Monthly Archives: July 2009

St Magnus (no not that one)

Talking of interstices, often what is most attractive in other people and other places is not their official virtues, but something which might seem by the bye. Take the admirable blog run by MadPriest. How right he is about the C of E sleepwalking to disaster.

But really, I go there just to contemplate St Laika, and St Lady (Holy Blind Dog and Bishop). Of course it sets me wondering what saints I have enjoyed in my family. St Magnus springs to mind at once. Was ever a cat more obviously holy? St Magnus lived a life devoted to contemplation and the spreading of habits of faith and prayer.

Or St Columba (no, not that one either) A dog who truly lived for others. Can his calls for the repentance of visitors ever be forgotten? (Especially he wished the lady now living with my husband to repent, and he would hurl himself at the door handle as a proxy. It was commendable zeal.)

And St Puppy. I feel sure others will remember the conspicuous faith that St Puppy showed all her life, and be able to suggest possible traits and qualities to be remembered.



Sometimes we reach a moment where what we see and experience is, as it were, outside the main purpose of the event. Suddenly, in a day all about work, driving between jobs I was jolted out of tedium by the sight of a little cock sparrow drenched from his bath in a puddle and sparkling in the sun.

It got me remembering my mother’s long dying, and how sometimes in the middle of a day of anxiety and sorrow, there would come an interstice. Something would trigger a few moments of respite when I could feel myself unfurling to my natural state in joy and relief. Joy and beauty and a whole heart would be mine. I called them interstices. The joy of the interstices made life possible.

The interstices do not come to me only when I am sad or lonely or bored, they can come any time. Often and best they are unexpected, sometimes, approaching a favourite honeysuckle smothered hedge, I anticipate them.

What they have in common, these moments, is that they seem more real than the matter of life which surrounds them. I wonder very much what interstices you have experienced.

The angels of the churches

There must be a link joining the churches I have belonged to – really belonged to, not just attended. The first was St John’s (Methodist ) Church Hereford. It was a big church, but it seemed to have a place for everybody. Perhaps that was an illusion. We sang loudly, happily. Set as we were in the Welsh borders there were many there, not just in the choir, who could turn their voices to most things. The worship was frequently a hymn sandwich. I loved the people.

And All Saints, St Andrews. Dear knows I disapproved of much in attitudes and opinions, but I always felt I belonged.

The Tron, Moredon. I belonged there no doubt. But I had a kind of function, being the assistant minister’s wife. I am not sure how far it counts.

I really belonged to St Paul’s (Episcopal) Church Rothesay too. At times it was a very very troubled belonging, and I can remember huge fury at times – but I always, or nearly always, felt I belonged there.

And now my Glasgow church. Well, not mine alone, I concede.

In between St John’s and St Paul’s there were other churches, some very good, others less so. In none of them did I truly feel I belonged.

So we have now established it had nothing to do with my sense that everything was to my taste, or in line with my opinions. My gentle readers are welcome to come back with suggestions. Dear ones – where have you felt you belonged and why?

Cutting back

My customers this week have been puzzled – or some of them. I have been explaining that I have been cutting back. I have been reducing the length of my chapters. But surely the hard thing is to write enough words to make up a whole book? Alas no – I have enough for one and a half entertaining books. I need just one. But I’ve made a good start. I have taken 2000 words from ch. 1. In many ways the hardest to cut, because it has to have certain bits of information about parents, etc. I’ve also re written a few infelicitous bits.

Now all I have to do is keep up the good work…..

Tilla tilla, til la ta ta

In theory I like solving puzzles. If I really need to relax, I find a computer game where I manipulate my hero or heroine around an obstacle course of trigger happy guards, mystic monks and inadequate resources (what idiot enters a spooky castle without some string and a torch, and has to FIND them within the walls? Why does this plonker not have a screwdriver in his pocket?).

So tell me why finding out that my new phone is not happy to play a tune to alert me to incoming calls should drive me nuts. Plainly some setting was wrong. Again and again I reset the preferred tune (corny and loud I find best). Again and again, on phoning the mobile from the home phone (yes you stupid phone I know it was a call from home, the home phone is in my other hand!) I merely got a vibration that I would never hear in a real life situation. It had to be some other setting. In the end I tracked it down, yes, profiles – to me a quick account of a personality. And again and again I set it to normal.

In the end I realised that the little blue line had to be OVER and not UNDER the ‘profile’ of normal to get the wretched thing to cause sound. At last – Tilla tilla, til la ta ta

Good grief, I could have got my hero out of prison, over the man eating dog and into the villain’s office to over hear the plan to master the world in that time!

An extraordinary thing

An extraordinary thing has happened to me. I have reached a point in The Book where I know taking time off will be more productive than working flat out. Therefore I am cutting down to working weekdays, something like a 40 hour week.

This leaves me an amount of free time I have not had in years.
Two things are apparent –
(1) Unless I am employed doing something useful, like cleaning, cooking or vegetable gardening, I feel mildly guilty.
(2) What I actually do is spend too long surfing the net or playing computer games and feeling mildly guilty.

A Christian Act

I believe strongly and instinctively that schism is not a Christian act. I have been asked to justify this belief, and I could use help fast.

Let me kick off by saying that one reason is that is one is causing schism for any other reason than over the ancient councils of the church, which will usually mean over orthodox Trinitarian belief (which I would further boil down as saying that the essence of God is love in relationship, which love God brings to us unconditionally and without our needing to will it first) If one is causing schism for any other reason one is effectively placing other things above those core and ancient beliefs.

I think a more usual argument would be that dividing the body of Christ is an inherent ill, but I suspect the person I am debating with will simply snap back that those he disagrees with have by their beliefs already left that body.

My own feeling that the American schismatics have ‘got themselves into a state’ is not going to help either. People in a state always deny that they are (as in ‘I am not upset, and I will continue to deny how upset I am until I calm down.’)

I know this blog is read by a surprising number – HELP.

A thing of joy

Yes, you can see it, but you may not realise how much joy it has given.
propergator 001
It is my propagator, the foster mother of an endless supply of herbs and flowers, and my precious artichokes, and now brooding the asparagus, with what success I don’t know. God bless her, what joy she has given.

Counting on creativity

And finally a blog on my time with Tisec.

I led a session looking at John 3: 1-10 and responding to it creatively. ‘Imagine any audience you like,’ I said, ‘From an intimate friend or lover to Central Hall Westminster.’

We had some very interesting and sparky responses, and one sermon, which made good use of our discussion, but was not what I had in mind. The sermon was my fault for not being explicit enough. But what had really misled was my use of Central Hall Westminster. I can imagine standing in that space (familiar from adolescence and made real again by the tragic events of a couple of weeks ago) and delivering a monologue, or a poem, or a play. It seemed axiomatic to some that faced with those numbers, only a sermon would do.

We need to free up the hearts and minds of our new priests and deacons. Wonderful as a good sermon is, it is not always the best way of communicating – let me put that more clearly. An occasional sermon is a wonderful way of communicating. But if the communication is all sermon, it will not reach as far as a mixture of communication will. Given a hypothetical congregation of a hundred – and a hypothetical 100 occasions to reach them, then 100 sermons will not open as many to truth as a mixture of poem, play, art, basic teaching and all the other expressions of creativity both intellectual and artistic that we actually have in our arsenal. To engage with the 100 on at least a few of the 100 occasions, we must exploit everything we can, engage every sense.

Balance of power

Mother, her hand in the small of my back. Mother, her imperatives, her desires. Mother gave me the final injunction, final push, and I stood on the floor. It was right, proper, no more than I should do, she said, and I stood there, exposed and trembling. And the music started, and I began to move. These were old men, respectable men. Powerful men, friends of Uncle, who is now Father. And as I moved, their faces changed. I saw the desire there, stronger even than on the faces of the young men I stole covert sideways glances at, as I walked the palace: the young men I wanted to see the glance, the just-enough modest sideways glance.

I danced, and was half caught by the music, and half feeding on those stares, that desire. Their glances dripped down my thighs like sweat. Their hunger gathered at the tips of my breasts, fumbled over my nipples, hardened by their gaze. I could taunt, I could tease, and they wanted more, more. These rulers were mine to torment. I was gulping down this power, and becoming drunk on it, instead of the music, which is my familiar master.

Afterwards, afterwards, when I asked for his head, I was still drunk. Now I see the grey face, and the eyes still bright and open as though they would fascinate, and what is done is done, and cold water douses every flame. I am soaked and shaking, the cold contents of the bucket of reality thrown in my face. There is not much blood, the soldiers have wiped it away. Just some staining on the neck, and a little ooze on the plate. I carry it to mother.