Monday, 9 August 2010

Praying in the dark

I am not the kind of person who prays for people and they instantly glow or fall over. In fact most of the time after I have prayed for people, they smile politely, say thank you and nothing much seems to happen. I guess I hope it's been vaguely helpful and leave it at that.

The other day I met someone I prayed for about three years ago. He told me that after that prayer he had been healed of a depression that he had endured for about 40 years. Now this doesn't happen very often. It certainly doesn't happen to my prayers very often. I dimly remember praying for him, and it seemed like most of the other times I've prayed for people – pleasant but a trifle disappointing. It was just an ordinary prayer, prayed because someone asked me to, with just a modicum of faith that he and I could muster - a very small modicum of faith on my part. Sore knees and headaches are one thing, but I'm not sure I really think God can heal clinical depression. But he did. And in some way, my small prayer was part of that. Jesus said you only needed faith as small as a mustard seed for something pretty remarkable to happen. It shouldn't be, but it is surprising when you see that happen in front of your very eyes, because my faith was definitely in mustard seed territory, barely visible. I'm sure my prayer was not the key factor, and was just one of many. But it somehow blended with all kinds of other requests, tears and longings that were heard in the courts of heaven and resulted in this man's life being changed, the dark cloud of gloom lifting and happiness returning. If we can play a part in that, then surely it is worth keeping praying even if nothing much seems to happen. It is always worth praying, even when you can't quite bring yourself to believe it will make much difference.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Rev - a triumph?

I thought this TV review from the Evening Standard tonight was telling and hopeful...

...while young men feed the beast in Edinburgh, a comic miracle is taking place on our television screens. Last night was the final episode of Rev, BBC's against-all-the-odds hit about an inner- London vicar. The comedy flowed from the kindly but flawed Rev, played by Tom Hollander. It was like Richard Curtis but with melancholy shadows.
London's curious coalition of C of E congregations — parents trying to get their children into church schools, black gospel, alpha, and the homeless and oddball — forms a tableau of humanity. I'm sure the Bishop of London recognises it, although I am certain he would not compare himself to the worldly and menacing Archdeacon Robert, played by Simon McBurney.

The struggle to be virtuous is the deepest human conflict and Rev is a painfully funny study of ambition, envy and loneliness as well as fellow feeling.

Great novelists from Trollope onwards have found literary inspiration in the church. I've been reading Adam Sisman's biography of Hugh Trevor-Roper, whose popularity rested on his Hitler studies but whose interest was in the drama and contradictions of religion.
Yet in recent years we have abandoned Christianity as worthy of study. Its richness has been reduced to comic one-liners or obscene satire. Secularists have been able to divorce the C of E from the rest of existence. Rev is a lesson that public taste and sensibility has a different centre of gravity to that of opinion formers. The joy of Rev was not just the unexpected size and breadth of its television audience. It was that, at its peak, it beat Big Brother in audience ratings. Television is Risen!

Thoughts on Hope in Grenfell

In our community over the past few days we have been through a range of emotions that we rarely experience so close together. Even now ...