a combination of intelligence and feeling

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of leading the Taize service with Colette (a member of the cathedral who will be starting her ‘vicar training’ as Westcott in September) in the cathedral. We hold this service each month and people come from all over the diocese for this reflective service. I particularly enjoy the time as there is a lot of space for prayer or silence in between the repetitive chanting that the Taize community is known for.

The cathedral’s format for Taize follows a simple pattern of chant, bible reading, silence, chant, other reading, silence, chant, prayer, chant, blessing and then a glass of wine. The readings are always challenging in some way but the reading I was handed for this service resonated with me in a way that brought tears to my eyes. The quote is from ‘The Enduring Melody’ by Michael Mayne. I have not come across this but this Observer review causes me to view the reading even more poignantly than I did last night.

I read the following quote from the book:

‘So what must ‘being Church’ mean if it is to meet the needs of the age in which our grandchildren are growing up?  It will mean creating spaces in which people may catch a glimpse of the awesome holiness of God as well as the mystery of his vulnerability and compassion.  It will seek to express the traditional quintessence of the Gospel in ways that satisfy the intellect as well as the heart: using words and employing images and metaphors which speak to both but which also speak where reason runs out of words.  Like art and poetry and drama and falling in love, it will demand a combination of intelligence and feeling.  It will mean stilling the demand that we should sign up to some credal formulary, allowing people who have always found themselves in that borderland between faith and scepticism to go on exploring, but within, not outside, the worshipping community.  It will mean loving God’s world, but learning to stand obliquely to the traffic of values dictated by the media and the consumerist world of self-interest, learning to redress the balance with the Gospel values of forgiveness, reconciliation, empathy, equity and self-denying love.  The eucharistic mystery of bread as opposed to the satanic mystery of money.

I guess I was especially moved by this reading last night as it sums up in many ways our dreams for the gathering – particularly that sentiment of stilling the demand that we should sign up to some credal formulary, allowing people who have always found themselves in that borderland between faith and scepticism to go on exploring, but within, not outside, the worshipping community.

That seems very easy to say, or to write, but to achieve it … well I am finding that to be just a little more difficult … maybe because it does, indeed, need that combination of both intelligence and feeling. The trouble is, I think, too many people seem to think that intelligence and feeling, or head and heart need to be separate. Often we hear … ‘my heart says yes but my head says no’ …. but  – are not both, head and heart, created by God? And if both are created by God are both not equally capable of hearing God’s message and both equally at risk of mis-hearing?

I wonder whether, somehow, we need to understand how to be led more by our heart as well as our heads so that we can readdress the western slant for reason and intelligence with the heavenly slant of compassion and feeling. Maybe then we can achieve some better equilibrium?


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