This week has been spent in Swanwick!
Why, you might ask?
Well, it was the venue for the Diocesan Clergy Conference and, I have to tell you, spending four days exclusively alongside (I am not sure, as yet, I could say ‘in solidarity with’) 350 clergy is an ‘unusual’ experience. Our task was to ‘Reimagine Faith.’ This (for me) is inextricably bound up with reimagining church, for the church is Jesus’ appointed body charged with providing a foretaste, here on earth, of the kingdom in heaven. If the church is supposed to represent the qualities of the kingdom of heaven, in reimagining church, we must surely start by contemplating heaven? No easy task and one in which we are bound to fail, but nevertheless………….
Scripture exists to stimulate our imaginings (as every ‘good’ Jesuit knows). Colossians 3, 12-17, one of the lectionary readings suggested for Mothering Sunday (but – piece of advice – don’t be tempted to extend the reading to include verse 13, at least if you want to get out of church alive!) might be particularly helpful, for it points towards an all loving church journeying towards ‘perfect harmony,’ mirroring the Divine, in it’s internal relationships:.
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (NRSV)
The lectionary takes the position that the qualities described in this passage are the qualities associated with ‘motherhood;’ feminine qualities.
So in reimaging both faith and the church my biggest hope is for a total resurrection of the feminine, the denying in ourselves of the tendency to act in line with – to foster within ourselves and our congregations – the alpha male stereotype (irrespective of gender), not simply in terms of the episcopacy, but in the way we conduct ourselves and, I need to remind myself that ‘the change starts with me.’
And, that’s what I discovered in Swanwick!
My hope for the Diocese of Oxford and it’s churches: an increasingly ‘feminine church.’