Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Danger in Ticking Boxes

I’m writing this week’s blog on the train coming home from a study day in London; we’ve just passed Woking!

Today feels quite significant in that we have handed in our first essays.  Mine was on euthanasia; a moral dilemma much in the news earlier this month with the publication of the Commission on Assisted Dying.

This afternoon’s session was the final one on Theology and Ethics and it’s tempting to file away the notes, pack up the books and quickly move on to the next assignment.  Yet surely that’s not what it is all about.  Moral dilemmas regularly turn up, normally at inconvenient times, in the life of any minister and church.  I hope some of what I’ve learnt in recent weeks will be of help for the rest of my ministry.

It is, however, so easy to get into the habit of simply ticking the box.  We’ve just has The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and some of us (I know it’s a minority sport!) have attended services and meetings in other churches which will have delighted and challenged us, hopefully in equal measure.  But ecumenism can’t be done in a week! Relationship building takes time and truth-telling between Christians of different traditions only happens when we’re in it for the long haul.

In fact there’s no way that our faith pilgrimage, or life in general for that matter, can be lived simply by ticking boxes, superficially addressing the immediate, and then swiftly moving on having learnt little and be challenged by even less.

My Christmas present from the family last month (and this was very loving considering one of them absolutely hates casseroles!) was a slow cooker.  It’s great!  Cooking times are double or triple the norm – put in the food after breakfast, let it cook slowly all day and it’s ready by supper-time.

Much of our thinking and living cries out for the equivalent of a slow cooker rather than a quick stir fry in a wok!  Now I know I’m mixing my metaphors here but patient listening for God in prayer, open-minded struggling with ambiguous bible texts, ecumenical co-operation, sticking with a family member in trouble or holding the hand of a friend with a terminal illness are not issues that come anywhere close to simply that of ‘ticking a box’. It takes time – precious time.

Well, we’ve just pulled out of Basingstoke, maybe I ought to put down my pen and start reading up for the lecture in a fortnight’s time – or perhaps, rather than rush on,  I should practice what I preach and slowly linger over today’s lecture - at least until we get to Salisbury!
I thought last Sunday’s Joint Morning Service of Holy Communion at St John’s was super.  Tomorrow evening we have our first Church Meeting of 2012 and then it’s back to South Street for morning worship on Sunday – with a further opportunity to worship ecumenically at Vicarage Street Methodist Church on Sunday night at 6.30pm.
With best wishes,
Ian

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