I’ve been very quiet on social media over the last few months. That has largely been because of a significant restructuring at work which led to my post being made redundant. It is a strange and disorienting experience to go through, and I didn’t feel like blogging about it while it was happening. It’s especially uncomfortable when to be made potentially jobless is also (as clergy) to be made potentially homeless.
Nor do I intend to write much about transitioning over the summer to a newly created post focussed on lay training and discipleship development, which I have been successful in applying for. Nor do I want at present to reflect on “survivor’s guilt” and my concern for those colleagues who are now having to look elsewhere for their future employment.
Some people may find that kind of blogging therapeutic. I don’t think I’m one of them, but it would seem dishonest not to acknowledge here something of the context in which I have been silent, and from which I am seeking to refocus. If you’re the praying sort, you might remember those in my workplace who are still struggling, alongside all those in the wider economy who are in the same boat.
However, I do think the new role means I’ll be doing some fresh thinking, and I hope to do some of that thinking out loud on this blog in ways I haven’t for some time. I’ve therefore refreshed things slightly, in preparation for a return to more active blogging.
Mainly I’ve moved the title down to being a subtitle, and stolen a new title from one of my favourite poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins. It comes from his sonnet “As kingfishers catch fire”.
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme; Geracrd Manley Hopkins
as tumbled over rim in roundy wells
stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.
Í say móre: the just man justices;
kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
to the Father through the features of men’s faces.
The octave looks at how each creature reveals God’s glory by being itself; the sestet suggests a greater human vocation, made possible by God’s assumption of humanity in Christ.
We share a call to contributing to the richness of creation by being ourselves as all creatures do (“Whát I do is me: for that I came”). Beyond that we have a call to see and receive (and to be and offer) the richness of God’s grace and gift in the richness of human life and action. The sheer diversity of humanity when ordered towards justice and generosity participates in, reveals, and revels in, the beauty and love of God.
It’s not unrelated to the experience of redundancy and restructuring. I have been sustained by the care-full approach taken by diocesan management, in the shared experience of colleagues going through restructuring, and through the support and love of friends both Christian and non-Christian.
My Christian friends may be more comfortable with the thought that they have been God’s gifts to me more than my non-Christian ones, but I need to acknowledge the diversity of people through whom, and ways in which, I have been sustained through upheaval and fragility. God’s variegated grace in these wonderfully diverse relationships is one part of Hopkins’ meaning for me when he says “Christ plays in ten thousand places.” It is in humanity that God is to be freshly valued. It is in God that humanity is to be newly appreciated.