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A critic in Advent 2 December 2012

Posted by Dr Moose in Changes, Church, Faith, Ponderings.
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There is a saying which goes something like this. “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Those who can’t teach, are critics”. It’s attribution to George Bernard Shaw may be apocryphal, but it sounds about right.

And, like it or not, I am a natural critic. That doesn’t mean I have the intention of destroying things or people, but I do seem to be good at spotting flaws. Not only do I apply it to other people’s plans and achievements, I also tend to see it in my own, which may explain why so often I am riddled with doubt and uncertainty. I may criticise, but then I agonise when I find it hard to come up with a positive contribution to follow on with.

This may explain why in recent weeks I have found myself being critical of Christian Union teaching. It also explains why I found myself noting in Church this morning “How can you be family-friendly without being facile? Faithful and feeling without being thoughtless? How much worship and how much triumphalism? How much is just the power of positive thinking?”

Just as I like attending Christian Union, I like attending church. However, there’s a difference. The former I attend partly for my own benefit and education, as well as far knowing where the students I meet are “at”. The latter I attend primarily for my children’s benefit. The intention of the former is to encourage and empower students to act as evangelists among their peers, and strenuously denies that it is a church. The church I attend is not hugely popular as a student church, but might be more so if it were nearer to the Uni or the student parts of town. What’s beginning to worry me is that I don’t know how well it equips the worshippers in their Christian life. Worship is contemporary but tends to shallowness, high on feeling, but rather less so on intellectual engagement. Sermons tend to be engaging, but once stripped of the entertaining properties, tend to simplicity. Therefore I shouldn’t have been surprised today, but still was. Today is Advent Sunday, and although Advent got a passing mention, in the form of a rather good video clip (very like this, if not this) for the Advent Conspiracy, it was not unpacked beyond that, and most time and attention was focussed on a Parade and Christingle service. I can heartily understand why, but nevertheless I was a bit blindsided! Likewise, although I have chafed somewhat about the expectations of Anglicanism in the use of liturgy and lectionary when serving in a parish I am also somewhat disturbed that it seems to be pretty much ignored in the place I now worship! In short, I have lots of questions, but am simultaneously rather relieved that as I am not a minister responsible for the church in nay way it’s not a direct problem of mine.

However, it is possible that my bluff is about to be well and truly called, in two directions. Firstly I am speaking at CU next week, and unlike last time when I had very much carte blanche, I have a very clearly defined title and reading to work from. It’s going to be interesting, retaining my “voice” and making a distinctive contribution without compromise. And if that wasn’t enough I have also agreed to go on the preaching rota for the next quarter at church. Just the twice, but nevertheless, I am being given a chance to contribute.

It’s getting (more) interesting…

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