Sunday, July 08, 2007

Wipe your feet

Ok. God. We were unusual among our London friends in that we went to mass. Being a "believer" has no novelty value here at all. My "belief" is a pretty ropy affair of feminist hesitation, personal doubts, general embarrassment and a cultural legacy from my mother. I am a catholic; that is my get out of jail free card. I do not have to talk about God. I hardly have to talk to God. The priests and my mother can do that for me. I have issues with God. I have certainly got issues with the Pope and frankly, I would be much happier if I could have back the childhood, gilded glory of a robed and guardian angel. Did he leave my side? What I thought was a breeze, was that the moment that he left me for another soul to keep? Or, did I just stop believing he was there and "Phut" he was gone? Feathery and glorious. Is that the moment, the loneliness began? I admire sheer conviction but I cannot lose myself in "Jesus". I cannot think myself saved and another damned to fall and burn. I can flirt; I cannot bring myself to surrender. I have tried, watched myself, the thought comes unbidden: "Ye gods." I am facinated though by others' faith, struggling as I do in all my uncertainties.

At the weekend, we had to go to a border town to pick up large numbers of cardboard boxes from the removers. It began to rain and we stumbled into a cafe. I tell a lie we stumbled into a church that was pretending to be a cafe. No not true either we stumbled into a cafe that has a sideline as a shop and which turns into a church on a Sunday. We sat down, all unwitting. My eyes fixed on a photo frame for sale. It said: " "For I know the plans I have for you," declared the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)" I thought: "Golly." I looked around. Sure enough there was stuff like that all over. One thing struck me. How often in the merchandising, the Christian believer or customer asks or expects something of his God. " I have paid £4.99 for this mouse mat, I expect happiness for the rest of my life and my child to get into the university of his choice." I particularly liked a frame with three photographs in it. The first, a bakerlite phone "Ask and it shall be given you"; above and below the pair of binoculars were the words "Seek and ye shall find" while the door knocker was "Knock and it shall be opened unto you." (Matthew 7:7). My least favorite was a watercolour of a plant in a pot: "Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

The merchandising went on and on. A soft and cuddly praying frog who sang "Now I lay me down to sleep..." ; blank paper which they made sure you knew was "compatible with printers and computers" with the heading "God's best to you! Christ's blessings on you! (Philemon 1:3)The Message" and I liked a purple coffee mug emblazoned with "...handle with prayer." I thought: "Who buys this stuff?" Then I thought: "Me." There was a pair of holy novelty socks with a design of the burning bush and two pairs of feet. One of them Moses and the other Joshua. Apparently, there are more than 600 references to feet and walking in the Bible. I never knew that. The packaging instructs you: " "Put off the shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." Exodus 3:5." The packaging says: "Displaying our faith in a non-threatening and humorous way, our original designs are interesting and amusing and can be conversation stoppers ..." I personally do not think the "non-threatening" bit is true. I would assume, anyone who wore socks like these was a complete lunatic and immediately feel very threatened. Naturally, I bought a pair and plan to wear them tomorrow. I also bought a book about starting a house church, that is to say, people coming together to worship in someone's home rather than feeling they have to attend a "real" church. I am thinking: "New kitchen, coffee, all these people up here who believe in God." I said to my husband: "Look, I could start a church." He said: "Yes. The church of the cappuccino. Your kind of place."

23 comments:

Wisewebwoman said...

And your church would be headed up by none less than the Capuccine Friars, of course. (Are there any left? - I think they could provide some hits of brandy for the cappucinos too....:>) ).
In Ireland, masses in houses are called "The Stations", always followed by a great party, you could start this trend in the North.

Mike said...

I hope people would not do to your church what they used to do in Ireland, wait outside till Mass was over, or collect the booklet form church to show their parents they "really were at Mass".
A cappucino church sounds great to me! granite windowsill would make a fab altar, and could you do the water into chablis bit too?

Kaycie said...

Those kinds of things have always put me off a bit. When we moved into our rental house, there was a leftover garden "rock" with scripture engraved into it left in a planter in the house by the owners. It was a lovely scripture but the first thing I did was take it out of the house. The cherub stayed, though. I think there is something more overt about scripture engraved or printed or embroidered on something. Or maybe I'm just odd.

jane said...

Save a space on the pew for me!

mutterings and meanderings said...

Reading your religious posts always makes me wonder who you talk to to get the idea you are surrounded by mega-religious people here. I don't know anyone who goes to church on a regular basis, or who talks about God or religion...

orchidea said...

My second... third boyfriend was of Catholic extraction. He took me home to meet his mother, and there were crucifixes in every room; the tangible symbolism representing the murdering of JC again and again (what would that achieve?) was perplexing to me.

This was an especially poignant experience because my mother was a Roman Catholic and I was baptised a Roman Catholic. She died when I was very young, and I wonder how my life would have evolved if I'd been brought up a practicing Catholic rather than a Christmas-sometimes-at-Easter Anglican.

Love your blog, btw.

orchidea

http://orchideareflects.com

Mopsa said...

god turns up in the most unexpected places - I still reel when I find out friends and family actually believe in those fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

But there are fairies at the bottom of the garden; God's fairies who stash teeth. Wasn't there a cafe next door?

I Beatrice said...

You have to award them points for ingenuity and effort though.

And so far as the Pope is concerned - well, I like the idea that he is the only living mortal entitled to include the word 'infallible' in his CV.

(Or is that one of the things they've lately dispensed with?)

The Grocer said...

I'm with M&M your not mixing with the right sort, or perhaps you have just presumed this because they all cuss like the Irish?
In my limited experience the church thing is more of a social necessity rather than a religous experience for most.

jane said...

Poor Pope, that is one hell of a responsibility don't you think? Being labelled infallible must be a bit like being one of those high-wire entertainers - everyone's really impressed by you while you maintain perfect balance but are secretly waiting for you to fall off so they can point and say "there you go. Infallible my backside."

I don't like people telling me what I should and shouldn't believe in, being such a contrary baggage I always want to shout "how do you know?", because unless they've come from a far, far better place or know something I don't, they're just as much in the dark as I am.

I'd still like to come for a coffee at WITN's Church of the Granite Sill, as I am sure there would be absolutely no crapolatte served there!

Norman said...

Would there be a shrine to "Our Lady of the Eternal Expresso?"

@themill said...

Every war ever fought has been about religion. As I get older I feel more and more distant from the church. I find my spirituality on the beach and am constantly amazed by the guilt and baggage that catholics seem to have to carry around with them. What sort of God does that to anyone?

Bramblehead said...

I find this level of certainty so profoundly unspiritual. The church of the cappuccino? Much more humble and moving!

Steve Schewe said...

Your house church doesn't have to be only "believers" in the sense of the religious bookstore you stumbled into. A lot of people who are in church have their doubts. What is faith other than a willingness to move forward despite one's doubts?

I think many people go along for years carrying their inherited assumptions about God until something cracks them open -- a chronic disease,a divorce, the loss of a job, the death of someone close (a move to a new region, perhaps!) -- and then there's an opening for them to figure out where God fits for them. Cappucino could be a big part of that -- hospitality is core to a vital church. The Benedictines say receive a guest as if they were Christ.

That feathery, glorious God of your childhood still visits. Look for him/her in the hearts of other people.

sunshine said...

What an interesting post! Very thought-provoking. A shop full of symbols of something one does not believe in does seem to be a cross between intimidating and ridiculous. I don't think I've ever known anyone who came to faith through a symbol. Rather, the symbol was created to express the already-familiar faith.

Too often church folk seem to revere the symbol and ignore nurturing the faith it expresses. This would explain why I am a "member" of the Crystal Cathedral (on television). I can exercise the faith and choose my own symbols. (I most likely wouldn't wear the sox -- kind of puts God in the same category as Christmas sox and Halloween sox etc.)

House churches are the best! People coming together, inquiring and learning, perhaps drinking cappucino on the windowsill -- stripped of all the "stuff" that I think gets in the way of deep faith! The really heavy question now is -- how many barstools can your sill accommodate? By my count, at least 16 of us will be there for the "opening" of the sill!

Cal said...

I'd come to your cappucino church!

Have you come across the glory that is the Ship of Fools? Internet magazine of Christian satire (sounds ghastly but isn't). But it's the discussion forums that are the best bit.

(Ack, the idea of an internet Christian discussion forum still sounds awful but trust me it isn't - do go take a look - stuffed full of interesting people with interesting views - running the gamut from atheist to fundamentalist but predominantly thinking woolly liberals!!)

Cal said...

Oops

http://ship-of-fools.com/

Iota said...

What about those three ruined arches on your property? Now you've got yourself a congregation, you could restore those into a building with a lovely ecclesiastical feel to it.

Winchester whisperer said...

Your socks remind me of a prayer I'm sure I heard in Winchester Cathedral the other day: "Let us pray for the holy dusters."

Ian said...

Maybe it's just me, but I never got any comfort or solace from any stuff like that.
However, the coffee and the armchair in the last blog....that'll do.

mutleythedog said...

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Lorna said...

been reading back ....so very interesting -especially your thoughts on God

http://stf.heavenlytrain.com