Rector’s Reflections 28th June 2009

It is always risky to rely on rumours. Our political masters have just had another lesson to that effect, though one doubts they will learn much from it. More pertinent for us today is the matter of Peter and Paul.

Each had am image of the other that was none too flattering.

Peter thought of Paul as an un-reconstructed traditionalist Jew, with a record of persecuting Christians, a zealot who had approved of the stoning of Stephen. Stories of his conversion had filtered to Jerusalem, but they were contradictory and unreliable.

Paul thought of Peter in similar terms. Two faced, he had been at the same time a reforming Christian, and a traditionalist Jew. No intellectual, Peter, in the eyes of the cerebral Paul, was given to emotional outbursts and unreliable behaviour. Not a good mix, and when they were together a bit of an explosive combination.

They each went their own way for many years, their paths seldom crossing, and each doing the work of establishing the church in different parts of the empire among different peoples.

Eventually however they both gravitated to Rome. Arriving at different times and for different reasons, they are locked together in history as co-founders of the Christian community in that city. Each brought their own insight, the combination of which became the foundation of Christianity in the western empire.

Diversity of insight and breadth of community is the lifeblood of the church. Whenever a Christian community becomes convinced it has all the answers, it begins to decline. Whenever a Christian community separates itself from the mainstream of the faith, it becomes narrow, obsessive and irrelevant. Whenever a Christian community focuses on itself it loses the will to live.

We can be thankful that our patrons were people of vision, people of hope and people of prayer. They gave us a blueprint of the way forward in times of adversity.

Rector’s Reflections 21st June 2009

Our annual Synod affords the opportunity to discuss the policy and objectives of the church, with a view to making the future better than the past. Needless to say that does not always happen, but we live in hope.

The synod of our 150th year has significance if only for that number. There have not been 150 synods, but the diocese has grown over that time to be a significant player in Queensland. Now that we have completed our cathedral we should stand ready to apply our minds and prayers to matters other than buildings. Promoting the Gospel in a contemporary manner should be high on our agenda.

The existence of Synod underlines the role of the members of the church. The members of the church have a significant majority of the seats in Synod Should they care to do so they can make significant policy contributions to the future shape of the church and its actions.

But we don’t seem to be able to do it.  The interface between church and community is problematic. All of us are members of both. We are church members on Sunday and whenever we are on site. We are members of the community whenever we are at the shops or the library or the service station etc. But having a foot in both camps does not enable us to walk on two feet. We hop along on one foot, depending on where we are at the time.

The lack of confidence will show itself again at Synod.

I am circulating around the parish a document on marketing. It relates specifically to the Camp Hill parish which has changed its name to Eastern Hills. Members of the Parish Council all have a copy and it is available from the office. If we can generate a similar document from our own resources we could put it on our parish website.

I know that Marketing is a term we don’t usually associate with the church. More’s the pity. There is a distinction between marketing and selling. Marketing is about establishing a profile and positioning ones product. If you cannot be seen then you cannot make the sale.

We must pray for the synod that its members will take the promotion of the Gospel as their first concern.

Rector’s Reflections 14 June 2009

Tomorrow the Australian Church remembers Evelyn Underhill [1875-1941] English spiritual writer and pacifist.

Born at the height of the Victorian era and living into the darkest days of the second world war, her life spans the apogee and the decline of the British Empire. She was writing at a time of huge spiritual interest at home and abroad, when the church, in all its forms, was influential with governments and formative of public opinion. Her greatest work Mysticism was published in 1911 and is still in print.

Culture constantly changes. The 20th Century did great damage to the spiritual content of public discourse. The popular culture turned away from “high-mindedness” to become self absorbed and cynical. Interest in spirituality waned as the trappings of the consumer economy replaced the joys of the arts and the life of the community. The Underhill’s of this world were forgotten. But the trauma of two world wars, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and the fascination with technology all are passing moments. A new reality is emerging in which these events are put into perspective. They are givens in the new reality, but they are not the context in which that reality is experienced.

The context is spiritual. Without the spiritual sense of who and what we are the rest is meaningless. The spiritual writers of every age draw attention to it, interpreting again what we already know for a new age. Underhill was writing for the Edwardians. Today’s writers address the post-modernist age. The former had a sense of certainty we cannot know. For us all is contingent, provisional, tentative.

Yet Underhill spent the whole of her life searching for the core of meaning. She was looking for the God whom she knew was there, and whom she glimpsed often enough to keep in touch with. The superficial certainty of the Edwardian age did not mask the deep mystery of God, did not seduce her to think she finally knew it all. She would have understood the postmodernist angst.

We have much for which to thank the spiritual writers. From St John the evangelist, St Augustine, St Francis of Assisi, Thomas á Kempis, John  Wesley and Evelyn Underhill, we have learned how to relate to the God who surrounds us, love us, and sets us free.