Saturday, 29 April 2017

Two Thomases



It is hardly original or ground-breaking to notice that Thomas didn’t touch the wounds of the risen Lord, or at least that we are not told that he did so.
 
It is frequently noted that John tell us Thomas says he will only believe if he is able to do so, that John tells us the risen Lord invites him to do so, but that John never tells us that Thomas actually does so.  Thomas encounters the risen Lord and says ‘My Lord and my God’ – that is it.

So I’ve been reminding myself, our Annual Parochial Church Meeting and others that any encounter with the risen Lord, any genuine encounter with God, is likely to result in a complete revision of what we previously judged, or simply assumed, are our criteria for faith.

Which may, of course, be one reason that intellectual arguments (between atheist and Christian, inter-faith and intra-faith) prove unproductive most of the time.  

And, while it is important to notice that, it may be more important to notice that the task of the church is to be places of effective encounter with God rather than instruments of persuasion.

I see that I haven’t quoted R S Thomas’ The Answer since 2009 (‘the one I value above almost all’) and 2011 (‘a poem I revisit more often than almost any other’) which says almost this with its

... the old questions lie
folded and in a place
by themselves, like the folded
graveclothes of love’s risen body.

The pictures are just one feature from my recent but only visit to Hull as this year's City of Culture.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Bronte grave




We attended a wedding in Scarborough yesterday.  An older couple, both previously widowed, were married at St Mary’s, up by the Castle.  One of her children spoke at the reception afterwards about the way he knew the couple were serious when he saw them giggling together like teenagers.  He said he’d always imagined eventually ‘giving away’ his own teenage daughters and giving a speech at their weddings, but he’d never imagined he would do so for his mother.  All very special.

We are preparing to move to the parish where Patrick Bronte was once the incumbent, and where he is buried alongside his daughters Charlotte and Emily and most of their family.  It was, therefore, also a lovely coincidence to be able to visit the grave of Anne Bronte, the one sister not buried at St Michael’s, Haworth but instead buried at St Mary’, Scarborough.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Losing away


Cheltenham Town doesn't keep its pitch in very good condition (this mud bath is a goal mouth) but did play unexpectedly well on Bank Holiday Monday (so we saw them put two balls in this net before Grimsby Town finally but impressively got one in it in return).

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Philippians 2.5-11


Much taken this Holy Week with the link which Paul places at the beginning of the (existing?) hymn ‘Christ Jesus was in the form of God’, the epistle for Palm Sunday, the canticle for Evensong in Passiontide.

The link with this hymn about the total self-emptying of God-in-Christ is ‘let the same mind be in you as was in Christ Jesus’. 

So, if we are made in the image of God, then we are most so when not clinging onto anything, least of all status, power or prestige; all the self fulfilment aspirations, goals and norms promoted around us are fundamentally misconceived.

It turns out the aim is not to be filled or full at all, however much this pagan hope is integrated into my own instincts as well as anyone else's.

Paul is, of course, writing from prison and from within the possibility of condemnation to death.  This is what he talks about all the way through the first chapter of his letter to the Philippians leading up to this.  And he says it doesn’t matter, it is where we are meant to be.

It is from there (I’m equally taken with the ‘therefore’ in ‘therefore God has highly exalted him’) that we see that ‘crimson cresseted east’, a hint of which was even seen through our back window last week.

Friday, 7 April 2017

More than East Sheen





To London yesterday to see the next of the series of training Curates here being put into his or her first incumbency.  To take a coach to this one would have meant supporters not returning until 3.00 a.m., nevertheless half a dozen members of St Michael's made it to All Saints', East Sheen under their own steam to pray alongside Alex Barrow at his licensing and stay in different places locally overnight.

Among many significant things about the church (top), is being just seven miles east of Heathrow (second picture), and being the church in which Suzy Lamplugh was baptised and sung in the choir (the next picture, snatched as the clergy procession entered the church, is of a lovely resurrection window which is in her memory).

We went to the National Gallery this morning (the bottom picture is taken from our lunch table and gives both the banner promoting the exhibition we saw - the picture is of newly pregnant Mary being greeted by her cousin Elizabeth - and the new sculpture on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square) and were home in time to see Deborah's nephew play a significant part in his team winning the final of Only Connect to complete a memorable forty-eight hours.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Easter earthquake zone



In 1185, the year before St Hugh became Bishop of Lincoln, the cathedral, founded by the Conqueror a century earlier, collapsed.  The collapse was said to have been caused by an earthquake, although I’d always thought, in what appears to be a part of the world free from major earthquakes, that this might be a story to cover faulty construction. 

It appears to have been a bit of both.  The Market Rasen earthquake in 2008 (through which I slept, but which woke many and caused some minor damage) was at 5.2 on the Richter Scale, which is about the estimated size of the Lincoln earthquake and which is certainly strong enough to have brought down a vast but vulnerable building.

The Market Rasen earthquake alerted me to the fact that I do live in an earthquake zone – just like everyone else on earth.  It is simply the fact that it is only specialist equipment which detects most of them.  There were earthquakes at 1.5 and 1.7 on the Richter Scale beneath Caistor on 17th February and beneath Horncastle on 4th March, each at about nine miles depth (for which compare the less than one mile depth of most oil and gas well drilling).

I feel an Easter sermon coming on.  Matthew records an earthquake at the time of the resurrection.  Biblical literalists will trust that this Gospel preserves memory of an actual historical earthquake somehow omitted by the other three Gospels.  Biblical liberals will suspect that the record is symbolic – all the apparent solid ground of our previous assumptions about the finality of death and about much else suddenly shifts.

But it is the discovery that we all live in a zone of frequent but rarely detected earthquakes which intrigues me as this Easter approaches.  Beneath everything assumed and dull, solid and stable, God is moving in ways rarely observed by those of us on the surface.  

I'll approach this "Easter" not just a noun which describe the one fundamental moment.  I'll approach it as a consequential verb to describe the risen Lord’s continued movement deep within us: “let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east”.

The pictures of materials and of work under way in St Nicolas’were taken there on Tuesday.  We were there to negotiate the final timetable for having the church cleaned and ready to hand back to us ahead of a wedding rehearsal in a month’s time and our beginning services there again in May.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Where I am going


Here is an early morning view across Haworth which we took on a walk ahead of my interview there at the beginning of the month; my appointment as Rector of the benefice which covers three villages along the Worth valley (Cross Roads, Haworth and Stanbury) was announced this morning.

The tower of Haworth Parish Church is just visible against the wood on the horizon on the extreme left of the picture.  It thinks it might be the most visited village church in the country, and its members seem to rise to the challenge of creative ministry to the tens of thousands who come through its door each year, a ministry based only on the resources of a village church.

If you carried on along the ridge out of the picture to the left you would come after just over a mile to the small village of Stanbury on the edge of the moor.  Here there is a growing congregation whose small building is increasingly used for village activities; its view from its vestry window must be one of the best vestry views in the country.

The chimney towards the right of the picture reminds everyone that these were once mill villages (and there are actually many more back-to-back houses surviving here than in Grimsby).  If you followed the road it stands on out of the picture to the right it would quickly meet the road on which I stood to take this picture and the village of Crossroads where St James' Church is fully stuck into all sorts of community outreach activities.

Steam trains run along the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in the valley in front of the picture and the River Worth flows through the valley in the middle distance.  Central to the picture and unduly prominent from this angle is the white house and garage of the present Rectory.