Oct 09 2017

Next meeting

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We meet the fourth Thursday of each month at the St John’s Church Hall, Corner of Wright Street and Highgate, Maori Hill, at 6.00 pm.

Next meeting:

How Does it Feel?
Discussion led by
David Kitchingman
Thursday, 26th OCTOBER
St John’s Church Hall,
Cnr Wright Street
& Highgate
Tea and Coffee
will be available from 5.30pm
The programme will start at 6.00pm
Contribution – $5

Next Meeting
‘A life on the heaving sea, A home on the bounding wave!’
Motion and emotion on the Sea of Faith
It’s 25 years since the ‘Sea of Faith’ started in New Zealand. I’ve only been involved for about half that time, but I owe much to its exploration of ‘religious thought and expression from a non-dogmatic and human-oriented standpoint’. That is the formal aim of the Network which has been so successful in analysing religion from such a
perspective. But sometimes I wonder if Sea of Faith has concentrated too much on the thinking aspects of religion and downplayed the role of feelings.
For that reason, I prefer the simpler, more generalised aim expressed by our Dunedin group. ‘We are interested in openly exploring ways of understanding religious faith in an increasingly secular world.’ Even so, it’s hard to avoid an innate tendency for groups set up for study purposes to dwell on the intellectual contents of the subject area at the expense of the emotional elements.

At our next meeting I will try to address this perceived imbalance. I’ll share some of the feelings I’ve experienced in my own journey. I’ll invite you to do likewise, whether you’ve had a somewhat similar journey to mine, or even if it’s been very different. I would like to focus, not so much on the rational analysis of what was happening, as on the emotional impact at various stages in our lives.
I’ve always found the origin of the Sea of Faith’s name too cerebral for my liking. I really love the ‘sea’ metaphor, but Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ poem rather limits its impact to a pebbled shoreline left by faith’s receding tide. I’m more attuned to another 19th century poem (by Epes Sargent), which comes nearer to a feeling many of us have of being all at sea. ‘A Life on the ocean wave, a home on the rolling deep’ or the poem’s final couplet (which I’ve chosen as the title for our meeting) is more moving for me as a metaphor for the Sea of Faith experience.
So, for a change, let’s not try too hard to put on our thinking caps. Rather, let’s restore what over time may have almost become a memory lapse. Let’s concentrate on the emotional content, rather than the validity of the experience. Our focus will be on: ‘How did, how does it feel?’ Not whether it was or is right or wrong. After all, religion is about the heart and the soul, as much as the mind. Exploring it from a ‘human-oriented standpoint’ requires a sensitivity to the total experience, whether it be positive or negative.
We’ll traverse a lot of ground or rather cross a vast expanse of sea, starting with memories of our first exposure to faith. We may be able to recall periods of plain sailing, or even a shipwreck perhaps, in the course of the journey. Then we can rate whatever emotional effect faith may now be having in our lives. Finally, we’ll try to estimate the effect it might offer future generations, emotionally as well as rationally.
David Kitchingman