Friday, 18 April 2008

Round Tabling

I preached last night for the inauguration of Camilla Walton’s ministry as Team Vicar of St Michael’s Beaconsfield. Dom Gregory Dix’s monumental work, The Shape of the Liturgy, continuously in print since 1944, and profoundly influential in the remodeling of Roman Catholic, Anglican and Free Church liturgies in the 60’s and 70’s, was actually written not in Oxford, nor even a monastery, but the vicarage of Saint Michael’s which he had been sent to serve by his community early in the World War II. It was a joy and honour to meet someone who had served mass for Dom Gregory.

Camilla had chosen the Hymn to Love from I Corinthians 13 for her induction, along with Jesus washing his disciples feet in John 13. It reminded me of this poem, that various people last night asked me to put on the blog. I first encountered it from my friend and close colleague Sheila Nunn when she used it as the basis for the design of our Diocesan Convention Eucharist in 2002. I saw Sheila a lot as she was dying of cancer in 2003, and we talked through this poem together, and its implications for the kind of church we have to be, and the kind of bishop I was supposed to be — that had just been announced. I think of it often...
In search of a round table

Concerning the why and how and what and who of ministry,
One image keeps surfacing: A table that is round.
It will take some sawing
To be roundtabled.
Some redefining
And redesigning,
Some redoing and rebirthing
Of narrow long Churching
Can painful be
For people and tables.
It would mean no daising
And throning,
For but one king is there
And he is a foot washer,
At table no less.
And what of narrow long ministers
When they confront
A round table people,
After years of working up the table
To finally sit at its head,
Only to discover
That the table has been turned round?
They must be loved into roundness,
For God has called a People
Not "them and us".
"them and us" are unable
to gather round; for at a round table
there are no sides
and ALL are invited
to wholeness and to food.
At one time
Our narrowing churches
Were built to resemble the Cross
But it does no good
For building to do so,
If lives do not.
Round tabling means
No preferred seating,
No first and last,
No better, and no corners
For the "least of these".
Roundtabling means
Being with,
A part of,
Together and one.
It means room for the Spirit
And gifts
And disturbing profound peace for all.
We can no longer prepare for the past.
To be Church,
And if He calls for other than a round table
We are bound to follow.
Leaving the sawdust
And chips, designs and redesigns
Behind, in search of and in presence of
The Kingdom
That is His and not ours.
Chuck Lathrop


rer said...

Interesting that this poem is posted two days after the post on bullying - I feel ther are some connections here, albeit intuitive rather tahn academic. Bullying - so often about power or a last ditch attempt to hang on to personal perceptions of power when things are changing (is this perceived challenge why there are too many bullying relationships between curates and training incumbents; congregation and incumbents..etc etc). Roundtabling, to me, is about service not power. Round-tablers - beware; but be inspired!!
Thinks - will the dining tables at Lambeth be round or narrow-long?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I feel you're right — not only about the bullying piece, but also the George Bell quote I posted yesterday about "them and Us" thinking. In the same way as rape is about power not sex, I'm sure Bullying is about power and interaction, driven by the bully's abusive nature, not the victim.

Talking the other day to my friend and colleague +Colin, who's on the Lmabeth design group, he said there was a clear sense at their last meeting that they wanted "Indaba" process to drive the conference — sounds like a much more roundtabled way of doing things than the Western parliamentary, resolutions driven, (public school debating club?) ways "business" have usually been done in the past on these occasions.

Dick said...

The poem seems to be a meditation on Fred Kaan's 1985 hymn (No.480 in the URC hymnbook Rejoice & Sing) :

1 The church is like a table,
a table that is round.
It has no sides or corners,
no first or last, no honours;
here people are in one-ness
and love together bound.

2 The church is like a table
set in an open house;
no protocol for seating,
a symbol of inviting,
of sharing, drinking, eating;
an end to 'them' and 'us'.

3 The church is like a table,
a table for a feast
to celebrate the healing
of all excluded-feeling,
(while Christ is serving, kneeling,
a towel around his waist).

4 The church is like a table
where every head is crowned.
As guests of God created,
all are to each related;
the whole world is awaited
to make the circle round.

Fred Kaan (born 1929)
© 1985 Stainer & Bell Ltd

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