Monday, 16 February 2009

The therapy of reading

On Saturday morning I finally finished reading The Blood Spilt by Asa Larsson. It's not a classic crime novel in some ways but I found it a therapeutic and interesting read. (If you're intending to read it then I should probably warn you that what follows may contain "spoilers".)
I found it a very satisfying read, and have been trying to work out why. It spoke to me at quite a deep level in part no doubt because I left my last pastorate due to a conflict with a retired minister who never accepted my authority. The book depicts quite elemental and base emotions and jealousies that are aroused by the arrival of the woman priest and the way she does her work. As the book opens she seems to be a rather cardboard cut out feminist hate figure but as the story progresses her personality and ministry are fleshed out much more. Despite being the corpse at the beginning of the book Matilda remains its main character throughout, somehow that spoke to me about resurrection.
Perhaps I found the read so satisfying too because it also has a good selection of other strong female characters. It was helpful for me many years down the line to recognise what very deep emotions are triggered by the arrival of a new person who is also a woman in a clergy role. A new woman priest will tend to always be more visible and will represent consciously and unconsciously so many fears and prejudices to some people. I realise now that this is what happened when I arrived in my last pastorate.
When I preached with a view in the parish the lectionary text was the woman taken in adultery, it was passion Sunday. I preached a good biblical, gospel, sermon. I hadn't chosen the text, the text had chosen me and the service went very well.
The retired colleague I later had so many problems with was the only person who didn't shake my hand that morning, he stalked haughtily out of the church barely nodding at me. Not surprising really that after a few years in the job I was thinking up crime novels with some good choices for cadavres on the first page! Only now does it all make sense. It helps a bit to feel a bit less guilty about it.
I don't normally find reading crime fiction quite so meaningful but I'm very glad I picked up this one in the bookshop in Rome. I'm also glad that I was not found strung up from the organ loft in my former parish.(Given that the retired colleague was treasurer of the organ committee this would have been fitting no doubt!)
However, joking apart, the level of harrassment that many clergy have to live with in the jobs is also a form of violence that churches do not readily open their eyes to or admit. The level of harrassment dressed up as theological disagreement that some Anglican clergywomen have to put up with is also I believe deeply abusive in many cases.
Perhaps the very physical violence in Asa Larsson's book has helped me recognise the verbal and political, spoken and unspoken violence I had to put up with. In the book Matilda's ministry continues after her death and the she-wolf still dances in the forest.

1 Comment:

SarahH said...

I think this should also be posted on the WiM blog.