by Barbara Glasson.
It is of course an amazing thing that new technology is being invented to scan the brains of people who cannot speak and formulate sentences from what they are thinking. With such incredible technology someone stuck without verbal communication can indicate their needs and desires. It is also quite terrifying. Supposing, down the way, every thought that passes through our heads will be heard: ‘That person looks awful in that hat’; ‘I really don’t like you’; ‘ This food is horrible’…!
Of course, our inner discourse can be released in other ways than by technology – by dementia or alcohol or any substance that causes us to lose our inhibitions. And it can also be released by the use of the internet, in which a stream of consciousness can emerge into the public realm without any of the filters that would be applied to a face to face encounter.
I am part of a small intentional community that prays together each day. In this community we are using the prayers of the Corrymeela community and in the morning, in our separate places we say the words, ‘We begin this day alone ….’ I have repeated this morning prayer in the quietness of a multitude of bedrooms that I have stayed in over the last few weeks as I begin to travel around the Methodist Connexion as President, these words have deepened both my sense of privacy and community. I am alone in company, we are together alone.
This dynamic of alone-ness and community runs like a thread through the stories of Jesus, as he travels with the disciples. Jesus is continually in relationship with others and yet also curiously aloof from others as he is interrupted by a series of extraordinary encounters on the way. In particular we hear of encounters with inconvenient people, Zaccheus, Bartimeus, the woman with the flow of blood, all of which are not on the original travel itinerary. Walter Brueggemann in his book Interrupting Silence says, ‘Our tradition in faith is a long series of inconvenient interruptions’.[i]
Over the last few weeks I have had a wonderfully rich programme of experiences, from a celebrating communion on Susanna Wesley’s Epworth kitchen table to marching with the trade unions and honouring our history at Tolpuddle, visiting an observatory on the Isles of Scilly and opening a new church in Poole. And whilst I have been busy doing all these things there have also been a long series of ‘inconvenient interruptions’ that are probably more important than the job in hand. Conversations in vestries, stories told at church doors, insights from scholars and practitioners, feisty e-mails, a very fine chat with a little boy on a boat wearing a shark hat! I am learning that these ‘interruptions’ are the threshold of learning and new ways of seeing, rich and precious as well as incidental and inconvenient.
The Corrymeela prayers go on to say, ‘Let us live the life we are living …’ Living what is happening rather than what we feel should be happening, being present to others in their inconvenient interruptions, means a stilling of the inner discourse that we are glad people can’t hear. To live with integrity means holding together the contradictory convictions of myself and honouring all the parts of my inner world in order to be fully present to others and their contradictory convictions. We, that is the we that is me, begins the day alone, in order that we as separate human beings can be present to to the inconvenient interruptions by which the spirit can make doorways of grace.
As vice president, Clive and I travel with our question, ‘So what’s the story …?’ we are also discovering stories being written as we go, stories of encounter and reflection, of community and solitude and formed of many joyful and challenging inconvenient interruptions.
[i] Walter Brueggemann, Interrupting Silence (Westminster John Knox Press 2018) p.57.