Thursday 14 January 2010

The Core of the Matter

The Bishop of Grimsby David Rossdale offers his sermon given at a funeral of a priest, Ed Core, who died recently. I did not know the man; I have only attended a few services recently where his name has been read among remembering the recently died. He was, incidentally, gay with a partner although the published sermon does not mention this.

The sermon, given on 9 January at a church I walked past yesterday (13 January), has interested me on other grounds. There are phrases and part assertions that I found agreeable.

...he was about 'new beginnings' and 'new beginnings' are the stuff of relationships.

This reminded me of my recent service at the Hull Unitarians - old beginnings and new beginnings - and allows the concept to be developed in a slightly different direction. My sermon on 3 January was about coming into a new relationship with that church and about first impressions and perceptions, and working around both religious and the now more standard secular meaning of Epiphany.

Then there is some more that is agreeable:

An essential feature to relationships therefore has to be faith - a belief in the other, a two-way process of engagement which lays claim to the future. ...We discover that good relationships are more concerned with who we are becoming, than with who we have been.

I think this is the basis of faith: faith not as doctrines or beliefs, but faith as trust, and as what you do after saying sorry and actually going on afterwards (and with some thanks).

I find that we make the Christian faith very complicated by wrapping it in formulas and practice, yet in truth the Christian faith is very simple - it is about a God who wants to make and sustain relationships with us - with you and me.

Naturally I'd want to agree with this sentiment (I'd have to reword it: the meaning of God is in the making and sustaining of relationships), but then, in the end, I cannot agree with the formulas and the practice involved that follow on after simply saying "it is about a God".

We can all travel easy with formulas and practices when going through Anglican liturgies, but the boundaries have been coming inwards for some time and I specifically now do not repeat the formulas and I vary my practice inside Anglicanism from others - no longer standing at the Gospel (standing signifies recognising 'presence'), never saying the creed (dogma I do not believe, nor am I a member of the community), staying sat at the Eucharist (standing signifies recognising the coming of 'presence') where I listen but no longer participate. This is because I have decided that although I practice Christianity in such a freelance way, I am not to be considered as a Christian (if I was) and I prefer this to be so.

In fact, relationship wise, the most important words are "also with you". I always say those.

Again I would agree with this below, but I wouldn't go any further than this:

In this sense, faith really isn’t about religion – it is about being human.

However, the suffragan bishop has to go on after this to refer back to the formula. OK, he might also believe it, taken as given, but this is the difference, really: I don't and my approach is a refocus away from a salvation religion about a man to the essentials about what it involves and is about.

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