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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, January 20, 2003
    My Christianity has become compost
     
    Thirteen hours to Glasgow and back today, and inbetween an enjoyable meeting of the Iona CommunityÕs publications committee. Enjoyable because Wild Goose Publications consistently produce wonderful titles these days (check out their website), and itÕs a pleasure to play a small role in helping that happen.

    It means I get some interesting, occasionally even inspiring, reading, to do, and thatÕs what happened on the return train journey today when I had a book of ecofeminist liturgies to study and assess. I loved it, and among so much good material in it IÕve chosen ÔThe Spiritual, Political, JourneyÕ by Emily Culpepper to share with you, reader. So radically different from the view of Ôthe faithÕ and its future held by our churchÕs ÔmanagersÕ at present, itÕs lengthy but worth quoting in full I think:
      We were discussing the issue of connection to one's religious past. Knowing I no longer identified as Christian, one of the women asked,"But you do draw on it in some ways still, don't you? Would you speak of it as your roots?" I paused, searching for words. That phrase has never felt quite right to me. From the root springs the tree; they are a continuous growth. The ecology of my spiritual life is more complex than that, with moments of radical discontinuity and continuity.

      "Compost," I heard myself say. And again, with an increasing sense of satisfaction that at last I had found the apt metaphor,"Compost. My Christianity has become compost." It has decayed and died, becoming a mix of animate and inanimate, stinking rot and released nutrients.

      Humus. Fertilizer. The part of organic life cycles with which everyone gets uncomfortable and skips over in the rush to rhapsodize growth and progress and blossoms and fruition and rebirth. But in between is the dark, rich mysterious stage, when life decomposes into soil. It is a sacred time Ñ like the dark no moon new moon in my meditations, that liminal stage and dangerous essential passage between the last slender waning crescent and the first shred of a shining waxing new one.

      Compost. A pile of organic substance transforming into a ground, a matrix into which we must mix other elements for the next seeds to sprout. Other vital forces must wet and warm the matrix. And additional deaths, so inevitable in changing/living, will need to feed this ground.

      Humus. It is from this that we are named, human, to acknowledge our connection to the earth, the place where we stand in the vast living universe. If our traditions and symbols are truly part of living, then they are organic and will have rhythms of living and dying.