“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean” (Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass)
About twenty years ago there was a Christening during the service at my local church, with many family and guests in attendance. Some were familiar with church and others were irregular attenders and were unsure about what to say and do. One person stood out in the congregation: it was a young lady who stood absolutely still, looking fierce. When it came to the creed, in which we say “I believe in God, the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth…” she folded her arms and shut her mouth tightly, resolutely refusing to participate. Her partner, standing beside her, recited the words from the service book indifferently and, after a few sentences, she turned to him and asked “do you really believe this?” He gave a non-committal shrug, whereupon she furiously turned her back on him in disgust.
I wanted to speak to her after the service but, unsurprisingly, she left as soon as she could. I wanted to say “thank you”.
I wanted to say thank you for taking the words seriously; for understanding that they have an important meaning. For understanding that if you spoke them, you had to believe them.
I teach engineering at Loughborough University and it constantly surprises me how many students with no apparent faith ask me about faith. It seems to me that there are many people who are not necessarily believers, but nevertheless are searching for meaning: searching for a way to make sense of the world.
We are living in strange times. Politicians, nationally and internationally, seem to be peculiarly given to doublespeak (as George Orwell would say); like Humpty Dumpty, their words mean one thing today and something else tomorrow. We constantly hear people assert that information presented by their perceived opponent is fake news, which can either mean it is not true or simply that they don’t agree with it. It is becoming increasingly difficult to trust meaning in our public discourse and we are now discovering that social media, which should be a force for good, can be easily manipulated making it difficult to discern what is true and what is false.
Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” There is too much in that simple statement to unpack in a short pastoral letter, but in this increasingly confusing, post-truth world, there is still a source of truth: it is the words of Jesus, and that is what Christians believe.
I know that some people reading this will recite the creed (“I believe…”) with confidence, others with indifference, some may not have noticed it during the service, and some, like the Christening guest above, cannot speak it at all. I have often thought about that furious young lady and wondered whether she is still furious. Strangely, I think that because she believed the meaning of the words was important, even if she did not believe the words, then she could well come to God. I think that like so many people I meet, she was looking for meaning. She was looking for truth. I really hope she has found it.
Church warden, St. Mary’s Wymeswold
If you want to find the words of the whole creed type “The Apostles’ Creed” into Google.
ence, they are known as the Paschal mystery, and you will sometimes see Jesus referred to as the Paschal Lamb.
There is a new waiting time emerging in recent years in the Church, known as interregnum. Literally meaning between leaders, the term also applies to kings and elected parliaments. For our joint benefice, interregnum is the time between the vacancy and appointment of our Priest in Charge. Believe it or not, this has lasted for over a year (does it seem longer?), a period including two Lents and one Advent!
I will leave you to reflect on the reasons for our extended interregnum. Is it that God is calling fewer people to become priests, or has the bar of priestly duties been raised to the point where many are deterred from following their calling?
For us, the interregnum waiting time is almost over. It has, at times, reminded me of the 1953 Samuel Becket play, waiting for Godot, in which two characters wait for the mysterious Godot, who never appears. Why has the wait been so long? Have we been praying enough?
Now is also a time for us to reflect. How has this waiting time affected us? The Church in our joint benefice has continued over this period using a considerable number of volunteers. How has this affected you? How comfortable have you been in your role? Do you feel you have been called to help, or have you helped because no one else was called? Never has the phrase ‘Many hands make light work’ felt more appropriate (read John 8:12).
The waiting time is almost over. Please come to Holy Trinity Church, Barrow, on Wednesday 10 July at 7pm to witness Clive Watts’ Licencing as our Priest in Charge. Also, please continue to pray that we will soon find our House for Duty Minister.
With every blessing,