Saturday, 27 May 2017


Treasuring Rather Than Needing -

I recently read Menna van Praag’s novel The Lost Art of Letter Writing in which she tells the story of Clara who, counter-culturally for today, runs a shop in Cambridge where you can go to write a letter. The shop is stocked with lovely paper and amazing pens and it provides the opportunity to express those things that really matter, and to take the time to do so.

In a world of texts and emails, the novel offers a challenge to where we have reached. For me it is a book about people finding themselves, and we all need the opportunity to do that.

I was struck by a passage in which Clara’s house is contrast with that of her mother. It is an interesting passage because it talks about treasuring as against needing. That is fascinating, because we often talk about needing as against wanting, making the point that what you need, not what you want, is the important thing. That thinking is here moved into a different place as what you need is displaced by what you treasure.

“It’s not about needing, Clara wants to say, it’s about treasuring. But she knows there’s no point. Her mother is so unlike her in this respect (and most others) that they simply aren’t able to understand each other. Sophia’s house is all cream and chrome, plain carpets, unadorned walls, sleek modern appliances, without a sign of past or personality, and everything looking – at least on Clara’s rare visits – as if airbrushed for an imminent magazine shoot. By contrast, Clara’s house (inherited from her grandfather) is a homage to chaos, clutter, colour and old-fashioned living. No two rooms are alike, though they share common themes – vintage clocks, weathered Persian rugs, velvet cushions, potted purple orchids, stacks of books, framed letters written by famous people – and all are unified by the fact that everything appears to be dated c.1900 and it seems that nothing once arrived in the house had ever left again.”

What are the things that you treasure?

Friday, 26 May 2017


I have been reading Eamon Duffy's collection of sermons, Walking to Emmaus, and was struck by some of what he said in a sermon about the Trinity. Like many other preachers, I have often (though not always) tried to avoid it as a theme, but I have sometimes been struck by the wonderful modelling of community that the Trinity provides. Duffy comments interestingly and helpfully on this.

“The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that God is not some immense cosmic individual, a lonely power before whom we must bow down and adore. The innermost being and reality of God which we are called to share is not isolation, but relationship: God is love.  

And that means that we ourselves are not individuals first and foremost, and only then, and secondarily, members of a community. Mrs Thatcher, notoriously, once said that there was no such thing as society. The Christian proclamation of the Trinity insists that there is nothing else except society.  We become people only in relation to others.”

Community matters - and we do need each other. Duffy also reflects that point.

“We must learn to live alongside each other not by avoiding speaking of our loves, but by listening to each other’s loves. We don’t need less faith in the city, we need more of it: more faith, more hope, more love, more idealism, more forgiveness, more concern for each other, more eagerness to welcome and care for the fragile and the unlovely, more attention to whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.”

How can we model better community?