Saturday, March 08, 2008

Reading Challenge update

Alas and alack, my habit of reading too many volumes at once and finishing none of them has been allowed free rein of late as I hurtle through any and everything I can find that might give me some helpful insights into the next phase of life and ministry. This means that it has been almost impossible to decide what I've actually read enough to include in the challenge...but I'm sure of these two at least

The Future of the Parish System -Shaping the Church of England for the 21st century

This is a collection of essays by a wide range of writers - helpful insights and no assumption that the parish system is de facto dead on its feet, which is rather a comfort given that I find myself embedded in it for the foreseeable future. There's a chapter (by Robin Gamble) on "Doing traditional church really well" which has had me saying "Yes!"an awful lot...

The Parish - by Malcolm Torry et al
I've had this for a while (I think I actually bought it at SPCK in Durham while Hattie Gandhi was uni shopping, 3 years ago...) and dipped into it on an off. Again it's a collection of essays, some more helpful than others, but this time round I was stopped in my tracks by a piece of writing about really seeing.
Just listen to this (from a chapter by Mike Harrison entitled Spiritual Seduction and Spiritual Sustenance)
"The philosopher Brian Magee suggested that the difference between what the blind miss and what the sighted miss is almost as nothing compared to what we all miss...The day you teach a child the name of a bird, the child will never see that bird again...Initially a child sees a strange object which is feathery, alive and moving, a source of fascination and interest. If the chlld learns to label the bird as a sparrow, then the next say when they see another such object we may find that they have been educated to say
"Sparrow. I've got that. Seen that. I'm bored with sparrows."
Surely this is pertinent for Christians, whose faith challenges us to see in surprising ways.
Must we not attend to the way in which we are seeing.
For what we see is anything but a neutral, objective act..."

I was intrigued by the suggestion that giving something a name so familiarises it that it loses its wonder and indeed its unique identity (since it becomes just one of a category)...It's counter-intuitive, in that you'd imagine naming to be a process of giving identity - but I can so see how it happens. Perhaps the task of priesthood is simply to help people to see...not by doing the seeing for them (though sometimes that seems to be what they expect) by constant re-telling of the story so that they can recognise and celebrate its patterns in their own lives. Does that work for you?


marcella said...

For me it begs the question as to whether in an attempt to be active in the community we risk "churchifying" people rather than helping them to see Christ - giving them familiar names and words to chant, when they might have been able to see God perfectly well before they knew what He was supposed to be called. Then again that could be used as an arguement for giving up on any kind of ministry, education or prescence with people, so perhaps I'd better think that one out again.

RevDrKate said...

and then again...sometimes it's about just listening as they describe what they see and simply being a witness as they see...seeing is, it seems better somwhow, as many things are, when one has a compassionate witness to share it.