Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Back from Greenbelt.

Half a week holiday isn't very much for someone who usually gets one day off per week (if that) and hadn't had a holiday of more than 3 days since January.

So I decided to take the rest of August gently. I did some practising, but blew off paperwork and other tasks. I had a weekend away with Sweetie and actually did not go to church on Sunday for the first time in... over a year, I think. I went to Greenbelt, which was great.

Everything starts again tomorrow; phoning students to arrange my schedule, practising in earnest, printing music lists, planning Christmas services (or at least the music for them), trying to coordinate rehearsals, the lot.

I've blogged on my public, professional blog about some of my experiences at Greenbelt. It feels very strange to do so, like I've exposed some of my spiritual innards. But I think it's necessary if I'm going to find a voice on that blog.

I'm not planning on disappearing from here, but the more I blog about music here the less anonymous I'll get, so I'm going to try to keep the music stuff more public.

If I "know" you here and you want to read it, let me know your e-mail address and I'll give you the url to the other blog. But don't out me, please.

Friday, 13 August 2010

While I breathe I pray

I've been on holiday for half a week. It's been good to get out of London.

Cycling has been good; in London I've not been riding as much as I'd like, but I've not become as desperately unfit as I'd thought. Cycling is significantly kinder to my joints than walking is. I've been taking advantage of the fact that most countryside churches are left unlocked, going there to rest. Sometimes I'll say the Office or a psalm but more often I simply sit and breathe in the calm, quiet stillness.

Sweetie and I stay in a B&B; during the day he does martial arts training and I go cycling, and we meet up for meals and lovely relaxed evenings together.

The other night we were watching the Perseid meteor shower. It had rained, so the sky was lovely and clear. The first verses of Psalm 19 were made for stargazing, and I remembered them as we sat there:

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God • and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2   One day pours out its song to another • and one night unfolds knowledge to another
3   They have neither speech nor language • and their voices are not heard,
4   Yet their sound has gone out into all lands • and their words to the ends of the world.

It's been a lovely few days of that sort of quietness.

Yesterday I cycled to Glastonbury. I paid my money to enter the ruins of the Abbey and walked around the grounds with the other tourists -- pilgrims, even? -- mindful of And overwhelmed by the history of the place. Of course the line between history and legend is rather blurry there.

In a chapel with an altar I saw a notice politely informing me that "No services, prayers, music, ceremonies or rituals are permitted, without the written permission of the Custodian."

What a contrast with the unassuming country church where I'd stopped to rest on the way there. What a contrast with the spacious firmament on high, the stars ringing their silent witness.

My first instinct was sadness. I can understand that with so many different faith groups making some claim on the area it is necessary to have someone decide who gets to do what. But it makes me sad that humans have such trouble sharing, such trouble expressing faith in a way that doesn't threaten or condemn.

I suppose I'm one of these rebellious types, though... a ban on unauthorised liturgy doesn't, can't, stop me praying. A written notice cannot silence the music written on my heart. The notice really doesn't make sense. Sadness bubbled over into chuckles, then peals of laughter as I realised that, too, was a prayer. ...their voices are not heard, yet their sound has gone out into all lands and their words to the ends of the world.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010


No, not that sort.

"Watch 'Rev.'" said my vicar. "Watch 'Rev.'" said a handful of other clergy I know (where, exactly, did you all come from?). I don't have a television. I haven't watched television regularly for over a decade. But iPlayer came to the rescue, and I watched it...

...and yes, it was good. It was funny and serious. I think it portrayed quite well some of the challenges faced by urban clergy these days.

I wonder how many people watched it who weren't already interested, though. I wonder if anyone who doesn't go to church watched. I wonder if anyone who doesn't really know any clergy watched. I wonder if anyone who has been seriously wounded by the church watched.

I am not thinking about this in terms of converting people to Christianity or bringing lapsed Christians back to church, but more of the perception of religion and faith in this society. If one person watched this television program and thought, "Okay, maybe not all churches are prejudiced... maybe not all clergy are insufferable holier-than-thou hypocrites... maybe not all communities value conformity over justice or love or freedom..." then I would be very happy indeed.