Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why not just give up?

Warning: painfully grumpy post ahead. I'll probably recant from parts of it tomorrow, if the antibiotics do their work.

First, if you haven't already read about it, read the story of the Rev Dr Tom Ambrose here, and then read Ruth Gledhill's blog about it here. In particular, do read some of the comments after the deposition, and pray for Tom and his family.

OK. Regular readers will know that I've struggled a) with the workload of this job and b) a (much milder) version of what Tom's been through, which has largely run its course, thanks be to God. Yet there are lots of continuing niggles, vexations and disappointments (ie me disappointing others) which wear down the soul, and in the last few days I've had one of those 'straw on the camel's back' moments about one vastly minor parish matter which has caused offence. And frankly I'm fed up, and wondering what the point of it all is.

Let me be clear. Despite rumours of heresy I am more convinced than ever that Jesus of Nazareth is the word made flesh, that in him is life in all its fullness. It's not Christianity I doubt; it's not the wondrous nature of worship and sharing faith that I doubt. It's whether the Church of England fails the Ichabod test (and I would also distinguish between Anglican theology as a whole and the Church of England as an institution in particular). Is it time to abandon ship? That's not the same as abandoning congregations (in that sense the congregation is the ship) but there is a sense that, as Gramsci wrote, 'The old is dying and the new cannot yet be born, in the interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear'. Is it more true to the Gospel to let this Christendom-encrusted model pass into history? I know Rowan has had similar thoughts.

Thing is, as my wife points out, I know that I wouldn't be feeling like this if I was at my normal level of strength. And I would tend to see this as 'the devil's got his grip on me at the moment'. There are certainly still times when I get filled with enthusiasm about what might be possible through parish work. Yet I have to also acknowledge that I've begun to occasionally entertain thoughts of throwing the whole lot in and saying 'to hell with it', not least because I've never had to struggle with ill-health so consistently since I started work in a parish. I'd become an NSM priest, retrain as either a teacher or a psychotherapist and continue to pursue God with all my heart. I'd continue to read and write (and blog and take photos) but I'd no longer feel so obligated to be nice to those who are incapable of taking Christianity seriously, nor would I have to continually compromise with the world in order to keep within canon law. Or is this just an illusory dream of freedom? I'd certainly not want to join another ecclesiastical establishment; I remain profoundly Anglican in my bones.

Harrumph! My wife thinks I'm going through a bit of a mid-life crisis. As I say, when I feel better physically I'm sure I'll feel more positive spiritually. But I think this is one of those ventings of spleen that is better out than in.

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