I had a dream recently in which I couldn’t get things ready for an imminent funeral: the prepared notes were missing, the robes hard to find, the journey full of wrong turnings, the sense never breaking that the mourners would be waiting but I’d never quite get there.
A very straight forward and unremarkable anxiety dream then.
But it surprised me for a couple of reasons. Despite a hugely difficult couple of years, one thing I haven’t been having has been anxiety dreams. And when, longer ago, I did have them, they were consistently about not being ready for exams: somewhere less unlike my school’s campus than unlike my University’s setting, with the noticeboard, the syllabus, the tutor and the library all somehow equally inaccessible however much I searched.
And then I was sitting at the back of a Deanery Synod meeting having arrived in just good enough time, but too far back to catch everything being said at the front. Despite trying to pace myself better this autumn, I’d worked all day and then come out for an evening meeting as well because the one substantive item was Looking after God’s creation: what changes can parishes and individuals make to have a positive impact which seemed important enough.
I’ve perhaps been a little mis-sold, the speaker began to say, and I was back robe-less and syllabus-denied, in a bad dream, unable to get anywhere.
Relevant words were dangled before us, and we were given time to react to them with neighbours. We began with Generosity, having been primed strangely with a story about what may have been a rich elderly expatriate in Monaco giving one of her high specification cars for the use of the local Anglican Chaplain. Acceptable feedback turned out to be about giving money to the church, with family-creating, kidney-donating, time-sacrificing, debt-releasing, salvation-procuring generosity somehow inaccessible.
Stewardship was up next, and the nature of the topic-misunderstanding, which those who arrived earlier or who sat closer to those in the know at the front may well have already readily understood, became apparent. It wasn’t the commission at almost the start of the Bible for humans to care, look after or steward creation which we were to explore, but all things were to refer back to giving money to the church.
Time was running out as first-fruits was tabled as the third point of reference, and the side reference from the front indicated that this too was to be taken as being about giving to God (proxy at this point for temple and church rather than creation and neighbour) before all else, and all the fruitful possibilities of what comes fruitfully into my hands being primarily for the common good rather my individual consumption remained frustratingly, unpickably out of my reach.