I had a long day in Helensburgh today- meeting some of my staff, and chairing some reviews. I caught the ferry home amongst the usual mix of commuters and weekend holiday makers-grateful to be heading home.
It has been a tough week- more because of my old internal demons that from time to time drag me back to places that I hoped to leave behind.
Waiting for me was an e-mail someone had sent to the Aoradh website.
Most such e-mails are friendly inquiries or greetings, and this one started in this vein- a woman who is retiring to Dunoon with her husband from abroad, and had been checking out the church situation over here on the internet, and so found her way to our site.
And one article had upset her sufficiently that she felt the need to e-mail to let us know.
This was not for the usual reasons that have brought us to conflict previously- doctrine, Biblical interpretation etc. It was rather because she found something that I had written judgmental and unkind.
It is always harder, I think, when things that you think yourself to be strong in, are found wanting by others. By this I mean that I consider myself to be a pretty tolerant, kind person, who goes to great lengths to be fair and just to others when I can- although I have my petty moments as my friends will tell you! The whole ethos of Aoradh had always been to stand for unity and love, against that brick wall kind of Christianity that finds others wanting.
But here it was- clear evidence that someone else saw me, or at least something I had written, in an entirely different light.
What this lady objected to was this article– and in particular, these words;
There is a new kind of prosperity however, fuelled by the idolatry of the house worshippers. We have a new middle class, who disgorge from the Western Ferry terminal every weekday evening, home to their semi-rural idyll after a hard day in the big city. At the edges of the town, new identikit houses spring up overnight, expensive designer accessories, fitted kitchens and all.
I replied to her e-mail, apologising and trying to explain that this was a piece of creative writing where I was trying to come to terms with being an incomer in this town, and to understand what formed it’s character. I was groping to understand the town’s economy- and the centrality of property. I was wondering in my own mind if the obsession with owning and renovating property (as seen constantly on the TV as well as locally) had become the way that we measured life.
I was wondering if property had become the god of our age.
Now shown to have feet of clay as prices tumble and the credit gravy train derails.
What this ladies motivations for expressing her disapproval, I have no way of knowing. Perhaps the words I wrote were badly chosen- and I certainly have no wish to offend. Perhaps she tends towards the argumentative and dogmatic- a character trait not unheard of within our churches. Perhaps she has a romantic view of the ferry journey over to Dunoon, and my words spoilt a precious image for her.
Was I being unkind and judgmental?
I am not sure. But I still think that these questions are important ones- to ask ourselves.
Because I have a great big rambling house by the sea. I try to use it for others, and fill it with music and friends and fellowship. But I know that it is a source of ego strength- in all its faded glory.
So I bring it again to God, asking him again to use it, and me. I can do nothing else.
As for the complaint- soon the lady concerned will begin her own transplanting into new soil. May she find the kind nutrients and generous watering she requires…