Sunday, July 26, 2009


to take your congregation back to their roots aren't always apparent in parish life, even when you suspect it might be a Very Good Thing for all concerned.
And, if I'm honest, I'm so wary of appearing to adopt a Father (Mother?) knows best approach that I don't engage in half the teaching I should, preferring to adopt the role of an ever-optimistic bouncy dog (yes, I do have a model in mind) bounding through the undergrowth, sometimes a little ahead of my congregation, sometimes off at a tangent, but always trying to share the excitement of discovery along the way.

Most of the time this works perfectly happily, but every now and then it can lead to a feeling that you've rather missed an opportunity.
For example, today I had to tell the congregation that, in obedience to the Archbishops' recommendations, we have for the moment suspended our use of the common cup at the Eucharist.
My colleague, who has a medical background, filled them in on the science behind this and I gave them a VERY brief theological reassurance that the fulness of the Sacrament was present in either bread or wine...
That, I thought, should do it.

Except that at the door afterwards it became very clear that while half the congregation hadn't registered the announcement at all (and were still wondering how we'd managed to forget to bring round the chalice) the other half had been completely baffled by pretty much everything I'd said. this the time to unroll my theology of Eucharist, while trying not to scare those whose views are radically different?

Of my two parishes, one is a classically middle-of-the-road village church, where any attempt to voice ANY sort of explicit theology would be seen as the height of bad manners...The other was presented to me as "on the kind of liberal catholic spectrum" - and certainly the Sacrament is reserved (could I have gone there otherwise? almost certainly not), vestments are worn and as for the most part those aspects of catholic faith and practice I've suggested have been well received.
But now I'm wondering if anyone has any idea WHY?
And if, as I suspect, the answer to that is "No" - then what might happen as I try to suggest some possibilities...?

Oh dear, I do wish I were rather less of a wimp.
Pleasing all the people is never going to be possible but I'm always appalled at the way the sacrament of unity can cause so much division...and I hate the thought of being the one who highlights those divisions in this place.
But there's never going to be a better time, is there?
If we try and explore our theology of Eucharist now, then we can work on our practice in the weeks before the Herring of Christ's priesting next year.
That sounds OK...but makes me feel very nervous.
Really, I'm quite hopeless.


Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

In the church to which I have belonged (as congregation, not minister!) for over 30 years, people don't seem to mind anything as long as it is explained. One minister used to use Palm Sunday as an opportunity to explain what went on the Communion table and why, which was rather good.

I notice none of my priest friends are using intinction - any reason why not?

Mary Beth said...

I had no idea there was this level of concern there right now. Praying for you all.

Chris said...

Very interesting, Kathryn. I would love to have this discussion in our churches, but, like you, don't really like the idea of opening "cans of worms". Not hopeless, just sensitive to how people might react.

I enjoyed the realistic and wry admission that:

It became very clear that while half the congregation hadn't registered the announcement at all (and were still wondering how we'd managed to forget to bring round the chalice) the other half had been completely baffled by pretty much everything I'd said.

N did the intinction for each communicant (probably the beginnings of a discussion right there!) but now realises that she consecrated rather too much wine ;-)

James Ogley said...

Really interesting perspective on your situation. I appreciate your not wanting to impose your own views, I wrestle with that myself and I'm only a curate!

Anyway, have posted some thoughts myself at :)


Sarah said...

Next Sunday's gospel is 'I am the bread of life'. Don't you just love those God-incidences! I look forward to reading your sermon.

Song in my Heart said...

Word verification is "epilogra". Heh.

I can't put my finger on the right words, but it feels to me like there is a distinction to be made between theology and doctrine, between exploring possible meanings and remaining obedient to what the Church authorises as a sort of best guess by consensus. I'm not sure anyone can really understand Sacrament (though I could be very wrong there) but I still respect what the Church says about it, particularly with regard to Eucharist and whether I should partake, because I see doctrine as an authentic attempt to make some explanation and safeguard against some of the more common misinterpretations (or heresies) humans are prone to.

I could, of course, be way off the mark, and I doubt what I've said helps you explain theology _or_ doctrine to your congregation, but once again you've got me thinking. Thank you.

marcella said...

as someone whose main theological stance is "if you can't explain it with toy penguins then it's too complicated" I'm torn about this one. Discussion, however brief, on the subject around here has been fraught with difficulty but I'm not really sure why.

As for the swine flu hype, well if it gets people to wash their hands and keep a handkerchief then it will have done a lot of good, but if they'd listened to my grandmother they'd be doing that anyway.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this very helpful reflection - its difficult in my patch - St Neots in CAMBS, different parishes doing different things in the Deanery - far be it from me the RD to impose anything!

Crimson Rambler said...

oh Kathryn this is so bang-on as an observation of parish reality...half don't hear at all, and the other half are baffled, and the more one explains, the more baffled they become...
We had an episcopal missive Strongly Dis-recommending intinction, with explanations of WHY, and (I was absent) I was told that the lay chalice bearers pursed up their mouths and continued actively to encourage intinction...

no better, really...
Keep the faith, anyway, darlin'.