Last summer, I wrote a series of posts on the highly pretentious sounding ‘dehumanising metrics of modernist ministry’. Don’t be put off (although in fairness, I have to say I was quietly pleased by the alliteration there) because the more I’ve thought about it, and the more I’ve chatted with folks, the more I think there are some crucial things to discuss. This is certainly not the perfect analysis nor last word. But I hope it will at least present something of what troubles me these days.

Enjoy – and please feel free to comment/contribute/correct/make suggestions.

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20th Century

“O Tempora! O Mores Evangelicii!” 10. A milestone and a decision

Something Hugh said at that meeting in Sheffield has been etched on my memory every since. I’d only been in ordained ministry perhaps 2 or 3 years and we were having our normal post-Summer catchup and planning session.

We would habitually begin with a short devotional, but that day, Hugh was in reflective mood. Only a few weeks before, he’d celebrated his 50th birthday, and now he openly described how affecting that milestone had been. If memory serves, it was on the lines of “I now realize that I have more years of formal ministry behind me than ahead of me.” 

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20th Century

“O Tempora! O Mores Evangelicii!” 9. Believing the propaganda

You will know of Godwin’s law, I’m sure, whereby the longer an internet discussion countinues, “the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” So, I’m afraid, the time has come.

One of the most gripping if chilling works of history that I’ve read is one that I find myself returning to a lot these days, despite the fact that it is well over 10 years since I first encountered it (in early research for Wilderness of Mirrors). Sir Ian Kershaw has spent a lifetime researching 20th Century German history and has brought all kinds of profound insights to the anglophone world (including through his mammoth two-volume biography of Hitler).

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Simon Rowbory

    I find this paper/introduction really thought provoking, and have mixed it in with a few other things I have been thinking about. I have been thinking however that we might have some more specific suggestions of how to respond to the temptations that we face in ministry….?

      1. Simon Rowbory

        For a start…

        The economics of effectiveness and the impatience with slowness:
        We are addicted to speed. Everything is about getting results fast, the more instantaneous the better. Things have to be efficient. Things are measured, primarily to assess whether they give a return on the investment. If they are not, funding is removed.

        To counter this we can SLOW DOWN. There are various ways of doing this. One important way (already mentioned) is to notice the past. But also noticing the wonders of creation (Peter Adam speaks well on this). Poetry forces us to slow down. As does prayer. And silence. When we slow down we remember that it is actually un-measurable things that are of greater worth.

        I had a few other thoughts too, but put in different categories:

  2. quaesitor

    Thanks for this – I like that list a lot… and as one who lives in the madness of London’s West End, I totally relate to the SLOW DOWN plea…

  3. Simon Rowbory

    I like it too, maybe one day I’ll actually get around to doing it…

    1. quaesitor

      Interestingly, have just come across this nice [if hyperbolic] little one-liner from Pascal:

      “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.”

  4. Simon Rowbory

    Pascal’s saying reminds me of the sort of thing that the desert monks used to say e.g. “stay in your cell: your cell will teach you everything”
    of course such things can be taken to extremes, and the antidote to our culture’s one extreme isn’t to go right to the opposite end but try to build slowness into our lives in ways that make room for God. Funny also that *quiet times* aren’t always quiet in the sense Pascal was thinking of.

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