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  • Dancing Bear

    I was alerted to this link by Northern Baptist College - a dramatic exploration of issues around faith and sexuality.  Here's what the blurb says:

    Dancing Bear uses dance, live music, text and drag cabaret to tell a story full of compassion, candour and humour, looking at the often desperate balancing act many gay people continue to face between personal integrity, social acceptance and spiritual peace.

    Conceived by director/musician Jamie Fletcher and writer/musician Beccy Owen, Dancing Bear is a relevant and moving piece of theatre that deftly swings between the bleak and the bawdy, as a nine-strong cast explore the current tipping point between Christianity and Homosexuality.

    At its heart is a question that is relevant to people of all backgrounds and beliefs: ‘how and who should we love?’.

    It may be of interest to readers in Manchester and the north of England.

  • What-do-you-call-it (and does it matter?)

    There's an old joke along the lines of, "what's the difference between a sermon and a homily?" the response/punch line of which is "about ten minutes".

    Sermon, homily, reflection, lesson, talk, address... these names and no doubt others are used to describe what is delivered in the act of preaching.  Sometimes the name used reflects a specific tradition - RC and high Anglican churches tend to have 'homilies', protestant non-Confirmists tend to have 'sermons'.  Sometimes it is used to get around various bits of ecclesial nonsense, such as the Baptist church where I was invited to "speak" at the service for the 'Ladies' Weekend' but not to 'preach' because I was a woman and therefore not permitted (by that congregation at that time) to do so.  Sometimes it is used as a way of avoiding criticism that this isn't quite 'proper' - a reflection may not carry the (perceived) 'authority' of a sermon, a 'talk' may be acceptable from someone whose credentials we are less certain about... and so on and so forth.

    Homiletics is the study of the art of preaching, homiletics is pretty much what happens when someone sits down to prepare whatever it is they are going to say, irrespective of what it is called or how long it will last, never mind how many people will hear it.  So, it could reasonably be argued that whatever is delivered is, in fact, a homily, what differs is the style or duration.

    A sermon is probably understood pretty much as 'proclamation' - or to use the Greek, kerygma.  We know even as we listen that this is more than a 'lesson' or a 'talk' though it may well, and often needs to, include an element of teaching - or to use the Greek didache (from which we get our word didactic).  Whilst these titles, and I have on occassion used the word 'talk', have worth and are far more accessible to non-church folk than 'sermon' or 'homily', there is a danger that some will perceive them as somehow lesser, that the mystical element is missing.  At worst, perhaps it is, but we need to be careful, I think, not to confuse style and purpose with content: sometimes rather than a sermon what is needed might be a talk or a lesson, information to be acquired.  Visits from Misison Partners, videos used in speical services - these may legitimately displace the 'sermon' in favour of information sharing.

    Reflection is a word that is often used when what is shared is not explicitly expository, that is does not seek to explain and expound the text, but instead springs from the preacher's engagement with it.  Story-telling (narrative) sermons are sometimes named reflections.  I use the term sometimes when I feel that the purists who value exposition might feel short-changed by what I'm offering because it is less 'scientific' and more 'organic' (finding words to descirbe it is tricky).

    Each of the terms has value, and each can refer to a specific style or purpose of delivery, but always what is offered is a response to scripture and experience, to an exploration by one person who has some purpose (a theme, a series, a key word or phrase...) and seeks to share their discoveries, thoguhts or insights with others.  We trust, whether it is a story, a three alliterative point exposition, a response to world events in the light of a text, whether itis pastoral or prophetic, encouraging or challenging, that somewhere in the process God is active.

    At one level, I don't think the names matter one jot.  At another, perhaps they do: if they are used, consciously or otherwise, to categorise sermons as 'proper' or not, as 'good' or not, as 'this duration' or not, as of value or not, then we have a problem we need to overcome.  I'm not sure what name might be the most helpful, be accessible to people who don't know church, capture something of the mystery... but whatever name we use, as preachers and preachees we need to value it.

    Of course, a further question remains - must or should there be preaching at all... but that'll have to wait for another day!

  • A Day to Remember? A Catastrophe not an Offering...

    The Shoah ‪#‎HolocaustMemorialDay‬ no dewy-eyed sentimentality.

    11 million people killed under Nazi regime because of their race, religion, politics, sexuality, physical or mental (dis)ability.

    Countless others since in, among others, Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur...

    Hackneyed quote but worth repeating from pastor Martin Niemoller:

    "First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

    Learning to value difference, to delight in diversity, to value all humans as of equal instrinsic worth, to engage with those we perceive as 'other', to refuse to let fear demonise 'them' or diminsh our own humanity... if we attempt these, then our remembering has purpose.

    Oh, and I dislike the word 'holocaust' which means 'whole burned offering' and use the Jewish term 'shoah' which means catastrophe...