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  • The Possibilities are Endless (Allegedly)

    If you live in the UK you've seen the advert for recycling that has this strapline, and are familiar with the 'reduce, re-use, recycle' mantra.  So, good Baptist minister person that I am, I am carefully sorting through the accumulated clutter of, hmm, well more years than I like to admit, from GB camps, holiday clubs and other weird and wonderful miscellaneous outreachy type things and compiling a list of stuff to give away or sell on to clutter up other people's homes or church storage cupboards.

    So far the 'treasures' (?) in the heap include inflatable palm trees, police helmets, several brand new badminton sets, an assortment of floor cushions and some sparkly hoola hoops.  The vast majority of this stuff I paid for, though the odd thing was passed on to me by others 'because I'm sure you'll find a use for it' and I was too polite to say 'no.'

    Friends and colleagues in the Leicestershire area are likely to be emailed with the list of stuff in case they can put it to good use (and not merely add it to their own clutter heap) and the balance will find its way to Ebay or Freecycle.  Hopefully I will then move north with less stuff to clutter my nice new home.  Giant inflatable crocodile anyone...?

  • The Past is the Key to the Future?

    story teller.jpgIn the chapel at the National Memorial Arboretum is a delightful carving called the a story-teller which depicts a Christlike figure telling stories to an audience mainly of children.  Most are rapt; one lad is leaning over the edge of the sculpture to investigate a snail crawling up the side (evidently what the child said when photgraphed in this pose!)  The photo here I found online - the chapel was too crowded to get a photo today when I was there.

    What struck me especially on this visit was the caption on the carving 'the past is the key to the future' - a statement filled with hope but I wondered how true the reality?

    One of the most poignant for me is the Shot at Dawn memorial, where plain wooden stakes bear the names of men and boys executed for 'cowardice' in the first world war.  It is set in a quiet part of the grounds, away from the main drag, where the sunlight first touches the arboretum.  There is irony and beauty somehow mingled in this quiet space, where these men can be remembered.IMG_0445.JPG A small plaque has been erected adjacent to the statue of the blindfolded man bravely awaiting execution which says: "On 7th November 2006, the British Government agreed to give a posthumous pardon to all of those executed for military offences in the First World War."  Nowadays they'd probably call it post traumatic distress... but what have we really learned?

    IMG_0444.JPGThe Armed Forces Memorial bears the names of around 15,000 service personnel who died on active service since the end of World War II.  To see these names listed is very moving... But the more significant thing for me was that there is space for another 15,000.  Where is the hope?  Not enough to say 'we hope we'll never fill it up' when the last decades names fill a substantial amount of space.

    If the past is the key to the future (and I have sympathy with the statement) then how so?

    If this place can keep alive memories of the human cost of war, can help us to articulate and explore questions, then maybe it might be a more hopeful one.

    A last thought.  In the chapel the two 'thieves crosses' have hand cuffs dangling from them.  Those of the 'good' thief are open, symbolising his freedom through Christ.  For the 'bad' thief, one is open and one closed - a deliberately ambiguous symbol that says (according to the guide who spoke) we don't know what happened to him, but like to hope that he was on his way to freedom.  Somehow I reckon most of us are a bit like that - as Brian Wren expresses it 'half free, half bound by inner chains... yet seeking hope for humankind.'  Evidently around 80,000,000 people died in wars/conflicts in the twentieth century... may this past be the key to a more hopeful future as we remember, and having remembered refuse to forget.

  • Theology After the Fact (After a Fashion)

    In Ruth's comment on my last post she alludes to theology that is 'after the fact' - i.e. that is made up, oops developed, to account for practice, rather than practice that emerges directly from theology.

    This made me wonder if all theology is actually 'after the fact' - arising from or responding to experience or practice.  This would make all theology practical theology (which from an academic perspective lays heaps of emphasis on its emergence form experience/practice) - something I seem to recall was said by Moltmann, though I may well be wrong.

    I also wondered how robust some of our theology really is either - is it maybe actually 'after a fashion', with the phrase meaning, as it did in my youth, 'kind of'?  If I'm honest some of my phraseology around little cup communion is definitely 'theology after a fashion.'

    So, if anyone can come up with an example of irrefutably 'before the fact' theology, I'd love to know what it is!