Welcome to my attempt to live fully and honestly, to sing out the song of myself, to truly know who I am......

.....either that or the ramblings of a barely coherant, tired out mum of two!!

Monday, 28 November 2005

Being Church

Real Live Preacher wrote a piece on different ways of being church. It sounds idyllic and made me wish for a better way of doing things than we seem to manage in the Anglican Church.

It has been decided by our Diocese that our Parish and the one next door will not be getting new priests to fill our vacancies. We have been in vacancy for over 4 years -- waiting, hoping, despairing, whilst our numbers dwindle and our hope along with it.

A few years ago a document was written about what the inner city parishes need to survive and thrive. One of the conclusions was that parishes like ours need more priests, more resources, more input. Sadly, this has not been implemented and we are to get fewer priests, fewer resources, very little input.

It has been decided that we are to be an experiment in a new way of being church. We are being given a lay missioner to cover both inner city parishes. This person will be supported by two non stipendary priests - one for each parish. This person will be responsible for bringing the Gospel message to the tens of thousands of people who live within the boundaries of these two parishes. We will not be a united benefice just two churches with the same incumbant.

My cynical, hope drained self thinks this is second rate, an experiment doomed to failure, a job too big for any one person to take on, a let down, a disappointment.

My dare to hope, positive self hopes that this will be just what we need. I even get excited when I think of the possibilities and opportunities that will come with this appointment.

Someone has now been appointed. A married couple job sharing the post. They have children!! They are excited about joining us in February. They feel that this is where God is calling them and they can't wait to be with us.

When they come I will have someone to support and encourage me through my Lay Reader training. I will have someone to help discern what God is calling me to. We will have someone to love and to guide us. To help us find our direction and give us back our sense of purpose.

We will have someone to help us be church again in our inner city parish(es). We will have someone.

Sunday, 20 November 2005

Baby Blogger -Hospital - again!

Yesterday I went to see the Doctor at the hospital again. He examined the lump in my neck and gave me a sticker for being a good boy!

He talked to mummy and daddy but I didn't really understand what was being said, but they were smiling so I think everything is ok. I have to go back in a few months time just to be completely sure.

Peter xx

Peters blood results show markers for glandular fever but it is uncertain what caused it. He is still quite tired but is slowly improving. The doctor said that we could repeat the blood tests as sometimes the results were clearer after a time. Since this was not really necessary we declined.

Eleanor xx

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Baby Blogger - Musings

Hello everyone!

My name is Eleanor, I am now six months old and my parents say I am extremely cute. My big brother Peter is very boisterous and jumps up and down on me. I don't mind too much although he does sometimes make me cry.

I can nearly sit up by myself, I am a bit wobbly and sometimes I get so excited I fall over backwards but I am getting there.

Peter is almost two and a half now and mummy and daddy say he is doing really well. He won't leave his thumb splint on but tolerates his ankle/foot splint very well.

We have both had colds - I still have mine but Peter is better.

Peter is still recovering from his glandular fever and gets very tired.

Well that's it for my first ever posting - bye!

Eleanor xx

Wednesday, 2 November 2005

An Essay from my course

A man was walking through Radford when he fell among a gang of thieves, who stripped him of his goods and his clothing, beat him and departed, not caring if he were alive or dead. Now along that road came a priest who, being very busy with visiting and other duties, passed by on the other side of the street. Similarly a local MP also came along the road and, seeing the man gave him a wide berth and hurried on by to his rather important council meeting. But a young black man, dripping with gold and as cool as you like, came by and when he saw him he was overcome with compassion and rushed to his side. He bound his wounds pouring on water; he dressed him in his expensive jacket and called an ambulance. He travelled with him to the hospital, bought him some toiletries and nightwear and once he was settled and in safe hands he went on his way, leaving his mobile number with the staff. The next day he called at the hospital and spent several hours by his bedside talking to him and offering comfort. He brought magazines and fruit and asked the staff to call him if the man should awake and require anything.

I chose to base this assignment on the Good Samaritan because despite 2000 years of evolution I think the question of ‘Who is my neighbour?’ remains a relevant and thought provoking one. We live in an increasingly multi-cultural, multi-faith society. We rub up against all kinds of people in our daily work and personal lives. Are any of these people our neighbour? Are all of these people our neighbour? What is a neighbour anyway? These questions I believe are answered by Jesus in the telling of the ‘Good’ or ‘Compassionate Samaritan’. At the time of the original parable Jews and Samaritans did not mix, they lived separately, worshipped separately and did not intermarry. The Jews hated and despised the Samaritans and in our modern world there are a number of people groups who feel the same way about each other. Racism, fascism and several other ‘isms’ are rife in a society that sees terrorists and infiltrators on every corner. As society has grown to accommodate people of other races we have become more suspicious and more possessive of our territory and identity. Far from being a whole and integrated, unified society we are instead fragmented, huddled in our familiar groups hardly daring to step beyond what we consider to be the norm. What did the parable mean to Jesus’ hearers when first they heard it? Does it still have relevance today or do we need to re-interpret it for a new age?

According to Snodgrass (2000) there have been a number of different approaches to interpreting the meaning of the parables. The use of allegory was popular for a time but was at least partly replaced by methods that relied more on the actual text and the cultural and historical settings. Others have taken a literary approach and yet others an artistic one. Drane (1999, p123) points out the dangers of using only one method when he discusses Augustine’s allegorical retelling of ‘The Good Samaritan’. According to Drane, Augustine re-labels every element of the story, from Jerusalem to the two coins, to come up with ‘an ingenious account’ of his understanding of salvation which bears little connection to the original story. In the assessment of Keesmaat (2000) there is also a danger in adopting only a contextual approach to understanding the parables. In focussing too closely on what the message for Jesus’ listeners was we can miss what the story has to say to us today. Drane (1999, p138) agrees stating that ‘the real meaning of the parables must always be bound up with the challenge they bring to those who read or hear them’. He goes on to say that the parables ‘are an invitation into new territory, an opportunity to re-imagine the world as we know and experience it, in the light of Jesus’ portrayal of God’s character’.
Julicher (1899) suggests that the parables are simply tools used by Jesus to illustrate a point. In the parable of the Good Samaritan the point is that the person who proved to be a real neighbour was not a religious Jew, but a member of a despised social group. The rest is just scene setting. Keesmaat (2000, p263) contends that only using the given context is a ‘safe’ way to read the parables since it ‘ensures that engagement between a text and its context do not become uncomfortably close to our own world’. It would seem then that the parables benefit from a multi-layered approach to interpretation.
Keesmaat (2000 p265) maintains that the parables of Jesus function to challenge the prevailing worldview so that understanding what a parable meant to Jesus’ hearers helps us to understand what it might mean for us today. With that in mind she places the parable firmly in the context of the questions asked by the lawyer and points out that Jesus turns the questions and his listeners expectations upside down, thus getting to the heart of the issue and making an impact (p276). Jesus takes the question of ‘who is my neighbour?’, and leaves his hearers and the questioner in no doubt that it is not simply about being a neighbour to the despised but that the lawyer should ‘allow an enemy to become a neighbour to him … [and] that he is to follow the example of his enemy in learning what it is to be a neighbour’(p282).
As this parable is in answer to a question put to Jesus I believe it to be one of the more straightforward ones and agree with the views expressed above. I am reminded of the wood stain advert whose catchphrase is ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’. This parable is another insight into the Kingdom of God. It states very clearly that the Kingdom includes people who we may see as unworthy or excluded. It teaches us that anyone in need is our neighbour and that we should allow even those we despise to be neighbours to us.

I chose to retell the parable only, without the interaction between Jesus and the lawyer in this sense it loses a little of the contextual setting. At the beginning of this essay I asked some questions that amount to ‘Who is my neighbour?’ and ‘What is a neighbour anyway?’ these questions are similar to those asked by the lawyer in the Luke passage. In the rewrite I have tried to retain the flavour and meaning of the original but set it in a cultural context easily accessible to a modern day audience this is because I believe the original meanings to have relevance and resonance in our communities and lives today.
Both the original and my interpretation begin with ‘A man’ travelling somewhere. I could as easily written ‘a person’ or ‘a woman’ but chose to keep it simple and have ‘man’ stand in as a representative of the human race. In the original the man was travelling from somewhere to somewhere whereas my ‘man’ is travelling through somewhere. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was renowned for the bandits that roamed out from local villages to supplement meagre incomes with raids on lone travellers (Keesmaat 2000 p278). I set my piece in Radford because that is where I live and because in recent years we have seen several fatal shootings, stabbings and punch-ups. There is a dark underbelly to Radford that occasionally leaks out to touch our everyday lives. In both versions the man is set upon by thieves, who strip him and leave him for dead. Nothing else is said about the ‘man’, his importance is only as a victim and recipient of care.
Next along come the passers-by. In the original they are religious leaders, a priest and a Levite, both of whom would have had serious concerns about being contaminated by spilled blood or possibly even by handling a corpse. Such contamination would make them unable to participate in the temple activities. I chose to interpret this as a priest and an MP, both pillars of the community who gain much from being seen doing and saying the right thing. In a modern context they have no concern about ritual uncleanliness but they do worry about being late or missing important appointments. This is not to say that all priests and MP’s are concerned about these things over and above the needs of a man lying bleeding in a gutter! In the biblical story a Samaritan is next. The Samaritans as has already been discussed were a despised and hated race. Jews and Samaritans did not mix in any social setting and the Samaritans had their own temple separate from the Jews. I chose a black youth dripping in bling, the social stereo-type rap/gangster type person. I could have chosen almost any marginalised and stigmatised social grouping, a Muslim or an alcoholic, or a homeless person or a person with Aids. The list could go on and on. When I was thinking about who to cast as ‘The Good …?’ I became increasingly aware of the number of people society casts as untouchable, undesirable, unlovable. Of course the groupings also depend on ones own point of view, each grouping will have different prejudices to another. Also interesting is those people I didn’t think could fit the role of ‘good’ anything, members of fascist groups for example.
In the original story the Samaritan binds the mans wounds using oil and water, puts him on an animal and books him in at the local Travel Inn, paying for his care and promising remuneration for any further spend. With modern healthcare this would be a strange thing to do so instead, our hero opts for dressing the blood soaked body of the man in his new and expensive coat and calling for an ambulance. The principal remains similar. Neither were unduly worried about contamination of any sort from being hands on in the nitty gritty of life’s horrors. In addition our hero stays with the man on his way to the hospital, buys him some necessities and leaves a contact number should the man require anything else. He returns the next day and continues to offer care and comfort.
I hope that in essence my modern day interpretation of ‘The Good Samaritan’ retains its original meanings and answers the questions of ‘Who is my neighbour?’ and ‘What is a neighbour?’. Who was a neighbour to the man? Not those whom one would expect to fulfil the role but an ‘other’. Someone different, some one marginalised, stereotyped and excluded, someone overlooked by society’s norms, someone – anyone who is prepared to bend down and meet us in our need, and we should do likewise.

References and Bibliography

Drane, John (1999) Introducing The New Testament Oxford, Lion Publishing Plc

Julicher, Adolf (1899) Die gleichnisreden Jesu IN Drane, John (1999) Introducing The New Testament Oxford, Lion Publishing Plc

Keesmaat, Sylvia C (2000) Strange Neighbours and Risky Care. IN Longenecker, Richard N (2000) The Challenge of Jesus’ Parables Wm. b. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Longenecker, Richard N (2000) The Challenge of Jesus’ Parables Wm. b. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Snodgrass, Klyne R (2000) From allegorizing to allegorizing: A history of the interpretation of the parables of Jesus IN Longenecker, Richard N (2000) The Challenge of Jesus’ Parables Wm. b. Eerdmans Publishing Co.