Sunday, 30 May 2010

Heresy Sunday

I mean, er, Trinity Sunday, of course. Although I think perhaps a better name would be Mystery Sunday, because how three can be one and one can be three is a mystery to me, and why three instead of three thousand is an even bigger one.

Something in Kathryn's sermon really struck a chord with me. She writes:
"...the love that defines and informs the one reaches out and spills over into the other
Look, says the Father.......look at the Son........
Look, says the Son...........look at the Spirit
And so the Three gaze at one another in mutual love and delight"

My best performances have been like this, in a way. They are the ones where I love the music, and am full of love or at least general goodwill for the listeners, and my desire to introduce one to the other is far more important than my nerves or worries about my own ability. "Listen to this," I want to cry, "isn't it amazing? Hear what these sounds, combined this way, do! Sing along if you like, get up and dance!" And that time, in that place, I am the performer, the audience are listeners, the specific pattern of notes that makes up the music is being performed... but those roles are provisional, fluid, and utterly interdependent. None exist without the others. All can control the outcome, too: if the audience gets up and starts dancing, you can bet it's a very different experience for the performer, and that the music is very different as a result.

I hadn't really thought about three persons of the Trinity that way before.

I've struggled with the Trinity; my experience of God includes a sense of overwhelming unity. I can just about cope with the Holy Spirit (though equating the Holy Spirit with the shekinah of Torah, which is feminine, and then speaking of it in masculine terms really bothers me), but "Father" and "Son" are loaded words, words we ascribe roles to, specific jobs for each of them to do, and then oops modalism!

It seems to me that an awful lot of our attempts to describe the Trinity end up with that sort of putting-God-in-a-box.

And that's okay, I think, as long as we don't take ourselves too seriously. We musn't kid ourselves that what we describe actually matches reality with 100% accuracy. Language doesn't work that way: saying a thing does not make it true. We just compare notes on our own experiences, trying to arrive at some sort of common meaning, common agreement.

This idea of each person of the Trinity pointing out another, though, and the bit after it -- the bit where we are invited to join in -- appeals to me. If the Church is the Body of Christ then the Trinity is not limited to three, but is infinite, as we each point out what is holy, with love and wonder and delight.

Back later. Gone dancing.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Order and Orders.

I wrote this in a comment over at The Church Mouse Blog, but I think it's worth repeating here.

Mouse writes that both Ruth Gledhill, who writes for the Times, Michael Perham, Bishop of Gloucester, have essentially stated that the debate around sexuality and ordination is essentially a second order issue. I have to admit I have some sympathy for this viewpoint. I get tired of all the debate, all the wrangling. I feel something like I do about discussions about the Anglican Communion: all this dithering is fine if you have the time and the money for it, but I've said before and I'll say again that the rest of us have work to do. It's very easy to jump from that to "this is not a first order issue."

It's not a first order issue for anyone who has been ordained or consecrated without controversy and has never had to worry about whether someone else will question their ministry because of their sexuality.

It's not a first order issue for anyone employed by the church who doesn't feel they have to hide or disguise or even break off a close relationship (not necessarily a sexual one) because of what others in the church might think and the effect on their livelihood.

It's not a first order issue for those who don't have to question whether their time and gifts as volunteers will be accepted and appreciated, those who don't have to "come out" to anyone, those who don't have to constantly answer questions from their friends about why they are religious if their religion (or at least its bureaucratic structure) is so anti-queer.

This is not a first order issue for those who have the privilege to ignore it.

I cannot tell my brilliantly gifted organist friend, made unwelcome for not fitting into a heteronormative mould after being a church musician since the age of six, that her pain at such a cruel rejection is not a first order issue. I cannot tell my spiritually astute friend who is not pursuing a vocation to ordained ministry because he is bisexual and feels the barriers would be insurmountable that this denial of his gifts is not a first order issue. I cannot tell my friend who would love to get involved in all sorts of outreach work, faith-based or not, that it is not a first order issue that the C of E is not a safe space for her. I cannot tell my friends that it is somehow okay for the church to behave this way as long as it does some other good in the world, or that I am not afraid for my own livelihood should I be deemed unacceptable in some way unrelated to my ability to do my work. I'm quite serious about that last point: I live with a man who is not my husband, I'm quite open about it, and I'm well aware that a number of years ago that would have meant I'd be considered completely unsuitable as organist/choirmaster. As long there is not full inclusion, we are in the tricky business of drawing lines in the sand, and it is only by God's grace that I am currently on the "acceptable" side of the line.

That doesn't mean I think the other work of the church is unimportant. That doesn't mean I think we should not be striving to heal the sick, comfort the mourning, bind up the brokehnhearted and proclaim liberty to those who are captive. Of course we must do these things, we must care for the widow and the orphan, we must alleviate poverty. But excluding people from any level of ministry based on their gender or sexuality seems to me to be at direct odds with that.

The basic underlying message of Christianity, as far as I can tell, is that God is loving and God is merciful; it will always be a first order issue when the church fails to act like it.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Blogging about not blogging, again

So, I've not been blogging much, here or elsewhere.

It's partly that i've managed to get to that point where I don't want to post something that isn't finished, isn't quite what I wanted to say, isn't perfect. But that perfectionism degrades the medium somewhat, and certainly makes the quantity of my output plummet.

What have I been up to?

Lots of rehearsing, a bit of performing here and there, still teaching, more projects than I have time for and I don't seem to stop having ideas for even more. I went up to visit Kathryn of Good in Parts and had a simply grand time, as always.

I was going to write a post about keeping a strict Sabbath when I was observing Jewish law, and how that experience affects my attitude toward days off etc now (especially as I am a self-employed musician who works most Sundays), but I haven't taken an honest-to-goodness, all-day, Proper Day Off since 7th May, and I kindof stayed up until 5am watching election results the night before, which meant it was perhaps not as restorative as it might have otherwise been. I'll do better this week.

I'm still behind on reading blogs, too, but still thinking of and praying for many of you.

I'm going to try to do a post-a-day thing to get myself blogging again, but most of that probably won't be here: my public, identifiable-as-me blog needs more of that attention.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

May Day

A local Labour councillor came around yesterday for a chat. We nattered for a bit and he asked, as they tend to do, whether I had any concerns about local issues.

Now, I've not lived in this area all that long, and I've not gone very far out of my way to find out what the local issues are. The bins get emptied, and I feel relatively safe here, so I don't have much cause to complain to the council; if I did, they'd certainly have heard from me before now.

So I mentioned the people outside the local tube station. I said that I realise it's a systemic, complex problem and not something that can just be changed overnight, but that I do worry about the people begging, and I asked what support the council is providing for them.

He then proceeded to tell me that the vast majority of beggars are economic migrants,
mostly from Eastern Europe, who have come over for temporary labour and got stranded here by being laid off, and that the council tries to "help them get home". I could hardly believe my ears!

I don't think it's an accurate assessment of the situation. I've written here before about my shameful failure to actually talk to people who are asking me for spare change, especially when it's dark and I am tired, but I do listen and I don't hear an overwhelming majority of foreign accents. Most people seem to be from London and environs.

Even if these people were mostly not British, there are a whole bunch of reasons that I think simply sending them home would not always be the right answer.

Instead of chasing him off the doorstep I decided to try and waste as much of his time as I possibly could, though I'm afraid I didn't manage to change his assumptions.

If there had been any danger of my voting Labour to try and keep the Tories out, it has well and truly passed now.

(I've written a very similar post to this elsewhere, with identifying information; the readership there includes more locals, and I think they need to know about this.)

This morning I did a spot of guerilla gardening, as is my custom on May Day. Upper Suburbia is pretty verdant, really, but there is a small patch of land I walk past often that doesn't get much attention. There were some trees planted there earlier this year; one of them was destroyed by folks who apparently had nothing better to do, leaving a bare spot. The edge of the patch, near a garden wall, is also bare of grass but does get a lot of weeds.

I'm pretty sure that the sunflower seeds will be eaten by rodents, but it's quite possible that the fennel, rocket, lamb's lettuce or catmint might sprout and grow. The chives and garlic chives were in small pots already and will blend in nicely with the grass for a while until they get established.