It’s not often I feel proud to be English. The espousal of nationality seems to be associated these days with the worst aspects of mindless soccer violence and belligerent xenophobia, both of which I detest. However, on July 8th this year at St Mark’s I think we demonstrated an uplifting national trait I can’t imagine you’d find in many other countries.
It was Dave and Helena’s wedding. It was special in so many ways. Firstly, of course, the people. It was also the first wedding to take place in St Mark’s for many years and the first wedding ceremony that St Mark’s has ever held in its own right, rather than as a scion of St John’s. Number one in the record book of St Mark’s weddings!
Helena and Dave are both artists. They and their friends produced banners to hang from the walls of the church for the occasion. The transformation was remarkable. They’re still there and I feel reluctant to remove them, at least until we’ve got others to take their place. This, and a full church, gave a delightful atmosphere to the whole event.
However, it wouldn’t be St Mark’s without something being a bit zany, which is where my feelings of national pride come in. Whilst it is possible, if you scour the earth, you may find another country in which the bride would walk up the isle to the fiddle tune “Whiskey before breakfast”, and you might even find a place where the newly-married couple would leave to “Grumbling old men and grumbling old women”, I’m prepared to bet you won’t find anywhere where the glorious hymn “Tell out my Soul” would be sung to the accompaniment of Frances on Emily (the creaky old pipe organ), myself on fiddle and the crowning glory of Lesley on obligato tin whistle! I think this is something only the English would consider doing.
Another nice touch of English eccentricity was from Heather and Caroline doing improvised harmony singing during the signing of the registers. (Took me back to my youth of long hair and flared trousers!)
However, we shouldn’t forget the ceremony itself which was both joyous and devout, a combination it would be nice to find more often.
Altogether a glorious ceremony in the best traditions of St Mark’s, to celebrate the marriage of a wonderful couple.
I was talking with someone last night and we got onto the question of what is at the core of Christianity. A few months ago I blogged on the principle behind the answer to this question, but looking back discover that I didn’t answer what is there for me (or at least not in that post).
For me the foundations of Christianity are:
He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’
Whoever serves me must follow me
God is love and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.
New Patterns of Worship H6
If we do this then we won’t go far wrong.
You may notice that these involve how we behave, and not what we believe – although of course if you do not believe that these are the right things to do you won’t do them! Of course there are doctrines of the church, but I think that the best way into them is through behaviour, not in the sense that you have to adhere to all the rules before you can belong, but in the sense that without some experience of God it is difficult to make sense of the doctrines or demands of the christian life.
How do we decide what to do? And has it changed in society over recent decades?
Capitalism works on the basis that if everyone does what is best for them that will lead to the best outcome for society (my paraphrase of Adam Smith). However, there are a few flaws in this! The first is that it assumes that people know what is best for them; that they can do what is best for themselves; and that this will lead to the best outcome for society.
I am not convinced that British society worked on this basis prior to Margaret Thatcher, but it feels to me that it is much more how things are working today.
Lets look at my challenges in the area of higher education. One of the contributing factors to university rankings is the view of the students. It is in individual students interests for them to get a good class of degree, if they rank their university on how good a degree it gives them it becomes in the university’s interest to give them a good grade. Does this work for the good of society?
Another example, many people think that there is no need for a welfare state; that people should look after themselves. They wish to pay taxes on that basis. But when there was a suggestion of a “dementia tax” (which wasn’t a tax, but people spending their own money on care) there was an uproar.
Where lies the balance between the good of the individual and the good of society?
It has been shown that money doesn’t make you happy beyond a certain point (perhaps), and that more equal societies are healthier and happier.
not my will but yours be done
just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me