...musing loudly

...so here I am after a different couple of days - a lull in the busyness, people-busy but not task-busy.

When I stop for a minute, I think, but often about the next thing... for a while anyway, until I remember not to do that and just think prayerfully or something-fully - it's the fully bit that matters.

I have been looking back on old posts, reflecting on the books that have shaped my thinking and the blog-posts that have captured me that other people have written. I have several of my own blogs, many that are private and one where I have recorded some of those God-adventures of the early days of calling. I remember writing a while ago, as I reflected on the Indaba process on that widening of perspectives that was rendering my old thinking somewhat naive. This last few weeks seem to have done that again. A double-naivity. I am not quite sure how all of this pans out.

I know that I have a deep-down, gut-need to keep my writing going, to find time to read too. I keep thinking about 'poet-priest calling' which was actually something triggered by a Phil Ritchie post, that expression from which I have never been able to shift.

I long to read more and more and more stuff - articles, books ... and write, but I know too that I am to live the three dimensional life and some of this attraction to academia is an impulse for a safe space.

I wonder what kind of a priest I am becoming, if one at all.

There is much about me that dis-satisfies - I am much the same as I ever was but then I perhaps invested less of my imagination in 'ontological change.'

Looking back on my ordination, I can see now the parts that will etch themselves into my memory and they were all the aspects of it that I had not spent much time anticipating. They were, however, answers to prayers that were deeply a part of me but had never surfaced to verbalisation.

...my mum in tears telling me she was proud of me and I am kissing her hand - I am not sure why... I had never done that before. In New York, I had watched a priest kiss the hand of the bishop that we were travelling with, and I was so struck by it ...

...Canon Andie Brown's preach and his communication of the irresistible love of God and my hopes for the hearts of the people listening and then the unfolding of new-found faith in one of my guests, right there before my very eyes... visible... tear-stained...

...a consciousness of the strangeness of all of it - the ceremony. I can never shift this - it accompanies me everywhere I go.

I remember as a child standing at a road-side and objectifying the cars hurtling past me, just for a few seconds becoming capable of seeing them as if for the very first time.

On the birth of my first child, quite delirious with love for her, I saw everything as if I had landed from another planet, seeing the world as if for the first time because for her, each of her pointings to something, was to a new thing and so I saw it too... I really saw it...

...and so at my ordination, I stand there and I parade and I kneel and I turn and I sing and most of me is fully engaged, present in the moment but some part of me is wondering if it matters very much and to whom and what do they make of it? And what does He make of it? And mostly He smiles benevolently and it matters to God because it matters to us ... a little... but really he accommodates us, our need for pomp and circumstance and tradition. It is a rite of passage, an unusual rite of passage I suppose. There was a before and there is an after but as I say, much of me is very much the same.

... and so now I want to read ... but other stuff - stuff to fluff, to reshape, to provoke. I am fed up of Charles Raven and his dissatisfaction with a refusal to do orthodoxy on his terms, I am a little irritated by Rob Bell and his too trendy tendencies to twist and re-frame. Neither of their books have been finished but I will try. I want to read Borg and his Reading the Bible again for the first time. I might even read Spong and his texts of terror. I am ready to ask more questions. I want to know what I do with this lot now that my job is not to write pretty essays about it all but answer the questions of real people. I am disturbed by my bed-time Bible readings, where parts of her body are sent off to the nations and where he drops down on the threshhold decapitated near the ark of the covenant. I want to find better ways of communicating the irresistible love of God even whilst I walk with a congregation to the place where Abraham might execute his son.

...and when that stuff is not happening, mostly many conversations are.

I am beginning to understand that transition that I speculated about with Andii Bowsher. People treat you a little differently and it is still too early to articulate this. Some do not but many do. Conversations are more frequent and settle to a depth more quickly than they used to - small talk is smaller and takes up less space. This is good.

...and so much of ordained ministry carries about it that feeling of 'feeling most fully alive' and sometimes you need to get away to recapture this, as I did in a four hour round trip to Oxford today. Sometimes it requires an active and vivid imagination, so that when you are taken to tour the balcony of your church building, you can see the faces that would have sat there once upon a time during nineteenth century revival and you look down too on the preacher in the now absent three tier pulpit as he waves his arms around and mops his brow...

...and for much of the time it involves listening to the questions of the people around you, those that are expressed and those that are not and realising that their questions, for all your own credal assertions, are also very much your own.

Whatever this thing is that I am being called into, it is a good and rather painful thing, but it is a some-thing and I hope to be present in it more and more fully.


Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

This is quite interesting. You've treated your ordination seriously of course but it hasn't had a Tim Goodbody experience on you and you really don't want a sense of spiritual hierarchy.

There is nothing wrong with spiritual hierarchy if you have developed skills over time, but it is unlikely to come through a 'magic' ceremony.

Now you will say there is a difference between the supernatural and magic, at least an Anglo-Catholic would (ones that believe in the supernatural). I think there is rice paper between the two, and can argue why.

What's more interesting is that you both find Charles Raven offputting, an old world left behind, and (as I would) find Rob Bell to be trendy and slight. Big deal, all show.

But you are sort of looking around, at other sources of 'light' and some of them that your folks might think of as dangerous. Why do you want to read Jesus Seminar material and even Jack Spong (Rowan Williams said if he agreed with Spong he'd be a Quaker)? Is it that BOTH the evangelical past and the trendy publicity seekers are unsatisfying.

What happens if Bell is unsatisfying, Raven is anyway, Spong is unsatisfying and the Jesus Seminar has lost the plot? You're looking around and trying to find something to relate to ministry.

So I've a different suggestion along with doing ministry. Look at some sociology of religion and see how and where the theology ties in with that. Robin Gill is a reasonably orthodox person who strides both disciplines (and I'll claim he nicked some of my ideas) and of course there are the Niebuhrs, the more important one being H R Niebuhr. The issues are why people don't come through the door, and also what is implicit religion if such can be identified. A good start might be Habgood's Church and Nation in a Secular Age (published by Dave Lee Travis). I'm hardly recommending way out radicals here, just a different angle. And then, on ministry, is Peter Rudge - Management in the Church strides across theology, sociology and management theory and relates to those reports like the Paul Report and one I forget later and of course goes (Like H R Niebuhr) back to the sociology and theology of Ernst Troeltsch. These people will tell you far more, I'd suggest, if you want to reflect on doing ministry in society.

Rach said...

Thanks Adrian - a good reading list. Helpful... now to create more half hour slots in each day...:-)


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