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Tony Grist

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Our Sunday Morning Service [Jan. 5th, 2009|10:06 am]
Tony Grist
Ailz was never going to let me get out of going to church yesterday morning- though- out of habit-  I whinged and grumped about it. Our local church is within walking distance- a lofty, shabby, late Victorian building- far too roomy for its present congregation- with a lovely, east window showing the soldiers and civilian workers of the Great War grouped around Jesus in a field.

People were welcoming. There weren't that many of them and they were elderly- but, then, so are we. Is it permitted these days to draw attention to people with mental disabilities? Well, there were at least three of them there- including a sweet  couple I'm used to seeing around the streets- who were acting as ushers. So this is a church that not only accepts people from the margins but gives them positions of responsibility. I like that.

A woman- who I think is one of the churchwardens- got us up to speed on parish history. They had a male vicar who was suffering from depression. He was replaced by a female vicar who never gelled with the congregation- and left suddenly and without explanation. So now they're without a priest. The guy who took yesterday's service is someone I was with at theological college. I don't think he recognised me, but I think he recognised Ailz- probably from the news stories several years back which characterised her as a "nude witch". Nice guy, bluff and ready, but actually quite shy. He preached rather a good sermon on Hardy's "Darkling Thrush".

That nude witch business is always going to be an obstacle to me putting a dog collar round my neck again.  Most evangelicals- and they're the dominating force in the Cof E these days- see Wicca as evil. I gave a talk once in a local theological college- about Wicca- and  heard afterwards that the students were plotting to reconsecrate the building I'd defiled.  I googled the Bishop of Manchester and his suffragans yesterday and sized up the haircuts and thought- no, you're not people I'm going to be able to get alongside.

Because I'm happy to be the lost sheep who returns, but not if it means renouncing my Pagan past.  In my theology, Christ is a god among gods- cousin to Hercules, Dionysos, Horus, John Barleycorn- a good myth, but not the only one. Also in my theology there's the Goddess- and Binah sits higher on the tree of life than Tiphareth.

Put it this way: I'm a superstitious, medieval christian. And I gravitate to the Lady Chapel.

But I'm wandering. I think one ought to go to one's local church and be part of one's local community- and I'm happy to find that our local church is a place I can feel at home in.  I didn't really want to be jumping into the car and driving to a strange town every Sunday morning. The shabbiness is what I'm used to- and I like it how the lay people are keeping things going in spite of everything. I admire the doggedness. It's very English- in an Ealing comedy sort of a way- low key, unshowy, good-humoured. I'd like to think this is a place where Ailz and I- without drawing attention to ourselves- might actually get to be of some use.  
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: pondhopper
2009-01-05 01:22 pm (UTC)
Put it this way: I'm a superstitious, medieval christian. And I gravitate to the Lady Chapel.

I like that definition very much.

And perhaps you've found your spot closer to home than you thought.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-05 01:46 pm (UTC)
I think I probably have.
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[User Picture]From: haikujaguar
2009-01-05 01:48 pm (UTC)
I have often entertained fancies about all the Pagan gods and goddesses having bemused discussions about their transformation into Catholic saints. It's one of the things I love about Catholicism in particular.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-05 01:50 pm (UTC)
That would be a good thing to write. And you- with your gift for dialogue- would be just the person to do it.
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[User Picture]From: upasaka
2009-01-05 02:11 pm (UTC)
It really sounds lovely and appealing.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-05 02:37 pm (UTC)
I don't think you'd altogether approve the music. There's a robed choir- so they are trying- but the organist hit a lot of bum notes.
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From: mamadar
2009-01-05 02:30 pm (UTC)
You're a superstitious, medieval *English* Christian. That's the best kind. :)

We sang a charming anthem by Peter Warlock yesterday, with a fifteenth(?)-century text, "Where Riches Is Everlastingly", and I was charmed all over again by that medieval English theology, the homeliness of it, as Julian of Norwich would say.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-05 02:43 pm (UTC)
The wise simplicity of those medieval texts ought to be the easiest thing to imitate. In fact there's nothing harder.
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[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2009-01-05 03:15 pm (UTC)

go to one's local church and be part of one's local community

One key aspect of Christianity's strength was always the sense of commuinty it can engender within a group. If you have found a place that offers the possibility of these feelings of inclusion - Go for it, say I.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-05 04:50 pm (UTC)

Re: go to one's local church and be part of one's local community

I took the Christian community for granted when I was a kid. Now- knowing what a rare thing community is- I value it a whole lot more. I certainly didn't find any community worth the name in Paganism.
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[User Picture]From: litchick
2009-01-05 04:00 pm (UTC)
I think that's why I'm having trouble leaving the church - it's the community.

We have a little of that scrappiness here in America in our Episcopal Churches. I think that's another reason why I keep hanging on, in spite of the fact that there's so much infighting.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-05 04:56 pm (UTC)
Community can be stifling- but I think I've got to a stage where I'm pretty good at resisting- or simply ignoring- the pressure to conform.
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[User Picture]From: sorenr
2009-01-05 04:00 pm (UTC)
I like your description of the place. Given how scalding you can be about religion that rubs you (and, I suspect, me as well) the wrong way, I feel very convinced that the warmth with which you depict the service and congregation is a pretty good indication that you've found a place where you can both get some sense of je ne sais quoi without compromising what you stand for and what you stood for.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-05 09:38 pm (UTC)
I have this love/hate relationship with religion. I thought I'd outgrown it, but it seems not. So here we go again...
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From: sculptruth
2009-01-05 04:55 pm (UTC)
That sounds lovely. I admire your conviction in remaining true to yourself, as I feel it's important. But I really believe in an actual community, and what you've found sounds promising. I look forward to hearing more!

It's funny, I don't know that I would trust American churches to have the kind of open mindedness I believe in. I tried a few times, and my grandmother has all but given up for herself. The chip on my shoulder about Christianity has a definite American flavor.
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[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2009-01-05 05:08 pm (UTC)
And yet it was an American Anglican community in New Hampshire that elected Gene Robinson a Bishop. There's hope there somewhere.

Jesus said; Where two or three are gathered together in my name - there am I also. It's up to us to decide what 'in my name' means. I think.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2009-01-05 06:05 pm (UTC)
Welcome home. That is to say, I suspect you've found a community that will welcome you and your personal experience of Christianity on your terms.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-06 10:14 am (UTC)
I hope so. At the moment it all seems rather exciting.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2009-01-05 06:12 pm (UTC)
with a lovely, east window showing the soldiers and civilian workers of the Great War grouped around Jesus in a field.


Oh, nice.

In my theology, Christ is a god among gods- cousin to Hercules, Dionysos, Horus, John Barleycorn- a good myth, but not the only one. Also in my theology there's the Goddess- and Binah sits higher on the tree of life than Tiphareth.

My mother has for years described herself as a pantheistic Jew. It always causes the other person to blink, which is probably good for them.

It's very English- in an Ealing comedy sort of a way- low key, unshowy, good-humoured.

Doesn't sound like a bad match to me.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-06 10:17 am (UTC)
I don't know quite how I'd describe myself. The noun would probably be "Christian"- but "pagan" and "Goddess worshipping" would have to be among the adjectives.
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[User Picture]From: ideealisme
2009-01-05 06:39 pm (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed the service. Nosy question: why did you reject Wicca in the end?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-06 10:26 am (UTC)
We didn't really reject it, we slid out of it. We were running our own coven- and it was mentally and emotionally exhausting. At the end of a period of about seven years we were commissioned to write a book- which we did- and after that it seemed as though we'd said all we had to say on the subject, so we wound the coven up- and took a long rest.

But once an initiate, always an initiate. I don't see any problem in being a both a Christian and a Pagan.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2009-01-05 07:10 pm (UTC)
I like your theology. It makes sense. And after all, the Commandment doesn't say "There are no other gods so stop believing in them", it says "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

Congratulations on having found a comfortable place to be.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-06 10:28 am (UTC)
"All the Gods are One God and all the Goddesses are One Goddess."

Besides, I never paid much attention to all that huffing and puffing in the Old Testament. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoe_1418
2009-01-05 08:10 pm (UTC)
Wonderful.

I'm looking forward to visiting St. Andrew's, the neighborhood church in the neighborhood I'm moving to later this month.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-06 10:28 am (UTC)
I look forward to comparing notes. :)
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2009-01-05 09:55 pm (UTC)
While I was sitting in our own candlelit church last night, handbell choir just behind me in the choirloft, orchestra in front, I thought about you and Ailz and hoped you had a good experience at church yesterday, and it does seem that you did. I'm glad, glad you are back in a place that is a part of who you are--in whatever way you and the church come together again, this time it will be a personal communion and very rich, I think.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-06 10:30 am (UTC)
Thank you, Jackie.

I needed this. It felt like we'd been resting long enough- and it was time we had an "adventure".

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From: (Anonymous)
2009-01-05 10:47 pm (UTC)
wow! this is interesting stuff. keep on posting..
Jenny
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2009-01-06 10:30 am (UTC)
Oh, I will :)

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