Thursday, May 04, 2006
++Rowan in Chelmsford
Apologies for the wobbly image, I got a bit self-conscious (and I was using the zoom which made the wobble much worse...)
Anyhow, ++Rowan came to give a pep talk to the gathered clergy of Chelmsford Diocese this morning. Despite it being my day off it was well worth going to. He is SO MUCH the right man for this time. Some notes from his talk, and the questions afterwards.
Overall theme: the church is a pilot project for a new humanity, we're here to show the world what God's intention is for us all. He quoted a 2nd century theologian (didn't say which) who argued "The glory of God is a human being fully alive". He emphasised the joy of our faith, and how this was a reflection of God's own overflowing joy. He quoted Queen Victoria ('why should we have communion on Easter Day? it's such a sad service') as what needs to be overcome.
He argued that to be faithful, Christians need to be artistic, political and contemplative. Artistic in the sense of making a difference to their environment, engaging with it creatively, and engaging with what is meaningful (making meaning). Political in the sense of being centred on relationship, on transforming oppressive relationships into justice ('seek the welfare of the city where you are sent'). Contemplative in the sense of delight and joy, taken up completely by what is present; we are made for God's presence and THAT'S IT! God made us to be happy.
If we forget these things then we sell the gospel short. We so often forget the divine abundance. He mentioned the story in Luke 5 where Peter gets such a large catch of fish and his immediate response is 'depart from me for I am a sinful man'. It is the divine abundance which reveals our poverty.
The church is called to be the soil in which flowers bloom. When Christians are enabled to be themselves, to show more deeply what it means to be human, that is sanctity. A three-quarter serious suggestion that the local church should celebrate their own saints (in living memory) as signs of the kingdom.
When we come to church, we shouldn't leave any of our humanity at the door. There is nothing in us that the gospel cannot cope with. Catholic doesn't just mean for everyone, it means for every bit of us (Cyril of Jerusalem?).
We are resistance workers. We resist the blandishments of the world, all that dehumanises. In particular we must resist bad religion, religion is prone to dehumanising, must guard against that.
Ended quoting the Psalmist [implicit reference here to Babette's Feast I think, his favourite film] 'Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other, that glory might dwell in our land'.
Then in questions:
Most creation theology is sentimental claptrap.
I don't know what the Anglican Communion will look like in ten years time.
We need to remember that the church belongs to God - it's not about 'me'.
Is the Anglican church Biblical and faithful - yes, in exactly the same way as the church in Corinth!
The sign of a true church is not the absence of conflict but how conflict is handled.
The task of the baptised: pray, serve, repent, think, rejoice
A remarkable story about the last pope, who was asked about whether he was still able to write poetry, who responded 'No, there is no context'. Something sad that the position deprives a human being of the context in which to write poetry. ++Rowan is still very occasionally able to write some.
The church is not ornamental hermits in the landscape for people to admire from a distance.
[Putting on his mitre and being official:] God says 'forget the drama and listen to me... take the next step Christianly - don't fall in love with our own drama and crisis'. How can the problems of the Anglican Communion be solved? Goodness only knows. [That provoked a lot of laughter - as did much of his address. Echoes of Girard and the satanic nature of spectacle there - I know he likes Girard, and James Alison.]
It was wonderful to be able to hear directly from him, and get an impression of his state of mind - much more positive than I had feared. He was given a very strong and supportive bout of applause right at the beginning, so I hope that he felt he was amongst friends. Unfortunately I had to leave before the conclusion (had a funeral to take), but I'm sure he would have been given another ovation.
The refusal to accept premature and easy solutions. That takes tremendous courage and rootedness in God. What a blessing to us.