The South Pole poses a question
Trip Start Jul 20, 2007
7Trip End Jul 28, 2007
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Were I at home I would now be putting out the chairs for church in the sports hall where our church community meets. Last night I was at the South Pole - one of the pubs in Anascaul, so called in memory of Tom Crane, a local boy who went to Antartica with Shackleton and Scott. That's quite a story; maybe I will write a diary entry reflecting on how a lad from a tiny Kerry village ended up with the public school types who got into polar exploration.
But today I am reflecting on the conviviality experienced last night in the pub. I remember reading a book by a guy called Ivan Illich called 'tools for convivality' when I was a student. I can't remember anything of what it was about, but the word conviviality has stuck with me. And Saturday night here in the South Pole is surely an example of conviviality.
The place fills up as the evening goes on; a mix of locals and visitors; of native Irish and foreigners; of folk down for the weekend from Dublin, or for the start of the summer holiday, and those of us from further afield. There are old and young. All talking ten to the dozen. There's a duo in the next room - a guitarist and accordionist - playing a mix of trad and modern music, a bit of a sing-a-long is underway. It is a good place to be, a convivial place.
I wonder if church should not be more like a good pub on an Saturday evening? Or is this a daft idea? How much of the craic could be recreated without alcohol? And how inclusive in reality is the cross section of the community gathered in the pub?
No, it won't do. We can't recreate the buzz of a good pub in church. But we should be creating a distinctive buzz, that generates the same sense of cwell being that was there in the South Pole last night; some of the components are the same. There should be good conversation and laughter. There should be music and singing. There should be a diverse group of people.
But we are there to give worth to the Other, the Source, the Way. It should be His joy that infuses our meeting together. We are meeting with Him. We shouldn't need spirits or ale to lift us, for our meeting should be saturated (or is that sozzled?) with the Spirit.
And we are to weep with those who weep as well as celebrate with those who are celebrating. The downside of pubs is that they are places to drown one's sorrows, and drowning never did anyone any good. Church must be a place where we not only share our burdens, but bear each other's burdens. So its not always going to be easy going.
So maybe true community goes deeper, further than simple conviviality. And church should be a profound expression of community.