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HOW DO WE FIND THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH?

When I lived in France I was constantly assured that while the French didn’t care much for President Bush (English understatement) they liked Americans. This piece of information was of greater comfort to my American wife than to me. However simplistic in practice, the sentiment was appreciated and contained some grain of truth. Setting aside that President Bush had been elected by a majority of Americans for a second term -whether he was elected the first time is another matter-one cannot judge a nation merely by recourse to the policies of its government. Immediately one brings to mind the fact that Hitler assumed power as a result of a democratic election process, but perhaps in that case the exception proves the rule. (I’ve never really understood that aphorism.)

If you read my burbles often you will know that I lament the politicization of the Episcopal Church. I am therefore uncomfortable with the notion that the policies adopted by those who govern us adequately describe who we are as Episcopalians. I believe the way most of us worship, in Word and Sacrament -not sermons and teaching classes -more accurately defines us and always has done. I’m even more distressed when I read the words of champions of Episcopalian orthodoxy when they seem to agree with the idea that present policies define who we are as Episcopalians.

In his presidential address to “The Anglican Communon Network” at its annual meeting in Texas today the Bishop of Pittsburg said:

“Yes, we are all at different places on the Calvary journey as concerns our ministries in the Episcopal Church. But I suspect I can speak for all when I say that where we are is not where we had hoped to be. God, in His wisdom, has not used us to reform the Episcopal Church, to bring it back to its historic role and identity as a reliable and mainstream way to be a Christian. Instead the Episcopal Church has embraced de-formation – stunning innovation in Faith and Order – rather than reformation.”

Now for the inevitable bit of history. Although the level of “deadness” the church on both sides of the Atlantic experienced in Latitudinarian times is now disputed, it is certainly true that Anglicanism’s hierarchy at the beginning of the 18th. Century had nearly reduced the faith to Aristotle and the rules of cricket, if the sermons of Tillotson and Tenison are any guide. Stillingfleet’s proposed revision of the Prayer Book, designed to make it possible for nonconformists to conform, later taken up with enthusiasm by revolutionary Americans and then ironically by the Reformed Episcopalian evangelicals, was intended to enable gentlemanly Deism. The Enlightenment at prayer.

The Wesleys were born into such a world, although their improvident father and pious mother were nearer to the Non-Jurors who in isolation carried the torch for Tory , High Churchism, a movement which would flower in the Northern Colonies much more than in its home turf of England. Evangelicals and High Church people saved the infant PECUSA from sudden death.

(If I’ve lost you in this history lesson, for goodness sake learn your heritage. It is because we forget who we are that we repeat the follies of the past. “There’s nothing new under the sun.”)

What I am suggesting is that the semi-Deist Anglicanism of the 18th. Century wasn’t transformed in a decade or even in a couple of decades. Yes, the followers of Wesley gave up on the Church and went wandering off into splintered sects which only came back together, or mostly together in the 20th Century. Yet those who didn’t give up on the church took most of a century to revive it and when they thought they had won, and that Anglicanism would be Evangelical, sober and moral -the Anglicanism of missionaries who went to parts of Africa -a newly technicolor version burst forth, a return to the form of Anglicanism experienced in the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII. Who would have thought it? Mass, Mary and Confession has returned as something new!

But to return to my original thought. Has the real church ever been the church of the headlines? Perhaps there have been times when to has seemed to be so. Yet all along, the very heart of what Anglicanism is has been doing its work and raising up new generations, new thoughts -well they are all really old thoughts -which demonstrate the dynamic reality which bursts forth as the Scriptures are read in public and private and the Sacraments celebrated. No headlines and no ascendent party is able to control the dynamic work of the Trinity when that name is invoked, even by those whose theology is wonky and public policies plain wrong. Aslan is not a tame lion.

I in many ways honor the Bishop of Pittsburgh. I am very fond of the Bishop of Quincy. I understand what they go through. But I am afraid that they, and the primates and I hope not the Archbishop of Canterbury believe the headlines. Certainly there are leaders in the church who sound a great deal like Tenison and Tillitson, or even William White our first PB although their sermons aren’t nearly as long -OK I malign those two long deceased archbishops of Canterbury and one PB,; they weren’t all bad! -and there are obsessed fanatics among us who rant and rave, some liberal and not a few conservative, but on the whole our parishes are not much different than those found anywhere else in the Communion. It’s really a secret, but there are Episcopalians who are Republicans! ( my wife is a Democrat and I’m just an old fashioned constitutional monarchist!) and the majority of parishioners, by far, are moderate people who hate the headlines and worship faithfully in their parish churches, don’t much bother about the diocese, don’t read Borg or Wright and distrust the National Church on principle, whether that principle is informed or not.

Because the policies of our present Establishment are regarded, quite wrongly, by primates and others as being who and what our church is, some encourage the impatient among us – “God in his wisdom has not used us to reform the Episcopal Church”, hang on a moment, why should He and if He hasn’t does that mean that He doesn’t have other ideas; does God have to do as we tell Him? Sorry +Bob but really!- to leave and create a new church, and others conclude that TEC is what General Convention votes on and thereby demonstrate that they have surrendered to a political and secular definition of “the Church” in exactly the same manner as those who have attempted to turn us into a “General Convention Church.”

September 30th is the deadline. By that time our present bishops must decide for our past bishops and future bishops whether TEC is a really Angican Church or not. If a similar deadline had been given to Anglicanism in 1730 shall we say, we might not have an Anglican Communon today. Please someone give me a theological, biblical, traditional definition of a deadline. Please +Rowan whom I admire, tell us. Or have our leaders worldwide and at home taken upon them the mantle of secular politicians? It all sounds like the Bush Adminisration and Iran. It doesn’t sound at all like New Testament faith to me. I believe that God will revive us, change us, use us, but what shape and form that will take I haven’t the ability to know. God hasn’t asked my advice. I dare not give God a deadline.

TIME TO LEAVE?

Emails to traditionalist blogs more and more seem to favor schism, or let’s call it separation, a word which doesn’t carry the baggage of the word “schism”. Of course it is easy for me to say, “Been there, done that.” I can say that I remain proud of the “separated” diocese in which I once served, more and more proud of its bishops, clergy and faithful lay people, who without diocesan funds or generous grants from others, build churches, pay clergy, and do that which the church does. One can’t spend a quarter of a century in a church and not leave behind a good measure of oneself. I do not find it necessary for me to denounce the APA because I am now where I am and who I am. I take delight in my relationships with APA clergy, particularly young clergy -one of whom is my son -who demonstrate that the Anglican tradition remains compellingly attractive to all manner of people, young, middle aged and gray headed and that “old-fashioned liturgy” teaching and preaching is as accessible today as it was in the past. After all Eizabethan English was just as old-fashioned in the 18th. Century as it is today and forged the memorable devotion of ploughman as well as literate aristocrats. Perhaps in our fairly wealthy middle class church today that is something we can’t claim anymore.

Having said that I responded today to a call for us all to leave the Episcopal Church, reported in “TitusOneNine” in this manner:

“The thing which really disturbs me is the easy assumption that the Episcopal Church is no longer a church. Such a decision is being made by collective private judgement and not by authoritative determination. There’s something political about the whole thought process. The evidence seems compelling. There’s no room at the inn for faithful Episcopalians we are told and therefore if we have any integrity at all, we should leave immediately for what? We could be talking about Republicans or Democrats.

Again we are left with private judgement or perhaps geographical convenience. Which alternative separated church should we opt for, on what basis, and if it doesn’t really matter, why the choices?

It is certainly easy to absorb the lesson of the South Carolina failed election, or the difficulties experienced by some or many in dioceses whose bishops fail to demonstrate a familiarity with mere Christianity, sometimes in a manner which causes genuine suffering, and determine, in a consumer ecclesiastical scene, that one wishes to shop for a different brand. Of course an individual must obey informed conscience; while corporate groups have a different relationship to the church. No doubt there is absolute freedom to suggest that one’s new franchise is superior to another. But all this is far from a belief in One Holy Catholc and Apostolic Church, a horror of schism or a belief that schism and heresy have much in common: the placing of personal opinion above the faith of the church. Private opinion, exalted, creates “heresies” by which we are distressed, but it also enables schism, however worthy the subscriptions of the schismatic. I say this not to attack separated bodies, however new, but to remind us all that separating is a frightful and frightening choice, even if it seems, or even may be inevitable.

IF the Episcopal Church casts itself adrift from the Anglican Communion in a complete and total fashion, or is drummed out of the regiment by recognized authority, then many of us shall have to make shift for ourselves as best we can. But while it remains possible, while we remain free, while we are enabled to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments and give mutual care to the faithful, we are not free, on the basis of our personal opinions, however widely shared, to abandon the church. I do not doubt that many in good faith and conscience feel called out to other places and fields -an “otherness” which may be next door- and I really have no quarrel with their enthusiastic recommendations, but I am haunted by the old story which suggests that when people leave the church, even because of persecution and suffering, they weaken both the church they leave and that which they erect. “

That the loss of people like Campion, Baxter, Wesley, Newman, those who formed the Reformed Episcopal Church over here – and thus made evangelicalism now something which seems new and alien, weakened Anglicanism is surely apparant. That Methodism and Reformed Episcopalianism lost something important in separation may even be admitted by their adherents occasionally.

Some point to earlier separations -rarely the Great Schism between East and West! – such as that which formed Anglicanism as a unique face of Christianity, as proof positive that schism can be justified. Yet I think the Pope has a little in his favor, just a little, when he suggests that schism diminishes the schismatic. What he didn’t really admit is that schism also diminishes the body abandoned. I would suggest that what is diminished is breadth or liberality, in the more ancient interpretation of those two words. Christianity at best is a many splendored thing, not in its incorporation of that which isn’t Christian at all, but in the breadth and depth of insight which comes to it from all sorts and conditions of people and ideas, and spirituality. If you don’t believe me pick up a Hymnal and note the authors and their backgrounds. Schismatic bodies, at first are naturally suspicious of error and in that suspicion they often drive out truth as well as error. They become narrow and introspective. Anglicanism is, I suggest, more than a mere schism in that it avoided such a temptation, almost from the outset, saved by people like Hooker and Andrewes and company whose minds soared beyond reaction and embraced truths to be found in the part of the church recently abandoned.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CHURCH?

I began to think about this blog this morning in adult education class. Our parish, like many others, attracts people from other denominations. Many come to us as refugees from fundamentalist bodies. There’s one near here, “non-denominational”, and thus free to impose upon its adherents stringent and “puritan” codes and to advocate male domination. Don’t get me wrong, I am delighted to welcome all sorts and conditions of people into our family and fellowship. The Episcopal Church has always thrived by attracting lay and ordained people from other bodies or none, who find in our worship, our traditions and our relative freedom new and refreshing ways to look at the Christian Faith.

My one concern is that converts learn and embrace what it means to be Anglican rather than using our church, at every level, as a bully pulpit to express why they are not what they used to be. I am also concerned at the trend to change who we are to make us primarily an anti-fundamentalist group rather than embracing the richness of our own tradition. Many years ago the late +Stanley Atkins, Bishop of Eau Claire, a native of the Newcastle area of England, in his quiet, caring, blunt manner warned about those coming to us “down the sawdust trail” who, consciously or not, can’t leave their baggage behind and in embracing our liturgy and customs fail to lose the temper of fundamentalism; the desire to be right and the desire to win. I call such people inverted fundamentalists.

Last year I read with horror the words of an influential seminary professor in this country, writing in the Church Times, who informed English Anglicans that the Episcopal Church exists to counter fundamentalism. We were the church long before fundamentalism was invented in the early 20th Century by a rebel Presbyterian.

Some in our midst advocate an archaeological version of Anglicanism based on those few decades, interrupted by “Bloody Mary”- the monarch not the drink – when the Church of England nearly succumbed to Geneva. Don’t mistake me, Anglican evangelicalism is part and parcel of our tradition, and as I have mentioned before, rescued our church from probable extinction after the American Revolution – but so did pre Tractarian High Church people -and it was evangelicals who labored to abolish the slave trade, child labor and who championed working class people as they fought for decent housing and working conditions. But from the middle of the 16th. Century onwards, evangelicalism was not the only flavor in the Anglican stew.

What I continually lament is the modern tendency towards “party” hegemony and intolerance. The zeal for God’s house eats up not only contemporary Anglican evangelicalism within our church but also those who bid good riddance to principled church people who find their consciences alienated by a growing tendency towards conformism in our church. I cannot for the like of me understand the mind set of those who refuse to make a place for those whose principles, long held among us, are compromised by synodical actions or lack thereof, and yet who would use the Order-breaching activities of the Global South bishops as an excuse to propose that we leave the Anglican Communion. Yes, the actions of Global South Provinces, some of them, in ordaining and consecrating bishops to serve in the United States is a serious breach of the Anglican traditional way of doing things. Yet formally endorsing or encouraging practices known to violate the consciences and principles of traditional “parties” within our comprehension is an equally egregious breach of the Anglican temper. Anglicanism is not a likely home for zealots. This may be a defect but we until lately abhorred schism and did all in our power to preserve unity. Oddly this did not discourage men and women called to prophecy. We absobed their ideas rather than legislating them.

The clergy of the Episcopal Church are much more managed than was once the case. Much of this is the result of instant communication and the encroaching example of corporate and political models. Not too long ago the local parish and its parson were able, if of such a temper, to develop what we now term “local option”. After an initial struggle and the occasional folly of zealous bishops -that old history book “Men and Movements in the American Episcopal Church” illustrates this; where are our historians today?- Evangelicals were left to interpolate rumperty tumperty hymns, prayer meetings, bible classes and intercourse with Protestant churches and later Anglo-Catholics could resort to Mass, Mary and Confession with little interference from above. Tolerance was an acquired virtue but enabled all manner of salutary and barmy ideas and movements to prosper or perish among us. Vestries were free to call the rector of choice. Anglicans stayed together because they were free to practice their differences.

One of the down sides of our present Prayer Book is that it has tended towards a conformity otherwise encouraged by program after program -what I term painting by numbers – pedalled by diocesan officials and the national church. Our present crisis is in part occasioned because we insist that attempts to propose things past and things future receive official sanction from on high. Parish clergy are more and more company people and less and less the informed, scholarly, eccentric and independent parsons who were once described as “stupor mundi.”

Even our selection processes weed out “characters” and entrepreneurs in favor of safe introverted people -they can still be saints! -who are ready to frame their ministries in the light of programs. More and more our clergy become mirror images of school teachers, trained to follow a program and use the approved text. Our seminaries do little to correct this folly.

It is therefore ironic that we groan at the weight of covenants and protest at the alleged creation of pan-Anglican curias when we embrace and promote a conformity which narrows our comprehension and disallows the sort of passion which produced a Wilberforce and a Simeon, a Hobart and a Newman, unless their passions are pre-approved, “programmed” and legislated. We have swapped the “chaos”of Anglican freedom for a narrow majoritarianism mislabelled liberalism.

Had we winked at the use of the 28 BCP, allowed it possible that “men” could mean men and women, not looked too closely at who or what was blessed and been honest about whom we ordain, we would have controversy in spades, but not the repression which is leading us to internal and external schism. Given time, as in the new BCP, things once thought shocking like prayers for the dead and auricular confession might become usual and even approved by legislative action. On the other hand, as in non-communicating masses or a ban on parish dances, or playing cards things proposed might have died the death of the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings. We didn’t legislate virtue. We gave space for innovation and new things culled from things old.

We are losing the art of comprehension and surrendering to a climate of company policy and control and in so doing we are becoming something we have never been before. In part this is happening because instead of absorbing what it means to be Anglican, we are attempting to be against something else.

When I was a boy I would look at the painted images of saints on the rood screen, defaced by zealots and wonder the mind-set of those who enthusiastically took chisel and paint brush to obliterate that which is lovely all because someone might have a devotion to the persons depicted. I have no more time for modern iconoclasts than I have for their ancestors.

SERMONS THAT WORK

I hate writing sermons. I normally preach without notes or a written form. About four times a year I write sermons for Sermons that Work, a service of our church designed to be used by Readers and mission clergy who perhaps don’t have the time or resources to write their own or are not licensed so to do.

The sermon I wrote for this coming Sunday jumped out at me from, of all places “Episcopal Life Online” today. http://www.episcopalchurch.org/82457_87870_ENG_HTM.htm. As always I am preaching to myself. Of course this wretched stem cell transplant has me worried, more about the three weeks I shall spend without much of an immune system at all. So the story of Mary and Martha speaks to me. I hope it speaks to you. I wish it would speak to primates, council members, houses of bishops, separated brothers and sisters, bloggers and all who fear for the church and its future.

I heard a reporter recently wonder about the future of the Roman Catholic Church in Los Angeles!! No doubt there is a future for that archdiocese despite the sins and follies of priests. After all there is something in Holy Writ about the gates of hell.

WHO WINS?

The Archbishop of Uganda’s piece entitled “What is Anglicanism” http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6002 is inciting controversy on the Bishops/Deputies email list. I’ve been lurking and occasionally posting to that list since its inception around 2000AD. On the whole its contributors are not noted for their moderation or irenic spirit. Thank God the list isn’t an accurate description of contemporary Episcopalianism.

As I well know, mea culpa, the email and the blog are places that unless we are careful we can use to write the most dreadful things and then slink back into relative anonymity. I know ecclesiastical personages of a meek and mild demeanor, who suddenly flame into veritable Goliaths given a key board and a connection. At this moment there’s much ado about something my friend Elizabeth Kaeton has written. She must have been in a “right paddy”- I apologize to readers of Irish descent – when she wrote what she did, which I am not going to repeat here. If she were to come into my confessional now, there would be a very stiff penance indeed. (Not that we have confessionals in the church dedicated to St. Thomas a Becket here in Morgantown.) Elizabeth is my friend because I like her, have worked with her on reconciliation and she prays for me in my illness. Simply because I deplore her indiscretion, or disagree with her on many issues doesn’t mean she is neither my friend nor my prayer partner. It is high time we civilized cultured people learnt some old fashioned civility.

Back to the Archbishop of Uganda’s piece. In most ways its both a lovely piece of writing and a lovely expression of a faith honed in circumstances far from the experience of we lounge lizards. During a century and a half of Christian presence in Uganda, those who have converted have experienced things past telling. I once had a church next to Hannington’s Store in North Street, Brighton. A panel by its front door spoke to the martyrdom of James Hannington, first bishop to Uganda. As a boy I sang lustily “Daily daily, sing the praises of the City of our God,” a hymn which recalled the martyrdom of those young Bugandans done to death by the tyrant Kabaka.

Those of us who recently watched the movie, “The Last King of Scotland” were reminded of a more recent tyrant who had murdered the Anglican Archbishop of Uganda. Is it any puzzle that Ugandans find the stories in Acts “living Scripture” rather than “dead Scripture.” They do not face, on the whole the subtle corruptions of our culture, but Animism and militant Islam. Yes we want good relations with other Faiths. That is good. But we should not, from the comfort of our recliners, downplay that which Christians face in much of Northern Africa, let alone make comparisons which seem to suggest that Americans experience a similar persecution.

Evangelical Anglicanism in parts of Africa lives because it does speak to those who hear Scripture and live by Scripture and find in Scripture a haunting description of their own circumstances. There may come a day, when, as a result of Global Warming, an energy breakdown and other aspects of decay, our empire, like Rome, lies in grass grown ruin and then, perhaps, the Scriptural context will again hauntingly speak to our own predicament.

Following the example of my constant companion -along with Parson Woodforde– Canon Sydney Smith, late of St. Paul’s, it is easy to consign at least some Evangelicals and I am ashamed to say a few Anglo-Catholics and those who are Broad of Church and broad of mind, I have met to the description Smith drew of underpaid and under-educated parsons:

“You will have a set of ranting, raving Pastors, who will wage war against all innocent pleasures of life, vie with each other in extravagance of zeal, and plague your heart out with their nonsense and absurdity: cribbage must be played in caverns and sixpenny whist take refuge in the howling wilderness. In this way low men, doomed to hopeless poverty, and galled by contempt, will attempt to force themselves into stations and significance.”

I have a sneaking suspicion that this unkind description – and Canon Smith hadn’t the excuse of emails of blogging – may fit aptly some in all our present factions whose personal experience of being ignored bursts into flames in print.

Is it too pious to suggest that being ignored or persecuted or slighted, rather than being a modern phenomenon to which the Scriptures are dead, is a precise experience of that which Jesus predicted would be the lot of those who follow Him? Our Ugandan brothers and sisters -whether we like their bishops or not, have suffered, and in the North of that country, still suffer sometimes with their lives. Shall we bid them good riddance and scorn their religion merely because they don’t approve of our morals?

RABBITS

As I was driving t the early Eucharist up the steep drive to the church last Sunday, two young rabbits darted out. They seemed to be playing tag. I missed them.

Pat and I had watched “Miss Potter” on a DVD. It’s a charming film, although the actor who plays Beatrix Potter was an unlikely choice for the role: much too sexy!

I remember the sets of books I had as a young child. Living then in the country, the world given to me in sight and smell and touch, and through the lens of Moley and Ratty and Toad, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet and Peter Rabbit was enchanting and lovely. I can’t say that I had a happy childhood. Too much was going on in the lives of those around me, too many moves from place to place, complicated things. But it was an interesting childhood, blessed by the ancient churches which were points of stability in a roving life, and the beauty of my surroundings accessed by the use of an ancient and workable bicycle.

Perhaps that as why I have a sense of the holy. I hasten to say that I don’t claim this as a virtue or as something which makes me special. I merely say it as a fact. This sense of being surrounded by another world, (and it is a sense which is more than “feeling”), is acute during worship or when I’m saying the Offices, but never far away from my ordinary experience.

I suppose that is also why I have great difficulty understanding people who find the supernatural, miracles, doctrines of the church difficult to accept and experience. My lack of understanding does not preclude my having empathy for them. There are many things in life, including what is termed “Sport” of which I have no understanding at all. A great deal is said about “experience” nowadays. Some would follow the Methodists and add expeience to Scripture, Tradition and Reason. But the Tradition is experience, a collective experience of Christians through the ages.

I would suggest that collective experience is something to be looked at and respected. It is from the collective experience of the Church that we understand and define what might otherwise be subjective experience. “I feel ‘spiritual'” may or may not be an accurate statement. Like Scrooge, one may attribute it to a piece of bad meat uneasily digested. There’s a lot of dubious “spirituality” around nowadays. Some take courses in spirituality as if it were some separate and unique experience one may or may not indulge from time to time. Thus we have Celtic Spirituality -+Rowan Cantuar has some words of warning about that one – Benedictine spirituality and so on. I favor Prayer Book spirituality, a good alternative title to “Anglican Spirituality” a description open to all sorts of approaches and definitions.

“Which form of Anglicanism?”, one may ask. Are we talking about Anglo-Catholicism, old or new version, of Evangelical piety, old or new version, or Liberalism, Broad Church or the contemporary version? Each has a legitimate and often overlapping “spirituality.”

The Prayer Book in a sense narrows the field. Mind you it remains an enormous field, fertile and verdant, full of wonder and awe. Take, if you will, the spirituality of the two main Daily Offices, prayed carefully. By “praying carefully” I don’t mean with a mind always fixed on the actual text, although that discipline needs to be carefully observed. The prayers, hymns and psalms, the lessons, even the rhythm of the forms contain an abundance of meaning and relevance and opportunity for the mind and the imagination to take off. Consider the plea: “Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace.” Wow.

Mind you, as a naughty aside, I propose that these words are no more intelligible to a worldling than they were in a more ancient translation. Beauty of language, however initially obscure, defines religious liturgical discourse as something special and unique in a manner similar to yet profoundly different from the word patterns and vocabulary of football or computers. The similarity rests in the necessity to absorb and understand a specific vocabulary. The difference lies in the fact that religious language points to an experience beyond fact and beyond necessary comprehension. That is the world of doctrine, which never fully explains or comprehends but points us clearly and safely in the right direction. That is the world of miracle, in which we realise that what we term supernatural is natural and what we term natural is supra natural. The world of miracle is a world pierced through and through by God but which is not divinity itself. The Celtic idea of thin places is one way to understand that God is not constrained by what we call laws, but is necessarily free to do as God pleases!

We are told that there is a new phenomenon around. Young people seem to like Compline, surrounded by flickering candles, where they recite obscure prayers and sing ancient songs. What is here occurring is the natural response of some human beings to the Other. This challenges the bread and butter world of so many modern liturgical experts who seek to make liturgy something as easy to understand and follow as a recipe for pickled onions. Those whose experience leads them beyond the recipe are termed “spiritual” or even “mystics”, when they are in fact merely Christians employing a god-given faculty to approach the Holy. Spirituality is not some odd state reserved for adepts. It is the birth-right and promise of all who believe.

I do not mean to say that the words of liturgy, the words of doctrine, or the words describing what some term “miracles” are not to be taken in deadly earnest. They have teased and inspired the minds of saints and sinners, the wise and the stupid, generation after generation. One fails to do them justice if one consigns them to the world of mere metaphor and picture. There are a legion of brilliant minds among us who take the meaning contained in what we term “The Catholic Faith” -not Roman Catholic or High Church -in deadly earnest and cull from that Faith that which we need to know in contemporary life, to live in God and God in us. It is of necessity that such ideas and suggestions, such “laws” are “other” at first to our experience. Perhaps they were less “other” to me when I lived in the country and explored castles, and enjoyed the sense of presence and past in ancient churches. Yet even then, as a child, I knew all too well that I had a foot in each world, and one of those worlds, with its hurts and betrayals, insecurities and alternatives, tugged greatly. The other world was no mere escape. Its otherness was not a narcotic. In that world the truth about life and its problems were addressed frankly and sometimes searingly as what “is” confronted what “is also”. The “Isness” of God comprehended the “isness” of daily living, even the ordinary daily living of a child being brought up by a desperately unhappy single parent.

So there go those two young rabbits playing in the woods which surround this parish church. Their dance tugged at my heart and mind and for a second, the wonder of nature filled my heart with joy and brought me, metaphorically to my knees as I considered the work of God’s hands. “God’s hands?” Of course he doesn’t have hands. Don’t spoil the moment.

STEM CELLS

My onclogist has decided that I am a suitable candidate for stem cell transplant from my own supply. This is to be done as an outpatient. During this treatment there will be a three week or so period when I shall need someone here round the clock in case I get a serious fever while my immune system is shot and need to be admitted to hospital! Pat starts to train as a nurse, so we will look to friends, family and parishioners to “baby sit “me.

All being well this will begin in three weeks or so.

Do pray for us!