Not lighting candles today
may be the way to pray.
Maybe eyes open,
shoulder to shoulder
Marcus Brigstocke couldn’t quite understand why there are so many countries represented in the Olympics. He assumes that some of the countries are made up. I too kept saying “where’s that?” as the athletes paraded. My favourite was Micronesia, which, if I remember correctly, is next to Amnesia, and next to its far larger neighbour Magnesia (famed for its milk and antacid industry). @marcusbrig has suggested other countries that could have been taking part, including Neverland, Narnia and the Land of Nod. Personally I don’t ever see Legoland being able to put together an opening ceremony like the one we saw on Friday, but I do look forward to the opening ceremony in Oz.
Ai Weiwei’s contrast in the Guardian between the Beijing and London Olympic ceremonies is telling. For me, the Opening Ceremony rang true. Aidan Burley MP’s tweet apart (he wrote: “Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap. Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones!”) the Opening Ceremony has been praised from all quarters. Danny Boyle held up a mirror to the world representing his reading of this “green and pleasant (ironic) land”. People liked what they saw in the mirror, and us Brits said “yes, this is us”. We recognise how the industrial revolution ripped our landscape and communities apart, and we recognised the values which have made for modern Britain. These values of care, generosity and hospitality are not exclusively British, and they are contested values in Britain, but care, generosity and hospitality were celebrated as the building blocks of community. It was good to see the parade of achievements (music, film, comedy) alongside the parade of sporting talent, and to see the national treasure of the NHS polished to the wonderful accompaniment of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells and In Dulce Jubilo.
So many highlights rang my bells. Besides the NHS scenes there was the ringing of the bell, the music, Rowan Atkinson, the drumming (particularly Evelyn Glennie), the Industrial Revolution, the silence, Abide with me, the cast of volunteers and ordinary people, the inclusion of the construction workers and the marvellous lighting of the cauldron designed by Thomas Heatherwick.
Michael Sadgrove has posted his reflections on the Opening Ceremony. He highlights the spirituality of the Opening Ceremony. For Edward Green the Opening ceremony is a sign of the shape of the church to come.
The photo is from powderphotography
The occupations of Occupy London are, according to their website, “about social justice, real democracy and challenging the unsustainable financial system that punishes the many and privileges the few”. But the juxtaposition of the protesters’ camp and St Paul’s is challenging those of us on the inside of the Church of England wearing the vest of vested interests.
The juxtaposition highlights the challenge that has faced Christians down the centuries. Juxtaposed is the soft and the hard, the fixed and the flimsy, the playfulness of the tent and the seriousness of established tradition, the movement and the institution. These contrasts are not new. Paul, to whom the Cathedral is dedicated, was, as Giles Fraser pointed out, a tent maker and missioner of no fixed abode. Tonight a friend who is beginning to explore the Christian faith emailed me her puzzlement that “God and religion don’t seem to match”. What has been happening in London seems to be another replay of this mismatch. (Is it either the grace of God, or prophetic imagination and energy that makes more of a match?)
Madeleine Bunting has written of the spatial aspect of the paradigm shift represented by the protest. For her, the protes
welcome the movement’s openness, pluralism and commitment to imagining a more just world.” Their statement includes a reminder that “the Jewish heritage includes a long tradition of reshaping society to help the least fortunate, from the teaching of prophets like Amos and Jeremiah, to Rabbi Hillel, to modern figures such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Naomi Klein.” The church shares the same Jewish heritage, but the juxtaposition and apparent conflict of tent and Cathedral suggests the ease with which an institution can forget its origin as a movement of liberation.