Monday, 20 September 2010

Saying Bye Bye

The Unitarian church in Hull had a bus trip to Whitby, to see its church and the place. However, although I was down to go, worries about moving kept me awake and I wanted to be at home. So I didn't go. I was pleased that in addition to marking the change of season, and peace days, the visiting minister from Sheffield commented on the Pope's visit and listed what she found "disturbing", repeating the word a number of times. I thought that was rather good. Also, in that context she commented on the use of the text John 14:6 where, she said, words are put into the mouth of Jesus (New RSV):

6 Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me...

And she said she does not agree with that verse. This is what I like about the Unitarians. No sort of resting on where this verse originated and all the hermeneutics, so that the illusion is given of agreement when other forms of communal religious believing are accepted. Yes, the words are planted, but also a straight 'do not agree' - and that is also how I approach verses like that. I attended the evening Anglican service, a communion, kept largely silent and sat (I don't stand for the Gospel, nor do I stand or say the creed) and I altered a few sung words to the hymns.

In that place my farewell piece for the St. Mary's Parish magazine has been accepted, and the editor said she'd add an image of my iconic basket. Buying these once a year from Aldi, I sent the perfect image as had appeared on the website when they were available previously. So here is that little article and I'll add the basket here too.

I am leaving; I am only going as far as to live in Hull, but as we all know the Humber Bridge is a Humber Barrier. I will be living deep in Sutton-on-Hull, if only a street from where I lived between 1964 and 1985.

During my time coming to this church I formatted some archives of around 1972 and 1973 on to the church website when the local writing was convinced that the Humber Bridge would turn Barton into a suburb of Hull. It didn't happen like that, thanks to the tolls.

We moved to New Holland since 1994, which was a cheaper Hull substitute for my mother (as in less on the house but having to pay the bridge instead), but I have been coming to this church from about 2002. I started coming at first just in the evenings, often to turn up outside and find the service had been earlier and everyone had gone home. I did try the Anglican one 30 seconds from my front door, but the chap there once preached about the sinful people of New Holland. He was accurate (and some of my next door neighbours were atrocious), but he made all sorts of aspersions and theological assumptions I didn't want to hear. I have been four times I think, maybe three, and never been to Barrow even once. So I am a good example of a parish boundary crosser. And in 2004 I started coming more seriously after I gave up on the Unitarians.

I did give this Anglican approach a serious effort, including making a mention of seeking further ministry, and following it up later but then realising I could not make those "promises" that the new curate repeated a number of times. My postmodern attempt of doing Christianity had failed, and I just rediscovered my liberal theological position. I was also frustrated that I'd taken only one service within an Easter week, and tried some imaginative prayers, but felt the whole thing over constrained and clerical, which is all to do with the business of clergy being substitutes for a bishop not being present and all that hierarchy stuff. Despite an appreciation of symbolism, I have slid down the candle completely and prefer liberal equality.

So it was nearly two years ago now that I stopped taking communion. I went to the communion rail when Kathy started being a priest, but only to stand there to personally affirm her full ministry as a general concept. I refuse communion equally from male and female.

Nevertheless I must say how I will always appreciate the pastoral support given to me and Elena too as my mother's dementia increased and life became very difficult and stressful, and one learnt about betrayal within families. There were real moments there where I searched around for principles of proper behaviour, and drew on all that the church offered for support. That encountered reality is an unforgettable deposit, as indeed there are still consequences of all that happened back in 2006. This is where faith groups are so valuable: in human support and patterns of belief, and also in the wisdom of the available elders.

I did find a role particularly in presenting to the In Depth Group some theological material (some based on my contemporary theology MA) but it increasingly convinced me of my own marginality regarding Anglican beliefs, and I was also asked to take a service at the Unitarians. They had moved on from my last encounters, and I'd also missed a whole ministry there (probably fortunately); but although nothing is problem free its creedless base simply suits best my way of thinking.

Then the opportunity arose to get rehoused, and the value of that (as a separated unable-bodied person with no offspring) was too great to miss. I'm not much of a poker player when it comes to solicitors and gambling my living place on the estate of my late mother, even though that action continues according to my new understanding of 'family'.

I am still friendly with Elena, who now appears fairly regularly in virtual form on the Internet. She tells me that with my move back to Sutton, my life has gone "full circle" as if it has come to its natural end. It is an interesting thought, though I hope something new might come from there. If forced to give up my car, New Holland becomes a trap anyway.

I will be coming over the bridge from Hull, because I still have some appointments on this side of the river. It's just that these won't take place on Sundays and probably later on if Wednesdays, so you might see me in the streets of Barton but, in the main, I'll be gone. So it is bye again to the Anglicans. In saying that I'd just like to thank everyone for their friendship since I made this church an adopted home.

Adrian Worsfold

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