This morning it was so warm - even almost hot - in my office that I opened the window to allow some fresh air to flow in, and stale air to flow out. In the depths of winter when I needed two electric fires, thick socks and boots to stay warm I'd never have predicted that! Someone calling into church rightly reminded me not to forget to close the windows before I leave tonight. Yet, this closing of windows reminded me of some theological reading I did way back in the first year of my training as I looked at Vatican II which was described at the time as 'opening the windows to allow God's Spirit to flow in (and presumably around, through and out) of the Church (for which read RC). Just how radical Vatican II really was we have long forgotten; just how easy it is to close the windows again we do well to remind ourselves.
My second year of training was spent with an RC priest in a working class area of western Greater Manchester. It was a year that was far from easy, yet it was one of the most important and formative aspects of my training. One of my Baptist friends observed that it was a good Baptist 'full immersion' into another tradition, a proper drenching rather than a discrete/discreet (both forms, not a word confusion) sprinkling. I went into the experience with an open mind, and I think an open heart, that allowed God's Spirit to do her stuff.
Vatican II vastly altered the Mass - the priest had to turn around and face the people; he had to speak in the vernacular rather than in Latin; now and then (and in the church I was with, not quite 'legally,' as a matter of routine) people could receive communion 'under both kinds' (i.e. wine as well as wafer). For some older folk this was hard, they missed their much loved, if incomprehensible, Latin Mass (now 'legal' again and enjoying a resurgence in some places), but most found it a real joy.
Sadly, the RC has yet to embrace inter-communion with the other western churches (and some Baptist churches are no better here), and I spent three masses a week for year being denied Communion. Some RC priests turn a 'blind eye' or operate a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, but when you are there officially as a non-Catholic this option does not exist. What it did do was to challenge my views on Communion in ways that would never have happened if I had not opened that specific window... who am I to deny anyone access to the Lord's Table? Don't get me wrong, I'm not into a cavalier approach, anything but, however, barriers of age or completed rites of passage seem to be human constructs chosen to exclude. If someone 'suddenly' chooses to receive communion might it not be that God's Spirit is at work deep within them? I think it might.
And so this Sunday we have our Midsummer Choral Communion at which I will preside at table. There is a standard announcement in our services not to feel embarrassment at allowing the elements to pass by if one does not wish to receive. It is well intended, and aims to allow integrity and inclusion... but what if we turned it round to something that invited people to dare to partake? 'All those who love the Lord a little and would like to love Him more' or '... those who seek to be Christ's disicples' was standard in my old place. Or even my preference that the president's invitation seeks to open the way for people to enter the mystery?
All a long way from opening windows? Maybe. I just think it is all too easy to open them a crack and then close them up tight, as if we have let in all the air there is to let in, as if we have finally arrived and our view is somehow final.
Fling wide the windows and leave them open - take the risks that brings and discover the freshness of new life! If we truly open our minds and our hearts, rather than expecting other people to 'catch up' to where we are (assuming ourselves more advanced), if we truly allow God's Ruach to blow through, might we yet be surprised?
(By the way, I'll make sure I close the study window this evening ... even I can distinguish between metaphor and life!)