Two years ago I saw the Church of England at near to its worst and this put a stop on church attendance. I determined that I never wanted to return to what had been for me a faith that steered my life. I did, however, not let go and decided instead to seek a fresh expression of that faith. This is a work in progress about that quest.
A crucial part of not letting go was a commitment every other month to write a letter for the Veryan parish magazine. I decided that I should not stray too far from orthodoxy but that I could explore. Key pieces of exploration were three books that I view as important. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, by Philip Pullman; The Testament of Mary by Colm Tobin and Meeting God in Mark by Rowan Williams.
So where am I?
My very dear friend and priest, the late Peter Durnford, held that Jesus was central to his faith. This remains for me the corner stone, however.....
We need to acknowledge that much of the gospels is creative theology. The Jews had to understand the story of this young man in ways that made sense to them. It follows that to get anywhere near to the man, we need to strip all this away. This is something that both Pullman and Tobin tried to do. In a way Williams gets closer as he argues that the miracles get in the way of the teaching.
The teaching that we find when all else is stripped away is that that is needed for sustainable life on earth. It draws on much in Judaism. It is replicated to a greater or lesser extent in the other world faiths. It is mirrored in much secular moral teaching.
So that is the core, this person Jesus who taught us how to live.
In a way I would like to leave it there. However, there is one point that keeps bubbling in my mind, the nature of prayer. I have come to view it as the 'to do list', not by some mysterious 'God', but by us. It is good, for it is a time when those concerns for the world can be named. Some can to a small extent then be addressed by our individual actions, more by the concerted effort by many, others, of course, not at all.