The Person

People who come here to Holy Island to chill out or retreat for may ask someone to give one-off spiritual direction - clergy do this especially. This week Whitehouse has hosted such pilgrims. Typically, one person has become stale, another exhausted, or another discouraged. Do not be horrified, you blog-crawlers who know nothing of churches, and do not say 'They should know better'. Other hard-working people have Trades Unions or Professional Organisations to safeguard their working conditions: Clergy volunteer out of love, and have no protection from the mountains of impossible demands made upon them. They are heroes. Salute them.

The first thing in spiritual direction is to listen to the problem. I might follow that with a question: 'If church routines are not life-giving, what DO you find life-giving?' Three frequent responses are 'nature, relaxing with friends (for extraverts) and connecting with people who are not Sunday church-goers but who value my presence at some event (e.g. a funeral, a wedding, or a meal). These people want to live fuller human lives and it is a privilege that they sense that I might have some key that enables this.'

We might then visualise a different way of doing church. Suppose routine stuff that is not life-giving is ditched or delegated. Suppose the focus of church activity then becomes enjoying nature, creating socially enjoyable relaxations with varied friends , and learning how to be fully human beings? These would be signs of the Kingdom of God in our midst. They would remind us of Irenaeus' words 'The glory of God is seen through a human life fully lived.'

The term 'parson' is used in Britain by the general population to describe any priest or pastor. The idea behind it is that the reverend is a sign of what it means to really be a PERSON - not a celebrity, not an ecclesiastical apparatchik, but a fully human being. UP WITH PARSONS.

Posted at 08:02am on 8th July 2010
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