Friday, March 03, 2017

Books and covers

My poor library is in boxes and waiting to be moved across the country. Much to the chagrin of some members of my family, my library is large and is still growing. I am minded of the following saying from the Apophthegmata Patrum:
A brother said to Abba Serapion, “Give me a word.” The old man said to him, “What shall I say to you? You have taken the living of the widows and orphans and put it on your shelves.” For he saw them full of books.
This is somewhat of an indictment against me and I do take the point made. In my defence, I do tend to try and lend my books to people who are interested as an informal library. Secondly, there is another poverty which comes about from ignorance and which needs to be tackled. Nonetheless, the testimony that my library makes against my lack of generosity to the poor does make me consider them more. I am privileged in being able to read, and privileged to be able to read some very technical material. If I have been given this privilege, then I must use it for the glory of God and to benefit of my brothers and sisters.

The saying is, "you cannot judge a book by its cover" - things are not what they seem. The trouble is that people do judge books by covers, which is why the graphic design departments of various publishers are often very busy.

The same is true of other things, none more so than Churches.

What happens when we start to look superficially at our internet material, our web pages, and our blogs? How do they appear to those who have little or no real interest in who we are? If, as Bishop Scarlett suggests, it is our online presence that affects whether people take us seriously, then we need to be critical with what we see.

How might a technology savvy teenager, or university student react to our webpages? What of the professional business person? The politician? The impassioned campaigner for social justice?

We do need to consider who we're trying to reach rather than presenting an unexamined webpage. If the unexamined life is not worth living, perhaps the unexamined webpage is not worth visiting?

Likewise, we should still learn to present ourselves well. I remember a tale that when a husband and wife (both CofE priests) encountered some members of the ACC, it was one of our members who struck the first blow by calling the lady a "priestess" within the first sentence. How horrible! And what an embarrassment for the ACC! The conversation went downhill from there, and it does not reflect well on the ACC. In the eyes of those two members of the CofE, we are now regarded unpleasant crackpots. Why? Because we behave like unpleasant crackpots!

The feminine of "priest" is indeed "priestess" and thus a logical term to use, except that words carry a force that is not obvious in logic. The only reason that the word "priestess" was used was done so either in ignorance or (I sincerely hope not) an attempt to poke the bear. The Lord Himself bids us make friends of the  Mammon of unrighteousness - we cannot treat people ungenerously, especially those with whom we disagree profoundly. There may be women priests who object to our very existence as an example of what they sincerely believe to be discrimination. Our job, then, is to show them that we are very, very much a Christian organisation, even if we are not members of the World Council of Churches, or Churches Together.

The ACC is right in its belief that it is part of the mainstream church, because we continue on the same path which others have left. Yet, in believing that, it is all the more important to be Christian, not by recognising in the other what divides us, but rather what unites us, seeing what need we can supply in a spirit of generosity, with a smile, and with a sense of rejoicing in the other's humanity that they share with us.

If we behave like misogynist crackpots, that is all the world will see. If that's the cover we want on our book, then we cannot be surprised if we remain on the shelf. Let us choose rather the face of Christ to be our cover, for then His light and radiance will truly draw those in need to His Church to find refreshment, sustenance and love!

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