Wednesday, 25 April 2012

On not attending Church two weeks in a row (3)


Careful readers of this blog will have noticed that I often write “G-d”, or “The Holy One”.  I have adopted this custom from Judaism which has a wise caution against the casual invocation of the name of “The Eternal One”
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To name something or someone is (in some fashion) an expression of a very limited human understanding.

When I see a cat I say “there is a cat”.

When I see a friend I say “hello Harry”.

I know these words, but they in no way express the meaning of “cat-ness” or “Harry-ness”.

Similarly I know the word “God”, but knowing that word does not mean that I have any deep inkling of God-ness.

That is why, in solidarity with my Jewish friends, I am sometimes wary of naming G-d.

It is important that my religious experience be rooted in awe and wonder, rather than in ** chumminess.

If the Creator is  awesome (and I believe that s/he must be so), then I will pray to that Creator not as “my best friend”, but as to a Being who is entirely above and beyond me -  viz: the Holy One.

Such is the awesomeness of G-d that to pray is to be reduced to silence. The psalm writers knew this some 3,000 years ago.  See this for instance:


Psalm 62 1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.


So it is that I have learned to appreciate G-d in silence, rather than in the often busy, and sometimes frenetic Church services.

1. I began to learn this in 1984 when I became the Rector at St. Stephen’s in Pittsfield, MA.  My fabulous predecessor, the Revd Andrew Wissemann had instituted a daily regime of Morning Prayer (9:00 a.m), and Evening Prayer (5:00 p.m.) using the services of the Book of Common Prayer.
We continued this regime under my Rectorship. (1984-2000). In the silences of daily morning and evening prayer I sensed the presence of the Holy One.

2. In 1999 I spent a week at the Taize Community in Burgundy, FR. (Check with Google for more information about Taize).  The worship there – three times a day – includes a ton of silence – experienced in the presence of some 3,000 other people.

It was in that in that shared silence (which at first I resisted) that I yet again had a palpable sense of the awesome presence of the awful G-d.

As the Psalmist wrote  “For God alone my soul waits in silence


(** Of course I understand that God in Jesus Christ calls me a friend.  But good friends often have their most intimate times in shared silence).

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