I have just finished an absolutely rollicking novel: Hag-Seed, by Margaret Atwood. Felix is a theatre director, who has been deposed by his deputy and the Minister for the Arts from his role as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Festival. He putters off in his rusted out car/leaky boat, and effectively falls off the theatre map. In exile and mourning, his beloved daughter at his side, Felix/Prospero slowly plots his revenge: a revenge which eventually involves a staging of The Tempest in a medium-security prison with his enemies in attendance.
Hag-Seed is a brilliant homage to Shakespeare’s play. The plot is re-enacted through Felix’s life. He interprets, re-interprets and re-assigns roles to the people in his life and the actors in the upcoming play as new understandings emerge. The Fletcher Correctional Players wrestle with and extend the characters and the play through their own interpretive work, profoundly shaped, of course, by their life experiences; and their insights shape and guide Felix’s own journey.
In other words, it’s a lot like church. For my role as pastor is to recognise, interpret and re-interpret the gospel as it plays out in your lives; to help you identify, wrestle with and extend the gospel through the lens of your experience and the world in which we live; to listen to your insights and witness your lives and allow them to guide my own interpretive journey; which in turn shapes how I speak the gospel back to you! It’s the same sort of feedback loop which Atwood so playfully portrays in her novel.
One powerful tool for this work is our annual Lenten effort, when you are invited to reflect on your faith journey, and to share this reflection with us all. The exercise asks you to focus on and write about how the gospel plays out in your life. Reading the reflections gives us all insight into who we are as a gathered people, story by story by story; and it helps me, as pastor, better understand each of you as well as us as a group, as I speak and pray into your lives. In other words, it’s an incredibly helpful tool in the gospel life feedback loop which we are trying to create.
A reminder that this year’s focus is discipleship dynamics in Luke. Don’t worry too much about which topic to pick. Just run your eye down the list (here), choose the first which leaps out, then work with that. Remember, this is not your definitive, once-in-a-lifetime story or interpretive work. Instead, it’s an opportunity to think about one facet of your journey of discipleship, and to tell us about it. You can read more about this year’s theme here. And please have your reflections to me by 1 March so I can format, print, upload, and everything else in time for Ash Wednesday!
Emailed to Sanctuary 20 February 2019 © Alison Sampson, 2019.