Slideshow image

One of our diocesan contributors sent the following piece in to share with folks in the diocese. The quote from Annie Dillard is a favourite of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams who has used it as reference.

Annie Dillard is an American writer and poet who in the words of Bishop Williams:

"...her poetry and prose have taught many people to see the natural world and its maker with something of terror and newness of revelation..."

Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? The tourists are having coffee and doughnuts on Deck C. Presumably someone is minding the ship, correcting the course, avoiding icebergs and shoals, fuelling the engines, watching the radar screen, noting weather reports radioed in from shore. No one would dream of asking the tourists to do these things. Alas, among the tourists on Deck C, drinking coffee and eating doughnuts, we find the captain, and all the ship's officers, and all the ship's crew. The officers chat; they swear; they wink a bit at slightly raw jokes, just like regular people. The crew members have funny accents. The wind seems to be picking up. On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.*

*Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (London, 1984), pp. 40-41.