Glazed Nativity inside the old Conduit House, Sherborne
The bells of Sherborne Abbey are famed as the heaviest peal of eight in the world! Four of them were cast by the imperilled Whitechapel Bell Foundry.
The first time I heard the phrase 'a way forward' was in the early years of the millennium and it rang with the darkest irony. My husband was doubly disabled with terminal cancer and a palliative care regime was the only option.
How to proceed is, in some measure or other, the challenge, the trial, the privilege, we face with the dawning of each new day. In what frame of mind and heart we approach it will determine outcomes in the near and far future. Daunting responsibilities may be presented we aren't wise enough, nor foreseeing enough, nor strong enough, to tackle. There are times when we cannot 'go it alone' without breaking down. We need help. We need each other. We need a loving Heavenly Father who will not fail us nor forsake us and who will undertake for us in our direst moments.
In a democracy, the common people are the movers and shakers. We look to governments to enable a framework in which we can flourish as human beings and play our part. The rest is up to us. Shades of politics, and whether Leave or Remain, are very much states of mind, theories, and not the reality of how things work out when rival agendas run riot. If we look for divisions, we will surely find them. If we focus on them, we will become obsessed by them so that perspective becomes entirely warped and destructive.
What we must deal with on the ground is bigger than any ideology.
Sometimes, it is good to take stock of where we have come from as a people, as a family of nations. If we aren't devastated by the faith, the charity, the community, the respect for healthy boundaries and sincerely held opinion of others, that have become a casualty of recent decades, how shall we begin to Hope? How shall we build a new era?
The other day, I came across this statement: Time is not given to us to keep a faith we once had, but to acquire a faith we need now.
Once, we assented to the idea that there was a better path than everyday expediency. We relied heavily on guidelines, a route map, exemplars. Even when it hurt, we felt happier when we had done our best to obey cheerfully. Those times we went our own sweet way, we felt dissatisfied, frustrated, depressed, remorseful. Though we still respected the blueprint that might appear flawed, we sensed, deep down, that something further was needed. Some agency beyond us. A Deus ex machina.
We were weary of strife. For those who persevered, the crack in the door of Advent shed an illumination we were drawn to and blessed by. The door was nudged further and further ajar, banishing the shadows, until at last we beheld the unspeakably humbling Truth, that the God of Creation was the little child born within our very injured and suffering selves and that when we honoured him with generous and thankful hearts, day in, day out, never mind the circumstances, His Kingdom was manifest within and about us. The miracle of shared and sharing Bread was beginning to renew the face of the earth.
We fail. We fall short. It is a journey. If we want a better world, let us acknowledge that we cannot construct it alone, neither for ourselves nor as a race.
Let us pray for, and long for, the hastening of that time when ‘the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.’
I wish you a Blessed Advent and Hope in the coming year.
To wish all American friends and colleagues a Happy Thanksgiving Day
A Pilgrim's Prayer
"What do you mean, it's wrong? In ethics we learned that the truth is always subjective!"
There can be no doubt that the teaching of correct written English has never been for the faint-hearted. So much so that the forensic parsing of paragraphs, once key to a grasp of the nuts and bolts of structure, has been abandoned in favour of an approach that appeals to mystified students. ('Syntax', if mentioned, means confiscation of your iphone for Instagramming during lessons, or swearing the dog wolfed your homework three nights in a row, else being despatched to 'iso' for testing the resilience of technology hardware.)
Beleaguered teacher, reaching for a one-size-fits-all solution: Remember, if it sounds right, it likely will be right!
Surely somebody, in the course of the lady's schooling, should of pointed out this is horse feather's and as such, obvs, its defo not on? Nor is the absence of full stops exceptable, irregardless of the need for fluency and spontaneity. Your asking the class to believe that King Charles I walked to the Whitehall scaffold twenty minutes after his head was severed. It puts Goves meddling in the shade, while the bloopers of split infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions have long been out of court. Of course, theres little way of knowing where to put commas if you haven't tangled with adjectival and adverbial clauses.
It's no good blaming the teacher, though. Her's is an unenviable task and she probably didn't receive adequate tuition either. Plus, the possessive pronoun can sometimes seem a tad illogical.
Just because spurious expressions, misspellings, muddled concepts and random punctuation, or none, have passed into common usage, it doesn't make the situation okay. Too wrong's don't make a right. You know it! Daily, we're bombarded with words. Habits spread like an epidemic, even infecting those who know better.
Many argue that language is a living thing. It is evolutionary. But do we really want to deconstruct the enlightenment conferred by education and inspired achievement which are the foundations of a civilised society and have forged the better part of it? It's not about Me and My view of the world, it's about objective, consensual values and disciplines in the interests of everyone's wellbeing. How we regard language has a direct effect on behaviour. The hierarchy within it helps us form appropriate responses to any given set of circumstances. The choice to ignore it is, ultimately, a vote for anarchy.
We are at a pass where the world turns on hearsay.
People, this is no mere plea for shunning 'smoke and mirrors' jargon and the adoption of 'techspeak' where it doesn't apply. Such august authorities as Fowler, Strunk and White, Joseph Priestley, William Cobbett, not forgetting Dr Johnson, toiled tirelessly to prevent literary corruption, all with a view to clear communication at home and abroad and the democratic right to an education. Their design was to enhance culture, identity, and grant a voice in global affairs. Language is a means of breaking down complex and nuanced ideas, sensations, beliefs, into comprehensible chunks and stringing them together in a new pioneering way for the benefit of mankind. It's what creates cohesion between peoples. Even dialects are part and parcel of this, with their picturesque idioms that tell of historic experience.
The rules of grammar are analogous to those of building. You can't go wrecking the superstructure, else the house will fall down, the street will fall down, the city will crumble and the nation will be consigned to the annals of doom.
We shall be back to cave-dwelling and monosyllables. Ug!
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