A word in edgeways


I was blogging, then I wasn’t. Then Euan Semple reminded me of the importance of sharing thoughts and opinions in his book Organisations don’t tweet, people do. He asks: “how does the world ever change except by people sharing their opinions?”

I was preoccupied with business, forgetting that my business is sharing ideas.  My responsibility is to support the (professional) development of ministers, and my mind had flitted from one frame of mind to another – from the frame of mind in which there is organic development through community sharing to the less productive frame of mind governed by the metaphor of the machine. It’s working our way out of one skin into another.

I belong to an organisation that, rightly, takes itself seriously. It cares about risk and dangers – among them the risks involved in social media. Organisations don’t tweet, people do is a powerful argument for overcoming the fear of engagement with social media. One of those reasons is to make the virtual space of the web inhabitable for our children. “If we leave it to the gunslingers and the pornographers it will stay uninhabitable” writes Euan Semple. He continues, “If we want to make it habitable we have to make it so by being in there behaving in productive and positive ways and showing that it can be a tool for good.”

And so it is. I wasn’t blogging, but now I am.

The strapline to the Prologue to John’s Gospel could be “a Word in Edgeways” as John describes Jesus as God’s word “that became flesh and dwelt among us”. It’s important that we get our word in edgeways in as many ways and spaces as possible. None of this is new. Getting our word in edgeways has been a responsibility since we began to use language. Responsible citizens have been using it ever since to name names, to make sense, to work things out, to share opinions and to make peace (and their opposites). There is now a new space for exploration which is the virtual space of the worldwide web. How can we live well there?

The image is from John Sutton’s photostream
Euan Semple’s blog

Leaving childhood: Holy Innocents Day

Massacre of the Innocents by Fra Angelico

Today is Holy Innocents Day, when we are called to remember childhood how children have been slaughtered. The focus is on the baby boys Herod slaughtered in Bethlehem at the time of Jesus, but also embraces the children slaughtered throughout history.

Jesus teaches that “unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18) This prompts the question about what childhood is. Is it something about vulnerability, dependence, naively and learning. Jesus added the word “humility”. “Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

And then we grow out of childhood, spending a lot of our time bigging ourselves up, taking ourselves out of reach of that kingdom Jesus spoke about.

I am reading organisations don’t tweet, people do by Euan Semple? He seems to suggest that the qualities that make for childhood are the qualities that are needed for leaders and organisations to be successful as he talks about vulnerability and humility in these terms:

“Being open about your failings isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and wouldn’t be acceptable in every workplace, but just a little more openness about your failings in front of your staff might be just be the best way to improve your working relationships. Being seen not to know, and being willing to ask for help, can be the best way to make other people feel valued. It also signals to them that it is OK not to know everything all the time. This creates the sort of culture where people are willing to open up and share what they know to everyone’s mutual benefit.”

>Small pieces loosely joined


Eavesdropping a conversation between Bishop Alan and Euan Semple I notice agreement between them about the strength of “small pieces loosely joined” (the title of a book by David Weinberger). They talked about the nature of churches and the degree of structure and institution needed to hold them together and that “dogma and rules are vehicles for power rather than entirely necessary for collective understanding”.
The “dramatic” viewpoint takes the standpoint of a participant in the drama while the “epic standpoint” is that of the external spectator able to see the whole play. Western Christendom has usually taken the “epic viewpoint” which has resulted in totalising and patronising theories of what is right and what is wrong. Hans Urs von Balthasar uses the dramatic viewpoint to look at what the church is. His dramatic theory is that there is no “external spectator”, and that in the “everyman” theatre even the audience is caught up in the drama as they see their own condition and dilemnas played out on the stage. They are caught up in the drama. There is only one “external spectator”, who is God. His is the epic viewpoint – though  there are other pretenders pretending they know what it’s all about.

Balthasar’s image is rather powerful when applied to what the church is. We don’t know what the church is. The church is there to find – to be received and not pre-conceived. For Balthasar the stage is set in Christ. From this viewpoint we all become players – church and non-church, caught in the act of being human, in  inter-play and the inter-action with all the other characters. Small pieces loosely joined sounds about right from this dramatic point of view where what is expected in terms of fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness ….. (Galatians 5:22)