Three things. First of all a confirmation service last Sunday with one of our many bishops presiding. He chose to preach about climate change – good of course to hear a bishop addressing that vital issue, but still a bit of a surprise for a confirmation service which has a very specific agenda. It’s to be hoped that on a Sunday which followed a protest “strike” by many young people around the country focusing on the same issue he wasn’t just trying to show himself to be in touch! The great irony though was that he preached that sermon in an Anglican Church which, typical of many, is draughty, pretty much uninsulated, far bigger than it needs to be (except a very few times each year), and with a heating system that does its best at considerable cost. It left me wondering just what is the carbon footprint of the Church of England on a Sunday morning. Of course actually doing anything about that would require some fairly drastic action, wouldn’t it ………?
Second thing; at the end of that same service we sang a “worship song” that set out to tell God that s/he is “altogether wonderful” and much else in that vein which seemed to imply an intimacy of knowledge and understanding about the nature and personality of God that I really can’t identify with. There was a time when I craved that kind of certainty, these days though I think I would be a touch anxious about a God who desired or needed that kind of fairly mindless, repetitive adulation. It’s as though the uncertainty leaves more space for discovery and growth. The benefit of that train of thought was to push me towards an honesty in admitting to myself that my understanding of God comes much closer to what I think was Churchill’s phrase, not actually describing God but the Russian psyche if I remember rightly. He famously spoke of “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. Terrible admission perhaps after all these years, but God as riddle / mystery / enigma feels quite close to my experience of him. Nonetheless the pursuit of an understanding feels worthwhile, despite the increasing voices to the contrary in our time and place.
Third thing: a conversation, actually in preparation for a funeral, with the son and grandson of the deceased. Basically what he said was something like “she was a real believer, but not very keen on the church” …….. faith without religion. Now that’s a notion that I find appealing!
I guess that each of these chimes somewhat with things that I’ve expressed in “parts 1 – 4” of this blog. I find each of them (especially the second and third) encouraging rather than troubling.
Onward and upward!