July 2019 - Rector's Ramblings

Revd Andrew Doye portrait pictureI will often use words that I know in my deepest heart will stretch us, and perhaps even defeat us.   I do not expect that everyone who is listening will, fully or with entire confidence, lay hold of what I am trying to say.   What a recognition, on my part!

To some, that will be a severe black mark against my name; and others may be very censorious of me, since surely the point of speaking or writing (they suggest) is that one may be understood accurately. I am aware of those likely criticisms, but I am unabashed in believing that there is a good defence available to me.

I never set out to be obscure for the sake of obscurity, but I do sometimes set out to be indirect: allusive, is a favourite word for me. I don’t reckon on conveying everything that I want to say, simply by words that pass the easy-reading test. I think it matters how we say things, as well as what we say; with what grace and kindness, even, that we seek to touch on truth.

Now this would all be a bit shallow and showy if I was reaching for words that made no sense to me, but, as far as I know my own heart, that is not the case. I am  - except when very naughty  -  using phrases that I think I understand; and to do otherwise would be both pretentious and rather bitter. At the same time, I know there are more straightforward ways of speaking available elsewhere upon the shelf.

I know there are realms and contexts in which different types of discourse are to be advised. Being a minister, for instance, includes an educational role; and, sometimes, clear explanation really ought to prevail. But the truth in which I deal, is often a truth that is not best commended by simple ‘two plus two’ logic. It is surprisingly often a truth that is evocative, rather than explanatory; poetic, rather than definitive; parabolic, rather than linear; and invitational and courteous, rather than prescriptive and demanding. On occasions, words that permit a variety of responses, rather than demanding one simple acceptance, are in themselves a way for truth. Thank God also, however, that different people communicate in differing characteristic ways. It would be a very boring world, were that not the case.

Above all, though, I don’t think our conversation should be mostly about shutting down deliberation, but instead should be about opening up more widely what others can say and think. And I think poetry, and poetic fancy, allows that sort of creative engagement which has us exploring our surroundings more thoughfully and with every fibre of our being. We feel the words, as well as hearing them.

Allusion, is a way of holding up likenesses, possibilities; and inviting another to take the thought further, or to draw more satisfactory truths that are truly of their own fashioning. Allusion, too, is deliberately imprecise. It hands over responsibility kindly to the hearer/reader that they may take their own part in furthering the work of making sense: of moving towards a truth or an insight of which they have a personal ownership.

Since religious faith is only to a limited extent, ‘a system of beliefs’; and is to at least an equal extent, also ‘a way of being’: then, it is going to matter very much for each of us, how well and fittingly we are drawn into the lived-ness of our convictions… How well-motivated we are by the way the message touches us… How graciously that message receives us, as we receive it … Whether faith presents to us as a tyrant tiger, or as a courteous respecter of who we are.

In this, I am persuaded that the importance of anything we say lies not just in the content of our words; but, with equal importance, in the manner in which they are offered. The means, is just as important as the ends.  Always, that is so: but never more than in the realm of faith and personhood.

And it is important not only that the listener has freedom in the hearing, but also that the speaker has a certain licence, too: that she or he may, in print or spoken word, be the person that they truly need to be. That they have their wings, by which to fly.

So, I will keep waffling on, as the Spirit leads. And maybe, the Spirit will prove also to be a good and kind interpreter …     

I surely hope so.

But I love words, and I thank you for indulging me. 

Andrew Doye, Rector

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