By training and profession I am a physician, medically qualified some fifty years, of which eight were with The Royal Force, and the rest of my time as a general practitioner. Sadly, and I still miss the life, I was forced by a spinal injury to retire. At which time I found my vocation.
By vocation and calling, I am an ordained priest in the Church of England. Because I came late to the church it was never possible for me to be paid for this role, but I was happy to do it. I spent three very happy years in a small village church in North Yorkshire, and a further five in an equally small village church in Northamptonshire. In both of those I was, technically, an assistant priest, but by and large was (by the grace of God and the vicars and bishops concerned) I was effectively the parish priest. Care of bodies and minds to care of the souls was not a difficult transition.
Now I am fully retired, occasionally taking a service locally when a local priest is on holiday, or when there is a vacancy. To be honest, it isn’t enough to keep me satisfied – I really need more continuity and content and context than two services every three months. And it has been very frustrating because I am now one of the pew fodder, a consumer of the ministrations of other priests. And I have to say, I am not impressed.
And I have come to realise that my dissatisfactions stem largely from my nature and instinct, because…
… because by nature and by instinct I am an actor.
Looking back over my history I can see how that aspect of my personality has informed a great deal of what I do and did stop
Let me set the scene. It is Sunday morning in the local village church, and the priest says the usual words of ‘welcome ‘and then announces the hymn. Over the years I have come to know many of them, and I have a deep appreciation of the theological and pastoral and personal meanings embedded within them.
But the organist plays the opening bars as an introduction, and most often I groan inwardly because it sounds like, and is about to be sung like, a funeral dirge even when singing words of great joy and praise, words like ‘Hallelujah!’ and ‘Praise the Lord.’
And so the service will continue, the readings, the prayers, the sermon and all the other important and essential bits of divine worship voiced in a flat, and uninflected tone.
With the excitement? There indeed is the meaning? How can anyone read passages from the Bible concerning great joys and great concerns, grief and excitement and the whole range of human emotion, and make it sound no more interesting than a railway timetable?
The actor in me wants to treat all these words in the way that I would approach a script for a play, whether as an actor or as a director (which I confess I much prefer). I look at the text, I want to know what it means, I want to know the intentions and emotions behind every word. I want to explore the high points in the low points and all the in between points. The writer was telling a story, and for the most part a story which was to be transmitted orally, complete with inflections indicating surprise, query, caution, excitement, sadness… you get the point.
So part of this blog will be my exploration of how the drama of God and the church
Has been lost over the years, and surprisingly and frighteningly recently. And I shall put forward some ideas about how the excitement and drama might be recovered because…
… by command, I am an evangelist. It is my sacred duty, commanded by my God and consistent with my faith that I go out into the world to share with others the glory of God and the great benefits which we have received at his hands. In this process, undoubtedly, I will make mistakes and be led along paths which are not straight, and I earnestly beg anyone who might read these words to enter into dialogue about how our mutual understanding can be improved.