Sunday, May 13, 2007

Holy snipers

A visit to my old classroom (strangely unaltered after almost two years - see left) prompted a range of emotions and a chain of reflection. It was great to feel so at home in school, even as I rejoiced in the ability to walk out of it again after a couple of hours; it was good to catch up with former colleagues and to catch pupils waving in a friendly manner across the playground as I went in.

Now, of course, much of my contact with the world of education is online. I find that the blogs I read fall for the most part into two categories: educational and church-orientated. On one side the posts and the comments are largely supportive, appreciative, gentle, careful of one another's egos, putting forward helpful and often innovative ideas for all to share. On the other side the posts are often self-aware, sometimes outrageous, often critical, and the comments snippy, defensive, brittle, caustic. You might think it obvious which group is which, but to avoid confusion I should point out that the latter group are the church folk, and the professionals at that. I find the contrast between expectation and reality interesting. Could it in fact be the burden of that very expectation that causes such hard carapaces?

And a final thought about school and church. When I was in the Infant class, we all had to say the Lord's Prayer every morning, standing beside our desks, eyes closed, hands piously clasped before us. The girl immediately behind me always muttered something different - a rapid, distracting mutter. One day I asked her what she was saying. "The teddy-bear's picnic" - quick as a flash. I thought this wonderfully rebellious. Later, much later, I realised that she was Jewish. At the time I was merely aware of a gulf between us, the gulf between my ignorance and her defensiveness. I remembered this today when I heard a rebel in my own congregation muttering her "Teddy-bear's picnic" - the Grey Book liturgy, to which she clings and which this morning had been abandoned in favour of an out-of-synch indulgence in the Blue Book.

Trouble is - we're supposed to be a unity. We don't half make it difficult for ourselves.


  1. Anonymous8:46 AM

    Your comments about the difference in culture between education and the ecclesastical are interesting.

    For my part, having been involved quite deeply in political life for 5 years until 2006, I found a similar divide. The people I met through politics were much more respectful of one another and a good deal more honest than folk in the church.

  2. Anonymous9:00 AM

    I guess the reason we are often 'self-aware, sometimes outrageous, often critical, and the comments snippy, defensive, brittle, caustic' is because we care so much. We want the church to be 'right', to be inclusive and a place where everyone encounters God. But the reality is often different and some of us are passionate about trying to 'fix' it. Of course we are also supportive and caring to our little flocks and to one another but if we believe something is out of kilter then we owe it to our vows to try and make it better. We get none of the support and training that your education friends get and we are pissed off about that. We want to improve ourselves and our pleas fall on deaf ears.

    You are right - we are brittle. Brittle from all the knocks, all the failed attempts at making things better, all the pleas falling on deaf ears and a feeling of not being heard. We are all the things you say and more. We don't want to be this way, believe me, but prophets aren't always loved.

    Wow! Where did that all come from?

  3. Ruth, you say:"Of course we are also supportive and caring to our little flocks and to one another" - and I think therein lie both the problem and a question mark. You're always alone in the workplace, aren't you - so immediate support isn't just next door on a bad day. You have to keep up the smiley compassionate bit to the punters (like me!). And it's surely harder to be a priest these days than when respect came with the collar. (Teaching's a bit like that too, these days) I hope you feel better after the wee rant; I still think we all need to be more careful with each other. And that's a lesson I have to learn too.

  4. Hi... found you because I keep tabs on blogs about the Lord's Prayer. I frequent many spiritual/church/Christian blogs as well, and find there's quite a mix. The snippy, caustic stuff is definitely out there, but I also know a lot of believers who do a fantastic job of showing both love and truth online.

    "The Teddy Bear's Picnic"--I find that strangely moving. Good for her.

    author of Heart to Heart: Meeting With God in the Lord's Prayer

  5. Rachel, when I reflected on the Teddy bears in adult life, I realised that this was happening in my life only five years after the discovery of the horrors of Belsen and other death camps. I've often wondered if the girl in question had been warned by her family to be private about her background.

  6. I know I'm the most reasonable person in the world. The fact that no-one else can see that is their problem, not mine!!

  7. I find that I just can't get myself to say the "contemporary" version of the Lord's Prayer that appears in the BCP 1979 here in the US. Thanks be to God so far I've only been in parishes where they either say or sing the traditional one.

    The English of the traditional just sounds so much better than that other version. I might be biased though, since I do like to occasionally read Wycliffe's English translation of the New Testament from 1385.

  8. That's interesting. I found myself the other day saying a mixture of the old and the new because they now seem equally ensconced in my psyche. And both feel equally valid now, though this was not always the case.