Monday, April 15, 2013

Compassion, Coracles and Continuity

I have returned from my Diocesan Synod as usual, energised and in good spirits. Business meetings are not renowned for being invigorating and uplifting, and I suspect it is rather more a testament of the character of the Anglican Catholic Church rather than the nature of the meeting itself.

We cannot hide the fact that the Anglican Catholic Church is terribly tiny in this country. Rather than the Great Barque of St Peter or the Ocean Liner of the Established Church, or the snazzy speedboats of the Free Churches, the continuing Anglican movement seems to be a bunch of little bobbing coracles floating in the ocean. Thankfully, there are signs that many of the continuing Anglican movement are lashing together their coracles, building decks and platforms thus guaranteeing that we all move together provided that our rudders are aligned.

It has been a great pleasure for me to see another coracle travelling in a parallel direction to my own lash itself to the Church which hauled me out of the sea. Fr Anthony Chadwick, a good friend whom I have known for a long time on the blogosphere, has been received into the same diocese in which I serve. I hope he will forgive my rather feeble attempts at a maritime analogy (I don't think coracles have rudders!). In receiving him into the ACC, I believe we have gained an asset and an intellect who will help the Church to grow and continue its Anglican vision of the Catholic Church.

Fr Chadwick, unfortunately, is a big enough name to attract the trolls. There seem to be several sorts of troll but all create antagonism and ill-feeling, either deliberately or in an attempt to force an issue and thus demonise the person that they are trolling. I've seen this time and again, especially in continuing Anglican circles or from those involved with the Ordinariate. In many cases, some trolls are trying to justify their own tenuous position by attacking any opposing positions, trying to demolish arguments by ad hominem attacks on people's learning, background, spiritual journey, affiliations and friends rather than by focussing on the arguments themselves. In other cases, the trolls are following a rather misguided attempt to convert others to their point of view. I suspect that all trolls have issues in self-confidence, finding their stability by trying to rock others. The trouble is that rocking other people's boats tends to destabilise one's own. This is why trolls can never be satisfied by their behaviour.

In media such as social networking sites, or on blogs or in a forum where information is presented purely in writing, it is very easy to treat written material separately from its emotional content. The words written on a page do not present the emotions of the writer accurately. The personhood of the author cannot be written into the text because of the inability of the emotional language to be expressed sufficiently in the written word. One cannot always tell whether a piece is written in anger, or sadness, or bitterness, or in genuine concern. The peppering of text with emoticons is a rather fun and illustrative way of trying to convey that humanity of authorship. Even then, emoticons are still not fine enough to communicate the spirit in which things are written.

It is very easy for us to strip texts of emotional meaning with a loss of compassion. I am guilty of that myself and the times when I have forgotten to be compassionate have cost me very dearly and have hurt people that I genuinely love. If winning the argument suddenly reduces the humanity of others, then we have overstated our case and forgotten the rules of Christ and God.

Our job is to present reasons for holding the faith that we do and then give people the space to consider those reasons carefully in their own locus of identity, or to reject those reasons outright. At all times, we need to be thinking about the authors of the texts we see in front of us and act accordingly. That's a very difficult thing to do at times, if not impossible. This is why we cannot be people of the web alone: we need to see people, converse with them, pick up their cues, learn their stories, rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.

It is through personal contact, rather than through general rhetoric, that connections are re-inforced. Personhood is not a general state, but a particular state and the only way that coracles can be bound together is by tight ropes and sound hooks which are themselves secured by a growing sense of identity in God Himself. I am grateful to God that, after so long reading his work, conversing via email than I have now had the pleasure of breaking bread with Fr Chadwick and know that we are moving together on the ocean towards the Light of the world.


Anonymous said...

You will have found my posting on my blog inspired by this posting of yours.

I enjoyed meeting you at the Synod, and I'm sure we will stay in touch and work together for the furtherance of the Church's ministry through writing and teaching.

Keep up the good work!

Warwickensis said...

It was very good to see you too. It's always a joy to see people with whom I've rather fleshlessly communicated being given some substance. A hand to shake is better than many good words.

I hope your foot's better by the way.