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Classics, Cole, and concentration. 28 May 2011

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Life, Ponderings.
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Tomorrow, theoretically to mark the 400th Anniversary of the Authorised Version of the English Bible, we will be celebrating according to the Book of Common Prayer and with readings from the said AV. I suspect even those that think they know it might be a little surprised by the reality.

Likewise, I, having been a driver for nearly 25 years, was surprised by the differences in driving my “new” classic Fiat 126 – with such features as a manual choke, manual windows, a need to actually work the brakes and an almost complete lack of creature comforts (or many safety features we take as standard). Not to mention both the personal joy, and the attention of others, that it brings.

The AV and BCP, and my car, share certain features. They were already pretty much obsolete when new, and both aimed to make the pursuit of worship/motoring more accessible to more people, on grounds of language/price.  Similarly they need an effort on the part of the contemporary user than might be unexpected or unwelcome. I don’t think I’m forcing the analogy too much there. I hope not because it’s a central plank of the sermon!

I don’t believe that many current drivers would really choose my loud, smelly, cramped and uncomfortable death-trap. It has its selling points, but it is barely “fit for purpose” except for an enthusiast. The same accusation might be justified against the BCP and the AV. They too are for specialists and enthusiasts. They have value, but it requires a concentration and devotion to find the hidden gold within them. I’m not referring to the beauty or poetry of the language, either, but to the Word incarnate, and his revelation of God for humanity.

For liturgy and scripture at least, the medium is not the message.

Into these ruminations the news in the last week that Cheryl Cole (the Tabloid-worshipped singer of Geordie origin) had been dropped from the American version of the X-Factor might seem a little odd.

However, since she was dropped on the grounds that her speech was too hard for the average viewer to understand, surely there is a connection worth making. In another place I commented that “to understand the unfamiliar accent requires concentration. Popular entertainment is predicated on the principle that concentration is optional… like the viewers’ intelligence!”

What of faith? What of church? Language changes, the manner of communication may change, but the message remains timeless. On the one hand we must resist the tendency for church to be treated as a place accessible only to the initiated, educated and traditional. Rightly or wrongly, I will freely admit that there are occasions when I explicitly recommend that contacts interested in exploring faith don’t come, and tomorrow is a case in point. Neither however, in a quest for accessibility and relevance, dare we reduce our worship to the level of entertainment and church into a place where concentration is optional.

Maybe to end by returning to the motoring analogy, we should be looking at a church, and a faith, which has the effect that driving my classic car has upon me? One that gets us where we need to be, with both enjoyment, and the need to concentrate on the journey at hand, not necessarily in great comfort, nor at great speed, nor with too much concern about how we appear to others, but at least in a way that means that others notice the journey is taking place, and want to come along too.

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