Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Of Bossey, Utrecht, Redditch, Brussels and Crete ... signs of the times and only for use within the church ...

Thursday morning last week began with participation at an ecumenical formation seminar in Bossey to offer some thoughts on signs of the ecumenical times with four other panelists. It was challenging and interesting to think about what is happening ecumenically at both global and local levels. In a future post I'll try to write a bit more about this, for now I'll just say that it was good to be given the opportunity to think outside the box and to listen to colleagues doing the same.
Later the same day we flew (boo, hiss bad for the environment!) to Amsterdam for two nights with friends but mainly for Dr B to give a (brilliant but I am biased) lecture in German at a prize-giving for the wonderfully creative Heino Falcke, the inspiring theologian behind the peaceful revolution in East Germany. It was a moving event, looking back 20 years and beyond to the links between the churches in the Netherlands and East Germany. Again more about this at a later date ... one day when life allows time for blogging again. Laurens Hogebrink who organised the event mentioned one way of being sure that what you wrote would get read in former East Germany. This was to circulate papers with the title "Nur für den innerkirchlichen Dienstgebrauch" - only for professional use within the church - this meant the documents didn't have to get past censors for publication and could be duplicated relatively easily. With this subtitle many texts took on a certain underground atractivity which is difficult to recapture.
I had to smile as I thought about how such a subtitle would in the western context be a complete put off in our age often obsessed with making church messages "attractive" and "acceptable". Is anyone even interested in what goes on within the church today? I'm not even always sure that I am - I'm interested in reading the Bible with other people, in trying to discern what Christ's path might imply for me, in following that way with others. Of course in the GDR the faded duplicated documents behind that anodyne subtitle would sometimes contain some of the most interesting new thinking, radical theology, translations of prayers from other countries, pedagogical material and of course also some pretty boring internal church documents too ... I suppose in that context that medium was also the message. The peaceful revolution had been prepared for in many ways intelectually and theologically for decades beforehand.
From Utrecht we flew once more (yes I know ...) to my mother's 70th birthday celebrations in Redditch where there was a fair amount of joyous chaos and a lot of food and talking. It was also an emotional time, at personal events like this when I don't have the benefit of a pulpit and liturgy I find it very hard to harness my emotions and really say what I want to. I shall have to try and write to my mother extraordinaire and say much of what it was I really wanted to say and somehow couldn't mange to say ... yet of course some things are ineffable, love for those you care about most is one.
And from Redditch onwards to Geneva via Brussels (and airport chocolates), a leaving party for the wonderful Linda Hartke, learning with sadness that our inspiring friend Fred Kaan had died and then setting off on a plane (again!) for Crete and the Faith and Order Plenary Commission which is meeting in the Orthodox Academy not far from Chania.
Writing all of this is a very roundabout way of apologising for not blogging for the past week.