Saturday, October 03, 2009

More than a load of beans

Since Bill's fall last Saturday I have felt exercised in conscience about getting on with the task of re-ordering the West end entrance of the church to make it less risky a area than it seems to be. We have plans to remove the wooden porch and replace with glass doors. This will improve the general visibility on initial even more than installing more extra lighting. However my requests to press on with this have run into the usual procedural cautions, and Martin our architect had to come in yesterday and measure up for some additional drawings to show how we propose to re-use the admittedly excellent materials of the George Pace designed wooden porch. We're also having to chase up the city engineers of about the south entrance pathway re-paving, which has also stalled, despite the work being urgently necessary for safer access, although its more than two years since we set out to do this.

The urgent concern is a pathway with poor surfaces and trip hazards. Risk is greatly multiplied by the large number of first time or occasional visitors through both church entrances. Mostly, though not always, our own regulars are aware, and careful how they negotiate the risky bits, but no amount of warning signs make it safer for people who enter rarely, or for the first time. The tourism boom brings in a higher proportion of older visitors too, so it will remain a worry to us until it's all properly done. We have a duty of care which we are eager to discharge. Living with the possibility of accidents which could be prevented is not something anyone should be comfortable with.

The calm detachment of the required bureaucratic processes of the church delivers no pastoral reassurance or support whatsoever. The church is governed more by law than grace, and that does nothing to commend the Gospel to any but the severely neurotic. However, we're stuck with it, and if I ever stop complaining, it will mean that I have abandoned the church altogether, or that by some miracle, the system has been reformed to make it truly fit for purpose - i.e. putting the welfare of people before things.

I wasn't looking forward to Alban Berg's 'Wozzek', for which we had tickets at the opera last night, but was surprised by the vivid power of the orchestral score to illustrate the fifteen scenes which comprised the narrative. The set was modern and industrial minimalist in character, presenting a narrative in a way that resembled a strip cartoon. The story depicted the oppression of a poor bullied industrial proletarian, working in a baked bean factory and living off its product, driven to madness, murder and then suicide by the cruelty and contempt to which he was exposed by society's leaders and followers. It was bleak tragic satire on modern times presenting no hope of redemption, even though God and scripture got a mention in the usual context of guilt. There's wasn't even a whiff of marxism to raise indignation let alone hope. Just bleak nihilism.

I'm glad we braved it though. It made me think, and the music was very special, as Clare said, in the same way that Wagner is special (we both like Wagner, despite his politics). For baked bean factory in the story, I was mentally substituting today's drug/alcohol game, how it keeps millions co-dependent, locally, internationally one way or another, and never delivers freedom, dignity, self-worth, fullness of life. Some would say the same about religion and all its works. There are so many places where the Gospel has not yet penetrated, not least in the heart of consumer society in love with atheism and all its works.

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