Sunday, 11 July 2010

A Father's legacy....

For some reason I started thinking about my father. He wasn't perfect, and as an imperfect father myself, I appreciate that now. Having preached this morning on the 'furious longing of God' and also remembered Tom Smail saying that his interest in the Fatherhood of God was shaped by the father he never knew, prompted me to simply consider what my Dad bequeathed to me.

Dad was an intelligent 'labour' person. He played the piano, he loved a breadth of music, he would build radios from scratch, he would work on various DIY projects, maintain a car, build furniture, develop a complex form system to feed his love of horse racing as well as having a 'clever' job, but not highly paid, inspecting the building of aircraft. I think he was extremely underrated by many of us, myself included and suspect the equivalent job today would be seen as extremely responsible and be better paid. 

What did my Dad give me?

A love and appreciation for music. He had a wide appreciation of music, especially music that as Natalie Wheen says has a 'good tune'. What a gift to pass onto your children. And as far as being a Vicar and worship leader who longs to see worship engaging people where they are, nothing does that to be honest, more than a good tune. I say this realising that a good tune is subjective. And that is something else I think he taught me - his tastes were very broad. I remember him bashing away on the old piano in the hall as the small council house was filled with the tunes of Beethoven, Addinnsell, Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein, the Beatles, Procol Harum and then back to a bit of Bach. A good tune is a good tune in anybody's language and culture. He came to hear me lead and accompany a school production of Oliver, and his pride and joy at hearing me 'glissandoing' my way up and down the old ivories was a treasured memory that has stayed with me these past 35 years.
Again for me as a worship leader, when it comes to music it is what tunes (and words) enable people of all generations and cultures to engage with God - but not necessarily all at the same time!

That is why I have no problem with developing congregations that are generationally and culturally different.... being catholic is about finding  means of unity and oversight rather than conformity. How else is Post - Mixed economy church going to be effective?

Another gift my father gave to me was an attitude that never quite takes things at face value.Out of this came a questioning spirit that could sometimes manifest itself in prejudice but more helpfully gave me an attitude that will question, dig a bit deeper and challenge what I perceive to be unjust and unfair attitudes and systems. I also encourages me to work hard at developing self - awareness - something I needed to do when working in a 'charismatic' context. It is not a gift that I have readily appreciated and found easy to handle. My Dad had a hang- up about religion in general and the church in particular. For him it was more than the usual jibe of 'hypocrisy' but something about 'priests' controlling and manipulating peoples lives. He wasn't far from an 'opium' of the people view- something that he hoped I would grow out of! Yet he did have time for Jesus Christ as the man from Nazareth. I have inherited for good or ill a similar sort of attitude which makes me feel increasingly that once the church believes it is THE church as an object of belief then it has lost sight of its calling and mission. I believe that power and authority in the church is not about controlling others and seeking to get them to conform and behave in certain ways.

Maybe that is why the news about Jeffrey John, not being short listed for Bishop of Southwark, came across to me as unjust and unnecessary. Leave the man alone and give him a job that he is patently able to do well. The news about the proposed amendment of the Archbishop's in relation to Women Bishops just made me angry. I can hear my Dad huffing and puffing about how irrelevant the church is, full of its own self-importance and living in a little world of its own making. Mind you the way that amendment was defeated at Synod was a sign to me that God will have his way messing up the best laid, (and the not so best laid), plans of men. I now see that my Dad had a point. A point I ignored because I was too busy defending 'my' church. We do become irrelevant and out of touch when we lose touch with Jesus and seek to manage God and mess around with the his basic creation values of justice, equality and human dignity.

So - thanks Dad, no doubt other things will come to mind. I never got the hang of fishing. Spending hours with you by some very bleak and damp Gloucestershire river bank was never anything that floated my boat as it were, but I'm sure it has given me the gifts of endurance and holy impatience. Being a Vicar and Chair of my home county's University, (I think he might be a bit chuffed), has certainly helped me to develop those gifts!

PS: Sheryl notices that my father's DIY, car maintenance and technological skills were obviously not passed on.

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