This must have taken him ages.
I’m currently reading through parts of the book Mission Shaped Questions, edited by Stephen Croft.
Chapter 11 by Martin Warner. It is no secret that that society in Britain is becoming increasingly unchurched – that is, there are increasing numbers of people who have not had any significant contact with a church, except minimally at school. This means, he claims, that society has little understanding of the concept or experience of God. Where then should Christians start when attempting to communicate with those from outside the church?
Our starting point as Christians seeking to invite our contemporaries to explore the enterprise of prayer and spirituality is no longer the divine, but the human, that which, as Christians, we believe is made in the image of God. (p175)
As humanity is made in God’s image, there are aspect of himself in all of us. We must then seek to find what it is that gives is, as humans, authenticity in our humanity – experiences which counter societal individualism to present something ‘good’ and ‘true’.
He gives a couple of examples. Everyone sees the need for a holiday, otherwise they would burn out. Often people go somewhere relaxing or different – we need a rest. This, Warner claims, is a human experience of Sabbath – setting aside time to recharge and reconnect with ourselves and families in the midst of a busy world.
Another example is that of grief or trauma. Everyone recognises that a time for healing is required, and there is a need to ‘get over’ whatever it was. This healing is often done through talking. In almost every Christian body, community and talking is central. Community, fellowship and communion with God and others brings healing is small and large situations and points to the healing from God.
There was one great quote at the end of the chapter, when Warner had turned to talk about the sense of spirituality created by art, and the fact that we as people are attracted by beauty. Often artists attempt to communicate things that are not easily put into words and that point beyond themselves. Warner was opening an exhibition at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Right opposite St Paul’s across the river is the Tate Modern Art gallery which draws thousands of visitors every week. He was challenged by a reported who claimed that art galleries are the cathedrals of today.
It was an interesting point but not persuasive. We at St Paul’s are fascinated by the possibilities that the Millennium Bridge opens up between our two buildings. But what we also find interesting is the fact that galleries are filled with images all looking for a narrative; we have a narrative and are confident and content to allow images to illuminate and enrich it. (p183-4)
So – the thrust of that chapter was about identifying aspects of humanity that resonate with and authenticate our lives, to ask why they resonate, and to point to God. The possibilities for fresh expressions are endless.
On our travels we visited what seemed to be the coffee capital of the world – Portland and Seattle on the west coast of the USA. These towns are full of independent coffeeshops, with individual atmospheres – there are also loads of chain coffeshops like Starbucks, which started in Seattle, but we didn’t go in any of those.
One thing we loved, apart from the great coffee was the Latte Art. This is the process of drawing a picture into any steamed milk based coffee simply by carefully pouring the steamed milk over the espresso. There’s a video of a barista from a coffee shop in Chicago here. We were quite impressed at the designs they came out with. It was almost a shame to drink the coffee. I say almost, because, it was great coffee. (best mocha I’ve ever tasted at Stumptown Coffee Roasters in the Belmont district or Portland, OR. Their standard americanos and filter coffees are great too)
It is certainly transitory art – why all this effort for a bit of art that will be gone in 20 minutes. We got thinking that God must love this – taking pride and being creative for something that will be gone so soon. We loved it too. An equivalent mught be the story of the cleaner who makes an effort to sweep the floor under the mat in a room where nobody goes. God notices, and these things add colour and flavour to the world. Keep it up independent coffee shops of the north west!
PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. There are no rules. Everything is anonymous. People simply write their secret, as creatively as they like and send it in. It is worth checking out.
I don’t want to get into a discussion of whether this is art or not – some of the entries have artistic skill and some do not. But they seem to come from deep within people.
The project was started ust to see what would happen, I don’t think the organiser was expecting such deep and profound longings. Sometimes people send in hopes – “I wish I was thinner”, sometimes thanks –
“To the man who held my hand and made sure my son was ok when I totalled my car 9 years ago, I’m sorry I didn’t astk your name but I will never forget your kindness”,
but most of the time the secrets are confessions, guilts, hurts, or longings that they dare not tell anyone else. For example
“I would like to know who it was, so I could start hating the right person, and not me”.
“By the time you get this, I will already have made a HUGE mistake”
“I’m afraid I won’t be strong enough to raise my son to be be the man that his father failed to be”
“Even though I know my way around this town, sometimes I get so lonely that I ask strangers for directions, just to talk to someone.”
I own the first postsecret book, and I get the weekly blog roundup of the new postcards. Most of them make me feel sad. Telling someone your secrets is theraputic, and this blog seems to be doing the job of an external spiritual higher power. Are these prayers – I think some of them are, but without the expectation of them being answered. How do we address such emotions such as the fear of being a failing father, overcoming self-loathing, letting people in to see the real ‘you’? This project airs these questions, but it does not answer them. It cannot answer them, they are too big. Wheredo we find the answers and the acceptance and the forgiveness for these things?