Among all the work stuff I have to read (like the report issued yesterday – funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – on the 2012 Bradford West by-election) I have just read Professor Ben Quash's excellent new book Abiding. The Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent Book, it addresses the urgent need of Christian people to commit to place and stay there.

With reference to film, art and literature, Quash writes beautifully about how to live generously and contentedly with life lived in community. Rooted in the Benedictine experience, he draws on Scripture to encourage openness, attentiveness, reflectiveness, looking reality in the eye and living an authentic life. In so doing, he eschews the escapism of fantasy – religious or otherwise – whilst encouraging a habit of 'abiding' in body, mind, relationships, exile, woundedness and peace.

Perhaps it isn't coincidental that today I visited a church in Bradford where a simple community has arisen around the making of bread. Bread Church draws people from the local community into what I want to call an 'abiding presence' – where people bake bread together, share time together, talk together, break loneliness together, eat together, pray together, care for one another. It can only happen where one or two people commit themselves to a particular place – to abiding and not running away. It is impressive and rooted in the soil of Christian love and mercy.

Bread Church embodies what Ben Quash describes.

This is a book for slow reading and one I will be commending strongly – and not only because Ben is soon to be installed as Canon Theologian of Bradford Cathedral.

 

Cranmerbannerround

I was moved this morning to read Archbishop Cranmer‘s latest post. Having been blogging for ten months now, I have been giving some thought to why I do it and what possible value it might have. I don’t know what has caused Cranmer’s worrying melancholy, but his willingness to express it seems to me to point up something really important.

When you blog you create a community. Belonging to a community brings with it obligations and accountabilities. This means that Cranmer (whoever he or she is) explains himself to his community – and they have responded with generous affection and respect.

Cranmer attacked me pretty angrily last week and it didn’t make easy reading – not just the content, but the tone. But, he did me and us a service by strongly addressing the matters he did (and the conversation went on beyond his initial response and my later response to his criticism). My dislike for the aggressively ‘anti’ tone of his posts does not matter. But I guess writing the stuff he does probably comes at some personal cost.

But, it is this that makes blogging worthwhile: the blogger starts a conversation – sometimes by going over the top a bit on a particular issue – and then learns (along with other readers/contributors) as the conversation proceeds. Blogging is useless in a static world in which people refuse to learn or grow.

I was doing a session on ‘Blogging and Tweeting’ with some clergy the other day. Yes, I know: the other bishops teach stuff like doctrine, Greek, theology… They soar like eagles – and I sound like a budgie. But, during the session we addressed the fact that new media such as blogging have to be interactive. They thrive on ‘conversation’ – with writers offering not the final word on some issue, but the first word. I think this is why I would still want to use the term ‘a confident humility’ to describe how blogging can contribute to a wider conversation: you put your point of view, but then listen to what follows and learn from it. In my own case, I rarely emerge from a particular thread at exactly the same place where I began.

The ‘community’ which Cranmer has created is not just a virtual one – disembodied and ‘unreal’. It is populated by real people who see beyond the ‘fiction’ of Cranmer’s identity to love and respect the person. I wish him/her well. I just wish the anonymity wasn’t the barrier it is.