Tuesday 27 June 2017

Typically Christian 2

It is Pliny the Younger, early in the second century, who gives the first external impression of Christians at worship, information he says he gathered from lapsed Christians:

... on an appointed day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak, and to sing responsively to Christ, as to a God, and to bind themselves by a solemn vow, not to commit a specific crime but rather to avoid theft, robbery, adultery, breach of faith, and not to deny a loan claimed back.  After this ceremony ended it was their custom to go and meet again for food...

We’ve worshipped in turn on the last three Sundays at Haworth Catholic Church, Lees Methodist Church and Haworth West Lane Baptist Church, and I can report that these services had the following things in common (strictly excluding things which two of them had in common but a third did not).

There is quite a level of overlap with what Pliny had been told.  But, like his account, it is interesting to speculate how true or complete a picture is given.

Worship happens at 10.30 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

The main participation of the adults is to sing together, many of the songs coming from sources held in common.

The youngest people present contribute something specific to the service themselves very briefly.

A passage from a Gospel is read.

A significant attempt is made by the ordained person leading the worship to apply the message of the reading to the way Christians live.

The individual Christian's failure to live as he or she is called to do, his or her recognition of this, and God’s willingness to go on loving and working with him or her none the less, is the one message in common.

Prayers are said for the church’s engagement with the community and for others.

The Lord’s Prayer is said by all.

Refreshments are served after the worship.

There is a large cardboard collecting box for the same local food bank.

Meanwhile, a scooter procession past the steps leading up to St Michael's, Haworth was just one of the things going on at the 60s Weekend a few days ago.

Friday 23 June 2017

Community Chapel, Mirfield

A few nights here for the first time as a pre-induction retreat only three-quarters of an hour away, and there is a pleasing  link back to Grimsby as well because Walter Tapper was also the architect of St Michael's, Little Coates.

Saturday 17 June 2017

Typically Christian

What do people think Christian people think?

I presume that the adviser who warned a Prime Minster years ago that he shouldn’t ‘do God’ in public had some sort of idea.

He seemed to think that people think that Christians think that praying for guidance leads us to do the first uninformed things that then come into our heads and to be unreasonably certain that we must be right.

Or that paying attention to the Bible has long led us to reject evolution in favour of a literal seven day creation and now leads us to reject equal marriage in favour of a condemnation of all faithful same-sex relationships, to name only two of the issues which appear to come most frequently to people's minds.

And, suddenly, it almost seems that they are right. 

A Christian leader of a liberal political party has a bruising experience of a General Election campaign and concludes that holding his (particular understanding of his Christian) faith is (perceived by others to be) incompatible with that leadership.

But how has it arisen that this is the popular perception (of many) in the first place?

Why isn’t the perception that a (contemporary) Christian politician will be most remarkable for his or her prayerful awareness of his or her own need for forgiveness and for agonising over the common good?

Or for paying such close attention to the Bible that he or she prioritises social justice for the most marginalised and seeking reconciliation for all?

Or that  leads him or her sharply to question the assumptions behind everything from profit before people and slogan before sympathy?

Which is more typically Christian, to be scientifically blinkered and judgmentally obsessed with others sexuality or to champion the excluded and forensically engaged with self-critical honesty and the needs of neighbours? 

Anyway, the ironic truth appears to be that, among what is actually of course the huge range of positions held by Christian people, for some of the more extreme supporters of the minority political party on whose parliamentary support a Church of England attending Prime Minister will now depend to remain in office, it is the popular view of publicly Christian politicians which seems closer to the truth than to the alternative reality I fantasise about, and it is in fact no bar to political success at all.

Meanwhile, we enjoyed encountering this car when passing through Leeds on ‘Clean Air Day’ earlier in the week.

Monday 12 June 2017

More than sun and cake

Don't be totally taken in by the sun in our new back garden yesterday afternoon.  The weather round here does appear to change quite often: there were drops in the air when we walked to church in the morning, sunshine when we came out, rain during lunch, this view in the afternoon, and drizzle again in the evening.

The church service was Mass at the Our Lady of Lourdes, Haworth.  Full of people of most ages, a formal yet relaxed liturgy, an effective sermon, a friendly welcome and a quite astonishing quantity of cake at refreshments after the service.  We plan to be at one of the local Baptist churches next week and one of the local Methodist churches the week after, before beginning work.

Meanwhile, we are almost straight within a week of moving in (even with a day trip to London for Deborah to receive her prize from the Princess Royal - who asked each recipient in turn informed questions about their work without appearing to consult any notes) with the only glitches being in getting computer network up and running properly.

Thursday 1 June 2017

Feelings and facts

I continue to be exercised by the shift from engaging in political and theological reasoning to simply responding and appealing to assumption, emotion and prejudice.

But last month snippets from two Anglican leaders (a layperson with roots in the Irish ascendancy and a Bishop with roots in the Afro-American south) remind me that reconciliation depends at an important level on holding together an awareness of instinct and argument, relationship and vision.

Peter Hannon has died.  His father was a war-time Archdeacon of Dromore  and his brother Bishop of the cross-border diocese of Clogher through recent difficult years.  He was committed himself as a champion of what was for many years called Moral Rearmament.  His friend Mary Lean wrote in The Guardian:

Peter maintained that in any conflict situation feelings were as decisive as facts.  He liked to recall a conversation, early in the Troubles, with Gerry O’Neill, a Catholic leader from the Falls Road.  Asked for the facts of a situation, O’Neill replied: ‘Facts only confuse the issue.  Each side has its own set of facts, mostly accurate, but selected to prove its own case.  Each ignores the real fact, which is what the other side feels'.

Michael Curry is the Presiding Bishop of TEC (the Episcopal Church in the USA) and answered an interview question about ministry in that church at a time of political division:

One of the things I learned as a parish pastor was that those relationships affected everything else. People could disagree with you, but if they knew you loved them and cared for them and vice versa and were in relationship with them, they might disagree with you and they might put some grey hair on you too, but it didn’t cause schism, you see what I mean?  That pastoral relationship impacted everything else.  If that wasn’t there, it doesn’t matter how right or wrong you were.  You could be prophetic all day, but if you don’t have a pastoral relationship, it doesn’t matter.

The pictures were taken at the Birdsong Green Burial Site near Alford, which we discovered on Bank Holiday Monday.