Anyone reading this involved in pub churches? Our new venture, COMPASS, sets sail in May in the lounge of the pub down the road and will be monthly. Suddenly I have been cited as an expert on this model of church life which is scary, we aren't going yet! Are we the only Baptist pub church? Surely not. Are we the only pub church with a TT minister? Probably! (Which kind of reminds me of a joke about St Peter ordering mineral water when Jesus and the disciples went into a pub - but I don't tell it very well). Anyway gentle readers, if you have any thoughts to share on what helps and hinders, I'd love to know them. Just trying to work out how to enrol on an elementary miracles course so I can do the necessary with glasses of water in order to keep the expenses down!
For Sally, who is doing work on lone parents and church, here is a poem by Kathy Keay...
God of the Single Parent
Blessed is she who belongs nowhere
Because she is with child
But without husband
For You will be her Life Partner.
Blessed is she who only has one pair of hands
To do six tasks at the same time,
You will send her unexpected help.
Blessed is she who must provide for all
The needs of her children
And for her own.
You will surely defend her cause.
Blessed is she when the children are in bed
And in the silence of the evening
She craves for adult company.
You will fill her home with your Presence.
Blessed is she when others speak falsely against her
And when she is required to listen to all manner
Of dreadful afflictions
Which will come upon her children
Because they are the products of a single-parent household.
You will delight in proving them all wrong
Because she puts her trust in You.
For You are the God of the Single Parent
Who knew what it was like
To live against the expectations of society
The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to
Such as these
From Kathy Keay, ed. Laughter, Silence and Shouting: An Anthology of Women’s Prayers, Harper Collins1994 page 82
I recently mentioned I had done some work on single people's experience of church (back in 2002). I have uploaded the summary of that work which was published in the Baptist Minister's Journal which can be found here and the full thing (12k words plus loads of appendices and a mega impressive bibliography, if I say so myself who shouldn't) here
I also rediscovered some poems I'd collected on the theme and here is just one of them...
Is the liberty
To be me,
To do what I like
When I like,
Of the world
Is the discipline
Of having more time
To give myself,
Is the pain
Of being outside
On the outside
Of the family,
Threatening to others.
In my one-person family,
The open door
That I am loved,
Valued and of value.
Is the ache
No living body
To throw my arms around
And love meFor myself alone.
Is the ability
To close my front door
On the world,
To enjoy my solitude,
Listen to music,
Be at peace.
Singleness is my beginning
And my end,
And my tears,
Myself and God,
Loved and loving,
At home and free,
Celebrate with me!
By Betty Hares, From Mary O’Brien and Clare Christie eds. Single Women: Affirming our Spiritual Journeys Westport, Connecticut, Bergin and Garvey, 1993. More can be found here (but please be careful with copyright, Nicola Slee's unpublished work was used with her permission as part of my dissertation work)
These days students are excpected to use inclusive language in their essays; this is a good thing. The reality is though, that this is never as easy as people think it should be, and the loudest voices in favour of its use seem to come from quarters which replace one form of exclusion with another...
I am currently reading a book on a 'holistic theology of the atonement' written 15 years ago that refers to single human beings exclusively as 'he' and a book on practical theology written last year that exclusively uses 'she'. The oft used argument that using 'she' language redresses the balance is not good enough - exclusion is exclusion however you dress it up.
English as a language does not really help much, there is no gender-neutral alternative; you could hardly use 'it' to describe a person could you?! I'm not a great fan of alternating male/female pronouns but at least they make an effort in the right direction. My undergraduate essays often opted for s/he on the basis that it only counts as one word and I guess it is a bit less clumsy than repeatedly saying 'he or she' or 'she or he' (and avoids any read in/out hierarchy) but it is not very elegant. I also got quite good at ordering sentences to avoid the use of pronouns, but is that a cop out?
The other thing that I notice is the increase in British authors using American spellings. Why is this? When did the USA become normative for 'English' at least as it is written in the UK? I accept that when I cite USA writers I need to use their spellings, but it grates more than somewhat when British authors no longer use 'British English.' I'm not just referring to the use of 'z' rather than 's' (which apparently reflects older British English forms) but the absence of doubled consonants in verbal endings and use of 'inquire' to mean 'enquire' etc. Are we ashamed of our own version? Or is the quest for sales across the pond the altar on which we sacrifice our spellings and grammar?
The words we use are important, and maybe I'm just turning into my mother who was always hot on grammar and spelling, but I do lament what I see as the decline of written English.
I have a little cross stitch picture made for me many years ago by my mother that says
ENGINEERS: Practical ends are achieved by the application of scientific principles.
I like this (obviously!) but I think it says something important about the relationship of engineers and scientists - they actually need each other. Doing science for its own sake is probably very interesting but can become very esoteric and otherworldy. At the same time, engineers can be so earthly and practical that they are unable to innovate and experiment. The two disicplines actually need to engage each other if there is to be a net gain.
Likewise theology. There is an apparent split between 'real' theology and 'practical theology' with the systematicans/dogamtists like snooty physicists asserting their superiority over the prccticals/engineers (not that I have chips on my shoulder, not me!). The reality is that they need each other. It is I am sure, if you can understand it, fascinating to ponder abstract philosophies of God or the nuances of Greek grammar, and these do add to the overall body of understanding of faith but it can become so far removed from real life that the person in the pew fears it. Local theologies can become so experiential that they lose sight of the important abstract concepts of faith and/or the need for reflection or engagement. Enter the Theological Engineer! The person who can relate the theory and practice, practice and theory in a reflective, critical way so that "practical means are achieved by the application of theological principles.'
Today I found a working definition of Practical Theology that I quite like :
'... critical, theological reflection on the practices of the Church as they interact with the practices of the world with a view to ensuring faithful participation in the continuing mission of the triune God.'
(from Practical Theology and Qualitative Research, John Swinton and Harriet Mowat, London, SCM, 2006, page 25)
I like its relational Trinity view, I like its missional focus, I like its balance of theory and practice. It feels in tune with an (or, at least, this) engineer's eye view of their role as a theologian!