Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 22 June 2024

Helen King sharedconversations Removing the fiction: wrangling bishops

Susannah Clark ViaMedia.News The Whole of Who We Are

Giles Goddard ViaMedia.News Between Meaning and Despair: A Generous Faith

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Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller
1 month ago

Giles Goddard writes:

I soon began to understand that people washed up at St John’s with a suitcase-full of reasons.

It’s such an unfortunate phrase to use – washed up. He doesn’t even allow for the possibility that some people are called by the spirit to worship with other Christians, that some people are very intentional about attending church. He thinks his congregation is “washed up” like a peice of driftwood on the beach, helpless, unable to do anything without assistance. It’s a horrible metaphor.

Robert Ellis
Robert Ellis
Reply to  Oliver Miller
1 month ago

Let’s not be too pedantic…..i’ve washed up at many places in my time…..but fortunately we’ve got a dishwasher now.

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Robert Ellis
1 month ago

I think it nitpickingly pedantic. Classic opening move of the grumpy commentator i.e. decontextualize a line and then riff on it. I plan to get a copy of Giles Goddard’s, Generous Faith. I like the imagery from the extract. Reminds me of a classic song poem from The Band, titled Acadian Drift Wood. (2nd link). There is also a friendly review from Column Inches that folks may be aware of. (link). Thanks TA, otherwise may not have been alerted to the book. Review Birdsong on Southbank: an Advanced Review of Giles’ Generous Faith – Column Inches (wordpress.com) “Acadian driftwood, Gypsy… Read more »

Ian
Ian
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
1 month ago

I love Rod’s posts. They are a magical mystery tour every time.

Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
29 days ago

Setting aside the fact that this is simply the first chapter of a book, I think people are reading the phrase ‘washed up’ out of context. Earlier in the piece, Giles Goddard refers to the fact that the Thames is tidal and that St John’s is built on the flood plain so the metaphor follows on from this. He further quotes Dante via TS Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’: I had not thought death had undone so many’. This is a carefully written piece and I disagree with Oliver Miller’s ungenerous reading. Giles Goddard doesn’t dismiss the worshippers at his church as… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Daniel Lamont
29 days ago

Exactly. Washed up and Shipwreck and similar metaphors are widespread across literature, including the Bible. They are linked to a wider set of metaphors of the sea linked to Chaos and Storm and the Deep. They can carry many powerful spiritual or emotional meanings. I am sure it was carefully chosen. But, importantly, the metaphor need not be disrespectful to washed up people, implying uselessness and low value. For some the being washed up can be story of the powerless receiving the love and support of strangers, which is surely a Christian message that does not devalue the recipient. But… Read more »

Daniel Lamont
Daniel Lamont
Reply to  Simon Dawson
29 days ago

Thank you, Simon. I very much like your penultimate paragraph about Odysseus. Tennyson’s poem ‘Ulysses’ is worth re-reading in this context. Some comments here seem to make a distinction between intentional worshippers and those who may be more ‘random’. I don’t buy the distinction. As an intentional worshipper (whatever that might mean), I have found that chance or serendipity has played an important part in my choice of where to worship.

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Simon Dawson
29 days ago

I appreciate Goddard’s metaphor, which in its context is sustained. Perhaps that is because I grew up on an Island, and have twice served on one, including in a remote outport. A parishioner once said to me, ” I think God sent you to us”. Washed me up? And here I was thinking this was a big adventure in a new location a decision of my own making. Re: your final sentence, are not we all from time to time, especially in existential journeys, like Jonah spewed from the big fish. The metaphor adverts to irony. We have intentions but… Read more »

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
29 days ago

Thanks Rod, I agree.

I responded powerfully to this discussion because at one stage in my life, just after coming out as gay, I found myself washed up in an inner London city church, where I stayed for ten years. So that extended metaphor has many meanings for me.

And even nowadays, using the Taoist metaphor of going with the flow, I agree that to regard one’s life as under one’s own control may not be entirely helpful.

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
Reply to  Simon Dawson
29 days ago

“… I agree that to regard one’s life as under one’s own control may not be entirely helpful.”

That was the case even for Jesus.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
29 days ago

I’ve just picked up a comment by John Cleese, that literally minded people don’t appreciate irony, or satire. There could be a lot in that – due to mild autism I’m afraid I tend to literal mindedness and its very difficult to guard against.

I did once try to read the Illead, incidentally, and gave up about half way through the first chapter – just couldn’t cope with the unreality of its world.

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  John Davies
28 days ago

Thanks John, a very poignant comment ( yours not Cleese’s–although he is likely right). Part of the difficulty, the superficiality in a sense, of comment boards is that one is only dealing with trace evidence of persons in their comments. I had an interesting experience here. I got to know the late Stanley Monkhouse a bit via our email exchanges after he contacted me. Even though that too was a limited kind of knowing it broadened my appreciation of him. It changed the way I read his comments here.

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Rod (Rory) Gillis
28 days ago

Thanks for understanding what I meant, Rod. I refer back to a family incident – our first grandson had a number of emotional/ mental issues which, ultimately led to his being diagnosed as autistic. During this time my wife remarked that the more she learned about his condition, the better she understood me! That was a kind of ephithany moment; a whole heap of societal/relationship problems I’d struggled with life long clicked into place. Certainly, I struggle with how to read many parts of the Bible – literalism just doesn’t fit, and I refuse to throw my more scientific understanding… Read more »

Bob
Bob
Reply to  Oliver Miller
1 month ago

I believe the phrase is used because people are either viewed as “victims” or “oppressors”. Those that he describes as “ washed up people” are viewed as victims of oppression within and without the Church of England. Just my view on the use of language.

Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson
Reply to  Oliver Miller
1 month ago

I agree with Oliver Miller that “washed up” may be an inappropriate phrase for certain of Goddard’s parishioners, those whose presence there is strongly intentional. But there may be many others for whom washed up is exactly the right phrase. Being washed up is a metaphor or image with a strong religious history, and it appears in many spiritual stories. Being washed up can imply being naked and powerless and totally reliant on the goodwill of others. Or it can be used in a story of transformation, where a washing up/shipwreck narrative describes a withdrawal from one’s own customary society,… Read more »

John Davies
John Davies
Reply to  Oliver Miller
1 month ago

Perhaps ‘arrived’ might be a more suitable phrase? “Washed up”, like its naval equivalent ‘on the beach’ does imply ‘finitum est’, of no further use. But St Johns could be a staging post, a new start. If they can receive it under his ministry, then its a whole new start.

Its an extract from the beginning of a book, isn’t it? How does the story develop, and does it become more positive? Taking a passage out of its wider context isn’t always a help to understanding it correctly.

John Davies
John Davies
1 month ago

Can I just say how much I appreciated Sussanah’s article, both for its honesty and clarity, and the courage it must have taken to write it.I started reading this site, and others, in the hope of gaining some insight into the real, human issues behind the ssm etc debate, as opposed to simply arguing over dogma, and Susannah’s writing has always been valuable for me. I copied the piece to a few friends at church who I know would appreciate it, and have saved it for further reference. As a quick, personal note, Susannah, eighteen months ago you were very… Read more »

Kate Keates
Kate Keates
1 month ago

It’s brave of Susannah to be so open in the current climate. I might add something in a couple of days but for now I just want to recommend that people read it.

Simon W
Simon W
Reply to  Kate Keates
29 days ago

Thank you Susannah – for your honest, courageous, hopeful article, while so open about your vulnerability. Truly a gift to us.

David James
David James
1 month ago

My (limited) experience of people who were ‘washed up’, in our case asylum seekers, refugees, etc was that over time they gave a voice to some of the more ‘intentional ‘ members who then ‘came out’ from behind their masks and admitted their own .marginality and vulnerability. That sounds as if we lived in a swamp of despair but that was far from the case. It became a question of ‘how do we sing the Lords song in a strange land? ‘ and this became a kind of signpost for a church which grew. So I want to echo Giles… Read more »

Oliver Miller
Oliver Miller
Reply to  David James
29 days ago

The term ‘washed up’ typically refers to driftwood, deceased jellyfish, human waste and the like. It’s not an appropriate description for human beings making intentional decisions.

Describing an individual as ‘washed up’ negates their agency. Asylum seekers and refugees often undertake extraordinary efforts to escape persecution. They are, in fact, the antithesis of those who are ‘washed up’.

To someone who is indifferent, it might seem that people are simply ‘washed up’ from nowhere, but that’s not the case for someone making an effort to be welcoming and inclusive.

Pat ONeill
Pat ONeill
Reply to  Oliver Miller
29 days ago

I would note that Emma Lazarus in her poem “The New Colossus” (which is on a plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty) referred to “the wretched refuse of your teeming shores”…”send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me”….”

And she meant no disparagement of the immigrants–rather she was condemning those who had thrown them away so uncaringly. To be “washed up” onto a foreign shore (whether in reality or metaphorically) is to be a survivor, not a victim.

Janet Fife
Janet Fife
Reply to  Oliver Miller
29 days ago

‘Washed up’ also refers to the process of cleansing and preparing for re-use.

And, in the case of castaways, survival and a new beginning.

It’s by no means always a denigrating or negative term. In any case, most of us go through being ‘washed up’, in all senses of the word, at various stages of our lives. The term seems apt enough to me.

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
Reply to  Oliver Miller
29 days ago

Reversing the metaphor back to something literal or unequivocal destroys the metaphor. In doing so may I suggest you and Giles Goddard are not talking about the same thing at all. Your final paragraph suggests that rather than addressing Goddard’s perspective on community, what you really want to talk about is literally Goddard himself? Tragedy juxtaposes ‘agency’ with unintended consequences. Migrants may intend to take on the odds stacked against them by neoliberal economics, intending to try and carve out a place for their families on the neoliberal playing field. In the end they find themselves in a detention while… Read more »

Nigel Jones
Nigel Jones
Reply to  Oliver Miller
28 days ago

Oliver, do you not agree that where people find themselves in their lives is often the result of forces far beyond their control? I would have thought that is entirely obvious.

Allan Sheath
Allan Sheath
Reply to  Nigel Jones
28 days ago

Spare me the purity cult and give me in a ‘washed up’ church every time: a home for those who have got their lives together alongside those who have made a mess of theirs; eccentrics, malcontents and damaged souls; firm believers and those who find it hard to believe that God is in them.

Rod (Rory) Gillis
Rod (Rory) Gillis
28 days ago

Continuing to reflect upon Susannah Clark’s autobiographical piece, I’m hesitant to comment. The term ‘disclosure sign’ from the world of religious discourse comes to mind.
For some reason Susannah’s piece prompts me to pick up Julian of Norwich again –the mystic I try and return to the most. Many thanks.

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