Tag Archives: churches

Defective articles and the Love of God⤴

from @ blethers

I've been catching up on an unread bit of a Sunday paper, and found an interview with actor James McCardle. In the light of what I've been involved in recently, this struck me:
People who live a heteronormative life might feel they are free but until we life a life that includes equality of sexuality, gender, equality of class, equality of race then no-one is free.
There's no freedom at all unless there is freedom for all. I understand there have to be labels when there is still a fight to be had, but that shift has to be cultural and it's never going to work if you keep dividing people.
Yes, you say - or do you? Not yet, it seems, if you're a certain kind of church member. And it pains me, as a member of the church for the past 44 years, to have to say that. Especially after the relief many of us felt when my own denomination (and yes - that's another division) decided at last to remove the barriers to equal marriage in our churches. And then it came to deciding where these marriages would be celebrated.

I don't want to go into agonising detail of my latest discoveries - the how, the when. But I want to ask a question. What in God's name is going on in the minds of the people - and I think and pray that indeed they are a minority - who stand, grimly or miserably, in the way, barring the use of "their" church buildings for the celebration of a same-sex marriage?

"It's the word 'marriage'" they insist. It means a man and a woman."

I can think, as my mind flounders in the face of their intransigence, of two things that I didn't get the chance adequately to point out. The first is that such a meaning of the word is but one of four in the quite elderly Concise Oxford that I consulted. The second is that it's a word. Not the Word of God, whatever I believe that to be, just a word. A different word in all the languages of the world, from the close relations of the Latin languages to the intricacies of Russian ... and take a look at this, from an excellent blog:
The word «брак», of course, has another meaning in addition to “marriage”. Its second meaning is “defective articles, discards”. While some marriages do end up discarded, the two «брак»s are not linguistically related.
Language is fascinating, but if I were to enter into any such detail in conversation I'd be accused of being intimidatingly clever, far too fluent for my own good. But for anyone to bar the way to an equal sharing in the love of God in the poor house that we humans have built to gather so that we can feel we are together in sharing that love, for anyone to use a pathetic, human concept, expressed in language that humans have made in order to communicate with each other as an excuse to reserve that space for their own selfish use - is that of God? We don't even need to use language in our deepest communication with what we call God - God who knows the secret of our hearts...

So I'll put it simply:

Language is not of God.
Love is of God.


Proud to march with Pride⤴

from @ blethers




I'm no novice when it comes to marches, gatherings, protests and the like - from joining in a CND march when I was 16, the day after the fire that destroyed Glasgow's St Andrew's Halls (how do I remember that?) to organising marches in Dunoon in the 80s, picketing the pier at the American base on Holy Loch, marching through Clydebank, gathering in George Square; from producing a handful of protestors at Faslane to joining the huge anti-war march in Glasgow in the Blair era. I've walked miles in various linked causes, mostly in the rain. You'd think I might have had enough ...

But today I joined my first Pride march through Glasgow, as part of a group of Episcopalians stressing the point that there is a church where gay, transgender, bi and straight are welcomed, and where some of us are working for the day when anyone - of whatever sexual orientation - will be able to marry there if they want to. That's why I was there - a straight marcher among the most varied crowd I've ever been in - because the injustice of the current prevarication and and discrimination in church circles that means we're still wrangling over whether or not we'll join civil society in a bit of human decency.

What was it like? Well, to be honest, it was brilliant. I think a big part of it was the sheer exuberant joy of the thing. No-one seemed to be angry, resentful, pugnacious - though God knows many present must have had reason to be. The music, pumping from supermarket lorries bursting with people and sound-systems, was infectious (as long as you weren't standing right in front of it. Then it was merely deafening.) Dancing Queen at that volume? The Proclaimers? Great. Loved it. And as we marched from Glasgow Green through the city, people hung out of windows, took photos, waved, smiled. It was particularly gratifying when people clearly took photos of the banner shown above, gave the thumbs up, showed others that there was a real live priest in his black duds and all marching under a rainbow umbrella.

I wondered how it'd feel, being so much in the minority on this day, but to be honest it didn't feel like anything. I felt I was in a crowd of people, united in a common purpose. No-one could tell if I was straight or not; I couldn't have cared less. Everyone was friendly. It was a good place to be.

But it would have been lovely to have had one of our bishops marching beside me ...

Proud to march with Pride⤴

from @ blethers




I'm no novice when it comes to marches, gatherings, protests and the like - from joining in a CND march when I was 16, the day after the fire that destroyed Glasgow's St Andrew's Halls (how do I remember that?) to organising marches in Dunoon in the 80s, picketing the pier at the American base on Holy Loch, marching through Clydebank, gathering in George Square; from producing a handful of protestors at Faslane to joining the huge anti-war march in Glasgow in the Blair era. I've walked miles in various linked causes, mostly in the rain. You'd think I might have had enough ...

But today I joined my first Pride march through Glasgow, as part of a group of Episcopalians stressing the point that there is a church where gay, transgender, bi and straight are welcomed, and where some of us are working for the day when anyone - of whatever sexual orientation - will be able to marry there if they want to. That's why I was there - a straight marcher among the most varied crowd I've ever been in - because the injustice of the current prevarication and and discrimination in church circles that means we're still wrangling over whether or not we'll join civil society in a bit of human decency.

What was it like? Well, to be honest, it was brilliant. I think a big part of it was the sheer exuberant joy of the thing. No-one seemed to be angry, resentful, pugnacious - though God knows many present must have had reason to be. The music, pumping from supermarket lorries bursting with people and sound-systems, was infectious (as long as you weren't standing right in front of it. Then it was merely deafening.) Dancing Queen at that volume? The Proclaimers? Great. Loved it. And as we marched from Glasgow Green through the city, people hung out of windows, took photos, waved, smiled. It was particularly gratifying when people clearly took photos of the banner shown above, gave the thumbs up, showed others that there was a real live priest in his black duds and all marching under a rainbow umbrella.

I wondered how it'd feel, being so much in the minority on this day, but to be honest it didn't feel like anything. I felt I was in a crowd of people, united in a common purpose. No-one could tell if I was straight or not; I couldn't have cared less. Everyone was friendly. It was a good place to be.

But it would have been lovely to have had one of our bishops marching beside me ...

Proud to march with Pride⤴

from @ blethers




I'm no novice when it comes to marches, gatherings, protests and the like - from joining in a CND march when I was 16, the day after the fire that destroyed Glasgow's St Andrew's Halls (how do I remember that?) to organising marches in Dunoon in the 80s, picketing the pier at the American base on Holy Loch, marching through Clydebank, gathering in George Square; from producing a handful of protestors at Faslane to joining the huge anti-war march in Glasgow in the Blair era. I've walked miles in various linked causes, mostly in the rain. You'd think I might have had enough ...

But today I joined my first Pride march through Glasgow, as part of a group of Episcopalians stressing the point that there is a church where gay, transgender, bi and straight are welcomed, and where some of us are working for the day when anyone - of whatever sexual orientation - will be able to marry there if they want to. That's why I was there - a straight marcher among the most varied crowd I've ever been in - because the injustice of the current prevarication and and discrimination in church circles that means we're still wrangling over whether or not we'll join civil society in a bit of human decency.

What was it like? Well, to be honest, it was brilliant. I think a big part of it was the sheer exuberant joy of the thing. No-one seemed to be angry, resentful, pugnacious - though God knows many present must have had reason to be. The music, pumping from supermarket lorries bursting with people and sound-systems, was infectious (as long as you weren't standing right in front of it. Then it was merely deafening.) Dancing Queen at that volume? The Proclaimers? Great. Loved it. And as we marched from Glasgow Green through the city, people hung out of windows, took photos, waved, smiled. It was particularly gratifying when people clearly took photos of the banner shown above, gave the thumbs up, showed others that there was a real live priest in his black duds and all marching under a rainbow umbrella.

I wondered how it'd feel, being so much in the minority on this day, but to be honest it didn't feel like anything. I felt I was in a crowd of people, united in a common purpose. No-one could tell if I was straight or not; I couldn't have cared less. Everyone was friendly. It was a good place to be.

But it would have been lovely to have had one of our bishops marching beside me ...

Snuffing out the candles⤴

from @ blethers


 We are in the season of Epiphany. Today I took down the (moulting) tree, put the decorations back in the loft, looked out at the rain, noted that the gloom of early morning had moved imperceptibly into the gloom of early evening, and reflected. I reflected on the past fortnight or so, in which the raging energy brought on by the pronouncement of the Bishops (read back - the links are all there) had been dissipated in singing beautiful music and soothed by the magic of Christmas.

And I have been consolidating something I've known for a long time. It's a long time since I stopped thinking that the gospel accounts of the Nativity are literal truth, half a century or more since I realised that in fact the gospels are full of what a student of literature recognises as the hallmarks of a fictional account. (Think of all that direct speech, for starters). And over the years I've heard sermons that have, in their way, dealt with that - pointed out relevance, invited us to think. And I've thought.

Now, as the rain batters on my study window, I can see clearly what it does, all this magic. I don't care that the stories of the shepherds, the angels, the Magi (and Eliot's wonderful poem about them) - I don't care that they can't possibly be true in the way that it's true that I was born in Glasgow. I don't want them changed in any way, for they are perfect. They are perfect poems that contain a truth that inspires, and they are best absorbed as poems, enhanced by art and music and beauty.

And what does this truth inspire me to? I suppose in one way you could say that it inspired me to become a damned nuisance. It certainly knocked me off a comfortable path and set me climbing the spiritual equivalent of the Aonach Eagach, on a ridge walk that I'm still clambering along more than forty years later. It's exciting, it's bound only by trust and love and balance, and that's how I want it to remain.

What does not inspire is a set of rules. Dogma and authoritarianism aren't very thrilling either. Dry politicking within ecclesiastical structures leaves me cold, and people - men, usually - telling me what can and cannot be done because of history and prejudice will tend to set me off on yet another mountain, to sustain the metaphor.

So what about all the beauty and mystery and the stories that tell us of Love incarnate and inspire us to love justice and truth and our neighbours as ourselves? I can't imagine that our bishops, for example, haven't had a bit of that for themselves this Christmas. None of them, after all, is as old as I am - surely they're not blasé about the mysteries they dispense? Does none of it do something to rekindle the fire that, presumably, used to burn in them?

Because in the end, that 's what it does, this season we've just had. It rekindles a fire. Dangerous element, fire - but warming and wonderful. Gives you courage. Gives you passion. I have heard at least one of our bishops preach with passion - but a new image has just presented itself to me, and it seems horribly apt.

Bishop's mitre as candle snuffer.

Icon, anyone?