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

    Wednesday, October 08, 2003
    This present dullness
    "We seem to have resigned ourselves to church meetings where men are largely absent, to church ministry that is mainly run by women but overseen by a clerical caste, to an often soft devotionalism that attracts only a specific male clientele. Usually the men who do become involved in church are subservient and not the risk takers, leaders, and missionary personalities that attract other men."

    I was listening to Richard Rohr's Greenbelt cd in the car on the way to Paul's induction as Vicar of Ditton tonight. Good to reflect on male spirituality on an evening where an all-round good bloke begins a new phase of ministry; the evening after hosting a small 'Men's Group' meeting in my house and later, the pub; and in a period of life (like most periods of life) when I'm challenged about who I am and what on earth I think I'm doing dressing up in a skirt every week.

    As I sat at the back of Ditton church (having sidestepped the invitation to dress in a skirt tonight too, wrapped up in a fleece instead) I hear Rohr's words about the way religion has taken powerful 'rites of passage' and 'prettified' them (eg, birth rituals of blood and water reduced to 'holy baptism', an excuse to dress infant males in shiny white frilly outfits).

    Tonight's service is meaningful but dull; an example of that soft devotionalism Rohr speaks of. The mayor and the wardens shake hands with the new man stiffly, and attempt awkward pecks on his wife's cheek. I long for stories to be told here - the parishioners could tell great tales about who they are and what their home means to them; the new incumbent could talk about the journey he's made to reach that place. A journey no doubt involving much risk taking, struggles in developing leadership, and grappling with a sense of mission.

    I look forward to Rohr's book due next year on how we may redeploy some of the old rituals, in all their power, in an attempt to make spirituality pertinent to men again - and women too, for whom this present dullness is also not enough.