Tuesday 9th October 2018 7.30pm at Holmfirth Methodist Church
Tuesday 23rd October 8.00pm at Outlane Methodist Church
One of the gifts Methodist ministers receive from the church is a three month sabbatical every seven years. I am grateful to all who made it possible for me to spend some time this summer doing new things, visiting new places and reflecting on what I was discovering and what that means for my life and my work.
“Who do you think you are?” seems a reasonable way of describing something of my sabbatical journey.
Towards the beginning of my journey I travelled to Berlin, a city I had never visited before and which still had a massive wall through its heart when I was studying German in the 1980s. My time there was a sharp reminder of who I no longer am, namely a fluent German speaker! But it was also an exploration into how people over the centuries have coped and not coped with those who are different from themselves and the moving accounts which have arisen out of this.
During my week at Gladstone’s Residential Library in North Wales I began to delve deeper into the stories of Jacob in the book of Genesis, reading them particularly from the point of view of both female and male Jewish writers. If ever there is a story in which characters are continually asking the question “Who do you think you are?”, then this must rank quite highly. I found it intriguing to look at the various episodes from the angle of each of the main characters, paying attention to the gaps in the text, where something happens, but is not explained. What, for instance, do Leah and Rachel know about the deceiving of Jacob on his first wedding night?
Alongside all the reading I kept a journal, recording thoughts, ideas and questions related to what I was experiencing and how my understanding of God, religion and the church were all changing. The journalling was especially valuable when I was reflecting on what it means to engage with radical theology. Previously I had understood radical theology in terms of uncovering the roots of Jesus’ first-century life and impact, basing our understanding of God on the human experience of Jesus, rather than on the creeds and doctrines which the church went on to establish. But it began to occur to me that to understand Jesus more fully I had to get to grips with how Jesus might have heard the first five books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. He would have heard the stories and reflections on them on a regular basis. How might he have understood those narratives and those characters?
A sabbatical is not only for the minister, but for the church too. If you would like to hear more and reflect together on some of these issues, then come along to Holmfirth on 9th October or Outlane on 23rd October.