Sunday, 19 November 2017

I was just going to say... by Veronica Zundel

Oh dear. I've just noticed the date, and it's that time of the month again (no, not that time, those finished a long time ago). The time when I have to find something meaningfully to say about writing, or God, or preferably both. Having just been away on retreat for five days, I had lost track and thought all I had to do today was unpack my case and order the food from Ocado.

A blog is a funny thing; it creeps up on you and suddenly demands that you utter oracles, or at least something mildly entertaining. I suppose I should be used to the idea by now, having been writing a monthly magazine column for 35 years, but that has a wider remit and this blog ought in general to be about something vaguely connected with our shared profession, or at least our profession of faith.

'Morgan' Forster
And there's the rub. Do we really need, does the world really need, more words about words or about The Word? EM Forster (whom I met when I was 12, but that's another story), wrote of 'poor talkative little Christianity'. I have some sympathy with his viewpoint: we followers of Christ the Word become flesh, often seem to think it necessary to multiply words about what it means to follow him, rather than just getting on and doing it. St Francis, on the other hand, is reputed to have said 'Preach the Gospel at all times; use words if you have to'.

But then again we are writers, and some of us preachers, and if we don't
Statue of St Francis
produce words, we don't put bacon or Quorn on the table (not that my work has ever contributed much Quorn to our vegetarian table, I've relied on my parents and then my husband for that). The question is, do we have to keep blurting out so many words saying essentially the same thing? Or might it be a good idea just to shut up until we have something to say that hasn't been heard a thousand times before?

Some years ago I came up with the proposal that Christians in general should have a moratorium of, say, a year, on talking about God, and simply talk (and listen) to God instead. I know, a number of us might lose our livelihood, or have to earn it in a less verbal way, but think of the gains! It would solve a number of problems: theological disputes would die down, and there would be no more debate about inclusive language, since the second person has no gender in English (in Finnish, personal pronouns have no gender either, which is probably why the Finns have such strong women).

Most of all, it would make us focus on actually living out our faith rather than just going on about it. We might need to make an exception in the case of people asking us about our motivation, but we could still have a rule restricting our answers to a single sentence unless further questions were asked. Who knows, we might even discover the value of silence in worship (and I don't mean someone talking for five minutes about how we're going to have a time of silence and then being silent for 10 seconds).

Well, it's only an idea. But since ideas are sometimes rarer than talk, I put it forward for your consideration.

Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for BRF's New Daylight. Veronica used to belong to what was, before it closed, the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and is currently playing at being a high Anglican. She also blogs (rather occasionally!) at

1 comment:

  1. I'm really not one for silence in worship - I find it so hard to be that still and quiet (you may not be surprised to hear this). On the other hand, some of what you say I find very pertinent and I really do like the way you challenge the norms and traditions :)