In my dream I was crawling along a corridor with water dripping on me from the ceiling. In my dream I thought, as you do, maybe I’m imagining the drips on my skin, or maybe they signify some serious neurological problem. Then, hey presto, I realized that I was being dripped on, and woke up. The Rectory roof continues to leak, and the drips drop directly over where I lie. Move the bed. You read about old houses where the furniture is moved around to avoid the drips. The Rectory is not an old house.
It’s easy to make something out of this: attend to little problems early so that they don’t become bigger ones. There are countless examples from daily life, and certainly from church life, where nipping something in the bud prevents disasters developing. And in medicine too: dealing with the wound as soon as it occurs might just stop the abscess developing.
It’s just as important to recognize problems that arise from within—that is, from our thoughts and our behaviour—and deal with them. If we don’t, we are in danger of establishing thought patterns that are destructive and lead to behaviour that attacks ourselves and those around us. Lent and Advent are the traditional times in the church year for a bit of ‘me-time’, though when you feel the drips is also a good time. This ‘me-time’ is not a matter of being self-indulgent, but rather of taking stock. I don’t mean sitting thinking about what I do and why I do it because, as St John the Evangelist says, if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. You can not rely on your own opinion of yourself. You need a critical friend. If you have a dripping ceiling, you need to get the opinion of an expert. If you have things inside that are niggling at you, you need to get the opinion of someone else who can tell you how others see you, and what needs work. It is painful to glimpse yourself as others see you (Take me away, I can not bear the sight), and attending to the symptoms is hard work. It’s a matter of touching the untouchable within as the onion skins peel away. At this point I must interject. If you’ve seen Shrek 1 (and if you haven’t you should you know, you really should—there’s profound theology in there relevant to this ramble) you might recall the conversation about onion skins and parfaits. What is he on about? I hear some say.
I make no secret of the fact that of the C of I liturgies I find Morning and Evening Prayer 2 difficult to bear. They are wordy, there’s too much up and down, and three readings are one more than my brain can take in. I much prefer the structure, movement and language of the ‘1662’ services. To those who say that the language repels some people, I say it attracts others. The thee/your discussion is incomprehensible to me, having been brought up in part of England where thee, thou and thy remain in use. These are friendly terms. But what is so wonderful about the ‘proper’ liturgy is the introductory material right up to O Lord, open thou our lips. It is entirely Scriptural, and psychologically spot-on—we have erred and strayed, etc. We’re like supermarket trolleys that seem never to go in a straight line, but veer off to one side or another. Cranmer and his mates knew a thing or two when they were penning that stuff, and when you learn that Cranmer married his missus while he was a Catholic priest, and hid her from society until Henry VIII kicked the bucket, you might begin to see that he knew what he was talking about. Anyway, back to the plot: deal with your problems now, before the roof falls in. And enjoy the monsoon season.