ST PAUL’S

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THAT GILES FRASER felt obliged to resign from his post as Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s Cathedral  does him very great credit, whilst also being cause for great sadness. I am thankful for Dr Fraser’s integrity (one can hardly imagine the cost to him and to his wife and family) – and greatly look forward to hearing news of an appropriate new appointment for him. But his stand is a hugely important one for two big reasons. First, the Church should never try to resolve any issue at all by means of violence (or the potential for it). Second, having learned of 49% pay rises for millionaires, it’s chillingly plain that decency and fair-mindedness have been sold down the river and it’s time that critical attention be focused on that fact. The Lord of St Paul’s Cathedral would no doubt turn tables, and – detected by thermal imaging or not – will be resident in the tents pitched in the churchyard, as well as in the DNA of Giles Fraser.

WHAT’S IT (SAYING) TO ME?

click photo to enlarge

I’VE BEEN PONDERING the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I don’t want to let it go again just yet, don’t want simply to consign it to next January, Sunday’s having come and gone, and having made a happy visit to “someone else’s church”, because the question, the important question that such a week begs is to do with what kind of “life in all its fullness” do we think we’re looking for? What might the Divine will for unity be? What’s the ‘theme for 2011’ really asking us to see? –

One in the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. Acts 2 : 42-47

– what kind of teaching were the apostles one in? What kind of fellowship? What’s the breaking of bread about? What kind of prayer? Why does anybody care? What has any of this got to say to me, about me? Because it must be first about something that matters to, that speaks to me, before I can hope to know, to feel in another human soul, any kind of real unity. And yet I do know and I do feel real unity between me and many another human person who calls me beyond my “I” to a life-enhancing “We”. And not all of them by a long chalk walk the spiritual paths that the Church would always recognise as Christianity.

And I’m becoming more and more sure that a great deal of that knowing and a great deal of that feeling emanates from my quietly growing ability to “let it be”. The repenting, the metanoia, the turning around to look at life – and at this and that – from a different angle keeps confronting me with “let it be”.

The apostles’ teaching encourages us to follow in The Way of Jesus whose life was an essay in being free from anxious thought about anything. “Behold the birds of the air and the lilies of the field which neither reap nor spin, yet your heavenly Father cares for them”. The fellowship the apostles shared arose from their attendance at the same school of life. The bread they broke and shared spoke of hospitality given and received by a whole humankind that simply wouldn’t be alive without it! And then there was the poetry of their prayer. That which lay within them, “in there”, that every human being on earth is – one might almost say – pre-programmed to need to share. For ever and ever Amen. Even unto martyrdom if necessary.

Where’s our unity? How shall we love God and one another more beautifully? Over thirty years ago Brother Roger Schütz of Taizé and many hundreds of young pilgrims from every part of the globe sowed a seed that’s still alive in me. A seed that has flourished and been nurtured and watered through years of ensuing worship. And the gentle breeze of the Spirit that now wafts through her leaves and branches whispers “let it be” … that’s how you’ll come to know life in all its fullness, that’s where you’ll find your real self … “let it be” … that’s where you’ll find real unity.

What was it that Rachel Mann was “saying” to me over the weekend? And Giles Fraser, too:

I WONDER what it might be like for us religious types to let go of our need to matter, and to embrace our irrelevance. I suspect that we might be more relaxed and a little more attractive. – Rachel Mann

Forget church politics. The wilderness – even an ecumenical one – is an opportunity to discover what is most important: to search out the source of life, and to share that life with others. This is what all baptised Christians are called to do. – Giles Fraser

What might the Divine will for unity be? What’s the ‘theme for 2011’ really asking us to see? And what’s any of it saying to, what’s any of it got to do with me? And (in this year of the AV) with thee?

O MY GOD AT THE HEART …

Jo Shapcott reads I go inside the tree

WOW! I SAID, at Saturday’s breakfast table. And I was reading the Church Times! Rachel Mann, Manchester Cathedral‘s poet in residence and Priest in Charge of St Nicholas’ Burnage,  just down the road from here, writes: Why the Church should be more like poetry. Convincingly.

POETS are in a curious business. We are, as the poet David Constantine once put it, engaged in “a widening of consciousness, an extension of humanity”. At their best, our words create suggestive effects — effects that may draw attention, among other things, to the transcendent in our midst. Poets are often caught in a creative paradox in which words are both utterly useless and yet intensely powerful.

– says the sometime heavy metal musician (not a genre I’m especially familiar with!). And

Even well-educated people, conversant in literature, generally stumble when it comes to knowing modern poets such as Jo Shapcott, Michael Symmons Roberts, or Daljit Nagra, who are stars in the field.

St Nicholas’ Burnage looks and sounds like a great place to be. It’s website notes that St Nicholas Church rocked  in celebration of Rachel’s 40th birthday. I bet it did. And I want to visit. Preferably when Rachel’s preaching. Back though to the Church Times:

Through their attention to language and its uses, they coin fresh ways for the imagination to be fed. To use the Scottish term for poet: as “Makar”, the poet reveals possibilities that help people dream dreams and have visions. In many ways, poets are little different from people of faith — they want their views to matter — but I suspect that poetry, free from the temptation to moralise, has borne its fall from significance with greater grace.

I WONDER what it might be like for us religious types to let go of our need to matter, and to embrace our irrelevance. I suspect that we might be more relaxed and a little more attractive. Sometimes I sense that the Church of England is like a morally constipated child jumping up and down at the back of the class with its hand in the air, sure that it has the correct answer. At one level, I want to say that we do have the answer; but that answer is more about drawing people into the creative mystery of living than about seeking to legislate for their private or public lives …

All this on page 12. Probably not too late to pick up a copy if you hurry. The paper deserves to sell every copy this week. Giles Fraser on the next page comes across as inspired as Rachel Mann:

A [Week of Prayer for Christian unity] sermon began to form. Forget church politics. The wilderness – even an ecumenical one – is an opportunity to discover what is most important: to search out the source of life, and to share that life with others. This is what all baptised Christians are called to do.

But if you can’t buy the paper I guess a visit to St Nick’s in Burnage, or St Paul’s Cathedral, or St Michael & All Angels Bramhall might do the trick for you. Might help you find the poet that’s lurking in your soul. Might take you “Inside the tree” until the “O, my God, at the heart …”

Way to go Church Times!