As I tore September off my desk calendar and as October appeared I knew that, as well as beginning another month – where is this year going – we were also beginning the Living God groups. I’d been watching the Sub Dean, Canon Bruce Saunders and those working with him, looking at the response forms and trying to allocate people to groups. It’s one of those tedious jobs that simply has to be done – and of course the responses are still coming in and people need to fitted in where there are spaces for them.
I knew, however, that things were underway when I arrived in the Cathedral to see a sign in the hall directing people up the stairs to my office where a group had met on the previous evening, the first day of the groups. That was quite an exciting moment, to know that people were gathering together to have the conversation that I’d so enjoyed a few weeks ago. Having that conversation about what we understand when we use ‘God’ language really does begin to open up some significant things for all of us.
While the groups were beginning we had to get our plans together for the ‘conference’ that we will hold for the congregation in November. The inverted commas are deliberate because one of the conversations we’ve been having is, so what shall we call it? A conference is too formal, a symposium too academic, a forum .. well that got a bit more of a consensus but whilst I was off doing something else the decision was made that we won’t call it anything like that – just ‘We believe in one God.’ That seems to me a perfect suggestion and a good Anglican compromise! So that is what it is and we look forward to Saturday 9 November.
The Dean of St George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Southwark, Canon John O’Toole, will be with us for our time together. John will be talking from his own perspective about what he means when he talks about God. Not that we think that Roman Catholics believe something different to us but we were looking for a different perspective, someone not from within our own community, who could reflect with us. In addition we will be looking at the results of the conversations that are now underway. So that should be a good morning.
Of course, all this talk of Living God could seem to suggest that we aren’t living God at the moment. That is far from the truth. Every week at the Cathedral a variety of things take place within the framework of worship and work which are the structure of our lives. These week for instance has seen the nave used in a few interesting ways.
Naves were I suppose the original meeting places, the biggest space in a community in which people could gather. Rood screens, pulpitums and, later on, altar rails were there to keep holy space holy. It meant that the nave could be used for a variety of things. So to see the nave of Southwark used for a variety of events this week, which weren’t immediately ‘churchy’, was great and to me speaks of the God who lives with us, lives alongside us.
On Monday evening we welcomed Sir John Eliot Gardiner for part of the launch of his new book on Bach called ‘Music in the Castle of Heaven’. He gave a great lecture, punctuated with passages from Bach’s Cantatas. Although I love listening to Bach I knew little about him. Sir John opened up so much of the man for me, his struggles with his employers, his struggles with faith and he illustrated this with the music which reflected so much of this.
In a recent interview Sir John said “I have friends who are not believers but who’ve been soothed by Bach’s music, and I think the reason is that Bach knew what tragedy was all about. He was orphaned twice, he lost his first wife and 10 of his children. He faced all this with courage, and I think it’s the combination of unflinching rigour and a wonderful power to comfort that makes him unique.”
We experienced God as Bach knew him as we listened to the music played.
The following day there was different music playing as children from various schools in the area came to the Cathedral’s Education Centre for the beginning of Black History Month. The nave was partly cleared of chairs and a theatre group had been brought in to work with the children on a production which would highlight aspects of black history for over 200 children. It was exciting to see them participating in the event, children from various ethnic backgrounds celebrating a history that was often forgotten but, I hope, we are now all remembering.
On Friday, the Vergers had to clear the nave of chairs once again for the annual Quiz Night organised by the Friends of the Cathedral. We had the largest number of teams so far. The Cathedral resounded to the sound of people having fun, enjoying themselves, not in worship, true but enjoying that sense of community which is also an essential element in the life of the people of God.
By Sunday, of course, all was back to normal and the round of services, the mainstay of our life, was what was happening in the nave. So an interesting week and a good beginning to this part of Living God. If you are thinking of joining one of the groups then please do, there are some places yet to be filled and it would be good to have as many insights as possible into the God we know and worship and celebrate in every aspect of our life.
bless every part of our life
that in whatever we do
we may worship you
and make your love known.