Advent Book: Week 1, day 3 – Waiting

In Church

Often I try
To analyse the quality
Of its silences. Is this where God hides
From my searching? I have stopped to listen,
After the few people have gone,
To the air recomposing itself
For vigil. It has waited like this
Since the stones grouped themselves about it.
These are the hard ribs
Of a body that our prayers have failed
To animate. Shadows advance
From their corners to take possession
Of places the light held
For an hour. The bats resume
Their business. The uneasiness of the pews
Ceases. There is no other sound
In the darkness but the sound of a man
Breathing, testing his faith
On emptiness, nailing his questions
One by one to an untenanted cross.
                                    

Thomas upends our expectations – as so often. We might say “we go to church to meet God” – Thomas asks himself “Is this where God hides from my searching?” There is a brooding quality to this as I read it, and the negatives seem to outweigh the positives. I will return to that word “seem” as it is required, for me, to do a good deal of heavy lifting.

The church is described as the “hard ribs of a body that our prayers have failed to animate”, and despite what we are told in John’s Gospel, the darkness of the Shadows “advances” to take possession of places held but temporarily by the light. Again, we seem to see an inversion of what we might expect, not least from a priest. It is as though we are being told that “the darkness prevails against the light.”

The church is a place given over to shadows and bats, there is no other sound. For the poet the pews have about them an “uneasiness”, and even the Cross, that great symbol of our hope, is “untenanted.” Here, in a poem written eleven years later than our last one, there is no “winter tree golden with fruit.”

Back to that word I used earlier – “seem”. It would be easy to read this as a poem about hope disappointed, a disillusioned faith come to naught in a church empty of those things which ought to give it meaning; maybe even of what once gave it meaning to the priest. But before giving way to this easiest of readings we need to attend to what the poet means when he says he trys to “analyse” the “quality of its silences”?

The French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, wrote that:

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,”

Even before the era of the Internet and the smart phone, mankind hated sitting still and disliked silence. In a recent study “when 42 people got to choose between sitting doing nothing and giving themselves electric shocks, two-thirds of men and a quarter of women chose the latter”. Thomas, by contrast, embraces the silence and, as monks and nuns have done down the ages, engages with it. How often to do we do that? (Do not ask my other half this question!).

Absence and silence are not the same. What happens if we seek to engage with the silence?

There is a sound in the silence – a man breathing. The Hebrew noun ruach can refer to “breath” and we are told God breathed life into Adam, and that Scripture is “God breathed” – breath matters, it is the very source of life. Mother Carys, in her chapter (pp. 12-13) suggests that there is an identification here between the poet and the church – the verb “animate” may, she suggests, refer to the poet and “his own struggle for animation in prayer.” That other great Welsh poet and priest, George Herbert, called prayer:

God’s breath in man returning to his birth The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,

and here, in the very act of breathing, the man in the church recalls to us the fact that the Hebrew for “Holy Spirit” is ruach ha-kodesh. In silent waiting, in breathing slowly and purposefully, we can enter that great silence about which Thomas Merton wrote so movingly. All Christian mystics have attached huge importance to silence and to our surrendering ourselves to it.

The Cross is “untenanted” – like the tomb – “He is not here”. As we journey and embrace the silence, then perhaps, like Mary Magdalen on that first Easter Sunday, we shall encounter Him in the breaking of the bread? That depends how we embrace the silence.

I am grateful to C451 for discussing this with me and for his help.

Advent Book: Waiting (2)

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In a Country Church
To one kneeling down no word came,
Only the wind' s song, saddening the lips
Of the grave saints, rigid in glass;
Or the dry whisper of unseen wings,
Bats not angels, in the high roof.
Was he balked by silence? He kneeled long
And saw love in a dark crown
Of thorns blazing, and a winter tree
Golden with fruit of a man's body.

As Mother Carys comments, this poem is esepcially suitable for Advent, because although this season is not as penitential as Lent because ‘we look forward to the presence of God with us in the incarnation’, it does not ‘preclude penitence and apprehension.’ (p.7).

The first verse resonates with me in a number of ways. In the first place it brings forth to my mind Eliot’s Little Gidding where he reminds us of the purpose of the Church:

You are not here to verify,

Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity

Or carry report. You are here to kneel

Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more

Than an order of words, the conscious occupation

Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

And here the one praying does so in silence. It does not seem at first sight as though this is the rich silence of Adoration. There is a barren quality to it – signified by the ‘wind’s song’ and the ‘dry whisper’ of the bat’s wings – no angels in glory here.

This is the second sense in which this resonates with me. I have been into many country churches, some of which can seem desolate, as though the Spirit is gone from them. I have knelt in prayer and felt much as Thomas describes.

But that is where ‘waiting’ matters. We wait in faith, we pray in faith. Being in a place hallowed by prayer I always feel as though I am with others, their prayers soaked into the walls, and if I stay kneeling long enough, and wait, then yes, there can come what Eliot describes here:

And what the dead had no speech for, when living,

They can tell you, being dead: the communication

Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.

And Thomas knew this. He sees ‘love in a dark crown of thorns blazing.’ The Cross, which is so often brought to our minds in the readings for Advent, is suddenly and startlingly not the barren and terrible desolation it seemed that first Good Friday, no, it is ‘golden” and fruitful.

This type of waiting is described by Mother Carys in a way which penetrates to the heart of Advent:

This is a kind of waiting that does not rush us towards an end, or offer us a short cut, it is not a kind of waiting that will focus on what will come at its end. It is a crafted kind of waiting; a season of responding, attentive surrender and rootedness …

If we wait for what we expect we may, if we are fortunate, get it, but then what we may expect from God is bounded by our human frailties and limitations. Better for us to wait in humility, love and prayer, responding to the love we saw in The Coming and knowing two things only, that God loves us, and that what we will get at the end of it is beyond any imaginings or hopes of ours. As Eliot puts it:

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

A nod to “End of year”

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End of year is a lovely article written by Jessica Hoff. It prompted me to share my own thoughts on the subject.

I have always considered Advent to be that time to prepare for Him a room. There was no room at the inn but there’s room in a heart. I walk into the room of my heart and look around and I’m not pleased. I go fetch my cleaning supplies and return to face the room.

I notice the cobwebs; I’ve not used this room to its full advantage and so it has gotten dusty. I didn’t praise Him enough. I didn’t pray to Him enough. I didn’t share my joy in Him enough so now all this dust and cobwebs. I sweep and vacuum and make sure I get into all the dark corners. I make sure I keep my eyes wide open so I can see everything in the dark corners. Where the Light is, there can be no dark corners.

I scrub mop the floor. It seems that every foulness I have occasioned is spilled over and floor bears every stain. It’s back-breaking work; I toss out the murky water as many times as it takes til the floor is so clean it is squeaky and shining.

I take special care in cleaning the windows. No streaks allowed! I don’t stop polishing the glass until it is sparkling. This is very important to me because they sparkle and glisten in the Son and will be seen by Him and everyone who looks in my windows will see Him.

Just about Christmas Eve, the room is prepared for Him. Clean, shiny, sweet smelling. The candles are lit and flicker playfully. There are no dark corners, the muck of another year has been removed and the room and I wait. I am ready to receive my Lord.

Advent Book: Waiting

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The Coming

And God held in his hand
A small globe.  Look he said.
The son looked.  Far off,
As through water, he saw
A scorched land of fierce
Colour.  The light burned
There; crusted buildings
Cast their shadows: a bright
Serpent, A river
Uncoiled itself, radiant
With slime.
               On a bare
Hill a bare tree saddened
The sky.  many People
Held out their thin arms
To it, as though waiting
For a vanished April
To return to its crossed
Boughs.  The son watched
Them.  Let me go there, he said
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And so we begin Advent. Carys Walsh, in her meditation on the poem says that it “marks both the ending and the beginning of the journey before us, it leads us to the scandal of the crucifixion, but also heralds the coming of Christ into our troubled world … “(p.4).

We are invited to see through God’s eyes. The language evokes images of a broken and troubled world. I can’t see the word “serpent” here without thinking of the exile from Eden – and the world God shows the Son is one so very far from Eden. Carys draws the reference and reminds us that “as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.” (1 Cor 15:22)

To me it evokes a sense of a world whose potential has gone wrong, what could and should have been for good, has gone bad. Radiance is good, but slime is not. Light is good, but this light burns. There is a dystopic feel to this landscape. The image of the people raising their arms to the sky like so many branches is a stark one. It is as though they are gathered on the hill awaiting the end times. They are waiting for a spring that has ‘vanished’ and may never come. They wait, as we wait. What we wait for is incohate, but speaks of a sense of optimism which in this world seems unwarranted. The question arises of how can this dystopia be put right? How can the longings of these people be met?

The answer is echoed in Samuel’s cry – “I will go”. Thrice the boy responds to what he has supposed is the voice of his master, Eli before the truth is revealed – it is the Lord God of Israel who calls him – and he responds. It also echoes some words of my favourite Welsh poet, George Herbert in the third of his poems entitled Love. The subject of the poem knows he is a sinner and unworthy, but the love of God, that love which sacrificed to save us all, bids him welcome – he, God, has paid the price. So it is here too. Unbidden, Love decides to pitch his tent among us, in that scorched landscape, though the cost is already clear. As Carys Walsh puts it so beautifully:

Here is the intensity of love and the unimaginable compassion of God who pours himself out for our sakes and inhabits the scorched land and crusted buildings … who responds to both our needs and our rejection with equal love

There is here more than a watching, more than an emotional compassion, there is a call to act. Looking, the Son sees deeply into our pain and knows our plight is hopeless. Without his love we would wait for ever and in vain, for we can in no wise save ourselves. In this is love – that he loved us first. In this is love, that knowing the cost, God pays it.

In the conclusion to her meditation, Carys Walsh asks us to reflect on those ‘hopes, fears, losses that would call out the love of God into our lives?’ (p.6) What is our own ‘vanished April’? As I reflect and pray during this period of waiting, I ask God to to let me watch with him and to know what it is he would have me do, and I pray that we all find this Advent a period where we can grow in love and faith.

End of year …

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Remember not the former things, nor consider of the things of old

Thus says the prophet Isaiah as he prepares the way for the one who is to come and make all things new. But for those of us coming to the end of the church year, with the new one starting tomorrow with the first Sunday in Advent, it is hard not to remember the former things. Advent is a time of preparation, and part of that, for me, is grounding myself.

For all of us this has been a year of struggle, and struggle in a way none of us could have anticipated only a year ago. The very idea that we would have been wearing face masks to go into a shop would have been laughed out of court; now you could find yourself in court for not doing it.

A year ago I was still not sure if I would write here, or anywhere else, ever again. As some of you know, I had what is often referred to as a “breakdown”. It was more of a “burn out”. I had left nothing undone, which was part of the problem, sometimes your body needs a break, even if your mind is saying otherwise. I have always lived more in my mind and paid it more attention than I have given to my body. The spirit has always been willing, it turned out that it and the flesh disagreed, and the latter has its own way of making its view felt if it feels ignored. But, with rest, and help, about this time last year, I began to emerge from the darkness, a darkness so black that it has helped me cope with the current darkness. At least now I see a light – and know it is not the oncoming train.

I am one of those fortunate people who has never doubted that God exists and is with me. I have often doubted the version of him that is sometimes served up to me. What I have experienced by way of love and mercy does not cohere with the view of a Father who would condemn many of his children to eternal torment. That’s not a doctrinal claim for universalism, it’s more an inability to believe that the God who has been with me through the very darkest times is the same God as preached in some quarters. As I recently commented to one of our longest and loveliest commentators, Paul was right – we see now through a glass darkly – but one day we shall see clearly.

And that is what looking back at this juncture tells me as I sit in the silence of my room with just my Rosary for company. Breaking down is a way to building back up, and building better. Making time to be with God every day, recognising that assuming he is there is fine, and right, but the only person in this relationship who suffers if I don’t make time for him is me.

Prayer is a habit, and by ensuring that I pray Morning and Evening Prayer, and Compline last thing, and my Rosary between times, I have found something which I probably ought to have known, but didn’t. When I started it felt like me addressing God, thanking him for his mercies to me and putting my petitions for others before him (I have real trouble praying for myself, but am getting there), but as I have gone on it feels different. It feels like tuning into something that is ongoing all the time – and during this period between All Saints’ and Advent, I really have felt as though I was accompanied by a great cloud of witnesses.

The lectionary readings too, are well-chosen. Through this last few weeks we have been following Isaiah and the writer of Revelation. The darkness through which Israel passed has been vivid in my mind, and the horror of the vision of John has, at times, been disquieting and even disturbing. But the Collects and the Prayers of Thanksgiving have carried me along. I have come to love the Blessing of Light that I use in place of the preparation for Evening Prayer, and as the last contribution here before Advent starts, I shall leave you with it:

Blessed are you, Lord God, creator of day and night:

to you be praise and glory for ever.

As darkness falls you renew your promise

to reveal among us the light of your presence.

By the light of Christ, your living Word,

dispel the darkness of our hearts

that we may walk as children of light

and sing your praise throughout the world.

Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Core membership

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Not for the first time, I ended the day reflecting that the comments to this blog are often better than the posts. The comment on my post two days ago by Alys summed up a particular, and widespread point of view very well:

The Church Of England is dying and will soon be completely dead thanks to weak leadership, female ordination, watering down of scripture and the word of God, identity politics and failure to recognise that the more it attempts to berelevant the less appealing it becomes to what should be its core membership.

That puts in very understandable terms what I have not only often heard, but also read, indeed as I said in my response, I was reading something from the Restoration period recently saying much the same, leaving out, of course, the reference to women’s ordination. Much the same was said in the period marked by Wesley’s ministry. Christianity, or at least the Church, is always about to die, and the leadership is usually at fault. You can’t be surprised, look at that Peter fellow, he even denied knowing Jesus. Has there ever been a time when the leadership,of the Church has been held in universal, or near universal, high regard? As for watering down God’s words, how clear could he have made it that certain foods were. It to be eaten? That Paul fellow claimed to have had a vision to the contrary, but we have only his word for it, and even he was willing to admit circumcising might be necessary. Things change, sometimes even the Church leadership is willing to see the Holy Spirit at work, as the Council of Jerusalem did over diet.

I jest, a little, because in truth, there have been those from the beginning convinced that the Church was going to the dogs and that its leaders were rubbish. Even St John faced break away groups from his church who claimed to know better than he did what Christ meant. It is a permanent feature of Christian life and isn’t going to change any time soon this side of Christ’s coming again in glory.

What did intrigue me was the idea of “core” membership. That set me thinking and rereading. I could see only one “core” in the teaching of Jesus, and that was the Jews. There were many occasions when Jesus made it clear that the ‘bread’ was for the Chosen People. Even among them, Jesus’ “core” was considered odd – his tendency to dine with wine-bibbers, tax collectors and fallen women was not well-regarded by the “core” membership of the synagogues, any more than that same group welcomed the evangelism of the disciples.

A Church that takes Jesus seriously has only one core, I thought, sinners. That’s all of us, and for all its failings as an institution, as long as there are sinners, there will be a Church. It may be that those who have laboured in the vineyard all day will look askance at those who came in the last hour, even as the elder brother had his views about how their father had treated the prodigal. But that’s Christianity for you, all that gratiutous love and grace. As I have been given freely, so I have received, and so I will give, or try to to others. It isn’t just the comfortable and the established who need to feel the church is for them – it is those who think it isn’t. Perhaps they are the “core”? At any rate, there are more than enough lost sheep to keep the shepherds busy.

Advent Book Club

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As we approach Advent, I thought it might be an idea to do something different here. As some of you know I come from Wales originally, and still love the north Walian landscape, the mountains and the sea. As some of you know, I am immoderatly fond of poetry, and one of my favourite poets combines just about everything I love – Wales, churches, rural landscapes – and God – and that is R.S. Thomas. Chalcedon451 bought me, for my recent birthday, the book featured in the photograph heading up this post – Frequencies of God by the Revd Dr Carys Walsh, who is a curate at All Saints’ Kettering. I would like to use this as the cornerstone of our new idea – an Advent Book Club.

I have to confess I have never even been part of a book club, let alone run one, but with the invincible optimism that keeps getting me in hot water and then out of it, I’ve decided, with C’s approval, to go on and do it.

Once a week I propose to do a post on the theme of that week’s poems. Dr Carys has divided them thus:

Week 1 – Waiting: Poems: The Coming. In a Country Church. In Church. Kneeling. Suddenly (1975). Suddenly (1983). Sea-Watching.

Week 2 – Accepting: Poems: Amen. This to do. The Moor. The Bright Field. Emerging (1975). The imperative of the instincts. In Context.

Week 3 – Journeying: Poems: Wrong. Migrants. Pilgrimages. Evening. I know him. The Moon in Lleyn. Llanno

Week 4 – Birthing: Poems: The Un-born. Blind Noel. Nativity. Top left and angel. Energing (1978). Other incarnations, of course. The Gap (1978)

Week 5- Seeing: Poems: The Kingdom. Tidal. The Absence. Adjustments. The God. That there … . The first king.

Her chapters on the poems are simply wonderful, and that’s why I recommend it so strongly. I think it is the sort of things which readers of this blog will find spiritually enriching. To quote from the introduction:

R.S. Thomas, the Welsh priest and poet (1913-2000), is a profound and compelling guide for this season. A parish priest in Wales for all of his working life … he wa a prolific writer of poetry that explored his beloved homeland, the people among whom he ministered, and the beauty of the natural world. But it is for his startlingly original, prophetic and devotional religious poetry that many know and love him.

That’s just an example of the beauty of Dr Cary’s writing. As you might be able to tell, I just love the book, and talking with C it occurred to me that it might do us here very well – if I only knew how to do a book club! But goodness, let’s go, all the same.

What I will try to do is to comment on the theme of the week with reference to the poems for that week and to what Dr Carys writes. Let’s see how that works. It may of course, sink the blog, but my best efforts so far have failed, and even my little stories at Neo’s place, have not managed to sink his, so, buoyed up by all of that, I thought I’d have a go here.

I do hope that some of you will buy the book and benefit from that, and that you will join us on our prayerful journey through Advent.

In the fight that matters; all are called to be part of the Greatest Generation

I was of a generation raised in school to “duck and cover”, to fear Communist aggression and to expect the possibilities of a global nuclear conflict at any moment. Yet these were happy and carefree days on the most part due to the cheerfulness, almost giddiness, of our parents who began a new life as the conquerors of the vanquished. After all they had prevailed against the evil of this world and returned home victorious and triumphant from the Second World War.  

Our parents were heroes and we, as a united people, felt invincible and yet a bit apprehensive due to the technological advances that we ushered in with the nuclear age. The weapons of war had become frightening. It was an age of schizophrenia; jubilant, prideful, carefree, happy but with the underpinnings of a looming disaster lying in wait just around the corner.

Ike was our president and though we were at war in Korea, it was spoken of as a mere police action while we spent our time setting off nuclear weapons in the Pacific atolls not far from Pearl Harbor, ground zero for our forced involvement in the Great War. But life in Hawaii was good and full of fun, sun and beaches. We kids swam and played as our parents engaged in almost endless games of bridge, canasta, hearts and other amusing card games though those times were certainly beginning to feel a bit of the creeping unrest to come: the stalemate in Korea, the development of missiles capable of putting a “sputnik” into orbit, the fall of Cuba to the Communists and the realization that nuclear missiles were being installed only a short distance from our shores.

We were dealing with the matter of Civil Rights, of note the “I have a dream” speech in ’63, then the shots that rang around the world: first the shots at Dealey Plaza, November 22nd, also in ’63, which killed JFK, preceded by our involvement in Cuban Democracy and South Vietnam’s push for independence. As if on cue, other shots rang out, almost an echo of the Lee Harvey Oswald shots occurring though they happened some 5 years later; and MLK lay dead. Obviously, tensions rose both domestically and internationally and we were getting much deeper into a seemingly endless fight with the Vietnamese Communists. Social unrest turned into social upheaval and we have never looked back. 

Yes, we were a society of Ozzie and Harriets and the Mickey Mouse Club but we had become a nation of Psychedelic Rock, drug addiction and all around pleasure seekers. I wonder if we were trying to convince ourselves that we could run away from evil or join forces with it in a type of truce so that we might continue our carefree youth or extend it. Alas! That was not to be: for our past had been completely uprooted.

We were the Boomers, the kids of the Greatest Generation, who rode the coattails of our parent’s exuberance in all that they had accomplished. They had a right to their positivism as they had earned it. We had not.  And most of us would come to learn this truth in the many long and painful lessons which were to tear our families apart, our faith apart and our societies apart. 

Even the unchanging Catholic Church was speaking of ditching Latin in the Mass and replacing it with the vernacular and that the old Gregorian Chant was in places being replaced by folk music, drums and nose whistles . . . according to the 3rd page of the LA Times: coincidentally, this was reported on the same day that JFK was assassinated. A connection between Heaven and Earth at a time when the Third Secret was supposed to be revealed to the world? It was not.

So it does seem to me that the world changed rather suddenly with the murder of JFK. It was as if we had lost our innocence and had experienced something deep within our souls that forever changed us as a people. It had awakened the truth that there is an ever-present evil in this world and, once again, our eyes became open to the fact that even blue skies are eclipsed by storm clouds with regularity. Even though we all know that should we rise above the clouds, a blue sky is still extant. However, from our vantage point, all seems rather dark and foreboding. Yes, the days of our parents are over and a much more evil and sinister world has now been placed in hands that were and are persistently unprepared for this global war on society: a war we are losing at present and, perhaps, a war we were not meant to win. For this is a war that is waged supernaturally in heaven and all we can do is resist evil and pray. We fight only to delay the inevitable. But even our seeming worthless resistance will be rewarded by the real victor of this War, Christ . . . lest Satan wins our souls for all eternity. Christ will not let that happen to those Who fight along side Him no matter our frailty or our inabilities. And our efforts to aid in that fight will not go unrewarded. For nobody is more generous than Our Lord.

Those of my generation, who have survived this age until now, are seeing evil as we never saw it before. In politics and in a lack of true stewardship of souls by our parishes and our clergy. So we again choose sides and resist and we send up our prayers for fortitude and wisdom. Whether this is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning, we don’t know. But for us, it is the quintessential battle of our day. Good vs. Evil. And it is the battle that has raged from the beginning. It may be ended in my lifetime or far into the future. But we have our part to play in this battle. Let us not lose heart.

Church with a mission?

I can hardly say how much I wanted the current discussions at Synod on the Church of England to inspire me. The title of Archbishop Cottrell’s Report, “A Vision for the Church of England in the 2020s ‘Christ centred and Jesus shaped. Simpler, humbler, bolder’,” struck a good note, although the subtitle ‘A commentary to accompany the picture’ gave cause for concern. I recognise such diagrams. I have worked with enough ‘consultants’ to recognise the genre.

By sheer serendipity, I was reading my copy of the Church Times over morning coffee, and a review of a book whose title interested me God’s Church in the World: The gift of Catholic mission, which finished with a sentence that resonated in the light of the document:

Just at the moment, when we might be tempted to streamline and rebrand the way in which we market the Anglican operation, the contributors to this book invite us to pause and take stock. The mission of God is entrusted to us as a gift, not a commodity. This is a book that might inspire us to talk, walk, and eat more slowly, in order to be attuned to a redemptive encounter with the Word who speaks our language but in the cadences of eternity.

How I wish that the Bishop of Chichester, had had more say in the report. Our mission is a ‘gift’ and not a ‘commodity’. We have not been ‘given’ the power of ministry, we have been lent it and, as stewards, we have to account for it. How often do we appear to be like that steward who buried the talent and was intent on escaping punishment by hoarding it so he could hand back what he had been given?

I am all in favour of our being ‘bolder’, and there can be times, especially out here in the country, when we seem like a club, but I am unsure, to put it mildly what is ‘bold’ about this report. It seems more like a meditation on how to manage decline.

It may, of course, be that it is laywomen like me out in the community who are out of touch with what our leaders see as essential, but I’d love to know more about the sources of this vision. It reminds me of my time in teaching, where ever and anon some ‘expert’ would pop up with a vision for the future which looked to those of us in the class-room so remote from our lived reality that it was little wonder that nothing much came of whatever it was. Focus groups have their place, but I cannot help think that the Bishop of Chichester is right. Pausing and taking stock is necessary, but if this is the result?

There is much in it with which no one would want to disagree, but my question is what does it add up to? Of course I want a

a younger and
more diverse church, a church that serves
children and young people and involves
them in its leadership and ministry; a
church where black lives matter

but if we are going to do lists to signal our virtue, why aren’t women and LGBTI+ people on it? If anyone really thinks our Church fully reflects women’s voices, they aren’t listening, and as for the gay, lesbian and transgender voices …?

Yes, it is obvious we are ‘not as big’ as we used to be. But what does that mean other than the obvious? Smaller and more faithful and missionary can be better than numerically large and lukewarm. There seems little sense here of how we got from there to here and the lessons to be learned. Where were the historians in this?

I am not sure what a ‘Jesus-shaped’ Church looks like, but I do know what a ‘Management consultant shaped’ Church looks like, and I think I know which this looks more like.

As the discussion proceeds, perhaps there will be things to cheer me up – I was ever an optimist.

Psalm 46

Psalm 46 is one of my favourite Psalms. It is referenced in the film “Zulu” by the Colour Sergeant, and is the inspiration for the worship song “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise”.

This Psalm looks to God as a refuge and source of just rule in this earth. He is the Defender of Israel, and His kingdom is the only hope for the nations.

This Psalm, as so many others, has an eschatological aspect. It looks to the defeat and suppression of the Gentiles and the rule of God over this earth from a new Jerusalem, from Mount Zion. The river appears in Ezekiel, flowing from under the threshold of the Temple, and in Revelation John draws on Ezekiel.

We must have courage and trust in God. Though things may get worse, God will have the victory. On the Day of the LORD, He will be vindicated and take rulership of this earth. He will make wars cease and usher in a new age of peace.