Monday, 7 December 2009

Degrees of separation

I have the greatest sympathy with the synagogue official in the story of the bent women (Luke 13.10-17) - a good man doing his very best to be faithful to the traditions and ordinances of his community. He is in no way against the woman being healed - but not at that moment. The woman in the culture of the day is not simply ill but deeply ritually unclean. She is brought by Jesus into the centre of the synagogue, where only men may be. As a result of meeting Jesus and being touched at the deepest level, she, the ritually unclean one, stands tall. And the first thing she does is publically praise God in a place where only men are allowed to publically pray. No wonder Jesus caused trouble wherever he went.

So Fr Ken O’Riordan writes in the current Tablet. I’d encountered Ken’s creative opening up of the Bible before I came here ten years ago, and he was the Catholic parish priest here when I arrived; he read one of the lessons at my licensing service. Everything from the creation of the North East Lincolnshire Credit Union as Churches Together’s Jubilee Millennium project to the striking reordering of St Puis’ church seemed to be down to him.

He was writing out of the experience of attending another Anglican celebration, where he was also asked to read from the Bible, for the 25th anniversary of becoming a deaconess of the artist and priest Jean Lamb. By coincidence we have mutual friends with Jean, and the poor picture is of her superb Annunciation which is on one of our walls at home here: the exploratory touching across the divide which traditionally marks the middle of Annunciations is as eloquent as the fruit shaped space between the figures.

Ken writes from the experience of seeing this women priest standing tall as one whose ministry is touched by the Lord while knowing that his traditions and ordinances say that the issue of women’s ordination is not even open to discussion. I read with traditionalists crowding in on every side to denounce the ordination as Bishops of those who are either female or gay (or both), and with our Archbishop able publically to urge that they shouldn’t cause trouble without being able publically to urge gracious restraint on those who would even legislate to pursue such people to death.

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