I should say: I'm blogging for the first time from a vicarage having been earlier to a curatage (if there is such a word). In other words, I write as I visit the visitors.
What do people make of these days, especially the 95 per cent who do not regularly attend churches and 90 per cent who do not at all...
I have a suggestion. The one service that some of the five per cent attend (maybe more) is that, I've suggested, of the Unversal Baby.
Incidentally, that concept is a problem for me, as I don't believe there is a Universal anything, but most people are considerably more realist than me and easily extend their own cultural concepts outwards (and in any case they are grasped darkly and rarely expresssed).
These days - Christmas to New Year - are perhaps for nearly everyone a bit like Anglicans and similar arriving at Christ the King at the end of the liturgical year. You go through yonks of Ordinary Time, this last year longer than most, and then you hit a kind of climax before - before the change.
Of course there is the Pagan Yuletide, and here we are, and we do some greenery and sing some greenery songs, but I suggest that the population is somewhat more secular than this.
Even a secular population marks the clock. We've always marked the clock, and did so more precisely from the industrial revolution onwards. Now people tell the time with a precision that is laughable, I even have in my head estimated times of arrivals for non-esential appiontments - like today's.
But we still mark the seasons, the clocks going forward and back, the years, and bigger chunks of time - like when everyone counted in the New Millennium a year early. And this is the time at the end of the year, a time to pause, and think back. New Year itself is too brief - it is already forward moving. It's another day, a day before days come that are rolling again.
Time now subconsciously slows down. Physicists may tell us it really does. Frighten a man, attach an atomic clock (before the fear), and the time goes slower than atomic clocks attached to bored people. The experiment has been done (and the intriguing suggestion is that subjectivity is not subjective at all, that individual perception really is key to the physical world - and why I dislike the idea of Universal Anything).
So perhaps now time just does slow down, at the peak of the year, prior to its turn. This is the moment of obligations put to one side, and the obligations being home based and personal. They should be more agreeable.
What rituals do secular humans attach to such a point, the equivalent of Christ the King? They relax out, and do things in the mode of entertainment and homely duties. They do what they might regard as time-wasting at other times. Just go for a walk: wrap up and sit and watch on some seat before coming back.
Of course some families, those who care for others, those who are angry and annoyed with life, get no sense of change, and they also get no sense of slowing and refreshment.
Is this slowing really like Christ the King? Not really: it's just the year end. But, again, like the Universal Baby, here we are projecting on to totems, and there can be a totem here. It is that we are, and we are, and we move through time consciously and self-consciously, and meaningfully, and it involves a lot of projection, and projection can fall on to one person when persons are involved.
I think this connection is tenuous; the bigger connection is this: that after all this time there is arrival. We have arrived, and having arrived we slow down for a period. We mark the year having come to its end, and all that time passed by.
Soon we watch fireworks and soon time speeds up again with obligations. Even the unemployed have obligations.
I have no pictures to illustrate my point on this computer, and indeed very soon I will help eat some of the fried leftovers of the vicarage I am blogging from; I could even have eaten at the curatage. Isn't this so very generous from others for a person writing material like this? I think so very much.
“One in Love” – Evening Prayer on Essex Pride Day - Sunday 23 June at 6pm Ascension Parish Church, Maltese Road, Chelmsford CM1 2PB Join Changing Attitude (Chelmsford) for a short act of worship to coincide ...