Thursday, 30 September 2010

St Jerome's Day

St Jerome isn't one of my favourite saints.  He was a brilliant scholar and translator of the Scriptures, but he was a dangerous spiritual director and, frankly, a bad tempered git.  One of the reasons I cannot really stand Eucharistic Prayer 5 in the 1982 Liturgy is my total inability to hear the phrase about "LAUGHING with the saints" and see myself having a chuckle with old Hieronymus! Now, if the Glasgow Synod had listened to the then Curate of St Ninian's (i.e. me) suggestion, we'd have had "rejoices with the saints". But they didn't, preferring instead to go with the emotional, throbbing voiced tosh uttered by an ubiquitous and inveterate committee and synod attending lay person (Female) from the Cathedral.  Selah, as the Psalmist wrote.

However, the office for today's feast was a powerful stimulant to thinking.  First, the Psalm was 119:9-16.  2 verses leap out at me: "Your words have I hidden in my heart: that I should not sin against you" (v10) and "I will meditate on your commandments: and contemplate your ways" (v15).  Then came the Canticle from the Book of Wisdom: "you have made all things by your word" (Wis 9:1).  And of course the lesson from 2 Timothy: "All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people's lives and teaching them to be holy" (3:16).  

Wisdom reminded me that it was the Word himself, the Divine Logos, the Second person of the Holy Trinity who created the world.  That is the Word we revere, not the writings which the misguided thing of as infallible. See St Paul here: inspired yes, useful for certain things - such as teaching us about ourselves and God and the ways in which we do and don't work together.  It's a wise guide, not living by numbers.  Used well, hidden in our hearts to take root and transform us as we grow with God in the silence of intimacy, they do indeed teach us to be holy.  Any guide to contemplation will point that out.  Used badly, as a club to beat others with or as a defence for our own hardness of heart, then they become the source of our condemnation.  My instinct is that it is fundamentalists who will be damned by the Bible come the Day of Judgement.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

"With angels and archangels" - but only just!

Oh the embarrassment!  I turned up at the Good Shepherd Murrayfield this morning to cover the 10am Prayer Book Mass.  It was vested in green and the register said "Wednesday", so I prepared to do the proper of Sunday Trinity 17.  Only for some sharp soul to pop into the Vestry and say: "It's a Red Letter Day today!" "Who?" "St Michael and All Angels!!"  Mercifully, the frontal was all seasons, so the swift swapping of the green burse and veil for a white set and the rapid donning of the White Chasuble and all was well!

The laptop is once more functioning and I popped a nice picture into a framing shop that it might be made into a domestic decoration.  I also spent a chunk of the afternoon batting sermon ideas off a godly widow.  I am preaching at Murrayfield on Sunday and have to admit that the reading were doing very little in my head until we spoke.The suffering of the just and God's apparent silence/absence is Habakkuk's thing.  Paul to Timothy (well, pseudo-Paul anyway) and Luke on the need for faith the size of mustard seed.  Yes, we are further on after doing theology by conversation!

Hospitality and all that.

There is a certain delicious variety in living in a community with a ministry of Hospitality.  One night you sit down to dinner with an RC sister who was a headmistress in Rwanda, the next with a woman who hung out at the Colony Room in Soho in the 1960's and who turned down Francis Bacon when he asked her to model for him! (On the entirely reasonable grounds that she didn't fancy spending all day with a nasty egomaniac genius looking at her private parts!).  For the next 2 days I'm on days off but am brother Guest master.  Ora pro nobis!

Community is one of those things that can be both disturbed and enriched by visitors.  It's maybe why Churches are so odd about them.  In some you are warmly welcomed, in others frankly ignored and in others desperately grabbed!  My experience of American Episcopal Churches (both Diocese of California and affiliates of Fort Worth) has tended to be the latter.  Expatriate Anglicans in Europe the second (although Cyprus was better than Tenerife - slightly) and the last almost never.  If you welcome the visitor in they can be a disturbance to the even tenor of life (dietary requirements for example - try cooking for Crohn's Disease sometime!) but they can enrich it unexpectedly and startlingly.  Conversations can lead to friendship and even, indeed, to deeper relationships.  Which seems to have happened to me.

Yup, I am officially besotted with a former guest.  We chatted long into the January nights discovering shared experiences and interests.  We agreed to meet up in the future to view art galleries (a mutual passion) and we did.  And something rather odd grew. Well, odd to me anyway.  Affection that was reciprocated.  My version of the Great Leap Forward was that it was meant to be a peck on the cheek as we said goodnight but a head movement and my lack of specs meant it landed on the lips. (Honest!)  The next meeting started with a smooch and things really progressed and deepened from there.  So last weekend it was off as a couple to the Significant Other's work colleagues' wedding.  God save us!  Me part of a couple - I still can't really quite take it in.

Obviously, a few peeps know about this all. Fellow members of this community.  A severely dazed Chaplain of Fettes College (poor David nearly dropped his torte in Peckham's when I told him!).  Two rather stunned mothers! (I head south to be introduced on the 8th of October!!!  The Scottish event is yet to be sorted - Ma was in Turkey at the time).  Interesting times indeed!

Oh, I suppose a name might be in order for future reference.  It will explain the dazedness of the Chaplain of Fettes I suspect.  Her name is Rachel.  Don't ask me what happened (the lack of booze may have had something to do with it). That and someone said to me they had thought they were bisexual until they sobered up .  Then they realised that what was up was that they were broken and were desperate for anyone to love them and fix them and weren't fussy which gender.  I heard that several months prior to meeting Rachel by the way.

Good heavens!  I seem to have done a "coming in" post (which has been gestating for ages).  God of Surprises anyone?

Monday, 27 September 2010

Fiscal rectitude. And bolshie attitude!

You know the cut-back culture has arrived when the Kirk's Garden Party at the Queen's Hoose has been cut!

Weel, I got to one a whilie back ,so shan't miss it (utterly over-rated IMHO).  And it was serious anomaly in an allegedly democratic institution, which in reality is less so and more priest ridden and dominated than us Prelatical Piskies.  I never realise however than this shindig was funded by the tax-payer until now.  Goodbye and stay missing.

However there has been one wee bit of protocol from the Papal Visit that has been niggling me a bit: what was the Arch Beard of Canterbury doing greeting B16 at Turnhouse when he touched down?  Surely that was the task of the Rt Rev Shooie MacDooie Lth, Minister of Inversnotter Parish Church or whoever this years Chief Presby was?  The ABC really hath nae jurisdiction in this Realm of Schottland.  Apparently his Modship wasn't in the official line up at Holyrood because the wee sowel got lost in Frau Windsor's Edinburgh pied a terre and was found by a flunky in a broom cupboard.  Mebbe he got stuck on the bypass and couldn't make it to Turnhouse on time?

My snarkiness on this one is due in the main to an interview His Beardiness gave in the Times on Saturday. He was headlined as saying "Gay Bishops are OK by me".  Which is somewhat disingenuous given that he meant "celibate gay bishops who sharrup about their partners or non celibate ones who make the right mouth music are OK by me".  Go figure it out Rowan - in your interview you candidly admitted it was about preserving the notional unity of the Anglican Communion at all costs and the cost the backing of Jeffery John, Gene Robinson or Mary Glasspool would have demanded was too great for your conscience.  Full marks for candour, but far from quoting Browning on Wordsworth, I feel rather like the old donkey in Orwell's "Animal Farm".  In the last pages, his eyes are dimming and his vision going.  He sees Napoleon and the pigs dressed up in suits and bowler hats and walking on their hind trotters- and can no longer distinguish between them and the two legged humans they revolted against.  I see an Archbishop allegedly a liberal Catholic - and I'm dammed if he seems much different in my perception to George Carey.  And that's isn't meant as a compliment.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

How to critique a Pope.

I came across this amusing little event from the Papal visit:  It gave a shrewd (if belated) idea about what should have been put on the outside wall of God's Drawing Room.  Take your triptych on the wall, put a bearded, married Eastern orthodox cleric in the St John the Evangelist position with a red tick under it, do the same in the BVM position with a female cleric in Anglican choir dress and have da Holy Fadda in the middle with and big red "X" underneath and "Drop the Filoque!" as a superscription.  It's clever, mildly amusing and subtly delivers a triple critique: Rome is out of step on married clergy, women clergy AND Trinitarian Doctrine!!  Hindsight is, of course wonderful!

I rather enjoyed the Rowan Williams dig at Benedict: "I have 2 things in common with the Holy Father: I love cats and I'm hospitably inclined towards Anglican clergy." Very gentle, but rather funny.  Nice one RW!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Back from the Wilds

There's been very little blogging of late due to the fact I was away helping one of our service users on holiday (3 nights at Centre Parc Cumbria - pricey food, but  a lovely disability friendly lodge with it's own private sauna steam room and hot tub!!  I also enjoyed the flumes and that in the pool!) and then away on retreat at the Cathedral of the Isles on Cumbrae.  Friday to Sunday on the Cloud of Unknowing with two unexpected bonuses - Choral Evensong on Saturday afternoon and a good (if slightly overlong) sermon on Sunday morning from the former Primus Idris Jones.  Home via Glasgow and lunch in my favourite French bistro there (crepe with salmon and leek filling, creme brulee and good coffee) plus a wee mooch round the modern art gallery and Pauline Books.  Then home and a wee bit of laundry and Spanish chicken for tea.  It's a bit odd being back in Edinburgh, as I've grown very accustomed to fresh air and no traffic!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Religious stuff - as per usual!

Saturday was spent doing a little but long overdue visit to the historic Rosslyn Chapel -or Collegiate Church of St Matthew, Roslin - one of the few medieval building then SEC has in use.  Which is (of course) much more important than all that Da Vinci code stuff! It was quite interesting, but frankly £7.50 is a bit steep to get in.  Don't blame the Church though - it is a private Chapel and the fees are set by the Trust.  I took a wee picnic with me (chicken Caesar salad, nice healthy yoghurt with fruit clusters, lemon and lime spring water - and a triple choc donut!!) and basked in the sunshine in Roslin Glen whilst tackling the Times Jumbo crossword, getting all but 2 clues!

This morning involved the usual trip to Spiky Mike's then a wee trip downtown to enjoy the continuing sunshine.  As I passed St John's Episcopal Drawing Room Princes Street, I took note of the new mural they have painted on their wall to make Pope Benny feel welcome to Embra. On two of the 3 panels they have Copernicus and Galileo with big red crosses ("wrong" crosses like they used to put in my Math's jotter at skool) underneath them and below that the comment "Oops!".  The centre panel is a woman in a dog collar elevating a host and chalice with a big red cross underneath with the crossed silver and gold keys of  the Papal Insignia inset.  I really don't approve.  Legitimate protest is one thing but the internal affairs of the RC church are their own business, not ours and if CWO (Catholic Women's Ordination) want to do it, let them take out a billboard on some neutral space and do so.  Also, it looked rather puerile and the woman wasn't even properly vested!  Bad manners, unecumenical and rather childish. St John's run a Festival of Spirituality and peace devoted to respectful dialogue between opposing viewpoints.  this hardly reflects that ideal. Liberals, like Aunts, aren't Gentlemen, Jeeves!

Thus narked, I headed to the RC Cathedral to pray (I felt some Reparation was called for).  Sadly I arrived in the midst of some modern devotion to something called The Divine Mercy.  I say sadly, as it was liturgical ghastliness incarnate.  The monstrance was off centre (sloppy and distracting), there was a 20ft high painting of the DM next to the altar (making it utterly impossible to focus on the sacrament in the titchy monstrance - if Jesus is out, don't stick another devotion in there at the same time - it's totally contray to the principles of liturgical devotion).  There was an OHP (not a Whitby nun, but a peice of kit beloved of 70's charismatics) projecting hymns and texts in English and Polish (looks awful - use Powerpoint).  The hymns were trite modern, banal and badly sung by a duo who couldn't sing in harmony together ("Wan singer, Wan song" as they say in the West!).  The best bit was when the cats duet went quiet ,they switched off the projector and let us simply adore the Blessed Sacrament in silence. I like the Roman Church, but we Piskys do Catholicism so much better!

In the evening I went to a reasonably interesting talk on praying with icons in a Presby church given by the local Greek Orthodox priest.  A fairly diverse day indeed!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

The Illusionist

There are some pleasures which come quite unexpectedly - and tonight had one of them.  I finally got along to see the film "The Illusionist".  Leaving aside the excellence of the animation (which painted Edinburgh in the most splendid light possible - I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world!) and the quirky French/Scottish humour (the chippy menu was a delight!), it was the most wonderfully gentle, wistful and elegiac story, beautifully crafted and wonderfully rendered.  If you haven't seen it yet, move yer bahookie and catch it while you can!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Leisure at last!

Ah, the joys of the day off! Put out the washing so that the clean knicker supply does not decline dangerously, get the laptop fixed, do some business and then ho for sunny Roslyn to see that Chapel thingy and hopefully back in time to see an interesting film at the Cameo!  No footie this week (sorry, but going to Greenock is a step beyond even my devotion to the Blue Brazil) and Ma is off to Turkey for a fortnight, so I am left to my own devices for leisure this time around!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Word of the Lord?

There are moments when Lectionaries are a pain.  Today I had to wallop on about sodomites and catamites before breakfast.  Of course, St Paul had a far bigger target in his sights in this passage in 1 Corinthians (ch 6 v 1-11) - litigious Christian ratbags who went to the secular courts to resolve internal community/church arguments.  Hm!  ACNA should learn to read the WHOLE passage not just verse 9 !!  Verses 6-8 rather suggest  that suing TEC for buildings is quite contrary to the plain, literal sense of scripture.  I am so glad I am no longer a conservative!

My little noddle unearthed some ancient thoughts which may be worth sharing with the world. Regarding the Inclusive Language debate, here's some John Scotus Erigena from his De Predestinatione Liber:

"Nothing can be said worthily about God.  hardly a single noun, verb or any other part of speech can be used appropriately of God, in the strict sense....And yet ever since the Fall, poverty stricken human reason has been labouring with these words, these visible signs to suggest and give some sort of hint of the sublime richness of the Creator."

Trust the Irish, eh!  And with regard to Dawkins, Hawking and all them visible atheists, here's a wee nip of Richard of St Victor:

"The problem of our times is the loud mouthed, so-called philosophers who are trying to make a name for themselves by thinking up fictional speculations and searching for novelties." (from Benjamin Maior).

I might take Matthew Paris's advice from the Saturday Times and look at Butler's Analogy which he finds more congenial than either Dawkins or the Bibilical conservative.

Monday, 6 September 2010

A new day.

After a very long stint in the trenches, there is nothing better for destressing than a long soak in a hot Radox bath, listening to Tom Lehrer, before scrubbing, shampooing and shaving with muchos mint and tea tree oil and finishing off with deodorising oxter guff and a wee splash of aftershave!  I feel like a new man!

Actually, that ought to read "new human person".  Seems as if there is some yowling about the permitted gender free alternatives in the Blue Bookie:  Well, I have my opinions on this one - my post on Inclusive Liturgy covered this ground. (see  Bit of a fuss over nothing IMHO - they are permitted alternatives, not mandatory- but Darren McFarland is just ever so slightly disingenuous when he suggests we haven't done the Inclusive bit with Holy Scripture.  Many SEC parishes use the NRSV Anglicised version, which has gone down that road where the original languages permit.  Convener spin methinks.  Church politicians are not so very different from their secular equivalents.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Back at the coal face.

I got into work today to find a small staffing crisis: so it's a sleepover pour moi and the joys of a supper from the nearest Chinese takeaway (V good - large nos of Chinese peeps eating in -always a good sign!).  No hassles but!  The mobile rang at one point and it was an old pal I haven't spoken to for yonks.  He seems OK but is back on the meds, so he'll be in my prayers for a bit.  I'm a bit sleepy, as an early start beckons - so this is a pretty short post.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Clocking in again.

Nearly a week since my last blog: well, in reverse order, I read a rather good interview with the Chairman of Cowdenbeath FC in today's Scotsperson I also had the pleasant and affirming experience of a passerby commenting as she passed us coping with our service user's little quirks on Cramond Beach " You people do a marvellous job".  Nice!
 I have to admit to feeling a bit frazzled with work and vaguely contemplate going Quaker tomorrow morning - the silence is refreshing.  We'll see.  Pleasant as Lindisfarne was on the days off, it wasn't entirely restful.  Possibly more on that later.