Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Dover Beach? Maybe, maybe not...

Liz's comment on my earlier post here was so startlingly reminiscent of
Matthew Arnold's poem that I couldn't resist putting the two together. OK, Liz is talking about a tide of secularism sweeping in, while Arnold considers one of faith withdrawing, but nonetheless...
I do have one optimistic friend (and a great comfort that is, given the prevailing mood today, with even the children sunk in misery at the thought of another 4 years of Bush) who says that this poem, lovely though it is, is in fact a load of b******s. The point about the sea, of course, is that while nothing can halt the outward ebb of the tide, nothing, equally, can prevent it from coming in again.
Not sure, therefore, whether this is a sustainable analogy for the state of the Church, but, being generally incorrigibly upbeat, I do believe that we won't be allowed to destroy the whole thing completely. I agree that we're appallingly slow to learn the lessons that are being presented to us (certainly my current congregation would put Canute to shame). I know too that I suffer from that awful Anglican tendency to hope that if I'm only kind enough to a large enough number of people, they will somehow get the message...despite all evidence to the contrary. However, I'm still bouyed up by Sunday night as another example of the way that people are still prepared to allow the church into their lives when they come up against the non negotiable realities. Moreoever, I visited one of the non-regulars yesterday, who'd come to the service following the death of her husband last month, and she said that the atmosphere was so full of love and care that she wanted to try to believe...
The trouble is, of course, that if she does come along on a Sunday, she'll find more anxiety about the wherabouts of the Gospel servers than focus on the reality of the Love on offer,- so maybe the church deserves to be allowed to ebb away to nowt. I do love it, though, despite the huge frustrations...so I guess all I can do is work to try to bring about a fractional change in one tiny corner.

3 comments:

1 i z said...

I don't know, if it wasn't bad enough that I've been channelling Mr Cullen of late, it now appears I'm also the mouthpiece for some 19th century poet I've never heard of!

I'm getting quite worried...

Humble Secretary said...

You could always suggest to said woman that she does an alpha course if either you or she is reluctant to pursue the church route for her at this stage?

This was HS's bright idea #1.

Nevertheless, I partly share your views about being kind - as that is so much what is needed - and I believe seriously lacking in the church. I can't remember where I read it with respect to the Windsor Report. But being kind is a seriously under-rated and under-used part of ministry - from my Humble Secretarial experience. When it happens it is electrifying. That said, some people don't want kind - they want combat ...

And as my old history teacher used to say, the one thing we learn from history is that we never learn by our mistakes. Is that the note of eternal pessimism for the church, or a reality that the church will go round in circles ad nauseum.

DaveF said...

But Sunday is a bit of show isn't it? There is always stress about the small stuff when it's on show. Maybe that's why alpha has proved popullar - it gets people to church without the performance. Maybe someone will be kind after the service.