Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"Peek a boo, I can't see you, Everything must be grand"

runs a classic Flanders and Swan number about an ostrich, which has become a metaphor in our family for all attempts to evade unwelcome truths.It's not intended to be flippant, I promise you...
Jo(e) has a fascinating post about teaching in the dark, in which she speculates on the way that feeling ourselves hidden allows us the safety to contribute when we would otherwise hold back…and I’d certainly agree that there are times when this is very true. I know, for example, that I can only manage the more deeply challenging explorations with my Spiritual Director if I close my eyes when I speak…that’s something about intense concentration, but also about feeling myself speaking aloud to God mediated through her…I somehow seem able to dig out my deepest truths only with my eyes closed. Interesting thought...I could have a field day now, exploring concepts of sight, insight and blindness, but perhaps that's another post...

However, one of the things that I really struggle with at St M’s is the way the layout of the church makes in impossible to see, let alone have eye contact with, a high proportion of the congregation. Not only is there a forest of very large pillars, but the clergy stalls actually have their backs to the congregation…and from many places in the church you can’t see into the sanctuary at all. This has felt hopelessly wrong to me,- an unwelcome part of the culture of confining God in nice private little boxes, where He can be kept from making too much mess of our tidy lives. The building works very strongly against any sense of community, while the word that God put into my head most strongly when I arrived, and which has been my personal mission statement along the way is FAMILY.

So, whenever possible, I’ve tried to subvert the building. It just can’t be done at the Sunday Eucharist, but the vicar and I regularly re-arrange the chairs in the Chapel we use for midweek services (they as regularly return themselves to serried ranks! deeply conservative, our chairs) and try to express in the furniture some sense of a fellowship of explorers, supporting each other on our journey of faith. Now I’m wondering if this is actually alienating people for a reason beyond what I had imagined…I’d presumed that those who disapproved were doing so because they hated change (and in some cases, I suspect this view holds good) but it also might be that they simply don’t feel secure enough to be themselves if they think that anyone might see them. Perhaps those hiding behind pillars are not there to disengage themselves from the Body of Christ, but because they are taking their engagement very seriously indeed…Or are they simply behaving like the proverbial ostrich?

2 comments:

Songbird said...

Kathryn, thank you for these thoughtful, generous words. I think many times people shrink back not because they disapprove confidently, but because they lack the confidence to really talk about the things that worry them.

SpookyRach said...

This makes a lot of sense. (We have these same conformist chairs in our church. Is there some sort of chair gremlin who carefully arranges them in the night?)