Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A trip off and a biblical journey

Just back from a wonderful 4 days in Paris.  I say this not in the self-satisfied tone of someone who pops off passport in hand in a regular basis. This was my first trip out of the country in 9 years. It was the first time me and Mr Vicarage have been abroad together - in 15 years together.  We were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary and it was absolutely blooming brilliant.  Paris was everything you'd expect - totally wonderful. Some of the greatest joy came from successful navigation, working out which metro line to get on and where to stick the ticket!  Have returned tired but happy to be greeted by an Amazon delivery - AJ Jacobs The Year of Living Biblically which is already shaping up to be funny, challenging and inspiring.  He's spending a year living by the rules of the Bible, trying to work out what he can do, to whom, when and where.  Like arriving in a strange city, without reference points - looking at what other people do and trying to work out what you need to do yourself. I'm looking forward to finding the bit in the book where he gets the feeling I got when I worked out which Metro to get on!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Your Kingdom Come - Your will be done

Attended two fascinating things this week which have come together in my mind to bring inspiration.  The first I've already mentioned on here - study day about prayer with Dr Paula Gooder.  We focused on the Lord's Prayer, looking at where it appears in the Gospels, how it's been tweaked in liturgy, what the tweakings do to the meaning of the prayer and trying to get to the bottom of what Jesus was on about.

The thing which has stuck most in my mind is the sense that this is not a simple or easy prayer, it speaks of end times, of the coming of the Kingdom, and one of Paula's conclusions was that we should have thought very hard about all that, what we think it means and what we believe, before we casually rattle through this so familiar prayer.

Then  last night I had the pleasure of welcoming Stephen Sizer to speak at the Minster where I work. At the invitation of the Friends of Sabeel (Sabeel being the Ecumenical Centre for Liberation Theology in Jerusalem) Stephen had come to speak to us about Christian Zionism.  It was stimulating to hear Stephen very clearly make his points about different strands of Christian Zionism, their political impact, and their impact on the ground. We're talking about unsound theology and flawed biblical interpretation perpetuating conflict in the Holy Land and standing in the way of any peace process.  It was fascinating and having heard him speak I would recommend any of Stephen's books on the subject - find them on Amazon.

It took me back to Paula's words earlier in the week because the apocalyptic strand of Christian Zionism has a very clear vision of what praying for and working for the coming of the Kingdom means.  I was left with the sense, as I so often am, that those of us with more moderate views are making ourselves complicit in oppression and injustice because we don't speak up enough.  Stephen quoted Desmond Tutu's words about the apartheid in Israel/Palestine - the suggestion being that we need to take the kind of action against the Israeli state that we took against  South Africa to change things there.

Overall I was left with the sense that we're not very eschatologically switched on in mainstream Anglicanism.  When we pray for the Kingdom to come as Paula suggested we really need to have thought through what that means, because it could and should affect everything we do. Otherwise we are hijacked in public perception and private inaction by those whose vision of Kingdom involves death and war, oppression, injustice and hate.  I will keep voting and praying for the Kingdom of peace, love, justice and reconciliation.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Pop is prayer - or more essays I will probably never write

As mentioned in the last post I had a brilliant day today learning more about prayer.  One of the very last questions that came up was about the 'modern world' and how the language of prayer which the early church was steeped in is a world away from our secular culture which has no prayer language.  I was impressed (as we always are when people say stuff we were thinking ourselves) when the speaker said that there is modern prayer language, it's just often not knowingly directed at God. She mentioned specifically the love song as the vehicle for God language.

This is such a fascinating area for study, conversation and exploration.  Just think about it for a bit - how many songs have you heard, loved, sung long to, songs of love fulfilled and love twarted - that say things like 'I would die without you' 'I am incomplete without you' 'there is a hole inside me because I am not with you' 'I would change everything I am for you'. Now, I'm not being funny, but on what date with a partner are these pearls dropped in? I say this because as the lecturer today suggested, much of this language is the kind of thing you would in reality run a mile if someone said to you. It is too big, it is too much, it is too far. Much of the love song language does not speak of healthy mutual loving relationships between two equals.  I don't underestimate the depth of human loving here, but I think if you're reading this you may already have a song in your head that you think "yes, that makes much more sense if you think about it as a cry to God."

I'd also take this into other areas of popular music - I could go on about this at great length but for now I just suggest you have a look at a this as a very simple example - it's a psalm isn't it???? Gleekerama.

Prayer for Today

Just been to a wonderful day seminar at the Mirfield Centre with Dr Paula Gooder. Below is one of the many things (including half a dozen sermons at least) I have come away from the day with - a creative and poetic translation of the Lord's Prayer from the Aramaic taken from by Neil Douglas-Klotz 'Prayers of the Cosmos'. It's one of several such translations - there are a couple of others here.

O Silent Sound,
whose shimmering music pulsated
at the heart of each and all,
Clear a space in us where thy melody
may be perceived in its purity.
Let the rhythm of thy counsel reverberate through our lives,
so that we move to the beat of justice, love and peace.
The, our whole being at one with thy song,
grant that the earth may be filled 
with the beauty of thy voice.
Endow us with the wisdom to produce and share
what each being needs to grow and flourish,
And give us courage to embrace our shadow with emptiness,
as we embrace others in their darkness.
But let us not be captive to uncertainty,
nor cling to fruitless pursuits.
For from thee springs forth
the rhythm, the melody, and the harmony,
which restores all to balance, again and again. Amen.

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Work of the People

As someone who ventures occasionally to call themselves a liturgist I have repeatedly used the term 'work of the people' in countless essays and conversations over the last few years.  This afternoon I led a funeral for a lovely family whose mum had died aged 52.  Funeral liturgy in the modern world is a minefield, balancing between being clear and intelligible and culturally apt and maintaining the theological meaning and integrity of the event.  On more than one occasion I have taken funerals which felt more like the work of the clergy and the spectating of the family and friends.  Some of that is my own fault, I'm still learning, but some of it has to do with a lack of confidence amongst the populace at large to express themselves in a faith context. I'm not going into that now - I just wanted to say this afternoon that I've just been part of a funeral that was the work of the people in every sense. Beautiful and dignified, but honest and modern in the church, then boots on and shovels out at the graveside with spontaneous stories, prayers and singing, before grave all filled we shared the final blessing.  I love it when real people teach me how liturgy works.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Fear and Loathing in ......

I am afraid.  As well as being afraid of a large group of people and what they might do when they descend on my home town next Saturday, I am also more than a bit ashamed of my own fear.

Next Saturday, July 9th, there is a planned 'demonstration' by the English Defense League in Halifax.  The EDL often feel the need to exercise their right to publicly protest about their racist beliefs, particularly in areas with highly multi-cultural populations.  They are coming here, apparently in their thousands, and the consensus of opinion seems to be that they're just looking for a fight.  I am upset that there is apparently a reasonable level of local support for this activity too.

My gut instinct is that such action should be met with peaceful protest, with the celebration of the friendships and strength which exists in the town.  However I am also logically convinced by the idea of managing such a protest as a 'non-event' - not drawing attention to it, not giving it the energy it needs to feed on, essentially making it not worth the bother with the crushing power of disinterest.  Some folks in the area are going with the former course of action - and there will be a meeting of celebration in the People's Park.  I hope many more than will go to the celebration will take the latter option.

I am glad the celebration is happening, but I am afraid to go. I fear the drunken violence which these people are looking for, I fear the reaction they hope to and may provoke in others.  I'm afraid to take a risk because I'm a mum and a wife and want me and mine to be safe.  I'm ashamed of this too.

I will offer my weakness to God and spend this week praying and asking everyone I meet to pray for Halifax on Saturday July 9th. Pray for those who are afraid, for those who want a fight, for the police force who will put themselves between one and the other, for the diverse faith and cultural communities of this town who have a great willingness to show love, hospitality and generosity in the way they live alongside one another.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Motivational Talk

.... by which I mean some of my very nice real world and tweet world friends telling me to make my blog more visible on t'interweb and, oh yeah, write some more stuff on it.  So that would be motivational in the gentle thump with boot sense.

I've been struggling recently to decide what to write here on the blog because I like to have clear, concise, well formed (if not always well informed) ideas that I feel make a bit of sense, before I write. However in the light of getting my first appointment (will be vicar of St Stephen's Lindley from September 21st), trying to get my oldest boy into a new school, trying to redecorate a vicarage, make wills, prepare for my first trip abroad in 9 years, plan a trip to Greenbelt and carrying on being a curate (why is there no Carry On Curate???) - I have relapsed into unfeasibly long sentences or long periods of silence!

@changingworship has had a point tho - I should be blogging about all this. I hope it will help me make sense of it all, and how despite all the above being good positive things for me and my family, I am currently wavering between grumpiness and ambivalence.