Aug 28 2008

August 2008 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters

Sea of Faith                   


    Dunedin                                August 2008


David Kitchingman led us in thinking about the merits or otherwise of  “Abide with Me”.   David explained why: “On reading Don Feist’s reflections in the June Newsletter on the hymn Abide with me, following its use at a funeral he had attended, I was unable to resist 
“On reading Don Feist’s reflections in the June Newsletter on the hymn Abide with me, following its use at a funeral he had attended, I was unable to resist taking up his invitation to comment. I remembered having once said to a friend that, notwithstanding my own lack of adherence to conventional Christian dogma, I would be content at the prospect of a hymn such as Abide with me being sung at my own funeral. I suppose I wanted to defend such an odd position as well as offer something more than just a personal plea for a reprieve for the hymn. 

In seeking to address the charges that it is overly concerned with an after life and negatively disposed towards this world, I found that I needed to set it in a broad context of human experience and to include some comparison with contemporary hymn writing. I also became interested in whether the analysis of a solitary example might throw up some general principles for how a progressive church might handle its heritage of devotional materials, whilst simultaneously seeking relevance to contemporary culture. Having by then written far too much for a Newsletter response, I was invited by Don to present it as a paper to the Group”.   


Where’s my Tea?
The consensus at last meeting was that we should continue to meet on the 4th Thursday of the month at 5.30 and start the business at 6 pm. and that in the absence of a meal provided by the Maori Hill women, we would ourselves arrange for tea and biscuits.   This will not start until February 2009, and your Committee will work out details about preparing it, clearing up, cost etc.   

The Gap which Atheism Brings”                                                                                

These are some thoughts on membership of, and attendance at, Sea of Faith meetings, and on the thoughts of others who do not overtly query their loss of an overall over-riding supreme God, but who nevertheless feel that the Meaning of Life has somehow been lost.  Have they (they wonder), overlooked something important?
Presumably most of us have accepted that God, as a separate spiritual being of some sort, does not exist.   But we have desperate need of some being which may give meaning to the myriad things which we cannot understand.  Our need for guidance, support and understanding is so strong that we continue to inquire of ourselves whether what we seek is not there in front of us while we fail to recognize this.   We look for reasons and guidance from other people, and our reading, and by membership of groups including the Sea of Faith. Or we just drift, wordlessly accepting that life has little relevance except the management and enjoyment of the immediate present. 
We know that mankind has felt the need for a super-normal being, entity or force, which has control over what we cannot fully understand. Where a God could not readily be identified, it was necessary to create a God, and worship that, whether the God was a carved figure of wood or stone, or a being or force which was always there.  So primitive tribes have had their figurine Gods, or have ascribed divine powers to the wind, the weather, or the fertility of the fields. 
In our own times, and our own society, many people reject the idea of such a God, but the great majority are not conceited enough or confident enough or arrogant enough to consider that they are capable of coping successfully with whatever life throws at them.  So we reach for other explanations. One of these could be “Luck”.  Ask a person who has just emerged from the University examination room how he thinks he or she has fared.  It would be common, in the reply given, for luck to be referred to.  “I liked a couple of the questions  –  the rest of the paper was O.K. –  I think I was lucky with the paper”.  Or in an important medical examination where cancer is suspected, a resulting clear report could well bring forth the comment from the patient “My word, I was lucky with that result”. 
“Luck” might also be looked for in a serious emergency.  What atheist would not, when faced with an emergency such as the likely death of a loved one, quietly offer up a prayer of some sort.  He may be unclear as to whom or what the prayer is directed, but he might describe it as a fervent wish that a desired outcome might occur.  In the news recently was the report of a Philippine ferry, capsized with heavy loss of life.  What if you or I had been one of those thought to be trapped in air pockets without any contact with the world outside?   Atheists we may be, but would we not in those circumstances, offer up a prayer (to someone or something) or hope for luck, good fortune or whatever, to escape from the prison tomb of the upturned ferry? Is the world not full of people who dismiss the idea of “God” but who are most conscious of the “gap” in their psyche when something originally accepted as basic, is now thought not to exist?  Do we not read, discuss, or query within ourselves, to somehow close that gap?
In the modern world we are used to change, and sometimes reluctantly accept that change is unavoidable.  An example is the present fuel situation.  We know we are going to have to change some of our habits in regard to transport.  But we find it hard to accept the inevitable, even though it is based on concrete, examinable facts. Is it not unsurprising that, in this situation we sometimes lose our sense of direction and tend to run around, something like the “headless chook”?
Another way of putting it is that we want to think we are not merely blown about by whatever kind of breeze is blowing at the time  – we seek closure in many things, but especially in understanding our own existence.  In all honesty we know we shall never have complete closure in the important area of theism in which we were brought up, and which we took as the main fundamental of our existence.  But we cannot give up entirely our search for integrity, security and purpose in our own lives and the live of others around us.
–  Neil Borland.
Chairman:    Geoff Neilson   –    Phone 489-6727  –    Email:  Geoff
Newsletter Editor:   Donald Feist  –   Phone 476-3268   – Email:   Don

No responses yet

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply