Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Trolling for the word of God

It only ever happened once, and it was many years ago - in the days before the concept of a "troll" could have been used as it was before the World Wide Web appeared - we're probably looking late 80s or early 90s here. But I was once trolled in church.

It's sadly now closed, I believe. The old Holy Trinity, Marylebone Road. In those days when I hung out in those notorious Bridge clubs in Fitzrovia, I would often find my way along for Holy Communion. The good old C of E* was still using the ASB, and I believe it would have been the old Prayer 3 they used. Although I could be wrong - it was all a long time ago.

And I was wandering back out after Mass towards the front half of the church - which was the old SPCK bookshop, as some may remember, long and merry ago now. And I was politely stopped by a sharply-dressed and quietly-spoken young man who asked me if I came every week.

And with some diffidence (for I was an Extremely Primitive Methodist, and unsure if I was receiving the sacrament under false pretences, so to speak, and he could have been carrying out an audit for the Liturgical Commission or something) I replied that yes - provided I was not involved in trying to pull off a particularly tricky Stayman bid at the time, or trying to remember what bid meant "I've got four Aces and the Queen of Diamonds" - I would indeed be indulging my spiritual wants in that place.

And he replied, "So you just say it all the same every week?"

Yes, I assured him, we did. Albeit the readings were different.

"So you reject the word of God then - it's all just empty words."

"No, it's full of the word of God. Loads of the word of God. All that liturgy..."

Liturgy! The devil's work! Not a translation of the word that I was familiar with, but that was the problem. Liturgy. He explained - with, I am sure, infinite kindness and concern for my soul, that Liturgy was the problem. It was not God's liturgy - it was the work of men. I tried to reason with him, but to what avail? He had chosen his own battle ground, and his own weapons, and was not going to listen to anything I had to say.

Naturally, I felt we needed to find some common ground. But when someone is so truly deaf to reason and incapable of real argument what can what one do? So I snatched a hardback copy of "The Myth of God Incarnate" from the nearby "Hippy Theology" shelf and smacked him just above the eyebrow with it**. Rejoicing that he had been treated as had the prophets before him he staggered out into the Marylebone Road - presumably to a more godly establishment where he could receive the laying-on of hands for healing.

But he changed the way I thought of Liturgy from that day. Whenever I went along to that little church, heard the two readings plus Gospel, joined in the Agnus Dei and the Sanctus - I reflected that somewhere in London there was a bloke who rejoiced in the Word of God, and yet never heard as much of it as I did.

* (c) The Church Mouse
** This was wrong of me. You should not hit fundamentalists with books of liberal theology.
That's what Barth's Church Dogmatics is for.


  1. But isn't the likely use of Barth's Church Dogmatics likely to induce a hernia more painful than the thump on the head the other would receive?

  2. I've always known that there was a practical use for those weighty theology books weighing down the Vicar's book shelves. It must take his hard worked spouse ages to dust them all.

    I often wonder if they are just cardboard replicas because I never see them opened. I understand that being Clergy, you need to have some stuff on show for the laity to be impressed and for the Bishop or Arch Deacon on their visits to be depressed that you are so well read and knowledgeable.

    Myself, I always find it depressing when people start to discuss liturgy. I point them towards the BCP and say, that while it might be quite ancient, and created by Thomas Cramer and others, it's in honour of God. The older, weightier versions also serve the same purpose as a heavy theology volume, as those reading them find them incomprehensible and get a bad headache trying to understand the ancient language.

    Still, something with thy's can't be all bad.

  3. What you need is a thumping great copy of the Wicked Bible, if you can find such a holy relic. Give him the Word of God straight round the lughole. Thou shalt commit adultery!

  4. Tractus philosophicus von wittgenstein is heavier, and risks no sacrelidge, tho I don't know the female phsiological limits on weight and centre of gravity for accurate and sucessful use of a tome as a blunt instrument.
    Surely with weeks of 50 page supplements on everything to do with the olimpics, reports quoting the sports medicine and ergonomics team at loughborough university's research findings will have covered the question in full detail?


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