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Thought for the Week – 23rd April 2023

What are is Faith?

This musing is based by an article in the Church Times by Andrew Brown. He begins by quoting the journalist Camilla Cavendish on her planned attendance at an Easter service.

“I will be going to church this Sunday, despite not believing in the resurrection. I’ll be there to accompany an elderly relative, but also for a dose of ritual and rhythm, to sing with strangers and to be able to quietly reflect on things outside myself. It occurs to me that I seek similar benefits from yoga and mindfulness, both of which have their roots in eastern faiths. The much-vaunted decline of religion is perhaps not quite what it seems. We avidly read self-help books telling us we will be happier if we express gratitude but have lost the rituals which enabled us to do that. We mourn the loss of community but are unsure how to reconstruct it. I envy my Jewish and Muslim friends… That doesn’t mean I want to spend hours being preached at… But it does seem unfortunate to have reached a position of either having to embrace every aspect of a faith or else denigrate it”

I’m not sure I understand what it means to embrace “every aspect” of Christianity; my own faith comes from questioning it and accepting that often there are no simple answers. But, like Camilla, in the ritual and rhythm, I find something that speaks to me; as Andrew Brown comments, something that enters into me and resonates with me. As he puts it, the more it enters into me, the harder it can be to explain it, although I am driven to do that. But in that process, I encounter mystery; I do not embrace it, somehow, it embraces me.

Thought for the week, 29th April; Love bade me welcome
This poem, technically known as Love (III) is by George Herbert, a 17th century priest. I first met it as an undergraduate and 40 years later it still speaks to me.

LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d anything.

‘A guest,’ I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.’
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth, Lord; but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.
Rev David Poyner