October 2020 - Rector's Ramblings

I am really looking forward to offering a few weeks’ Sunday worship, themed upon God’s Creation. It has been widely accepted that this topic has been under-represented in the Church’s prayer over past decades. Now is the time, for many of us to challenge that, both in public gathering and in our own lives.

Instinctively, it seems to me, people want to express their wonder and gratitude for the created order. Put a microphone in someone’s hand, or persuade them to lead our prayers one morning over Zoom, and the first thing that comes to mind is often ‘thank you God, for this new day’. Before ever we get into the slog of holding before our Lord the needs of the world, and the sufferings of those around us, we want to say ‘thank you’. Many among you have a sharp sense of the blessings of all that is around.

Well, the neglect within our public worship goes back a long way. It is the inheritance of the Western Church, both Protestant and Catholic, to place enormous emphasis upon the life and sacrifice of Jesus. That is not wrong, as a focus; but still, it would be naive to imagine that it is the sole consolation of the human soul. Of course not. Theological edifices, such as have been created in the Church’s thinking and writing, are not as central to the spur towards prayer as the Church’s own liturgies might mistakenly suggest. And for many people, it is with open-eyed delight at the beauty of the world that their prayer first takes to flight across God’s skies.
Less churchy. More earthy.

How have we got it so wrong? Well, in much the way that we have got it wrong within humanity’s wider treatment of Creation. We have sought to manage it, and be its Masters, rather than let it speak to us and lead our ways and our contemplation.

You’ll have seen and heard, or at least been aware, of Sir David Attenborough’s recent television reflection on our Global Future. He does not suppose that he will see the Saving of the Planet. He will reach the end of his life not knowing how well the lesson has been learned and the world turned in its rapacious ways. He tells us of the poignant loss of many a species, of the perils of destroying our bio-diversity, and that the health of the world is so much a part of humanity’s own (properly understood) wellbeing.

This strange summer of 2020 has stirred something deep in all of us. How lovely it has been to hear the birds again; singing, not ‘coughing’. How lovely it has been to see clear skies, wonderful light, and airplane vapour trails and the roar of engines giving way instead to glorious peaceful sunsets. How lovely it has been to see the fruit and flowers in abundant magnificence. What a good year for the roses!

Where do we go? Well, let’s start by noticing a beautiful world. Let’s hold it caringly in our hearts, and resolve to tread gently upon its surface. Let’s praise the earth, and (if it is your delight) through this extol God. Let’s expand our appreciation and sing in the spirit.

Start with what is, and pray that it, in us, may be the seed of what may be. Let glory, beauty and magnificence become our tutor in themselves, not merely the touching stone for other things we want to say.

St Francis (October 4) is the customary saint of the earth. He is not alone, though, in his generous Canticles of praise. The poets of the Iona Community, and the activists of climate concern are, alike, our allies and our prophets. They give voice to wonder, tenderness, inclusivity and compassion. And they ask us, will we truly praise the Lord of sea and sky, as Artist, Upholder and Friend of all that (most wonderfully) is?

Andrew Doye

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