Sometimes the juxtpositions of things are just a bit hard to cope with.
If you’ll forgive a namedrop … I was about to process into St Paul’s on Tuesday evening when one of the Aldermen of the City of London said to me, ‘Your church seems to be growing very quickly. Everybody I know north of the border belongs to the Scottish Episcopal Church’ Which somewhat begs a question about how many people he knows north of the border. But it is highly likely that they are indeed members of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
Anyway, I thought back to the previous evening and the meeting which John Ferguson-Smith and I had with the Vestries of Glenrothes, Lochgelly and Leven as we try to find the money to appoint a Rector. We all try our very best and we’ll get there – but it’s a struggle. And I thought forward to my meeting today with the Electoral Synod for the Diocese of Argyll and The Isles in Oban and the challenge of sustaining congregational life in small numbers across big geography.
Along the way, I read a cheering book about the decline of Welsh Churches – ‘Against the Tide’ by DP Davies. They’ve all declined. Chapel in the Valley most of all – and especially those which were entirely Welsh-speaking. His conclusion seemed to be that only conservative expressions of church would survive. I know that there is strong evidence for that – but I also think that conservative expressions of church risk being ever more out of tune with people in the kind of secular society which is developing around us.
I see faith – religion – as a journey; individually, one of beliefs; and collectively, in relation to society’s culture around it.
The individual journey should not be let to stale; there are no permanent lay-bys on the road.
The corresponding collective phenomenon to avoid is a preservation of the state as it was at the far end of living memory as though that were historical, a “faith once handed down”, etc. It is *identifiable*, by its irrelevance to society (both in its expressions and how it understands things); however, conflating identifiability with survival of conservatism is short-sighted – it will not survive.
You can even see with the introduction of, and outcry against, the first Calmac ferry to Lewis on a Sunday, that hit the news last year. The acceptance-of-other, and acceptance-of-change, started with Peter’s vision in Acts and will roll over the world in its own time.
Something that’s been on my mind of late – When the enrobed religious leaders sent the crowd with Judas to arrest jesus. He had to be pointed out to them – ‘Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.’
Well Jimmy you could take a number of things out of that. Here are two for a start. The bad stuff often masquerades as the good stuff. More important, I think that we often assume that there is a truly radical difference between good and evil. My feeling is that evil is often ‘nearly good’ – and that’s why it’s subtle.
The subtle nuance of ‘nearly good,’ like, say – a worm in your salad
can still manage to drain the blood and turn the ruddiest complexion pallid.
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