Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The joys of being Pisky.

St Adrian's Episcopal Church, Gullane, East Lothian.
You would think that preaching in a little country church would be a mildly unmemorable experience after 20 years of ordained ministry.  And up to a point it is.  Not being one to "dumb down" whilst still being accessible (I hope) in a sermon, on Sunday I used a simile from the autobiography of H. A. Williams, sometime Dean of Trinity College Cambridge and monk of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield.  I hasten to add that I did attribute it to him as I despise plagiarism from the pulpit and it's my way of saying "I'm not very original but I am well read!".  I was more than slightly surprised when someone came up afterwards and commented "It was nice to hear Harry Williams mentioned - he taught me Greek at Cambridge"!

It is risky for a Scottish Pisky to assume that any given congregation is theologically less literate than the cleric preaching.  I can think of a housing estate church in Glasgow where the organist is the son of a deceased Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford.  He's probably very theologically literate indeed!  Equally, it is risky to assume that the congregation are as theologically literate as you are.  The finer points of Nicene soteriology are perhaps not the forte of the average Mother's Union member without careful explanation and some indication of their relevance to life in Christ today.  I count myself lucky to have been a curate in a church where my more abstruse homiletic offerings were met with the pertinent  query "And what's that got to do with the price of Spam in Govan?" from a wee Glasgow wifie in the congregation!  The obscure high falutin' of a recently qualified theology graduate was briskly earthed with the requirement to incarnate my theological theory in real life.

Scottish Episcopal congregations I find can handle theology rather well if it is clearly explained, earthed and not wrapped up in the technical lingo adored by specialists.  They can follow an argument and engage with a train of thought quite skillfully.  Their intelligence and responsiveness is one of the joys of being a Pisky priest.

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