The virtual world is a seductive world, but one of imaginings and it is much better to see the person in the flesh. A few weeks back I was travelling to Great Hucklow and thought, "I know I'll go and see Rachel," but Rachel was going to Wales. So the same thought again because I was going to Manchester.
It was a bit risky because, just as for Hucklow, I didn't get to actual sleep the night before and I was 'running on empty'. But I never quite know how sleep works. I was running at the limit though, with a journey to Manchester, a longer one than expected from Manchester to say hello, and then the one back home.
Rachel says we have known each other online for four years, and that's long that I thought. Changing virtual to real, from drawn to 3D, she's smaller than I expected and the 'Spencer nose' that I thought photographs had hidden ain't that bad after all! I bet she thought I emerged taller and fatter than she had expected. Hello to husband Henryk and daughters too, and interesting to have his take on things.
Rachel was keen to ask how my Ministry Inquiry Day had gone, and I felt I wasn't giving very good or full answers. I was sort of half in thought about it. She asked about congregations with different faith emphases in, as ours have a Buddhist-Hindu orientated chap in, who took a service at Lincoln last Sunday, I said, and there was the Iranian Muslim. Most are around liberal Christian to religious humanist. "Oh cool," she said. And I said about the pathetic level of attendance.
Rachel is evangelical and I recalled the live chat we once had as she imagined a green garage door - I'd neither a garage nor a green door, I said. "She was trying to convert me," she said, and one day a garage and green door might be significant. That was a bit of fun.
I said how long ago I coupled her with another blogger, Jody, but now see them as quite different. Rachel seems freer and more invidualistic, and she does have a charismatic background. What is more interesting is that she had a reawakened faith in 2007 and has gone like a train since, so is now a curate only four years later. In contrast I've been mainly Unitarian but Anglican at times now over a long period of time.
Now Rachel is different again. I said, "your eyes popped out" when she went to the United States, observed The Episcopal Church" and the necessary social action in the setting of no welfare state, and she'd engaged with its indaba. She wonders what the Americans will think of our less busy less active Anglican churches when they come over. To have the liberal influence she sometimes thinks, she said to me, 'Come back GAFCON, all is forgiven', but she is well on from GAFCON, having struggled and left the kind of evangelicalism that said a woman cannot be an ordained minister.
We talked about other bloggers, in some detail, and the coincidence of doing this and not getting another job. Lesley, she rather "lets it all hang out". She asked of Jonathan Hagger, "Is he the one with spiky hair?" I said, "Hey? That's a picture of John Henry Newman - he's given him a punk hairstyle. I mean, that'll offend some people." She didn't know what John Henry Newman looks like when young. And later, I said, he is a nice elderly looking gentleman. So many bloggers cannot get beyond being a curate (I don't think Rachel will have any trouble), even a hard line evangelical one. I said churches function on internal conflict, but when it comes to appearances they don't want controversy. Rachel had a run in with Erika, and I've had several, and now she and Lesley were arguing. Lesley's article in The Guardian did look very secular to the outsider, we agreed. What's online and what we know becomes its own gossip when one to one in the flesh.
We agreed that there seems to be a blogging clique (though actually Rachel's is slightly different from mine), and I said some years ago when June Butler visited then I was almost told to join the crew going to see Jack Parkes, someone who was directly told his blogging prevented him being a Lutheran minister. I said no; I hardly knew them. This time June Butler visiting brought a number of them together, and she had a secret dinner with the Bishop Alan Wilson. I had a few thoughts expressed about him, in relation to them, and he is supposed to be against the Covenant but he chooses all his words carefully.
I like Rachel because she writes all this theology stuff and she continues to race around all these writings. I said one essay was very compressed, and she said there is almost a style of essay writing that she hooked on to in order to get the marks. This was Henryk's point: all this complex language and what use is it. You can't preach it to the ordinary people. I said about the death of theology in preaching I hear. We have people in Hull from all around; the most frequent is a woman from Doncaster. She goes around as an ex-minister of Hull, who nearly closed the place, goes there. I tried to explain why I think the ministry training at Luther King House - she knows about Chester and said it has a good reputation - may not be an appropriate medium through which to express what is actually preached now.
I took some hymn books. Look, 216 in Hymns for Living is what Lesley Crawley hadn't heard. in Sing Your Faith there was hymn 90 sung at the Ministry Inquiry Day (with a recorder as accompaniment). I took some academic books, and said about a social anthropological approach to her Eucharist essay - gift and exchange, and now it is symbolism, and language is symbolism, and language is deep structure in our brains (children learn languages faster than they are taught them), and if a ritual of gift-exchange is common is that structuralist, and the criticism of structuralism. Rachel was an English teacher and may use semiotics.
She agreed with me that people pass A levels and then end up in remedial classes in Universities because of the other input-output measure everything approach of education. People had passed their English A levels but a task that depended on knowing nouns from verbs and adverbs in university couldn't be done because these English undergraduates didn't know the construction of sentences.
I think Rachel would benefit from people like Robin Gill, who combines Theology and Social Sciences, and then she did Economics at school (if not so well). She was taught by Jacqui Smith, the ex-Home Secretary, when she was a teacher. She wasn't very good. I took some books that might be useful, given the online output we see, and some of these were, she thought, worth noting down, including one of short articles including what students think of evangelical training colleges.
I like Rachel because she is someone in transition. She seems to be in permanent revolution. It shows I can talk even to those on a different wavelength. Even if she came my way she'll not end up like Lesley, I think, but she might be very flexible, with her own actual views but pluralistic. She's already 'more Anglican' as a whole. She encountered Tom Wright, and hears Steve Chalke, but is fed up with Rob Bell. I don't care for Steve Chalke, nor his role with academies, and with him and Rob Bell it's so much publicity and heard it all before.
I said she isn't stuffy like some, and she was criticised over the fashion show stuff and about appearance. She does produce very good photos. [Incidentally I took my camera but didn't take any photos; we didn't need to though actually one of us at the kitchen table might have been a good idea].
I apologised for my cartoons, but they are seen as funny. (The one here is a new one; I'm being naughty as usual). I said when she referred to being Laptopless I just could not resist, producing a Spanish bar of La Lap Topless. She said she was known in college for having her laptop everywhere, and once when I drew a friend of her's alongside her she turned the laptop to that friend in a lecture to reveal the cartoon of her. I said about a cheat technique of edge detection [or find edges] where one mass meets another in a picture. I said it gets the proportions and positions right, but doesn't look like the person. That's how we ended up with one my friend called 'Chomp Chomp', a character (I'm told) out of Hellraiser. She sort of hung around with his comments for a while at that point. I said blogging on religion I was fed up with drawing so many men; I drew many of Lesley, and then herself, and recently the daughter of the hymn writer and her singing friend, who appear together in photos in numbers.
I stayed just over three hours. I ate some food - thanks, how timely - and had two different coffees. Henryk is adapting to the new situation, with the girls to raise, and the house is a very good one indeed for the curates in the town. He once did a lot of IT work in a company, but sold his part on. It's a lifestyle change, one that moves to having people like me sat and chatting in an evening. Rachel thinks a whole group of bloggers could get together, and we could.
If I go down south sometime, I'll call on a few others. But I like Rachel and she represents, for me, difference with whom I can still talk. I bet I could talk loads with Lesley (and Alan), but it would be very different. I tend to be softer with evangelicals. I told Rachel that I did my Ph.D first, before the MA. I remember my Ph.D interviewing an Anglo-Catholic and he got stubborn, and I was forensic with the liberal (interviewing him twice, virtually cross-examining) and the evangelical just told me his beliefs. I just like to know where someone has come from and where they are going. We are all on a journey.