This week has, ostensibly, been 'study leave' that, in theory, means no phone calls from church folk and the freedom to read some of the way through my 'to read' heap, spend money via Amazon and hide in libraries. It doesn't work, of course, but it has been, overall, a pleasurable if tiring week, with lots of variety along the way.
Monday was fairly idyllic, a train ride to London, reading some very recent (published 2005) stuff on Theological Reflection Methods followed by several happy hours reading 17th century books in the British Library. It felt a bit surreal, switching from narrative theology to Baptists arguing about the legitimacy of marrying outisde the denomination and yet, as ever, a bit of 'Brianing' as these particular Baptists (actually they were Generals!) used fictitious discussions as the vehicle for expressing their arguments.
On Tuesday I spent an interesting hour with my mentor discussing the draft list of 'Core Competencies' before travelling about 30 miles to an unfamiliar crem in the next county to conduct a funeral. Does no one explain to crem designers the theology (or whatever the word is) of architecture? Whilst it was a lovely space, it was 'all wrong' for conducting a funeral. The room was too broad for its length, the cataphalque (don't know how to spell that, sorry) was off to one side, right under the noses of the front row of mourners and surrounded by FLOWERED curtains; there were two lecterns either side of an ENORMOUS communion table (well it was wood, so it wasn't an altar) on which stood a GIGANTIC Bible. The focus was a massive plate glass window with panoramic views of open coutryside - frankly the best thing in my view! I was very aware that, apart from the immediate family, who had the choice of looking at me or a coffin, no one else ever looked in my direction, prefering to look out of the window away from the reality of what was going on. Coupled with the very bad arrangement of the car park - so that to walk from the remembrance garden back to your vehicle you had to cross the path of the next courtege - it was altogether not a fantastic design. Despite the wonderful view, not, I'm afraid, one for inclusion in my 'good crems guide'!
Wednesday was spent partly with a friend and partly buying more books. I also received my copy of A Procession of Prayers which proved a good buy (thanks Stuart) from someone who turns out to be a Baptist and who reads this blog! Hello Peter! He sells on Amazon under the name of 'revelation books' and is really efficient and helpful. In good 'Brian' tradition it turns out he knows people in the 'ready brek' electricity industry and is part of a church about 5 miles from where I grew up. He is also a thoughtful-humourous poet/performer. Do buy from him if you spot his stuff on Amazon.
The early snow in Leicestershire was soon left behind on Thursday when I travelled with a friend to Manchester to hear the annual Baptist Whitley Lecture. I realise how out of practice I am at listening to someone talk for 55 minutes and feel for my congregation who listen to me for 20! The incoming BU President, the Revd Kate Coleman is a very engaging speaker and has some interesting perspectives - but I feel I need to read her paper (and maybe the book when it's published) to really grasp what she was sharing - I think the 'jet lag' of ther week was finally catching up with me.
So now it's Friday, I feel that in many ways I have achieved very little this week and need at least another week to process all that I've read or heard. I have little of any depth to share - this stuff certainly fits under the 'rambling' heading! Despite the diversity of the experiences, and the way in which they seem to contrast so much, there is a sense that when combined together the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that, like a patchwork, tapestry or mezze, the end result has its own 'beauty' or 'flavour' that could not be otherwise experienced.