It must be the equivalent of raging against the dying of the light- holding on to summer as Autumn approaches- but today, the male 75% of this household makes its second pilgrimage of the week to a cricket ground.
Bank Holiday Monday saw us at Chester le Street to watch a 40 over match (kids go free!): Durham v Surrey. We were lucky enough to see one of the best one day innings I have seen from one of the most unlikely quarters; an opening batsmen, W.R. Smith, with a career that perhaps has so far not quite reached the heights that seemed possible, coming in in the middle order to rebuild an innings. At first he played correctly, nudging and nurdling, and then opened up, completely dominating a young attack to reach 120 not out.
If you don’t like cricket, that was just gobbledegook. If you do, that is one of the reasons to see cricket as a sublime game: long periods of jockeying for position- sometimes almost attrition- lit up by something incredible.
Today we make another pilgrimage to the same ground to see an International Match: England v Australia 20/20- the women’s game first, then the men’s.
Personally I prefer the slowness of 4/5 day cricket, but I have two children who are surpassing me in ability and drawing close to me in enthusiasm for cricket.
I am very happy….
This is ‘Marmite Music’: you will either like it or hate it.
I got to playing this as my children went to cricket training a week or so ago. They loved it for its noise and novelty value.
Not the kind of song to listen to if you want something to deeply connect with your soul; unless you have drunk 15 cups of strong coffee in an hour, listened to a road drill, had a tooth out without anaesthetic, been on a rollercoaster and then watched a performance art piece that consisted of 11 people scraping their nails across a blackboard for 2 hours.
And it has been a while since I did that.
So I was sat there at ‘Reception into Full Connexion’ in 2001 (A peculiarly Methodist thing that precedes the Ordination Service later that day….having sat through one in a large overheated hall that seemed to go on for several days and plumb new depths of wordiness and boredom, I am tempted to say ‘never again’). One of the many speakers from another – unnamed- denomination referred to ‘The difficulties of the ecumenical pilgrimage.’
On one level I could agree with him: any meeting with two or more organisations will produce at least 7 different opinions and 11 different non negotiables.
But then, even at my relatively naïve and inexperienced level, something he said just didn’t ring true for me. Perhaps harshly I thought- and have thought even more so in the ensuing years: It is only difficult because of people like you- who are risk averse and regard good leadership as keeping everyone happy. I have also come to realise the feeling of security of having long meetings in closed rooms that achieve almost nothing.
‘Pilgrimage’ is a journey; it may have slow points, but it does involve movement. The word should never be used- as it often seems to be used in these formal settings- to mean ‘staying in the same place’ or as a way of sanctifying intransigence/doing nothing. Sometimes there is a kind of ‘theological sophistry’; using ‘holy’ words to cover things rather than ‘saying it like it is’. How about sometimes saying ‘We talked, but couldn’t agree. This is not a good situation to be in’?
Because, the ‘ecumenical pilgrimage’ has its moments locally, but if it is focussed around mission is generally not as difficult as the speaker suggested. It is when it is focussed around doing very little or having open ended conversations nationally that become painful in their slowness and difficulty. After many many years of talking for major denominations to not have even recognised each other’s ministry or sacraments is tragic….and most times I am in a big meeting hearing lengthy reports about, well nothing, the only saving grace is that I can catch up with cricket/football scores on a smartphone….
It was further back than the last post. The ‘Churches Agency for Safeguarding’ had just been established (the body that validates disclosures that are necessary for safeguarding; you at the back-stay awake…). There was a press release that said something like ‘This is an exciting example of ecumenical cooperation’.
If I had been eating cornflakes I would have spat them out….lets see; Christ saying in John’s Gospel ‘I have come that they may all be one’ and the dream of church ‘Where enemies become friends, where bitterness ends’ (ok I cribbed that from ‘Faithless’: ‘God is a DJ’) and the big hope that all may come together and find common cause…………. and we have got to the stage where filling out the same forms to respond to law becomes ‘exciting’ (and some denominations still have their own mechanisms anyway, ‘cos we wouldn’t want to pollute doctrine by …erm… filling in forms together would we?).
Either I missed something about the meaning of ‘exciting’ or I have simply lived on this planet for too long….
I remember reading a year or two back about an Anglican Bishop who had been to a Roman Catholic service where the RC Bishop was presiding. In a statement to the press he reflected on how moving it was that he and the other Anglican observers had come up first to the altar rail and received a blessing first. That was before the other congregation members who were Roman Catholics took Mass.
I got to thinking if I had been invited to a gathering at someone else’s house and when it came to eat, I was invited into the dining room to watch everyone else to eat whilst the host welcomed me, said how glad he was and then said ‘sorry- you can watch but you can’t eat. But we are really grateful that you are here!’ I wouldn’t feel ‘deeply moved’. I would most likely feel insulted, unwelcomed and of no value.
Every organisation has some kind of doublespeak, but I find it tragic coming from we who are supposed to have something to say to a broken world.
So the call came last week: the local team were short- would my 12 year old son play? It was a friendly so it would be ‘easy’.
We turned up; it was a friendly, but a good half of the players on both sides were from the first team (the local club has 2 senior league teams). My son blanched; ‘they are all too big’. But I cajoled and he stayed.
The game began and I umpired. I like umpiring. But there is a difference between under 11s umpiring and adult umpiring. Even in a ‘friendly’ they are serious and expect you to know a lot; fortunately I am a good actor.
However, after a few overs the captain noticed they were still one short and I was told to remove the umpires coat and start playing. So I did: the first time I have been in an umpired match since 1997. I was very rusty, but fortunately managed to act well enough not to be a liability in the field.
Then the moment came I both dreaded and longed for: the ball was thrown to me ‘You’re on’- I had to bowl. Now when I played I was average at bowling; occasional off cutters and off breaks that took a wicket or two but also got caned by sloggers unless the pitch was really slow- as I was slow, sometimes they hit catches.
Not surprisingly I wasn’t great but I didn’t bowl the most expensive over in the match and a nervous first ball wide didn’t help. In fact I was outbowled by my son who returned the creditable figures of 2-0-11-1.
What other game can have 12 year olds to people in their mid 60s in the same team? And where narrowness of girth is not a prerequisite to taking part?
And part of me I tempted to start practicing again…maybe I could be good enough for the occasional friendly or 2nd XI if everyone else is on holiday…maybe, maybe….and maybe I am just deceiving myself….. cricket is like a drug and I will forever be addicted….
..and if I could just find a job where all I had to do was play village cricket, act badly in amateur dramatics, go to gigs, drink beer….
I found a lovely prayer at the church in France that I went to a fortnight ago.
It was so simple and spoke to me:-
‘God of my unbelief, increase my faith. Help me to know that you are walking with me… you carry me through times of darkness and discouragement. Deepen my understanding that faith is not about sight but about vision. For this I give you faith-filled thanks, praise, and glory. Amen’.
And to stop it being a ‘Precious Moments’ prayer, read it alongside this from Kester Brewin ‘Other’ p96:-
‘It is easy to love the God who is bound to us and answers our cries for help. But we are called to love the God who is other, who will not be bound to the destructive lifestyles that we pray are preserved.’
It has struck me, being an introvert with a constantly running inner dialogue, that I can be very different in public to how I am on here.
That is why blogging is relatively easy for me: it is not a case of finding something to say….. it is just a case of filtering the endless internal dialogue and obsessive internal questioning to make it coherent. Believe me; blogging is therapy- it silences the internal dialogue for a time.
In public some people say I listen, am reasonably tolerant and get on with all kinds of people. On here, however, I can be trenchant, opinionated and perhaps even outspoken.
That is just how it is with us introverts with extrovert features: so deal with it!
Which is exactly the kind of comment that I would make on here, but never face to face…..
This makes me think of holiday and tracking our Ashes Victory from afar. Conclusion: we are not as good as we thought and they are better than we thought and we could lose the Ashes this winter.
I like the song and the video: what other song/video combination can mix political comment, cricket, Benny Hill and Monty Python humour? And then still leave space for the immortal Henry Blofeld?
And I have a meeting the night they play nearest to me in September. Grrrr
The church service was simple: a bit of liturgy- not too wordy, a 10 minute sermon and a couple of hymns and the simplicity was refreshing.
Coming from a Protestant tradition, our worship services seem a bit too manufactured at times- we sometimes seem to be trying too hard and focussing too much on the Sunday hour. This tends to get magnified in a larger church: Sunday worship absorbs an awful lot of preparation time and can lead to a culture among some Christians of ‘expecting to be fed’, which at its worse leads to passive involvement and when your consumer needs are not met you move.
There was ‘nothing for the children’ there. Maybe I would have found a more ‘all age’ liturgy better and less reliance on spoken word, but it got me thinking. These are all open ended questions and I am being a bit of a devil’s advocate here:-
*Is simple all age liturgy and shorter worship times the way it ‘should’ be? It places more emphasis on adults explaining to children in small groups and involving them. It places less emphasis on the person (s) at the front providing things.
*This would mean that more ‘faith formation’ would have to take place in households and extended households and be prompted by what happened on Sunday.
*Are churches with large and extensive children’s work allowing Christian parents to outsource their children’s faith development to someone else? We commute to Tesco for our food, B& Q for our DIY, we buy in people to clean our house, we commute to a church that provides for our children?
* Maybe once every few months something big could be attempted, but is the future small, simple worship gatherings with much more happening in friendship/relationship groups?
Just thinking: and this is for someone who loves all age work, experimental approaches etc….. but who occasionally feels the pressure….