Sunday 29 July 2018

A basket case

I had recently enjoyed spotting that synergy and cooperation are basically the same word - Greek and Latin version of working (ergos which gives us ergonomics, operatio which gives us operating) together (syn- as in synchronise, co- as in co-locate).

So I have been pleased to spot that the same is true of synagogue and congregation - simply a bringing or collecting together, with Greek route ago for bringing and Latin route gregare for collecting.

It also made me riff this morning on John’s use of a related word - synagagete - as the verb when he reports Jesus as saying ‘gather up the fragments’ after the feeding of the multitude.  I asked myself whether at one level it could be us he is talking about – our congregation as the product of a litter sweep.

On one hand there is God’s hugely extravagant grace always producing excess: the ‘deus omnipotens’ whose inexhaustible potential is ever creative; the cup running over; the never failing cruse of oil (we had a neighbouring Old Testament reading); twelve baskets full from the handful of barley loaves with dried fish relish which satisfying the multitude; trees bearing fruit in each of twelve months (in the vision shared by Ezekiel and Revelation).

And on the other hand there are the people bringing the leftovers of all that grace encountered since they were last synagogued, congregated and gathered - baskets of things broken and things discarded as exceeding our need, of what we have missed and of insights given, of damage done and healing experienced.

The Jesus who says in verse 12 that this gathering up should be done ‘that nothing may be lost’ is the one who says in verse 39 that it is the Father’s will he should lose nothing of all he  has been given – and that certainly is meant to be us.

Meanwhile, the photograph is a further one from our brief stay in Edinburgh last week.

Wednesday 25 July 2018

The Royal Mile

Towards the Castle at sunset

From near the Castle in daytime

Love God above all and your neighbour

Blessed is he that nicely doth the poor man's case consider

Adam Smith

Thursday 19 July 2018

Either end of the parish

Another Cross Roads' Gala picture, this time one of some fancy dress competition winners ('fish and chips'), a picture which appears in village social media and the local newspaper.

And a much more distant view towards (Haworth and) Cross Roads from the western end of the parish: after thirteen months, having family visitors who wanted to tackle the walk, I finally reached Top Withins from where the picture is taken.

Saturday 14 July 2018

Japanese Heights

We recently had a young Japanese tourist in tears at the back of St Michael’s, overwhelmed to be at the site at which Emily Brontë is buried.  A local Blue Badge guide reminded me yesterday of how equally upset such a visitor might be to find they had come at a season when the heather on the moors is not in flower.  A resident of a hamlet on those moors told me a few weeks ago about periodically rescuing such inappropriately dressed tourists in bad weather near her home.  The paths between here and there are mainly marked with signs in Japanese as well as English in an attempt to prevent this happening too often.

After a year here, I get ever keener to find a way of understanding how Wuthering Heights in particular captures the imagination of those from a Japanese culture, all the time wary of too easy a stereotype simply asserting that there is something about the combination of romance and tragedy which is the hook.  Those in tears, with a heather laden fantasy or simply lost do appear to be among those who have been compelled by something ever since their first often adolescent reading of the book as a set text.

Emily’s 200th birthday at the end of this month has prompted the Brontë Society to put on some local events which have hinted at how much more there is to understand about this.  One alluded to Japanese “kaidan” (haunted tales) as a tradition to which parts of Wuthering Heights might coincidentally appear to belong.

The critic Damian Flanigan spoke of the huge impact of Edmund Blunden’s identification in A Wanderer in Japan of the three most important English works (apparently such lists of three have a particular impact in Japan) as King Lear, Moby Dick and Wuthering Heights.  He noted, alongside their variety, their dealing with descent into tragedy.  He named the tensions between stoical endurance and unfettered imagination, between conformity and the wish to tear off the mask of falsehood, as possible features of Japanese culture to which Wuthering Heights speaks.

One of my father's aunts was a high church missionary in Japan before the First World War and I once read some of her reports home in SPG's archive held at Rhodes House in Oxford; I spent a fruitless hour earlier in the week trying to locate my notes.  She'd been taught to play music by Elgar (an unremarkable fact since his early career included much basic teaching around Worcester where she was sent to school) and I do remember her mentioning teaching Japanese girls in her turn; being taught at one remove from Elgar makes quite a contrasting cultural experience.

Meanwhile, the pictures come from the very English Cross Roads Gala today (at which I unwisely undertook the dangerous task of judging the fancy dress competition).

Sunday 8 July 2018

Scarlet cord in the window

The ordination at West Lane Baptist Church of its Student Assistant Minister on Saturday, and the church's generous hospitality at a barbecue in a neighbouring field afterwards, was all special in much more than the obvious ways.

He had spotted a while ago that an unlikely combination of football results could place a Quarter Final match in which England might just participate at exactly the same time, and so it turned out.  At the beginning of the service, those in the packed church made a shared commitment to pray rather than consult their phones, but, with the windows wide open because of the heat, the repeated sounds of huge celebrations from the pub a short distance away kept us pretty up-to-date with the progress of the developing score line.

And one of his College tutors preached intriguingly on the story of Rahab, the Canaanite harlot who is able to speak to the Hebrew spies about their God in Joshua 2 and who then becomes the great-grandmother of King David and thus an ancestor of Jesus.  He said that, given the ancestry, Jesus consorting with prostitutes and being willing to be taught theology by a Canaanite women in Matthew 15 wasn't actually that remarkable.  He encouraged the newly ordained Minister to continue 'the family tradition' - engaging with those most likely to be excluded, their needs and what they have to teach us.

Meanwhile, the Haworth mural is in the Car Park nearest the church.  It has everything from the elusive early Hovis advert (top left) to the Fair Trade logo on the steam train (bottom right).  Machu Picchu (top right) might be the biggest surprise - there is in fact a twinning relationship.