Friday, 25 June 2010

Drought Conditions

In this part of Britain, this is perhaps the driest Spring and early summer in living memory. Normally freely flowing streams have already been reduced to a small trickle, and I even saw a blackbird this morning in the Vicarage garden trying to drink from a slowly dripping outside tap. But I'm not going to complain about the weather - another three or four months of sun and heat would suit me just fine - but soon farmers and gardeners (not to mention the water companies) will be crying out for rain.
Drought conditions undoubtedly also prevail spiritually, pastorally, and ecclesially, as many of us are living hand to mouth, day by day, orphaned,  not knowing what the future may hold, or whether the hopes we have entertained are realistic. The first of the psalms at morning prayer today contained a cri de coeur with which  many of us can identify:
Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.........
In your goodness show favour to Sion:
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
holocausts offered on your altar.
In the province of Wales, despite the controversies over the border about the recent proposals of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, it is praeternaturally quiet - rien! I'm sure a great deal of soul-searching is going on and survival strategies are being dreamt up, but I am more sceptical than ever about whether even what the Bishop of Ebbsfleet has referred to as the "Non-Juring option" will be the remotest of  possibilities in Wales for those who wish to stay on and cling to the vestiges of catholicity.

I used to admire (or at least understand emotionally) those who repeated John Keble's famous comment (of course, ecclesiologically questionable then) that even "if the Church of England were to fail altogether yet it would be found in my parish," or to the traditional SSC war cry first uttered by Fr Mackoncohie of "no desertion, no surrender!"
In my view, for what it's worth, neither sentiment is now at all tenable in a situation like ours in the Church in Wales with no prospect of any form of alternative or additional episcopal oversight being granted to "traditionalists" ('catholic' is a description which will be less and less easy to employ as time goes on), a centralising ecclesiastical bureaucracy intent on removing more and more authority from the parishes and transferring them to deaneries and dioceses, and an increasingly mobile, theologically starved and secularised  laity who largely fail to understand the wider  issues at stake.  "That's terrible - so you may have to do something else for a living, then," is usually the sympathetic but largely accepting response to this end game we are now playing. And of course they are right. The writing is on the wall plainly for all to see; only some of us - and I include myself in this - are almost too afraid to look up and read it.

It is dry and very quiet here and, to mix my metaphors completely and absolutely (I'm good at that,) perhaps this is "the deep breath before the plunge," or the brief moment of stillness and equilibrium before the ship finally goes down. I don't think it's sensible to try to bargain over the conditions for getting into the lifeboat.

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners' ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,

Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now, leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes

Them; birds build--but not I build; no, but strain,
Time's eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

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