GREAT DAY. Caught the train to Liverpool with my sister Sarah and brother Nick. We can’t remember ever having had a day out, just the three of us, in our adult lives. Isn’t that ridiculous? Long, long overdue and great fun. Brought up in Wirral, when the port was still full of worldwide shipping traffic, we often went to sleep to the music of the fog horns on the river and we loved the Beatles, and the Mersey Underground, and the Ferries – revisited today – wind and rain lashing the Pier Head and the crossing over to Woodside. Regeneration of the city is absolutely astonishing and the legendary warmth of the people felt and appreciated. Fabulous hazelnut and caramel cake with morning coffee at Challain, incredibly evocative museum visit, great lunch at Bluecoat Chambers (I haven’t had a plate of Scouse for years), tea at The Hilton (hat-tip to the wonderfully friendly folks there), one very funny joke in particular that made me cry with laughter. Really great. Quick hello to parents on the way back to Bramhall. They still keep a supply of KitKats in their fridge . Hey, kids again for a day. Thanks S&N x
Orthopraxy in much of Buddhism and Hinduism
Orthopraxy is usually distinguished from orthodoxy. Orthodoxy refers to doctrinal correctness, whereas orthopraxy refers to right practice. What we see in many of the Eastern religions is not an emphasis upon verbal orthodoxy, but instead upon practices and lifestyles that, if you do them (not think about them, but do them), end up changing your consciousness.
This was summed up in the Eighth Core Principle of the Center for Action and Contemplation: We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. I hope that can be a central building block of the Living School.
And – joyfully – today I’ve been chestily croaking ALLELUIA! upon reading today’s thoughts about the witness of art
Unique witness of mythology, poetry, and art
My earliest recordings often included mythological stories, poetry, or art to make the point. Many people are more right-brained learners than left-brained. When you bring in a story, or a poem, or refer to a piece of art, you can see people’s interest triple: “Wow, I’m with you!” Whereas, if you stay on the verbal level all the time, their eyes glaze over, they lose interest, they lose fascination and identification with the message.
I don’t think Western preachers and teachers have really understood the importance of art in general. Until people can “catch” the message with an inner image, it usually does not go deep. We’ve also been afraid of myths that weren’t Christian. In fact, we were afraid of the very word “myth.” We thought it meant something that wasn’t true when, in fact, it’s something that’s always true—if it’s a true myth. This will be a very important substratum of the Living School curriculum.
One of the things I most love and admire about Richard Rohr is his generosity of heart, mind, soul and body. He’s open to seeing the Divine all around us, open to contemplation and to receiving the Wisdom from traditions other – though as he shows us, not always so very “other” – from his own. I love that Fr Richard balances the importance of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy; that he both thinks deeply and feels profoundly. That, it seems to me, is what the call of Jesus Christ – and of other great spiritual masters and teachers – is really all about. As Richard has it, “living ourselves into a new way of thinking”. That’s something all of us can do, all of the time, with or without particular religious frameworks – though many, in the living, will thrive in the kind of religious environment that seeks – as the word religion intends (from Latin religare - ”to reconnect, to bind together”) – to bind up the whole.
My friend Mimi is a generous contemplative - Between Night And Day; as is the marvellous Rebecca Koo - Heads or Tails; and Bill Wooten’s - The Present Moment brings a wonderful word from Thomas Merton – and a stunning photo; Francesca Zelnick is as special as her Today’s Special; David Herbert is one of my diocesan friends and I love his latest post (and we share affection for Parker Palmer); and Rachael Elizabeth’s been having a good time doing Christology and incense-sampling ( ! ) in Durham; James Fielden – always showing us “The Way Home” – meditates exquisitely upon Time; Ginny at “Chasing the Perfect Moment” writes about Re-creation; Ria Gandhi has been wondering about who and what’s Beautiful and has flagged up one answer here; Jenni has been Watching the Symphony here.
What are we looking at in all these human “works of art”. What do I see as I reflect upon the colours, upon the wide spectrum that arches over the whole of my life?
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Holy, Holy, Holy
Multi-coloured and blessed sanctity – God’s art: whether we’re always aware of it – or not …
David (in Ruth’s hat!), Rachel & Ruth, 31 July 2003
HOW DOES A BABY BOY become 27 years old in what appears to have been not much more than 27 minutes? Really. I don’t know the answer. But David Robert, born on the 27th is now 27 – and a devoted father, as protective now of his own wife and children as he was, and has remained, of his sisters. I’m proud of him, and of them. Happy birthday son.
DO YOU EVER GET FED UP with Church? – asked one of the lovely souls at Jean’s Funeral Tea in the Church Hall this afternoon. “You know, with having to smile all the time and be kind to everyone, knowing that you can’t please all of the people all of the time? It must feel like being the Queen sometimes. You know? Can’t win.”
I was thrilled to bits with “like being the Queen” – who, of course, can and does win, every day …
Yes, I said. Of course I get fed up – with bureaucracy, with the self-interested and the self-certain, with those who actively seek to crowd out the needs of others, with noisy, overly-opinionated and hyperactive people. I get fed up with selfishness and with the self-righteous. I get fed up with the people who claim to follow the example of Jesus of Nazareth but who’d be horrified by his inclusive generosity close up. But I also remember, many years after hearing him, the man who asked the question “Why are the clergy so damned awful, my Lord?” – to which my old bishop replied (graciously, and with his customary twinkle) – “Well, because we’ve only people like you to choose from”. Can you picture the questioner’s face?
Yes, I get fed up with Church sometimes. Quite often, if I’m really honest. But never on occasions like Jean’s funeral. Gatherings like this one remind me that the world is full of quiet, gentle, thoughtful people like Jean – who raised a family, was a universally respected Guide leader for over 40 years, and a person who loved the quiet concentration and stillness that embroidery requires. Such people craft contentment and they model the best possible vision of the reign of God. They cheer me. And Jean would have smiled at teatime … it’s fitting that the Vicar’s tea-time plate bears only a modest selection. Mine did. But the tuna sandwiches and the seriously good sausage roll required a return to the table.
Yes. Fed up sometimes, just like anyone else. But cheered on and cheered up by faithful churchgoing people like Jean Baskerville.
PENTECOST is a great day to engage with a group of wonderful, gifted people preparing for Confirmation. We’ve 11 candidates this year and amongst the many present day gifts, hopes and aspirations represented in the group are languages / interpreting, veterinary surgery, counselling, law, physiotherapy, university teaching, mothering, good family life and friendship.
Each candidate is a delight in his or her own right and the Life and gifts of God’s Spirit are individually and uniquely tailored in, upon and for each of them – as for each and every living person. Confirmation will honour, affirm and confirm the unique gifts in each, and – perhaps most especially – the gift of faith, of confidence and trust in this wonderful Life’s provision. As God once revealed God’s name to Moses as “I AM” so, sharing in the same “family name”, each of this year’s candidates will continue to go and to grow in the strength of that familial relationship: “I am ….” and “I am ….” and “I am ….”.
And this morning we celebrated the sacrament of Holy Baptism in the context of the Eucharistic celebration – joyfully acknowledging connection with another young Christian, and hers with us. And we further celebrated my colleague Fr David’s 45 years of service as a deacon, and 44 years as a priest. Added to that we celebrated the life and vibrant witness of Christ’s Church across 2000+ years, and our own blessed vocations within the universal family of the God who made and sustains each and every one of us.
I AM smiles upon us, calling us to ever deeper greatness, compassion, grace and love. I AM smiles upon us, calling us in the power of the Spirit to more and more Christ-like-ness, to more and more Anointed-like-ness. I AM smiles upon us, calling us to be gracious and loving and compassionate with ourselves – so that we’re built up in strength and in confidence to be all these things and more for others. I AM smiles upon us, calling us to open our hearts and souls and minds and bodies in loving and compassionate prayer and concern for brutalised people in Syria, in Stockport, and in many places all over the world. I AM smiles upon us, summoning us to care for the sick and the sorrowing.
I AM smiles upon us, gifting all human persons with unique blessings that may be put to good and creative use, contributing immeasurably to the sum total of faith and hope and love and healing hugs and peals of laughter in a beautiful, but in places torn and damaged world; in our spectacularly beautiful, but in places torn and damaged hearts. I AM smiles upon us, and at Pentecost, fifty days after the Feast Day of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we are, most decidedly and assuredly, celebrating anointed LIFE.
I am alive and thriving in the Life and Love of I AM. And I am profoundly thankful.
Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos
JIM’S FUNERAL today was a really wonderful occasion. The weather lifted spirits and the tribute from his grand-daughter was both apposite and touching. Jim was loved dearly by his family, but also by a huge assembly of valued friends who, in their turn, thought the world of him. I thought of the Scottish philosopher John Macmurray (1) and Anaïs Nin (2), both quoted in Michael Paul Gallagher’s The Human Poetry of Faith
1 From Reason and Emotion: I am prepared to bank upon the faith that the essence of nature – human and divine – is love. The personal life is essentially a life of relations between people; to be ourselves at all we need other people. Religion grows out of our relation to persons.
2 Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive.
We need each other, and I find few things more reassuring than a gathering of family and friends (in person or “in spirit”) who walk the whole way with someone they’ve loved well, all the way to the gates of Paradise.
MY SISTER SARAH and her husband Keith are off to live in British Columbia, Canada. So Mum, Dad and 3 “kids” assembled today for hugs and a farewell lunch (poor old Keith already gone, and solo-fitting a new bathroom!). We couldn’t remember the last occasion there were just the five of us together – and none of us have changed one iota! No, I mean it! Stop laughing …
Love from Bob, Irene, Simon, Sarah & Nick x
MY FATHER has a small square Instamatic photograph he made of me when I was a boy of 5 or 6, just waking up, in a white ridge tent, pitched on the side of Lake Bala in North Wales. I’d gone to sleep dreaming about my first angling success, having landed the tiniest tiddler you ever saw, the night before. Pride and delight was mixed, poignantly and paradoxically, by my sadness at the death of the little chap. So my patient Dad provided a small matchbox into which the little fish was reverently placed before I presided solemnly over my first burial.
I must have slept deeply and well. I remember now the slight chill, and the scent of canvas, a small camping stove, sausages, a boiling kettle. But even then I was never at my sharpest in the early mornings. Colours melded, waking encountered mist and a measure of reluctance. “Wake up, son. Rise and shine. It’s breakfast time.” And Dad’s photo captured the half-awake moment when the night became light and – through canvas and my own mind’s mist – boyish delight and colour glowed, stretching, reaching, like the spectrum in this painting.
Tracy – photo/emmaward
REALLY GREAT first sermon from Tracy Ward here today. We’ve had some inspirational first sermons here in the last year or two and I’m thrilled to bits that we’ve currently 3 aspiring priests at Bramhall Parish Church, and we’re also sponsoring the theological training of an ordinand for the Diocese of Newala, Tanzania.
God’s Spirit calls hearts and souls and minds and bodies today, as ever. Tracy voiced the Word of God’s Spirit with an encouragement to Live Your Life – being exemplars of the kind of in-love-with-life-and-Love-service that can truly be described as a more excellent way. Great sermon. Great eucharistic worship. Great Spirit of God right here in the midst of us. We hear the commission. We’ll act upon the call: the uniting, embracing Body of Christ.