September 2015: Fresh! additional material
4. all things bright and beautiful [talk/slideshow]
Starting with the toy owl which appears on the flyer, I asked whether anybody had seen an owl in the wild. Some people might have done, if they grew up in the 1960s or earlier and lived in the country, but I certainly never have.
There are many analogies used in the Bible, or written subsequently, that were familiar for people at the time but don't mean anything to us now – or don't mean the same thing – notably nature/farming analogies which we are unfamiliar with or have sentimentalised. They were intended to help people understand or relate to God – but what is their effect today?
For example, from the hymn 'All things bright and beautiful':
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.
I think we can understand the images there, even if we don't have gardens. But what about this verse:
The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.
Can anybody identify with those images?
We live in an urban culture – even people in the country! Use nature images if you do find them helpful, but if not, try thinking of images which you can relate to.
So here are some urban images. Hinde Street (the church I go to on Sundays) has its harvest festival service in two weeks' time. Traditionally people would bring fruit or vegetables from their own gardens (or allotments) to a harvest festival service, and they would be given to elderly or house-bound people afterwards – I did this myself when I was at primary school. But Hinde Street has made it clear that this is an urban harvest festival, and what they want as gifts. The church runs a food-and-chat club for homeless people, unimaginatively called the Wednesday Club, and so they ask for items that can be used for the club: tea, coffee, biscuits, tinned ingredients to make soup and sandwiches, and volunteers to make soup and sandwiches. So I have gone from bringing apples from the garden to bringing a catering pack of teabags.
A poem which was popular at Vaux, another emerging church: Thanks By W. S. Merwin. There is a Vaux version of this poem with lines such as "Over e-mails and mobiles we are saying thank you". I prefer the original, but some people may find that technological analogies are what speak to them best.
Action point: the congregation were given cards on which to write down an analogy, to think about during the week. Something which helps you relate to God, to understand the world, or anything else you will find valuable.