming to rectify this now that we are at the slack end of the academic year.) I also find that the summer holidays can be a time of intense loneliness. I always feel incredibly selfish about this when so many people would love a six week break from work.

Now, for all you bloggers and internet addicts out there - the report also concludes that technology can be positive in alleviating loneliness, but it is no substitute for real relationships. I once read a quote by someone famous (think it was Ghandi, but I can‘t find the quote) along the lines that,
“In the future we will be able to communicate at speed around the world, but we will have less of any worth to say to each other.”
Hoping this post had something to say to you...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tom Butler's Thought for the day

An interesting contribution from Tom Butler as he asks what price unity in the Anglican Communion here.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Giving away

Anyone wanting a bit of light relief from the conflicts within the Church of England may be interested to read this article about the dispute over misogyny is the Church of Sweden. The Crown Princess Victoria wants her father to give her away, but the Church of Sweden is uncomfortable with this as it seems to them against the principles of equality and, to be fair, it is not part of Swedish tradition.
Now, as you know, this blog eschews misogyny in any way, shape or form, and, yes, of course the concept of a father "giving away" his daughter is potentially offensive and rooted in a cultural mindset that saw women as possessions , but is this really such a threat to equality?

And what about the traditions we have in Britain, should women be discouraged from being given away? Should women have the right to promise to "obey" their husbands? What about the tradition of a bride wearing white to symbolise virginity, or wearing a veil ( same kind of idea.) Couldn't we argue that marriage in itself is a patriarchal construct - maybe some readers think it is and should be banned?
Now, I'm starting to sound a bit too much like the Daily Mail ( ...Liberal Lefties ban marriage...) so I'll stop now, but you might like to complete the poll below or comment if your option isn't included ! ( I really just wanted to post a poll...)
Do you consider any of the following to be offensive?
Father giving bride away
White wedding dress
The woman promising to obey
All of them
None of them
Maybe - but it is a matter of personal choice free polls

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Prayer for Pentecost

Thou art Fire:
enkindle in me Thy love.
Thou art Light:
enlighten my mind with the knowledge of eternal things.
Thou art the Dove:
give me innocence of life.
Thou art the gentle Breeze:
disperse the storms of my passions.
Thou art the Tongue:
teach me how to bless Thee always.
Thou art the Cloud:
shelter me under the shadow of Thy protection.
And lastly, Thou art the Giver of all heavenly gifts:
animate me, I beseech Thee, with Thy grace;
sanctify me with Thy charity;
enlighten me with Thy wisdom;
adopt me by Thy goodness as Thy child,
and save me in Thy infinite mercy;
so that I may ever bless Thee, praise Thee, and love Thee;
first during this life on earth,
and then in heaven for all eternity. Amen.

That's the spirit

I enjoyed this slightly unusual take on Pentecost from Of Life, laughter and Liturgy.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Body and blood


All the way to Elizabeth
and in the months afterward
she wove him, pondering,
"this is my body, my blood!"

Beneath the watching eyes
of donkey, ox, and sheep
she rocked him crooning
"this is my body, my blood!"

In the search for her young lost boy
and the foreboding day of his leaving she let him go , knowing
"This is my body, my blood!"

Under the blood smeared cross
she rocked his mangled bones,
re-membering him, moaning,
"This is my body, my blood!"

When darkness, stones , and tomb
bloomed to Easter morning,
She ran to him shouting,
"this is my body, my blood!"

And no one thought to tell her:
"Woman, it is not fitting
for you to say those words.
You don't resemble him."

I found this poem by Irene Zimmerman and I thought it fitting given the moves towards the allow women as bishops in the Church of England. You may recollect that when women were first admitted to the priesthood some opposed to this move expressed concern over what would happen if the woman giving communion happened to be menstruating at the time! Not only was this totally illogical and a double standard, it was also completely contrary to the gospels in that Christ seems very unconcerned about the touch or association with women generally, including quite of few of dubious reputation and female aliments. The theology of taint works at several levels, and is also seen in the belief of some that ordained men will also need to prove a "pure blood line" if they are to be truly priests.
Zimmerman draws attention to the physical relationship of Mary to Christ's body, but it brings to mind the many other women in the gospels who are involved in touching or proximity - the touch of healing, annointing, acceptance and comfort. Her last line seems to imply that it is the similarity of flesh and blood ( or shared humanity) that links Christ and women, not a focus on difference and cleverly links this to the concept of women's ministry in the communion service.

Above is some of the art that depicts moments of female touch in the gospels.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Captcha Coincidence

Captcha coincidence is the term given to typing in a comment on a blog post and discovering that the wobbly word verification, the captcha, is uncannily apposite. I know that this happens to everyone sometimes, but it has been so noticeable over the last few weeks that I am beginning to develop a paranoid suspicion that at the heart of the vast universe that is cyberspace there just might be SOMEONE watching us...

I have been jotting my latest captcha coincidences down in my blog book and this is the sum total of the last few weeks:

Nonsibs and trashi = both when I was (politely) disagreeing
Holytiam = comment on spirituality
Slyeeze= comment about David Cameron
Loutcro = Nick Griffin
Bluet = Avatar
Luber= (you can use your imagination for that one)

It can be hard not to take the wobbly words to heart, I really felt quite good when the captcha approvingly proclaimed “Abbess” at a recent post, but “sicko” seemed a bit harsh.
Of course, rationally speaking, what actually happens is that our minds “make meaning” over the captchas, the ones that are simply a jumble of random letters are soon forgotten, but those that by chance spell an actual word are remembered, especially if it is in any way relevant, complimentary or insulting.

I am almost certain that everybody experiences this phenomenon at some point and a quick google suggests this is so. The one featured below is not mine - but I do sympathise...

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Glasspool round up

Today has seen further reactions to the consecration of Mary Glasspool ranging from anger and bitterness here and here , to delight here.

Vic the Vicar laments that, certainly for the British media, this seems to be a non event. He is clearly frustrated that he fears Rowan Williams will do nothing. However, Williams has made some noises warning about the impact of TEC's actions and there will certainly be pressure on him from certain quarters. My advice is not to hold your breath while waiting, but we will see.

Bishop of Gloucester sides with James Jones

Canon Mary Glaspool was yesterday consecrated as assistant Bishop of Los Angeles, an event that would not be particularly newsworthy were it not for the fact that she happens to be in a same sex partnership. Reaction to this has been fairly muted in comparison to the outcry over the appointment of Gene Robinson, because that, as has been said, tore the fabric of the Communion; now we are just looking at the rents and squabbling over who gets which bit of cloth.
The Bishop of Gloucester, The Right Reverend Michael Perham, has made what seems to me an interesting address which started with a consideration of the impact of Mary Glasspool’s consecration. Michael Perham seems to advocate the kind of approach suggested by James Jones, indeed he makes reference to that speech and to the “honesty and courage” of the Bishop of Liverpool.
Michael Perham’s speech is cogent and balanced; a short exerpt is given below,

“We ought to be able to stay together while recognising that we honestly interpret scripture and tradition in different ways. I know there are those who believe it is a first order issue, because it relates to the authority and interpretation of scripture, but I confess that, while respecting and understanding that view, I remain unconvinced. Any church that has found a way of coming to terms with divorce and remarriage, in a way that our Church has, has put itself firmly in a place that says that ethical behaviour, especially in regard to human relationships, involves a dialogue between the biblical tradition and the cultural realities if the Church is to have any chance of ministering to people in the complexities of contemporary life.”
I don’t agree with everything in this speech, but that is not the point! I do agree with his conviction that the only reasonable way forward is to accept that there is a range of conscientious opinion on the issue of same sex unions. Michael Perham’s comments are worth reading and can be found on this website under Bishop Michael's address on the Anglican Communion 6th May.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Glasspool has taken oath

I've been following the consecration of Mary Glasspool on twitter. I never really saw the point of twitter before. Love the one about a small boy waving bible in the air and lone protestor being led away. Obviously the twitter stream changes and will be different depending on when you read this post. You can click "more" at the bottom to pan back.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Troubled waters

An article in the Church Times outlines the type of provision that might be put in place under the Code of Practice, the option chosen by the Revision Committee into legislation around the issue of women Bishops. The fine details will be debated in Synod in July.
This is welcome news for those involved in the campaign for women's ministry and for those who agree with them. It is, of course, bitter news for many opposed to the ministry of women, who do not feel there are sufficient safeguards in place. Both those from the Anglo Catholic and evangelical wings of the church have made their feelings known. Reform have threatened to withold money and dissuade ordinands - see Church Mouse here - while Anglo Catholics seem mightily upset that they are free to go to Rome and that many are wishing them well, although, to be fair, jumping ship in this way is hardly a trouble free option.
The Church of England seems to have given the green light to the ministry and the fuller inclusion of women, over fifteen long years after the first women were ordained. I hope that traditionalists will be able to understand the compelling reasons the Committee had for the decisions they reached and to be able to accept the provision within the Code of Practice, established for the benefit of those whose conscience is at odds with the majority.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Do dogs have souls (part nine)

I rest my case on this topic...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Shepherd me O God

"Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears..."

The idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd works at so many levels. A shepherd guides the sheep, nurses them back to health, rescues them, searches for them when they are lost,carries them, leads them to rich pastures, watches over them in vigil and ultimately lays down his life for them.

So, this is for anyone who needs some shepherding.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

For dad


What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog
What images return
O my daughter.

Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning
Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning
Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning

Are become insubstantial, reduced by a wind,
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog
By this grace dissolved in place

What is this face, less clear and clearer
The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger—
Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye
Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet
Under sleep, where all the waters meet.

Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.
I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.
This form, this face, this life
Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.

What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers
And woodthrush calling through the fog
My daughter.


My father died five years ago today and I am posting this poem because it reminds me of him. Marina was the daughter of Pericles and was lost at sea, so the poem is about fathers and daughters anyhow and the longing for a father and daughter to be reunited.
Although this poem is about a search or quest for the living, I think it is also about death. Death might be seen as the ultimate end and goal of all our quests, searches, endeavour and human longing. The futility of human endeavour seems to be suggested in the narrator’s half memory of making a boat,
“I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.”
How much of our life and effort is “unknowing”, our work eroded by time? At the end of the poem, the material ship the narrator has built does not last and the physical world and the material things we cling to have to be “resigned” for new life, new hope, new ships, the journey that is death, through the mist to new and unknown shores.

Good and Evil or God and the Devil?

I have recently been reading some posts on Lesley and Red's blogs about whether they believe in a personal devil. As a child, I was fascinated by a wonderful illustration in my children’s bible of the devil tempting Christ in the wilderness to throw himself off the highest mountain. Christ was rather conventionally depicted with flowing hair and a white robe and he wore an expression of disapproval, like a severe school teacher who is not amused by the latest attempts to disrupt classroom discipline. The devil was a rather glorious figure; he was hovering majestically in the air indicating all the cities and temples of the world, with wings outstretched. You could definitely see the appeal, and later helped me to understand Blake’s assertion that Milton wrote in chains and fetters when writing of God and at liberty when he described the Devil.
I think there are dangers associated with believing in a "personal devil", such as the tendency to demonise others or to simplify human complexity or fail to seek for the human rather than supernatural reasons that lie behind evil. However, I think there is also a problem in discarding the idea of a personal devil. We might argue that once the Devil loses the "D" and becomes "evil", then God may just pick up an "O" and come to equal all that is "good". I am not saying that this view of good and evil is wrong, but it is not really a personal faith.
So, what is my view? Well, I am not saying it is necessarily correct, but I do see the devil as a metaphor. I find it hard to believe the devil is a created being, an angel who fell and set himself up in opposition to God. I see that story as a myth, one which tries to explain that evil exists as a result of creating a universe in which choice and free will exists. However, I do believe in the existence of pure evil and in a source of pure evil which is contrary to all that is holy and Godly. I also believe that that source of evil can influence our thoughts and actions, if we open ourselves to it; is that close enough to "the devil"? I think it is.

(You may like to read a Ugandan perspective here at the Ugandananglican.)

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Revision Committee publish report

The Revision Committee set up to oversee the legislation for the admission of women to the Episcopate has now published its 142 page report. The document is fairly heavy going, but does prove fascinating reading (...but maybe only if you are as sad as I am...) as it gives some glimpse of the pressures the Committee faced both externally and internally. The document describes the "traffic light" system that was used, and reveals a certain defensiveness over the charges that the Committee delayed matters and acted outside its remit in the controversial vote of October 8th. The decision to allow statutory transfer is defended as having been "not taken lightly" and that they were "decisions that were perfectly in order for us to take" and that the public statement on October 8th "commanded support right across the Committee" - the tone seems just a tad touchy on those points, I think!

What is also clear is that the committee clearly did not anticipate the controversy their decision would cause. They write that "within 24 hours f the 8th October vote there was some uncertainty as to how definitive it would prove. The green light was already shining less brightly."

The report also goes on to describe the impact of the Vatican's intention to establish Personal Ordinariates on 3rd November and the Parliamentary debate on 11th of November on sex discrimination in religious organisations." It outlines how various pressures led them finally to reverse the decision on November 23rd. It really is a fascinating account of a volte-face.

The bulk of the report covers in detail proposals for a statutory Code of Practice and, as I understand it, there is an added statutory duty on bishops to draw up diocesan schemes in line with the Code of Practice. The C o E website offers a helpful outline.

The pressure group Women and the Church (WATCH), whose former chair Christina Rees has been replaced by the Rev'd Rachel Weir, has welcomed the report and will be examining the details over the next few days. The legislation will be debated at Synod in July and will then have to return to diocesan synods and back to General Synod. For those who are longing for a green light that really means "walk", the earliest we are likely to see women consecrated as bishops is in 2014.

Friday, 7 May 2010

and some good news.

Congratulations are definitely in order for Margaret Hodge who kept Nick Griffin at bay in Barking. Apparently, Griffin said he was defeated by the large turn out (think about it, Nick...) It is lovely to see Nick Griffin as a blurred figure in the background, I just wish I could be confident that that is where he and his party will stay! However, it is wonderful to have this indication of the innate decency of the British public.

As Margaret Hodge said,
"The lesson from Barking to the BNP is clear: Get out and stay out, you're not wanted here and your vile politics have no place in British democracy. Pack your bags and go!"
Don't you love it when someone knows not to mince their words?

But...what about electoral reform?

Cameron makes his "broad and comprehensive" offer to Clegg. Apart from an early reference to our "broken political system" at the beginning, Cameron is not so generous or expansive on the subject of electoral reform. Cameron has attempted to woo the Lib Dems with an offer of an all-party committee of inquiry to look at the possibility of electoral reform - but will a promise to "look at possibilities" go far enough to woo the Lib Dems?

As we see from the above clip from just over a week ago, the Lib Dems so far are doing exactly what they said on the tin, but are the contents really going to be palatable to the Conservatives?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I am Vertical

But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one's longevity and the other's daring.

Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them--
Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once,
and the flowers have time for me.

Sylvia Plath in I am Vertical manages to convey depression in a way that is moving and beautiful. I also find the beginning of the poem almost humorous, the title, “I am vertical” followed by the witty rejoinder – “but I would rather be horizontal.” Plath spends most of the poem describing what she is NOT, and she most emphatically feels she is not a part of nature, part of mankind’s pain is to be separate from nature, lacking its beauty and simplicity.
Plath’s sentiments remind me of the line in The love song of Alfred. J. Prufrock, “I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” Plath does not feel she belongs or fits in, only when she is asleep with “thoughts gone dim” does she “most perfectly” harmonise with nature. The most heartbreaking part of the poem is surely the line, “I shall be useful when I lie down finally.” The conviction that your life lacks meaning, that you will be more useful and natural as manure than as a living human being, conveys the two ingredients which fuel any depression, a sense of worthlessness and a sense of hopelessness. To feel either of these you must be able to grasp the idea of being and of time; the gift of acute consciousness, our human ability to think and feel in a way that no other part of nature can, is, so often, a curse and not a blessing.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

What price your soul?

I'm sure I wasn't the only person immature enough to be mildly amused by the April fools trick played by GameStation , reported by Church Mouse .
Apparently, 7,500 customers blithely signed their immortal souls away in return for a five pound gift voucher. I decided to do some research and discovered that ebay banned people from selling their souls after a singer, appropriately named "Dante", offered his immortal soul to the highest bidder in 2008.
The article also brought to mind that wonderful line from A Man for All Seasons, in which it becomes evident that Richard Rich has committed perjury in return for the Governorship of Wales and Sir Thomas Moore says, "It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world - but for Wales!"

So, Wales or a five pound gift voucher? If the answer is "neither" , check the small print!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Leaving Church

I read a blog post a while back which was about the difficult decision to leave one church and join another. I have seen this situation from both sides of the fence and know that the process can be painful and hurtful for clergy and laity.

There are two basic ways that people usually leave church. The first and most common is that people don’t voice dissatisfaction but melt quietly away, they may give up their positions, attendance drops off and then they disappear altogether. This can cause a degree of heartache for the vicar of that church; “It would at least have been nice to have been told whether it was just that the sermons were crap”, as my dad once put it.

The other type is Mr or Ms Malcontent, they DO voice their dissatisfaction in no uncertain terms and then they stick the knife in by explaining that everyone else in the church feels the same way as they do, but just doesn’t want to tell you to your face... Needless to say, this approach really isn’t good for the morale of the incumbent concerned, nor is it very Christian.

Leaving a church is usually painful for the leaver. It can be a wrench to give up friendships, familiar patterns of worship, roles within that church and the memories and history that belong to it. Those who use the melt away approach often find that nobody gets in touch to check if everything is alright. The person leaving, who may already have their own hurts, often interprets this as a lack of care; it is much more often the case that people don’t want to infringe on privacy or to interfere or pressurise.

If someone seems to have disappeared from your church, I personally think that getting in touch is a good idea, although I do understand that people worry that they may make the situation worse.

If you leave a church, it is probably courteous to tell the vicar, be graceful and be as constructive as you can. If you really can’t say anything positive, you may have to melt away. Finally, whichever option you choose, don’t be surprised when no one phones.